Another day, another government public transport disaster

Perhaps no other area of government can be used to show us how one really governs like transport and this Liberal government continues to embarrass itself. 

Abigail spoke in parliament about failure after failure from the NSW government as countless transport projects hit roadblocks as they roll out.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (15:20): Another day, another public transport disaster. I could publish a book filled with the litany of public transport asset procurement disasters that have occurred under this Liberal‑Nationals Government's stewardship. To give them credit, Government members have demonstrated admirable versatility in their blunders, somehow managing to be miserly penny pinchers when it comes to procurement, dishing out contracts left and right to the lowest bidder and saddling us with dodgy assets, while simultaneously acting with the reckless abandon of carefree spendthrifts, blowing out the costs of major transport infrastructure projects by billions of dollars. No wonder the Government was desperate to try to cook the transport books, further spending millions of dollars on consultants to scheme up something as absurd as the Transport Asset Holding Entity.

Transport is one of those areas that can really show the true colours of a government. With other departments, it may be easier to make unfunded value statements or commitments to reform that can be hard for the public to get visibility over. Transport, on the other hand, is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. There is no hiding from one's failures when the cracks start to show, as they did on the Inner West Light Rail—or the ferries, for that matter. The Liberals love to tell us that they are the better economic managers and to trust them with the State's finances. But their sole claim to legitimacy is cratering through its foundations, much like the buildings and roads succumbing to WestConnex‑induced subsidence.

Let us cast our minds over the recent history of these actuarial gurus, these supposed lords of the ledger. In 2016 this Government ordered $2 billion worth of new trains that were too wide for their tunnels. In 2017 it launched six new Emerald-class ferries, five of which were found to be corroding at astounding rates and three of which were found to be leaking seawater into their hulls. The first year of the operation of the Sydney Metro in 2019 was marred by enormous, repeated and persistent breakdowns and mechanical failures. In 2020 the Government ordered 10 new ferries that would have decapitated passengers traveling on the top deck when going under bridges along Parramatta River. And then it tried to buy even more of them!

In 2021 the Inner West Light Rail was shut down because of sizeable cracks discovered in the 12‑vehicle fleet. This was shocking to all of us but apparently not the Government, which was informed of the issue in 2019 and proceeded to do exactly nothing about it. Now it has been revealed that the replacement ferries, the second generation Emerald class—when they are able to avoid becoming airborne—are unable to steer straight. They have been taken out of service after a dozen steering failures in 10 months. This list of failures barely scratches the surface. Did I mention the electric bus rollout that is already 17 years overdue on a strategy that is only a few years old?

Unfortunately, as simple and tempting as it might be to blame these cascading blunders on a single Minister bad at their job, it is never that simple. Since 2016 New South Wales has had four transport Ministers, plus the three spare ones that this Government seems to need. The truth is that this is simply one example of how badly the Liberals and The Nationals have been running our State. They never met a bad contract they would not sign, and they would not understand the value of a high quality public transport system if it stole their credit card details and caused their party memberships to lapse.

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