Wednesday, May 25, 2022
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Sydney Metro – the monster returns

These high-rise apartment blocks will be built around the metro stations, not only to finance the construction of the line, but also to provide massive profits to the developer and future profits to the operator of the line, with the residents becoming the passengers on the metro.

Who will be the developer of these apartments? The developer could end up being none other than Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation, the appointed operator of the Sydney Metro! MTR Corporation is courting the state government with its Hong Kong business model, where its metro lines are financed by the building of apartment towers above shopping mall complexes at each station.

The redevelopment of Waterloo will be the first example of the “mini-Hong Kongs” that will mushroom up along the route of the Sydney Metro. The building of a station at Waterloo is not being done to benefit the public housing tenants in the suburb; it is being done to provide corporate profits at the cost of destroying the existing community.

The Sydney Metro is the third incarnation of metro in Sydney; first there was the original North West Metro followed by the CBD Metro. All three versions of the Metro have been headed up by Rod Staples, who was first appointed by the Labor government and then appointed by the O’Farrell government to manage the North West Rail Line (NWRL).

The O’Farrell government came to office promising to build the NWRL as a full heavy rail line with double-deck trains, but within 18 months of taking office, it had broken its promise. It announced that the NWRL would be a rapid transit line with single-deck trains. It was renamed the Sydney Metro when the announcement was made that the line would be extended under Sydney Harbour, through the CBD and on to Bankstown via Sydenham.

Metro lines are usually built to serve medium- to high-density areas of population with frequent stops (500 to 1,000 metres between stations) and provide a service every two to five minutes. The profile of the tunnels and the trains are generally smaller than those of heavy rail lines; defining examples of metros are the Tube lines in London and the Paris Metro.

The Sydney “Metro” is not a metro as normally defined. It is actually an underground heavy rail line built with tunnels too small to accommodate double-deck trains. The stations will be up to six kilometres apart and the first section from Cudgegong Road to Chatswood will be servicing low-density housing areas. Because the line is being built with tunnels too small to accommodate double-deck trains, including the extension under the Harbour, there will be no possible way of increasing the capacity of the line in the future!

Why build incapacity restraints into a new rail line? This was a very political decision made by the government; it means that the line can never be integrated into the Sydney rail network. Privatised from the start and being fully automated with no staff on the trains and few if any on the stations, the metro will have no employees for unions to represent. The decision also benefitted the MTR Corporation, as the NWRL, as it was then known, became the “thin edge of the wedge” that MTR is now using to push its way into Sydney property development.

Metro in Sydney has become a bit like a horror movie where the monster keeps coming back after you thought it had been destroyed. The first incarnation was stopped because it didn’t make sense to build a metro to the North West. The CBD Metro was killed off by Kristina Keneally, because it was over-priced, a waste of money and didn’t serve any substantial purpose. The current version of the metro, if it is not stopped, will take over and destroy Sydney as we know and love it. We either surrender to the MTR Corporation’s plan or demand our democratic rights to determine the future of our city.

Sydney does need more rail lines and in some instances, a true metro line would be appropriate. The Sydney Metro as it has been conceived and is being built, is inadequate for Sydney’s transport future.

In the future, the people of Sydney may ask questions as to how the Sydney Metro came into existence and, hopefully, a parliamentary inquiry or a royal commission will expose the facts that led to its creation.


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