The Following Is Our Belief Only Without Prejudice
An open letter to The Honourable Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of NSW.
RE: CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) questions on costs and benefits.
CC: Luke Foley, Politicians, Media, Colleagues.
Thank you for your commitment to listen to the people, put people first, to seek and pursue transparency and accountability in government, and to improve the quality of life for the citizens and taxpayers of NSW, businesses and the environment, as outlined in your National Press Club address last week:
QUESTION: Is there any point in continuing to build the CBD and South East Light Rail Project? Are there any quantifiable benefits for the community? Who really benefits? Or, there a better win/win solution for the government, business and the community?
John Booth: “Before you were elected, you were in favour of having Electric Buses in the City of Sydney, I did ask you at a subsequent luncheon, why are we having 200 year old technology with steel wheels on steel tracks, turning Sydney into a second rate Luna Park, taking away a thousand car parking spaces, destroying hundreds of businesses along the way, destructing trees…
I just want to ask you, have you had second thoughts or are you a bit sorry that you took that approach? And I’d like to ask you, who changed your mind? I know you did say to me, before, you changed your mind, and Barry O’Farrell at the same luncheon when he was premier, he’d changed his mind, I’d like to know, who was the bureaucrat that changed your mind and have you checked his Swiss Bank Account?”
“And (were you) aware that the tram lobby is renowned as the richest in the world and they have been sued by the FBI for over $1.5 billion for corrupt practices and who was the bureaucrat who changed her mind and has she checked his or her Swiss bank account?”
Gladys Berejiklian: “John, can I just say that the light rail project that I assume you’re alluding to, in the CBD and The South East, is one of the great transformational projects of our era, and we looked at all options to decongest our city, and to allow people from all over NSW to access major events and to travel around our city as efficiently as possible, and I’m delighted with the progress of the project, and I want to thank the Transport Minister who’s here for the work he’s done as well.
But, the benefit I had was being as Shadow Minister in Transport for four years, so you can assume when I came to Government, we’d done our homework, and that is by far the best option; Unfortunately the number of buses in the CBD was creating a further carpark, and,
Interestingly the business investment that’s come on the back of that project is very exciting – many businesses along the route are upgrading their buildings because they know the foot traffic and the opportunities for them will increase once the project’s open and I’m looking forward to that, and I’ll take you on a ride when its open and disprove you.”
I would now like to ask you, Premier, in the interests of listening to the people and transparency of governance, the following questions, which have not yet fully or satisfactorily been answered, by your office, the Transport minister, Transport for NSW, or ALTRAC, apart from partial answers in the attached email.
1) If the number of buses in the CBD was “Creating A Further Carpark”, why are you killing even more trees on the North Shore to bring more B-Line Buses into the city?
Why are you spending over $100 million on new bus services, including many services to or through the city?
Why are you now advocating electric buses, or “Track Free Trams.” for Parramatta Road?
Surely less cars, not less buses is the answer to congestion in the city? 87% of CBD congestion is caused by cars, and only 8% by buses. Source: Sydney City Access Strategy p15
2) How many more ANZAC Parade trees, of all species, are to be Killed/Removed, Lopped, and Root Pruned for the CBD and South East Light Rail project? How many trees on ANZAC Parade have already been killed/removed?
The official tree report claims that ‘trees to be retained’ are actually to be lopped and have their roots pruned. Do you think this is in any way misleading? Can you guarantee they will live? Further information from Saving Sydney’s Trees Here.
3) Can you please provide any traffic modelling that has been completed for the CBD And South East Light Rail Project?
Particularly any responses to the Samsa report commissioned by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure in April 2014?
Transport for NSW claim detailed modelling, but where is it? Freedom of information requests have found nothing.
4) Can you please confirm how many buses will no longer enter the CBD due to changes from the CBD and South East Light rail in the morning peak from 8am-9am? The Business Case “Summary” and your press release says 220 buses. Is this still true?
Can you please confirm the maximum or ‘crush’ capacity and the current operational capacity or current patronage of those buses? Freedom of information requests have yielded nothing.
According to The Environmental Impact Statement and Transport for NSW this is 220 buses, with an ‘interpretation’ or ‘estimated’ capacity of 16,000 passengers per hour.They confirmed this twice, in relation to Elizabeth Farrelly’s article: Progress done badly: why Mike Baird’s light rail is bastardry of the first order. The only thing that Transport for NSW disagreed with in this article was that the 220 buses were to be deployed ‘elsewhere’, away from the city, nothing else. Is there anything in her article that you disagree with? Sources: EIS and Buses To Be ‘Deployed’
5) Can you please confirm how many light rail trains are predicted to enter the CBD per hour when the light rail begins operation in 2019? Can you please confirm the maximum or ‘crush’ capacity of those Light Rail Trains and their expected operating average patronage in peak (8am-9am) Freedom of information requests have revealed nothing.
6) Can you please confirm the predicted journey times of the light rail in peak hour, and the journey times of the buses that will share the light rail corridor? Again, nothing under freedom of information (GIPA)
7) In your press club address, you claimed that for business the “foot traffic and the opportunities will increase when the project is open.” Can you please outline what you believe will be the opportunities that will increase when the project is open?
8) Can you confirm that the buses to be retained, including the morning peak hour express buses will have to share the light rail corridor with the trams, and this will decrease their journey times, compared to previous dedicated bus lane journey times? In fact, this is actually alluded to in a GHD prefeasibility study into the light rail
9) In the attached cost/benefit analysis attached is there anything that you disagree with? If so, could you please let us know the correct facts, and we will amend the table(s) No response yet from any other department.
10) According to the CBD and South East Light Rail Environmental Impact Statement all of the University of NSW, Express Buses are to be eliminated. On an average day last August in the morning peak from 8am-9am, this was 176 services per hour. Can you confirm if they are still to be eliminated? if so, what is the solution? Transport for NSW and the University of NSW have not yet confirmed this. Students and staff deserve to know. Transport for NSW official statistics attached.
11) In 2014, you released the following press release, entitled “HUGE WIN FOR CUSTOMERS” claiming that the Light Rail “would have 50 per cent more capacity than the 9,000 passengers per hour previously planned.” However, we believe that your government had already been advised that the Light Rail capacity had dropped from 9,000 passengers per hour to 6,750 passengers per hour, and journey times increased. You are still claiming that the light rail will boost capacity, but can you prove it with any facts? http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/revealed-gladys-berejiklian-was-sent-light-rail-cost-blowout-details-20170308-gut7ch.html
12) The Press Release also claims that “As a result of these wins for customers, this will mean an increase in the overall budget of the project.” (Half a billion dollars), but, before the Light Rail contract was signed, Transport for NSW had “reported” to the government that 94 per cent of the increase was “due to incorrect estimates” in the project’s business case a year earlier. (According to the SMH)
13) Why did you release a press release claiming that a half billion blowout in the Light Rail project was due to huge wins for customers like increased capacity, and not, as the government had been advised, announce that the half a billion blowout in cost was due to the Government’s own mispricings and omissions in the business case, and the capacity had decreased? Will you release the business case now? Will you release the cost benefit analysis? Will you release the traffic modelling? Will you release an artist impression of the ANZAC trees to be killed, lopped and root pruned, post ‘treatment’?
14) If you knew about the capacity reduction and cost blowout due to errors, why did you release a press release claiming the opposite? If you didn’t know, then who did? Will you release a press release now to correct the errors? These errors were repeated in two subsequent press releases, on the day the community consultation ended for the light rail, and when the project was approved. Why is the false “Business Case Summary” still online, claiming $4 Billion in economic benefits, when there are at best only $3 Billion?
We can find the full details of all of this information in the Auditor General Report into the planning and procurement of the light rail here: http://www.audit.nsw.gov.au/news/cbd-and-south-east-light-rail-project
15) You are also quoted in the press release: “We have seen how popular the Inner West Light Rail extension has been and have decided to deliver additional capacity on the CBD and South East Light Rail to ensure we future-proof the system.” Is this true? Are you able to provide any facts? Premier and treasury were advised capacity had decreased and journey times increased, so, how can this be true?
16) The press release went on: “Ms Berejiklian said the CBD and South East Light Rail is expected to generate over $4 billion in economic benefits to NSW. It will help remove up to 220 buses an hour from CBD streets.”
17) However, as per the Auditor General Report we believe that your government had been advised that the economic benefits had reduced to $3 Billion, we believe, largely because of the reduced capacity and longer journey times. You said that you were the shadow transport minister for four years, and we could assume you had done your homework. Why then did you release the press release with the incorrect information, and then the subsequent press releases over the next 3 months, with the incorrect information? (See two press releases below) Surely, as a transport expert, heading a team of transport experts, you should have known or checked the truth?
18) But, Premier, most crucially of all is that the standing room capacity of light rail is still stated at 4 passengers per square metre, likely to be massively overestimating the actual amount of people that will be able to travel in the trams, and, as such, overestimating the final financial benefits of the project, which are expected to go down even further, particularly as we believe journey times have not been finalised. Will you release an updated financial benefits statement for the benefit of business, the community and taxpayers? See this video from eco-transit. in relation to the issue of 4 passengers per square metre.
19) Why does your government continue to compare crush capacity of light rail to operating capacity of buses? Why does your government continue to compare crush capacity of metro to the operational capacity of heavy rail. Why are you comparing apples with oranges, and not apples with apples? This distorts the economic benefits of light rail and metro, compared with buses and heavy rail. Who can we appeal to to correct this false comparison. Pleas to your department, transport department have so far fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes.
20) Why did you change your mind from Electric Buses to Light Rail? Where is the business case or cost/benefit analysis comparing current buses to light rail or electric buses to light rail? The business case, and subsequent letters from Transport for NSW claim these have been done. Despite a freedom of information request (GIPA Act.) Transport for NSW have still not been able to find a business case or cost/benefit analysis, traffic modelling, or up to date capacity and journey times. Will you provide these to the taxpayers of NSW who have at least $3 Billion ‘invested’ in this project, so far? If not, why not?
21) In the interests of consulting with the community and a transparent government, why the secrecy? What have you got to hide? Please let us know the truth. The truth will always come out in the end. It always does. We are not anti-government, but merely interested in win/win solutions for everyone: For Government, Business and The Community. For our environment, economy and society. For liveability, sustainability and prosperity. We can have growth, progress and care for our environment, and the environment of our grandchildren, and their grandchildren.
22) Finally, Premier, many people in Sydney do not want any more of our trees killed, or have any more public land given away. Many people do not want more polluting motorways, concrete slums and urban ghettoes that are springing up all over Sydney like termite mounds. Many people think that 2,000 permanent net immigrants to Sydney per week, for the next 40 years and beyond, is not sustainable, and will not be an improvement to our quality of life, and liveability and sustainability of our city. Let alone that we will not have enough water to sustain these extra people. Remember the water shortages of only a few years ago? What do you say to this? Is 2,000 permanent settlers per week, to Sydney for the next 40 years sustainable? Will 2,000 people per week increase or decrease our quality of life, liveability, environment, economy, society and housing affordability?
23) Premier, global population growth and growth in consumption, waste, pollution and killing trees and animals are the greatest environmental crises of our time. The sky is not falling in, but, we are killing our trees, animals, and creating waste, pollution, overpopulating and over-consuming our world, without any good reason, and will soon make it a not very nice place for anyone to live in.
24) We beseech you to work together with business and the community to stop global population growth and consumption, stop waste and pollution and save the trees and animals. We can begin by saving the priceless and heritage trees to be killed or mutilated on ANZAC Parade, Circular Quay and Central Station, saving $1 Billion for NSW Taxpayers and finishing the Eastern Suburbs Railway. At the very least, we could have electric buses as a solution to the light rail – a solution that you and Barry O’Farrell once advocated for, we believe. For only $150 million we could have a fleet of electric buses with far greater capacity than the light rail will ever have, like the ones at the airport, that run all day on a single charge, without tracks or wires. This would save all the trees, increase public transport capacity, and reduce traffic congestion. We make electric buses in Australia: Surely, we can’t let Brisbane get ahead of us?
25) We want the best for our city, state, country and globe, and we know that you do too.
26) As we come out of the mining boom, we can have jobs, growth and progress in Saving Trees and Animals, Stopping Waste and Pollution, Stopping Population Growth and Growth in Consumption, instead of killing trees and animals, creating waste and pollution and fuelling population growth and over-consumption. We already have an economic model, and an example of how government intervention has worked to help us stop polluting our own bodies: Tobacco. We can simply apply this business model to Stopping waste, pollution, population growth, and killing trees and animals.
27) Premier, we can have economic growth, jobs, and progress, but we do not have to kill trees, animals, pollute our world and waste our resources, and have perpetual and exponential population growth and growth in over-consumption in order to do so. Australia can lead the world in this regard. We can have a win/win solution. True jobs, growth and progress will surely be found in stopping population growth, stopping waste and pollution, and saving the trees and animals.
I can be contacted at any time 02 8958 3783 should you have any enquiries.
Volunteers Needed : Telephone (02) 8958 3783
1) Gladys Berejiklian Press Releases on CBD and South East Light Rail.
2) Partial answers to questions from Transport for NSW, and information requested by them to be put up online:
3) “Is the CBD and South East Light Rail Project Still Viable?” – Extract from Auditor General Report into CBD and South East Light Rail planning and procurement:
(Note: Standing room capacity issue and final journey times issue not addressed, which may make the whole project unviable.)
4) Transport for NSW current bus statistics, obtained under freedom of information.