Friday, 26 September 2014

The cost of converting tracks for foreign trains

Ms Berejiklian and sidekick pose behind French train model
Double-deck trains were developed by NSW rail engineers. In the 1970s a delegation from Communist China came out to inspect the trains and was shown the plans for the carriages. They went back to China and developed their own designs - they had purloined the intellectual property. The more recent contracts for rolling stock have imported the chassis from Japan and China along with other elements.

The North Shore Liberal Party rump has a policy of eliminating Australian manufacturing industries so Ms Berejiklian has signed a contract to import off-the-shelf single-deck carriages from the French conglomerate Alstrom. There is no information on what the government hopes to save by fully importing the rolling stock but the consequences for the NSW taxpayers and for the people of Western Sydney will be severe. The doors on the carriages do not line up with the doors on the rest of the rolling stock used by Sydney Rail. When a platform is converted to single deck trains it can no longer be used by the rest of the rail network. The privately-owned and largely foreign-owned consortium has a monopoly on the line for all time despite the taxpayer providing all or most of the funding for building the rail line.

The Epping to Chatswood line in particular was wholly funded by the taxpayer and was planned to take pressure off the Western and Inner Western rail lines with a relatively low-cost extension to Parramatta. Now the North Shore rump will be making this impossible and will be overloading Chatswood station and the Harbour Bridge rail line.

Baird has announced that if he wins the election on 28th March his government will sell off urban electricity distribution networks and use the taxpayer's assets to wholly fund a tunnel from St Leonards to the Bankstown rail line at Sydenham Junction and do to the Bankstown line what he is doing to the Macquarie University line. No doubt when the taxpayer has funded this unnecessary and ludicrously uneconomic project, at any cost, the foreign consortium has been assure the lines will be handed over to the monopoly.

At what cost?

I am a liberal lady from the North Shore

If you have to ask how much it costs you can't afford me.

The Scoping Study Sydney's Rail Future contained estimates of costings for various "scenarios". The costings are for the section from Chatswood to somewhere to the just to the east or just to the west of Redfern Station. The "Engineering and Construction" Study made no attempt to ascertain if indeed it was physically possible for a rail tunnel under Sydney Harbour and under the Cross City tunnel to connect with the Airport line (Rail Future A) or the Illawarra line (Rail Future B) - it isn't! The conclusions in the study are ludicrously spurious but the individual costings of the components establish benchmarks for comparison of feasible options.

The Study states: "Estimates are in line with Best Practice Cost Estimation Standard for Publically Funded Road and Rail Projects. Where there is uncertainty on the cost, a range is included covering the upper and lower Project Identification Estimates. All costs are quoted as June 2012."
Rail Futures p35
Rail Futures A and C are for a Harbour rail tunnel to the east of the Harbour Bridge with construction sites for the boring machines and the removal of spoil at First Fleet Park at Circular Quay and have a "nominally Pitt Street alignment". The study confirms that the tunnels will have to pass under the Cross City Tunnel at Pitt Street and stations in the CBD will be "(lift access only) however there is an opportunity to reduce the depth with the use of single deck rolling stock". This is a bald-faced lie. The depth of the station platforms under Pitt Street directly adjacent to Town Hall Station is determined by the depth needed for the station platform and the pedestrian concourse above the rail tunnels to pass under the east-bound road tunnel under Bathurst Street without collapsing the base of the tunnel. One of the main reasons given for rejecting the "Kent Street alignment", inexplicably assumed to also pass under the road tunnel, is that in order to make it up the hill to Wynyard the rail tunnel would have to pass too close to the base of the tunnel.
The Cross City Tunnel cross section
The entrance to the eastbound tunnel at Tumbalong Park, built on rubble dumped from the excavations for the rail loop, is barely a metre above current sea level and goes down hill fast. The gradient needed to get from even the deepest part of the Harbour to when it passes under Park Street does not give any advantage to lighter single deck trains.

There is no conceivable justification for foreign owned and operated single-deck trains to take over public rail systems south of the Harbour:

  • There is no earthly reason for Liverpool and Cabramatta commuters to travel through Granville to reach destinations in the inner west and the Strathfield/Epping line.
  • There is no earthly reason for Bankstown commuters to lose access to the inner west and Strathfield.
  • There is no earthly reason for forcing Bankstown commuters to transfer to Illawarra line trains to access the CBD City and Redfern.
Without any rational explanation for sending single deck trains under the Harbour one has to ask the question:
  • Is Baird receiving divine inspiration?
  • Or is he shrieking at everyone south of the Harbour: "Drink the Kool-Aid"?
Baird and Ms Berejiklian announcing the fate of Bankstown Station
with the Liberal member for East Hills who looks resigned to drinking the Kool-Aid
Ms Berejiklian said on the Bankstown platform 2: "The overall cost (of the project) is close to being finalised". This was a bald-faced lie. None of the studies obtained by the SMH that were done before Baird announced his thin blue line on a indeterminate map were for a tunnel to the west of the Harbour Bridge extending deeply-subterranean to Sydenham Junction.

North Shore politicians are evidently schooled in lying to the camera when no questions can be asked - Tony Abbott has not mastered the art of smiling as he does this. After the election Ms Berejiklian will declare the Project to be Critical State Significant Infrastructure preventing any proper disclosure and proceed with the project at any cost.

At any cost

The cost of building a rail tunnel from St Leonards station to just west of Redfern Station as of June 2012 was estimated to be $8.055 billion and the quadruplication of the line from Chatswood increased the estimate to $8.585 billion. This was for a rail tunnel to the east of the Harbour Bridge. The cost of extending the tunnels to Sydenham junction and building underground platforms at Sydenham Station has never been assessed. Neither has the cost of converting the stations and signalling of the Chatswood-Epping line and the Sydenham-Cabramatta line to take only foreign single-deck trains. The cost is not only the cost of construction but also the economic cost to businesses and individuals from closing down the lines while work is being undertaken. Assessments done on Three Tier Option B1 give some insight into these costs:
Rail Future B - the rebuild option
Transport Projects Division of TfNSW estimated the cost of converting two platforms at each of three CBD stations and North Sydney Station to run foreign single deck trains. The cost was estimated to be $1.3-1.8 billion. The economic cost to businesses in the CBD and the state was far higher: "For approximately 4 years there will be significant changes to the network operation in the CBD, including no City Circle services from Central to Wynyard for 3 - 4 years". Other public servants in TfNSW queried this (they chatter amongst themselves as fervently as in terror cells) but TPD was adamant: "3 - 4 years".

Once work begins on converting one station to take foreign trains the entire track becomes inoperable for the rest of the network. Fortunately in the CBD only four stations would have needed to be converted, minimising the impact. There are 21 stations that would have to be converted on the Bankstown line to Cabramatta. Ms Berejiklian refuses to make any disclosure of the cost of converting tube stations on the Macquarie University line to take foreign trains and refuses to disclose how long the line would be closed down. Reports in the SMH have suggested that the line would be closed down for 6 months at least and Ms Berejiklian has declined to comment on this.

The cost blowouts

Macquarie Park station under construction
The Epping-Chatswood rail link went through a lengthy gestation period with large scale public consultation and the final plan for a tunnel under the Lane Cove river was costed by "Best Practice Cost Estimation Standard for Publicly Funded Road and Rail Projects" at $1.4 billion. The cost blew out to $2.3 billion and this did not include matting to reduce the noise levels in the tunnels.

The original metro project running from Rozelle to Sydney University was costed at $2 billion but after the close of submissions for the EIS it was discovered that the cost had blown out to $7 billion.

A submission to the Inquiry into Rail Infrastructure Project costing in NSW by Dr John Goldberg (Formerly Hon Assoc. University of Sydney) in September 2011 can be viewed here

He provides a list of the consultants contracted for former projects. Parsons Brinkerhoff, who produced the most systemically deceptive diagrams for the light rail project, were the consultants for the Lane Cove Tunnel project. Overseas consultancy companies are not placed on a black list or suffer any penalties no matter how erroneous their projections turn out to be or how spectacular the losses born by investors.

Goldberg's conclusion was: "The compelling nature of the evidence presented here about the misfeasance of state bureaucrats strongly suggests that this problem can only be addressed by exposure in a Royal Commission with coercive powers.

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