Sydney Metro is a series of projects
designed to improve transport connectivity and reliability, substantially
reduce travel times, and increase commuter per-hour capacity by about 60%. The Metro masterplan aims to have dozens of new stations and over
100 kilometres of new rail lines in place by 2030.
But since commencing in 2019, parts
of the projects have been beset by cost blowouts and delays. This has led to
speculation over the funding, commitments and future of the Metro plan.
In April 2023, NSW Premier Chris
Minns commissioned an independent review (led by infrastructure and transport
expert Mike Mrdak) into all of Sydney Metro.
Key cost blowouts, delays and
The Metro West project is expected
to substantially slash travel times between the CBD and Parramatta, and was
initially expected to be completed by 2028, if not earlier.
But in July 2023, Minns claimed that
costs had blown out to $25 billion from an initial budget of $16 billion. It is
also behind schedule by an estimated two years.
Minns refused to rule out delaying
or even cancelling the Metro West project due to the cost and delay problems.
Another concern he voiced was
whether the project would “deliver value for money” in meeting community needs
– for example, in terms of there being enough stations in densely populated
sections of the line.
City and Southwest Metro project
Southwest Metro covers two sections
– these being Chatswood to Sydenham, which will comprise mostly underground
tunnels, and Sydenham to Bankstown which is a conversion of an old existing
rail line to metro standards, which includes driverless services.
Minns announced in July that the
southwest project was over budget by about $6 billion and behind schedule by
about 12 months.
There has been some uncertainty
about whether the conversion project on the Bankstown line would continue.
The independent review so far
review report found that overall, the Metro is being led by a highly
professional team that has had to face significant challenges. These have
stemmed from a variety of avoidable and unavoidable factors – among then being
poor coordination and lack of consistency between agencies, COVID-related
disruptions, market volatility and cost increases.
The review team’s recommendations
and advice include taking a “whole of government” approach across multiple
agencies, revising initial works schedules, and providing an extra $1.1 billion
for the Southwest corridor conversion.
So – what’s next?
Since announcing the possibility of
cancellations, the state government has given at least part of the overall
project the green light.
Minns and Transport Minister Jo
Haylen announced in early August that the Southwest project will be granted
extra funding of $1.1b, which will be diverted from other areas of the
transport budget. This aligns with recommendations of the review.
Minns said that conversion of the
old Bankstown line is expected to begin between July and October 2024, and take
up to 12 months to complete. It is expected to result in long shutdowns which
will lead to commuters using replacement buses.
Metro West is another matter though.
Continuation of this project is still uncertain, with Minns saying the
government is waiting for the results of the review. Despite this, there are
reports that construction works have commenced along the line.
A group of developers has also
offered to help fund the project in exchange for building extra homes around
the stations, and are waiting for a response from the government.
At this point, it looks like a green
light for Southwest Metro and a yellow one for Metro West!