Promised land of City Deal could be out of reach for SW Sydney

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The State and federal Governments are passing the buck over proposed rapid bus services to Western Sydney Airport, but GEORGE GREISS, the Mayor of Campbelltown, argues that it is the rest of us who will pay if the promised transport link does not go ahead.

This week the question of who will pay for the rapid bus links that are supposed to connect Campbelltown, Liverpool and Penrith to the new airport at Badgerys Creek has surfaced in the public debate. The NSW government claims it’s an 80:20 funding arrangement with the federal government. While the federal government claims the links are solely the responsibility of the NSW government under the 2018 Western Sydney City Deal.

I wasn’t part of the original deal, and I often wonder about its benefits for my community, so I can’t answer that question. But surely someone had taken notes. Surely someone had thought about the project’s cost and the source of the funds before this week.

While I can’t answer the question of who should pay for building the links, I will attempt to answer the more critical question of who will pay if it’s not built. But before I do that, I want to share the vision sold to our communities in South Western Sydney at the time of the City Deal. 

The City Deal had promised job creation, education, and connectivity as its cornerstones. Our community expected access to 200,000 jobs in future industries built within a world-class Aerotropolis and all within 30-minute travel by public transport. With 63 per cent of Campbelltown LGA workforce leaving our city every day, that sure sounds great. Let’s not forget the access to education and upskilling opportunities with a world-class Advanced Manufacturing Research Facility at our doorstep.

But for someone to get from Campbelltown to this new world-class Aerotropolis via public transport, without the rapid bus link, they will have to travel to St Marys, which according to Transport NSW, currently takes 1 h 31 min from Campbelltown station. I will not even mention the problems our residents will face getting to a train station and parking there. That is another problem we will need to talk about later.

It is almost half an hour quicker to get to the new metro connection via public transport from Sydney CBD, North Sydney, Macquarie Park and Parramatta. Sydney’s current four job hubs.

The new metro rail connection has six stations announced and will take approximately 20 minutes to travel from St Marys to the Aerotropolis. If we add a few minutes of waiting at the station, we are looking at a 2-hour trip, each way, for our residents to access the Aerotropolis. The rapid bus links we were promised would give us access in around half an hour.

Going back to the critical question of who will pay if the rapid bus links are not built. Maybe, just like the City Deal, I was trying to grab a headline, or I didn’t realise there would be a cost associated with such a significant analysis. The truth is I can’t give you a detailed answer. I could ask someone to go 80:20 in funding the work needed to answer that question, but that debate may take too long.

I can tell you that the South Western Sydney communities are paying and will continue to pay for the foreseeable future.

They are paying for the cost associated with the physical damage to existing roads. They are paying for the delays resulting from extra congestion on local road networks.

They are paying for the focus on creating the Aerotropolis with the new infrastructure, job and education facilities and the resulting neglect to their existing city centres. They are paying for the costs related to the significant housing growth that has occurred and is expected to continue.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I am sure many in the community will join me in welcoming the economic, employment, and education growth in the Western Parkland City and the Aerotropolis. We are all looking forward to its great success.

But come on, give us our promised rapid bus links and access to your new airport and world-class Aerotropolis. After all, we are the ones paying for it to be built.   

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