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New View of Toll Road

February 11, 2011

It seems the media is now forced to revise its negative opinion of the Lane Cove Tunnel. As it has with the Cross City Tunnel.Condemned by a newspaper campaign when it opened in August 2005 the Cross City Tunnel suffered low patronage to start with, but has turned profitable with usage rising 10 percent per annum. If it hadn’t been built it would now have to be, because of the development of Barangaroo. In other words it was infrastructure provided ahead of its time. And it was a fabulous deal for the NSW tax payer: $680 million of new roads infrastructure with the winning consortium even paying $100 million to the Treasury for the privilege of building it and not one dollar of taxpayer money required.

If Barry O’Farrell ever pulls off a deal as good for the tax payer as that, I’ll cheer him on.

Same story now unfolds as the second owner, Transurban lifted the traffic and the revenue of the Lane Cove Tunnel.

Since Transurban took over from receivers last August, the traffic is up six per cent and net profit up 48 per cent.

Again an extraordinarily good deal for taxpayers who got $1.1 billion in new infrastructure paid for by the private sector.

Sydney’s ring road system was substantially completed during my time as premier. First the Eastern Distributor from the city to the airport. (Private). Then the M5 Extension. (Public). With these two road works one gets from the North Shore to Canberra, or indeed the Victorian border, without a single set of traffic lights. Access to the airport was transformed. Then came the Westlink M7, 42 kilometres of high quality tolled road which carved an hour from travel times. It opened a few months after the Cross City Tunnel which carved 20 minutes off a 2.2 kilometre journey. You couldn’t imagine the city without its ring road system, $5.4 billion worth, all but $800 million raised from the private sector.

When government provides infrastructure ahead of need (a couple of these road works stand out, also the bus freeway from Parramatta to Liverpool) it gets condemned. Today you couldn’t imagine Sydney without this infrastructure.

By the way, the Epping to Chatswood rail line, completed in February 2009, is the biggest urban rail project completed in Australia. With the three bus freeways serving Western Sydney it stands as a monumental investment in Sydney’s public transport infrastructure.

In 10 years as premier I was proud to lift infrastructure spending by $61 billion. When I left government we were spending at a level more than the Commonwealth’s, double New Zealand’s, three times the spending (per head of population) of California, six times that of Texas, and seven times that of New York State, and more than that of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT combined.

One Comment
  1. Evan Williams permalink
    February 11, 2011 1:39 pm

    Hi Bob,

    I’m 20 years old and have lived in north-west Sydney all my life. The Lane Cove Tunnel has vastly improved my travel to the city, it often makes the all too regular journey that much more tolerable.

    That being said, I’ll always remember being in primary school and one of my friends at the time telling me that his parents had plans to sell their house soon because the value would increase once they built the train station. I just finished my university degree last year, from the best of my knowledge he still lives just up the road from me.

    Anyway, I only recently discovered your blog. I have been really enjoying going back through all the archive, lots of very interesting posts, please keep it up.


    Evan Williams.

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