NSW Premier Nathan Rees is expected to dump the $12 billion Sydney North-West Metro rail project today, bringing the curtain down on one of the most misconceived policy proposals of Morris Iemma’s embarrassing administration.

No one in the government, the private sector or the community denies that a rail link is desperately needed for the burgeoning suburbs of the north-west.

The original plan — the best plan — was for a heavy rail link which would stand the test of time and provide a safe, dependable service.

But when Iemma inherited the scheme in mid-2005, he also inherited Michael Costa as his treasurer. Costa quickly formed an alliance with the fiercely conservative Treasury chief John Pierce and they subverted the heavy rail plan as being “unaffordable”.

Iemma switched tactic. With the backing of Infrastucture czar David Richmond he unveiled the Metro in March this year — to help shore up the seat of Ryde, then held by Transport Minister and Deputy Premier John Watkins, and also deliver a significant piece of infrastructure to crown his premiership.

Regrettably, the announcement never really gripped the public imagination: few people believed it would ever be started let alone finished.

It was just another Labor promise which never see the light of day. Their skepticism was supported by the publication of massive Metro advertisements carrying the endorsement of commercial radio traffic reporter Vic Larusso.

In place of the North-West Metro, Sydney is now getting a CBD Metro which will go as far as inner-city Rozelle. Its terminus will be Central, the busiest station in NSW, creating a nightmarish scrum for commuters.

Some of Labor’s other rail projects which have come to nothing in the past 13 years include the Bondi Beach rail link promised in 1998; the high-speed rail link to Newcastle and the Central Coast; the Hurstville to Strathfield rail link; the high-speed rail line from Sutherland to Wollongong; the Parramatta to Epping rail link was axed; and the central business district rail link and the second harbour crossing also have been dumped.

Platform announcement: the train standing on platform 1 is the Labor Government special service to electoral oblivion. It will be leaving at the state election in March 2011.

Peter Fray

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