April 28, 2020
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Date: 27 April 2020
Author: Tom Rabe
The state’s top transport bureaucrat is flagging a shift in major project investment to Sydney’s west if the COVID-19 pandemic leads to population growth slowing down in other areas of the city.
Transport for NSW Secretary Rodd Staples said on Monday the coronavirus lockdown would have far-reaching implications across Sydney.
Speaking at a Committee for Sydney online discussion, Mr Staples cited the eastern suburbs as an area where, if demand fell away, TfNSW could “reprioritise investment” to the city’s west.
“There’s always a competition for resources,” Mr Staples said.
“I certainly think there will be some big-picture rethinking around that, depending on (whether) the travel demand actually comes back within the Eastern City and River City (Parramatta), which were obviously under significant pressure before this COVID-19 crisis.”
Transport Minister Andrew Constance last week told The Herald that a second wave of big transport projects would prove to be “the silver bullet” in overcoming the post-pandemic economic crisis.
He said rather than reassessing the merits of projects, the state should move “harder” and “faster” to fast-track billions in transport projects to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
But some experts have recommended the government hold off on fast-tracking big projects given the city’s population within five years is likely to be far lower than originally forecast.
Some modelling suggests the city could have 200,000 fewer people than forecast by 2025.
Mr Staples said a balance was needed between delivering and reprioritising projects.
“I don’t want to sound like ‘you can have your cake and eat it, too’, but I think you can, actually,” he said, adding that the M6 extension would still go ahead.
The NSW government had previously committed $57.5 billion to transport infrastructure over the next four years.
The transport network could end up operating differently after the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Staples said, with fewer people travelling into the CBD as businesses changed how they operated.
“Why would you want to go back to the way we were before?” he said.
“I think this is a massive opportunity for Sydney to shift the productivity and the lifestyle dial and that does mean less people travelling into the Sydney CBD, particularly in peaks. I think that would be a fantastic outcome.”
Mr Staples said the government’s “three cities” plan for Sydney — with hubs in the original city, Parramatta and the western aerotropolis — would be stronger post-coronavirus.
“I think we’ll see people desiring to travel less,” he said.