MACROC welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission on the Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study Discussion Paper prepared by Transport for NSW and the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
MACROC is the regional organisation of councils for the Macarthur area of South West Sydney. Formed in 1985, it represents the local government areas of Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly. MACROC’s role is to identify issues of regional importance and advocate for positive regional outcomes. Regional issues for the Macarthur region include transport infrastructure planning, managing population growth, employment generation, economic development and land use planning. As both levels of Government are aware South West Sydney is the area targeted to accommodate the major proportion of Sydney’s projected growth over the coming years and the provision of well-planned transport to support population growth continues to be a challenge.
In April 2014, immediately after the announcement that Federal Cabinet supported the establishment of a second airport in the Sydney Basin, the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan was announced, with $3.5.billion allocated over 10 years to deliver significant upgrades to major and local roads. This roads package will be critical in growing the economy and creating new business and employment opportunities.
Integrated transport planning is essential for the effective planning of the Western Sydney Airport and for the economic growth of Western Sydney. While road links are important, the provision of public transport is critical if Western Sydney is to accommodate the predicted population growth in the region: from two million to three million in the next 20 years. Rail obviously plays a vital role in the growth of Western Sydney, as well as in the development of the proposed Western Sydney Airport.
The options for expanding rail services in Western Sydney presented in the Discussion Paper demonstrate how inadequate the current rail network in Western Sydney is. Decades of public infrastructure neglect have meant that the residents of Western Sydney have been forced to use their cars causing increasing congestion on all our roads. Macarthur residents travel by vehicle more than the Sydney average and use less environmentally friendly forms of transport such as train, bus, cycling, walking. There is huge potential to increase the proportion of travel by rail which in turn would help remove vehicles from the already overburdened road network.
MACROC would suggest that all the options presented in the Discussion Paper will be needed eventually to connect Greater Sydney. Obviously the cost of proceeding with all of them at one time would be prohibitive. Eventually though all these options will need to be prioritised, costed and funded.
There are many challenges for the Rail Needs Scoping Study. It needs to identify and commit to actions that establish transport connectivity that will boost the economy, generate employment opportunities and enhance liveability in the South West.
Critical to this is linking current and designated growth centres to existing and future nodes of economic activity, creating a ”30 minute city”, directly linking existing and future areas of economic activity with strategic centres such as Campbelltown-Macarthur, the Western Sydney Airport and the Broader Western Sydney Employment Area, and providing a more efficient link from the South West Growth Corridor to the Parramatta CBD.
Preferred Rail Options: Option 6 and Option 1
Given that there are conflicting priorities for government funding MACROC would argue that the most pressing rail service routes initially would be the ones that would optimise cross regional connection.
Option 6 and Option 1, enhanced with additional connectors, would provide the most appropriate options for a Western Sydney Airport Link connecting both Camden, Campbelltown-Macarthur and the South West Growth Centre with the Western Sydney Airport and adjacent Broader Western Sydney Employment Area. These options would connect the booming areas of the South West, linking it to a wide range of existing infrastructure, providing the region’s future residents with access to white collar jobs, as well as providing improved public transport access for areas that are currently lacking in public transport options.
It is essential that both Option 6 and Option 1 include an extended connection to the Campbelltown Macarthur Centre, providing future connection to Sydney’s Third Growth Centre in the South West: the Greater Macarthur Priority Growth Area. The provision of Y-links would promote maximum use of this part of the rail network. Y links would allow for an uninterrupted service between the Western Sydney Airport and the Campbelltown-Macarthur Regional City Centre.
Population growth in the Macarthur region needs to be accompanied by growth in employment opportunities to redress the growing jobs deficit that currently exists in the region. Better cross regional public transport connectivity would provide access to employment opportunities, reduce travel times and the pressure on road transport. The current conservative estimates of the region’s population growth take the population of Macarthur from 294,650 in 2016 to 530,300 in 2036.
MACROC believes that early delivery of rail infrastructure for Options 6 and 1 should be given priority as this would promote maximum cost benefits outcomes and mitigate as much as possible adverse effects on existing landowners, residents and other stakeholders. Option 1 and other connections to Narellan and to the T2 South Line should also be delivered on this timeline. The extension of the rail link past Narellan to link to the T2 South Line would provide much needed east west connectivity to the existing City of Campbelltown-Macarthur. It would link this strategic centre, which includes the Western Sydney University, TAFE and the expanding Campbelltown Hospital, with the expanding residential population of Oran Park, Narellan and the Western Sydney Employment Area.
The North South rail connection extending into Campbelltown LGA via the South West Rail Link extension via Narellan would demonstrate significant benefits: delivery of more jobs closer to homes and services, increased public transport use and a reduction of traffic congestion and would support cleaner air, green spaces, sporting facilities and arts and cultural initiatives.
Connecting Western Sydney to Western Sydney Airport
In terms of rail access from the Sydney CBD to the Western Sydney Airport, analysis shows that passenger demand for the Western Sydney Airport would come from Western Sydney in the early years and that airport demand would increase from 2,750 users per day when the airport opens to 43,000 per day within 40 years.
The airport development is expected to create 35,000 jobs by 2035 increasing to 60,000 over time. For every million passengers that pass through the airport the airport is anticipated to add 750 jobs in the region. The current and future residents of Macarthur are well placed to take advantage of these jobs if given early provision of a rail service.
The connection of South West Sydney to the Western Sydney Airport will allow Macarthur residents to fill the construction and engineering positions that will be available during the construction stage of the airport’s development.
The early provision of Options 6 and 1 (inclusive of a connection to the Greater Macarthur Priority Growth Area) to service the Western Sydney Airport in advance of any other rail option will provide Government with the most return on investment.
The extension of Option 6 connecting to Rouse Hill and the North West Growth Centre is also supported once the above Options have been established.
A high speed train link will eventually be needed to link the Western Sydney Airport with the Sydney CBD but not until the predicted time that the Western Sydney Airport overtakes Kingsford Smith as Sydney’s primary international gateway.
Strategic, direct and efficient connectivity between the regional city centres of Campbelltown-Macarthur, Penrith and Liverpool with the ”Western Sydney Aerotropolis City” will drive Greater Western Sydney’s economic growth and redress the history of CBD and Parramatta centric transport solutions. This previous transport planning has disadvantaged Macarthur, limiting access to higher order services and facilities.
Table 2 on page 20 of the Discussion Paper details the five stages of Sydney’s rail future.
MACROC is concerned that there is no reference to:
• South West access to a rapid transit system;
• Commitment to the connection of the South West Rail Link extension between Narellan and Campbelltown- Macarthur;
• construction of the South West Rail Link extension; and
• to investigate the electrification of the T2 Southern Link to Menangle Park or beyond.
In Western Sydney a disproportionate number of disadvantaged people reside in peri-urban areas, including in Camden and Wollondilly LGAs. A number of these areas are characterised by a significant dependence upon private transport modes; with residents facing long and expensive journeys.
There are pockets of disadvantage in Macarthur characterised by a high level of unemployment. Improved rail connections to the Western Sydney Airport and beyond would provide access to a wide range of employment and service opportunities, and in-turn improved health and social outcomes.
Research indicates that inadequate access to transportation poses significant barriers to those trying to enter the labour market. Existing public transportation systems often do little to bridge the gap between where the poor live and where jobs are located. An investment in the north-south rail link connecting the employment nodes will support accessibility, connecting the disadvantaged to employment opportunities, education and health services as well as recreational facilities.
It is noted that the Wollondilly Local Government Area is not included on the rail service options maps in the Discussion Paper. This is a serious oversight as there is significant population growth proposed for Wilton, which has been designated a Priority Growth Precinct earmarked to cater for 16,000 new dwellings over the next 20 years. There is an urgent need to improve rail services. An additional station at Maldon, a rail spur line to the proposed Wilton Town Centre and future electrification are all seen as necessary. The completion of the Maldon-Dombarton rail corridor would provide significant benefit to the freight network.
Proximity to the employment opportunities offered by the Western Sydney Airport and the Broader Western Sydney Employment Area will also mean that there will be significant changes in the travel to work patterns in Wollondilly Shire which will impact on local infrastructure in Wollondilly. These connection issues will need to be addressed in the updated Long Term Transport Master Plan, due to be released later this year.
Corridor protection is an essential part of planning for additional public transport services in Western Sydney. As the Discussion Paper states: ”a preserved corridor provides certainty for communities, businesses and landowners about how the land will be used in the future and reduces the cost of providing infrastructure in the long term”.
In view of the current lack of residential development within the South West Priority Growth Area between Leppington and Oran Park there is an urgent need here to progress corridor preservation for an above ground route.
The corridor preservation between Oran Park and Narellan should also be determined urgently on the basis of an underground solution where current residential development exists or is in final planning stages.
Transport for NSW has consulted widely on the extension of the South West Rail Link, including the possibility to connect rail from Narellan to Campbelltown-Macarthur. There is an opportunity now within Campbelltown LGA to plan for and secure corridors for the South West Rail Link extension and an opportunity for Government to work with Campbelltown City Council to coordinate land use planning that could facilitate connections before future urban development proceeds. This critical corridor needs to be supported by Government.
Funding of Rail Services
In terms of funding new rail services in Western Sydney MACROC acknowledges that it will require commitment from all stakeholders in achieving its delivery. Option 5 presented in the Discussion Paper, a combination of government funding, value sharing and user pays, is probably the most likely to achieve the best financial outcomes. However financial sustainability together with network capacity and delivery risk are matters for rail network planning and delivery.
Given the significance and wide ranging implications of planning for the rail needs of Western Sydney MACROC considers that Transport for NSW and the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development should adopt an ongoing commitment to engage with Local Government, key stakeholders and the community, particularly in the area of corridor preservation. This would ensure that any future rail corridors minimise impacts as much as possible.
In their individual submissions the MACROC Councils have provided very detailed responses to the Discussion Paper identifying the key and often complex issues in the Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study Discussion Paper that concern their LGA. This regional submission should be read in conjunction with the more detailed comments made by our Member Councils.