THE green light has been given to a massive new $12bn rail project in Sydney which the NSW Government has said “will rival any megaproject across the globe”.
But critics have dubbed it an “ill-conceived agenda to rip up our public rail network” from a Government dazzled by megaprojects rather than meeting the transport needs of commuters.
Scores of buildings in Sydney’s CBD, some as high as 22 stories, are now almost certain to be ripped down following planning approval being given for a 15.5km line linking Chatswood, on the North Shore, to Sydenham, in the Inner West.
The new line will be the first railway to dive under Sydney Harbour and will include six wholly new stations at Crows Nest, Victoria Cross in North Sydney, Barangaroo, Martin Place, Pitt St, and Waterloo and a connection at Central. It will link a currently under construction line in north west Sydney with the city’s south and south west.
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance welcomed the tick of approval.
“This is an unprecedented boost to rail capacity for our great city, he said on Tuesday. “The scale of this project will rival any megaproject across the globe, and today marks the start of even more grunt work.”
Construction sites will be established in the Sydney CBD this year with five tunnel boring machines carving out the new twin tunnels.
When complete, Metro trains will run every two minutes in each direction under the Sydney CBD and 31 metro stations from Rouse Hill to Bankstown.
But Greens NSW MP and Transport spokeswoman Dr Mehreen Faruqi told news.com.au the Government would do better to investing in improving the existing network to reduce travel times.
“The NSW government is steamrollering ahead with its unscrutinised, ill-conceived agenda to rip up our public rail network and replace it with a privately-operated, lower capacity metro which barely expands public transport access,” she said.
“Instead of investing the $12bn in expanding public transport to underserved areas like Western Sydney, Stage two of the Sydney Metro mostly replaces existing lines and builds stations in the North Shore and City that are already well serviced.
“The Transport Minister is more interested in winning the contests of ‘megaprojects’ than actually meeting the transport needs of the people of NSW.”
Dr Faruqi also criticised the new line for being designed for single decker trains ensuring it is inoperable with rest of the network.
Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Planning Minister Michael Daley said he had no faith the project would remain within budget.
“The Baird Government does not have a good track record of procuring and delivering infrastructure that is value for money and fully transparent for the people of NSW.”
He said no proper case had been made for the Sydney Metro and the decision to proceed was taken “behind closed doors”.
In May 2015, NSW Premier Mike Baird revealed the cost of the new CBD link and the conversion of a rail line in Sydney’s south west, as part of the wider Sydney Metro project, had risen from around $9b to around 12bn.
The announcement brings stage two of the three stage 66km Sydney metro project closer to fruition.
Stage one, an $8bn link from the Hills District to Chatswood is already under construction and due to open in 2019. Stage three, from Sydenham to the city’ south west taking over the current Bankstown rail line is yet to be approved.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the go-ahead for the project ensured Sydney was being prepared for the future.
“This project has been approved subject to some of the highest sustainability provisions in the world,” he said.
Among the conditions imposed with the approval is that greenhouse emissions by electricity consumed by the metro’s operation must be fully offset.
The planning process for the conversion and upgrade of the Bankstown line to metro standards will start this year.
Zambia, Chinese firm seal railway construction deal
Zambia on Wednesday signed a deal for the construction of a new railway project with China's state-run firm that will enhance transportation in the southern African nation.
The 388-kilometer railway, to run from the eastern town of Chipata to the central town of Serenje via another eastern town of Petauke, will be constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), at a cost of 2.3 billion U.S. dollars within a four-year period.
"This project aims at enhancing regional trade and transport competitiveness by providing an alternative trade route to the East Coast of Africa via the Port of Nacala in Mozambique." Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba said at a signing ceremony in Lusaka, the country's capital.
The project will provide the much-needed link between the Zambian main railway line network with the Malawian railway line network through the existing Chipata-Mchinji railway line which forms part of the Nacala Corridor, Mushimba said.
The project will enable the government to save funds used on rehabilitation of damaged roads due to haulage of bulk and heavy cargo.
The project, he added, is meant to enhance regional and international trade through the Nacala Development Corridor which involves Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
According to him, the project is one of the strategic infrastructure projects the government intends to implement through the China-Africa Cooperation framework announced by the Chinese government during the 2015 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in South Africa where 60 billion dollars fund was pledged.
He further expressed confidence in the Chinese firm's ability to construct the railway within the stipulated period because it has wealth of experience in undertaking railway construction projects.
On his part, Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming said the signing and implementation of the project will further promote bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
The railway line, Yang said, will promote Zambia's trade, investment, employment and sustainable development and open another route to the sea for the landlocked southern African nation.
"I believe it will be an important part of the integrated southern African transportation system which connects Zambia with Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Mozambique," he added.
Construction of a modern railway connects Kenya and East Africa
The construction of a modern railway line connecting Kenya and its East African neighbors has unleashed multiple benefits that include jobs creation, technology transfer and vital lessons on ecological protection, a senior official said on Friday.
Atanas Maina, Managing Director of Kenya Railways Corporation, told Xinhua during an exclusive interview in Nairobi that Chinese expertise in railway technology will have a durable impact on the Kenyan society and ecosystems.
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has fast-tracked the implementation of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project that is expected to transform regional economies.
Maina hailed Chinese expertise in railway technology alongside ecological consciousness that have stood out as the construction of the high speed railway enters homestretch.
"The quality of work, workmanship and the speed at which the SGR project is being undertaken is commendable. We have never seen anything like this before," Maina said.
It is anticipated the modern railway line will be completed mid next year. Besides creating an estimated 25,000 jobs for Kenyans, the SGR project has opened new opportunities for entrepreneurs dealing with construction material.
Maina noted that skills transfer has been the most pronounced benefit as the implementation of SGR project gathers steam.
"Those who have interacted with individuals on the ground will attest that under this arrangement there has been a lot of technology transfer," Maina said, adding that previously unskilled workers are currently up to speed thanks to intensive training.
He revealed that it took less than one year for unskilled Kenyan workers to master the basics in railway construction.
"We look forward to the possibility of replacing some of the Chinese experts as we embark on other phases of the SGR project since we have an abundance of skilled work force," said Maina.
He added that in the last decade, Chinese expertise in development of transport infrastructure and real estate has won admiration from Kenyans, noting that the implementation of the SGR project has not interfered with the health of iconic wildlife and plant species in the Kenyan countryside.
"About 150km of the SGR project pass through Tsavo and Nairobi National Parks, but the contractor developed underpasses to ensure animal migration routes are not disrupted," Maina told Xinhua.
Maina said Kenyans will benefit from training opportunities provided by China to improve their knowledge on railway construction, noting that Sino-Kenyan cooperation in railway technology will be elevated to new heights after the completion of the SGR project next year.