Opinion Pieces: The Challenge for the Infrastructure New South Wales Chief

Opinion Pieces: since 2007, Prof. David Hensher has written an opinion column in the Australasian Bus and Coach magazine, where he monthly discusses a lot of different transport-related hot topics. In this section we are revisiting these columns.
June 2011
The New South Wales (NSW) Government recently announced the appointment of Nick Greiner as the Chair of Infrastructure NSW. This is a critical appointment to direct the turnaround of NSW’s reputation in infrastructure provision, especially in the transport sector. The biggest challenge that will be faced in Sydney is how to move forward to deliver good transport coverage and service frequency in the face of a government commitment to announced major rail passenger projects. If one were able to start with a clean slate and be mindful of getting started sooner than later, and getting some real political mileage that is value adding to the electorate, there is no doubt that this is best achieved by a focus on upgrading the road network and using this opportunity to start assigning a substantial part of the road network as dedicated roads to buses (similar to what we are seeing with the Brisbane busway system) (with the possibility in off peak periods of giving access to taxis and hire cars), in contrast to painted bus lanes which appear and disappear throughout the network, forcing buses into mixed traffic just when they are getting a time benefit. Crucially, however, one must ensure that such a network lines up with meeting the growing accessibility needs of commuters in particular, where the test is in terms of door-to-door connectivity on high frequency, high service capacity (so one can sit) public transport. One will have to deliver some of this in tunnels (which buses can use) given the loss of transport corridors over the years. If the Chair is already constrained by two expensive rail projects (the NW and SW railways), then the network approach should still be proceeded with to ensure that these large projects do not hinder the needs to provide coverage and connectivity for all of Sydney where it can make a difference. Overlaying all of this physical network development must surely be a rethink about the low cost of using cars, which is the nemesis for public transport, and in many ways the efficient and fair pricing of the car use can be a significant part of the public transport solution. I recently calculated that if we were not the build the NW and SW railways, we could purchase 28,500 new buses for the equivalent projected capital cost, increasing bus service capacity 7.5 times (and even allowing for the operating cost differences, this number could be as high as 4 times, still impressive). That would surely deliver massive accessibility benefits to all of Sydney! For the rest of NSW, the focus must be on completing the Pacific and Hume Highways as dual carriage throughout.
Food for thought
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