Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The whole of Government

The Independent Review Traffic and Transport Assessment damning general comments were quoted in a previous post: "There appears to be significant work remaining to enable a full understanding and meaningful assessment of the Project's environmental impacts to be undertaken". The response of TfNSW was "implementation of the CSELR project will require whole of government collaboration". Samsa Consulting were not given any resources to independently assess the contradictory assertions in the EIS and PIR and their report was not released until the newly appointed minister for Planning and whatever else had signed off on the project.

In their response to the Independent Review TfNSW conceded that most government Departments would need to be subverted in order for the project to proceed but the key Department was the Department of Planning. The Minister Pru Goward confirmed that this Department had indeed been subverted when she approved the project as the Review was released.

An early start

Screen shot from Four Corners "Democracy for Sale"
The current inquiry at the ICAC has revealed that North Shore and Central Coast politicians were colluding to replace heads of Departments who might advise against plans to privatise public utilities before they were in office. The astonishing thing about the childish attempts of Liberal Party apparatchiks to force the resignation of the CEO of Sydney Water was the extent to which high-ranking members of the Party were involved. These activities were corrupt behaviour under the Act in the opinion of the former commissioner of ICAC David Ipp interviewed in the Four Corners program "Democracy for Sale".

This was confirmed by the findings of corruption against the former Mayor of Ryde, a career politician, who allegedly forced the resignation of a council official by releasing confidential information that porn had been found on a council laptop. This is not corrupt behaviour by a venal minor politician to gain financial advantages for family members, this is systemic undermining of the basis of the Westminster System of government.

Once they were in office there was no need to engage in corrupt practices to replace senior public servants. Public servants at the head of government departments could be replaced by amalgamating ministries and renaming public corporations. The one exception was the Treasury which has been a stand alone ministry under the Westminster system for centuries. Shortly after the election, O'Farrell forced the resignation of the Head of Treasury by making allegations which were subsequently shown to be untrue. Baird, the newly appointed Treasurer, got to appoint his own department heads. The newly appointed staff at Treasury went on the produce their first Budget with errors of more than $3 billion.

The Kingpin from Manly

Ze can't Count
The undisclosed plans of the North Shore rump to privatise the state's Water Distribution network that were in place before the 2011 election, have been exposed in the latest ICAC inquiry and have been abandoned following the resignation of O'Farrell, but the activities of Sydney Water Holdings was just a sideshow. The main game was always privatisation of the electricity distribution network. Insiders were staking out positions to take advantage,  before the election.

Roger Massy-Green gave $10,000 to Baird's election campaign from two separate companies at the same time, so he was aware that the donations were not legal. Baird did not declare any donations. Shortly after the election the Treasurer personally awarded him a $150,000 consulting contract at Treasury and he was appointed chairman of Networks NSW, the corporation that took over the poles and wires, for $200,000 a year. Not a bad return.

Privatising the poles and wires

That Baird should press ahead with the announcement that if he wins his first election he will consider he has a mandate to sell off half the city power distribution network demonstrates the contempt North Shore politicians have for the intelligence of people living south of the Harbour. After being in power for three years the government has not done any work to establish a justification for turning a public utility into a private monopoly. A Metro tunnel under the deepest part of Sydney Harbour has not been designed, has not been costed or shown to be physically possible, has not been subject to cost/benefit studies or feasibility studies and can be shown to be unnecessary. A road tunnel from Glebe island to the misconceived WestConnex road tunnel is a desperate attempt to cover up the obvious flaws referred to in a previous post, and has not been designed or costed. It will encourage motorists from the North Shore to overload the Glebe Island bridge which can not have its capacity increased.

The Baird government is the most incompetent government in the history of Australia and is flouncing from one disaster to the next.

Laughing all the way back to the jungle

Clover Moore boasted to the Press Club that the Sydney Council had done the work on the George Street tram alignment and had passed it off to the Liberal Party government. Her address was the usual relentless stringing together of mindless assertions with references to international experts. In the internet age you can find experts to tell you any thing you want to hear.

O'Farrell and Baird saw the tramway as a project to gratify their ambitions to be seen as infrastructure guys. There was never any attempt to establish the long term transport needs of the CBD.

Now O'Farrell will never receive a Premier's pension after a career where he has never been anything but a politician. Maybe there is a God of retributive justice after all.

The privatisation of the electricity distribution networks is the most radical policy taken to an election but there has been no disclosure of the projects it is supposed to pay for, apart from infantile computer-generated simulations of single-deck trains passing in separate tunnels in the bed rock under a stylised cross-section of the Harbour. It is hard to believe politics in NSW could have been reduced to this.

The tram alignment in the CBD is the key to establishing that a Metro tunnel under Sydney Harbour will never be necessary or financially viable so we will press ahead with however little information is available.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The sins of the North Shore are visited on the south

On any week day every vehicle in the northern CBD is there for a purpose. The number of off-road parking spaces is known and is controlled by planning regulations and is unlikely to increase markedly in the foreseeable future. The parking spots are also very expensive for regular commuting. There are large numbers of taxis kerb crawling for the remarkable number of taxi rank spaces - in European cities with old street layouts taxis wait off grid to be called on mobile phones. There are delivery vans and trucks carrying out business activities. North of Market Street the only through traffic in the CBD is headed for or from the North Shore and the volume of this traffic is unbounded. Only congestion will force this traffic to alternative routes. North Shore drivers are solely responsible for congestion in the Sydney CBD north of Market Street.

Congestion in bus routes in George Street north of Market Street was cited as the raison d'ĂȘtre for running trams along George Street - when the project was announced Sydney City Council had already produced broomstick-eye graphics of trams travelling along George Street. There was no information on what would happen to the bus services displaced from George Street, and unbelievably there still isn't, after TfNSW has produced an Environmental Impact Statement and a never-exhibited Preferred Infrastructure Report and Planning and Environment has published a Secretary's Assessment Report.

Chris Lock was more forthcoming at the Community Forum at Sydney High School in April 2013. He said commuters in the future would be forced to change between transport modes in making journeys through Sydney. In fact, it can be deduced that commuters will be forced to make four trips to get between Sydney University or the inner west and destinations along New South Head Road for instance. Currently it takes less than one minute for a bus to get from Railway Square to Rawson Place and another couple of minutes to reach Town Hall. Residents of the inner west are being forced to pay a heavy price for absolutely no gain and there is no rational excuse for this. Restoration of the Pitt/Castlereagh Streets tram loop makes Public Transport in the CBD future-proof and imposes no penalties on residents south of the Harbour.

Traffic in the arterial roads between the Eastern Suburbs and the rest of Sydney south of the Harbour is tangental to the CBD and has a marginal effect on the entry of buses to the CBD. Traffic flows in these arteries would be slightly affected by trams crossing Elizabeth Street at Hay and Campbell Streets. On the other hand, the North Shore rump government is deliberately creating grid lock at each end of Eddy Avenue in order to cripple public bus services and force commuters to transfer onto privately-operated trams.

"220 buses removed from the CBD"
The 13 December 2012 brochure claimed that about 220 buses would be "removed from the CBD" during the am peak. Chris Lock repeated this claim at the meetings in April 2013 before he became a recluse. 49 of these buses were removed from Chalmers Street and were clearly buses that terminated at the Lee Street layover. It turned out that the Metro buses (M10 and M50) would also be eliminated and these did not enter the CBD north of Park Street. 63 of the buses removed from the Victoria Road routes were sent on to God knows where in the Eastern Suburbs. Less that half the  buses "removed from the CBD" actually entered the northern CBD. They would be replaced by trams that would run on empty to Circular Quay after dumping passengers at Central in order to turn round.

The claim that "220 buses would be removed from the CBD" was reiterated in the EIS prompting an bemused response from the "Independent Review of Traffic & Transport Assessment" which was commented on in a previous post "Total subversion of the Public Service". However this claim had been contradicted comprehensively in the brochure Sydney City Centre Access Strategy published just before the end of the exhibition period. This stated that about 50% of the buses from Broadway would be terminated before Elizabeth Street (88 buses) a huge discrepancy from the 33 buses removed, God knows how, that were the basis of the claim. TfNSW refused all requests to reveal which services would be terminated and where they would physically turn round. Only a Royal Commission into TfNSW could unravel what was going through the minds of the public servants who made this claim. There will be a Royal Commission held either after the State election on 28 March 2015 or after pedestrians are killed and injured leaving and entering Central Station.

The never-exhibited Business Case for the CSELR
There is no reason why passengers on services that do not encounter congestion in bus routes in the northern CBD would leave the bus to transfer to a tram - the buses in Chalmers Street are not appreciably impacted by traffic travelling from southern Sydney to destinations in the Eastern Suburbs. To get passengers to transfer to trams the North Shore government must forcibly terminate the services God knows where or create gridlock at intersections used by buses to access the City. The Baird government will use both these stratagems if Baird is elected on 28 March 2015.

The business case for the Cross City Tunnel assumed that motorists could be forced to use the tunnel by congestion in a narrowed William Street. This only works in peak hours and the resentment aroused makes it more certain that motorist will not use the tunnel except in peak hours. The same rules would apply to transfers to from buses to trams.
The trams would not be viable from student-concession holders alone so bus services would have to be incapacitated for most of the day. The Preferred Infrastructure Report (PIR) released months after the exhibition period had closed shows how ruthlessly this is to be achieved. A two-way bicycle path obliterates the lane used by buses from Foveaux Street and from Chalmers Street to reach Eddy Avenue. Lycra-shirts riding in concert with trams broadside pedestrians waiting for trams to pass knocking them into the path of the trams. Mothers with prams and the disabled are particularly vulnerable.

Only the Sydney City and Randwick Councils were permitted to comment on the PIR but the indicative plan of Parsons Brinckerhoff were as always cropped to conceal what happens to the bicycleway in Eddy Avenue - presumably the bus stops are moved to the west of the pylons of the tram overpass so passengers alighting to transfer to Central Station are blindsided when crossing the tram tracks.

Bus services from Clovelly, northern Coogee and Bronte and from Botany are collateral damage in the North Shore push to cripple public bus services south of the Harbour and force passengers onto privately-operated trams. The bus services from South Sydney and Botany are particularly savaged. Buses that enter the bus bay south of Foveaux Street are trapped by traffic queued at the gridlocked intersection. When kerb blisters were built in Elizabeth Street at Martin Place bus drivers refused to be trapped at the pedestrian lights and stopped in the through lane second from the kerb, but congestion here affected only passengers boarding buses north of Martin Place and it was only a pedestrian crossing. Gridlock at the critical Foveaux/Elizabeth Streets intersection creates inestimable delays in the bus journeys of every commuter from the south of Sydney to every destination in the CBD.

Residents of Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee should note that their MP Notley-Smith was in on it right from the start but has said and done nothing to look after the interests of his constituents or even to keep them informed.

The Pitt/Castlereagh tram alignment does not create gridlock in any of the traffic arteries between the Eastern Suburbs and the rest of Sydney south of the Harbour and does not degrade any existing bus service.