NSW Government Announces Sydney Metro Review

Sydney Metro

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The NSW Government has announced a comprehensive and independent review of the Sydney Metro project.

The Sydney Metro Review will examine value for money, delivery models, project governance and passenger impacts. It will evaluate the delivery of Sydney Metro to date, the current state of progress against delivery targets and make recommendations for getting the maximum value out of the project, including looking at better land use, urban renewal and better integration with the wider transport network.

The review will be conducted by Mr Mike Mrdak, who is currently Chair at the New South Wales Regional Growth Corporation, and Chair at the Airport Development Group. The Deputy Chair of the review will be Amanda Yeates, CEO of SunCentral.

At the same time, the Minns Labor Government has announced it will deliver the final section of the City and Southwest Metro by committing to the upgrade and conversion of the T3 Bankstown Line to metro standards.

The government’s decision to complete the project was informed by the recommendations made in the interim report of the Sydney Metro Independent Review. 

The government will commit up to a further $1.1 billion from existing transport budgets, including Sydney Metro, to deliver the project and begin the difficult process of converting the existing T3 Line – which is more than a century old – into a 21st century high-tech metro line.

The latest advice to the government suggests the conversion is expected to take up to 12 months and is anticipated to commence between July and October 2024.

Transport for NSW and Sydney Metro are currently developing a comprehensive temporary transport plan to service passengers along the line for the duration of the shutdown. 

Independent reviewers Amanda Yeates and Mike Mrdak have delivered their interim findings to the NSW Government, which focuses largely on the City and Southwest project due to its critical stage of delivery.

The review’s findings include:

  • The conversion of the T3 Bankstown Line to metro standards should continue as it delivers significant benefits across the transport network.
  • The final conversion of the T3 Bankstown Line is likely to require a shutdown of up to 12 months, with a target commencement of between July and October 2024.
  • Sydney Metro and Transport for NSW will develop a comprehensive temporary transport plan to support the shutdown, which includes extensive communication with the affected communities along the line.
  • The delivery of the City and Southwest project is likely to require an increase to the funding envelope of up to approximately $1.1 billion, but that the agency should not pursue “acceleration at all costs”.

The reviewers have also highlighted the previous government’s failure to take advantage of the housing supply boost that the Sydney Metro project can provide.

Sydney Metro Review

The Review will engage with key stakeholders, seeking their views and input. These stakeholders include:

  • Sydney Metro
  • Transport for NSW
  • Infrastructure NSW 
  • Other key stakeholders in NSW Government and industry.

There are several interim findings and proposed recommendations made relating to immediate opportunities to mitigate program, budget, and operational risks, and to improve governance effectiveness & outcomes between Sydney Metro and other Government Agencies:

  • That the NSW Government should note that the delivery of City & Southwest even within an increased cost envelope still carries delivery and cost risks.
    • That Sydney Metro should not pursue ‘acceleration at any cost’ agreements with its construction contractors but instead provide early advice to Government on potential opening delay impacts where acceleration does not represent demonstrable value-for-money.
  • That Sydney Metro should provide regular formal advice to Government regarding the ongoing value-for-money, effectiveness of risk transference, and overall performance of its Public-Private Partnerships (both for the Metro North West Line/City & Southwest PPP, and the Western Sydney Airport PPP).
  • That Sydney Metro should update the NSW Government on the outcomes of the Sydney Metro West delivery and market engagement to date, in advance of the 2023 NSW State Budget, in order for the Government to consider schedule adjustments required to support cash flowing of the Southwest upgrade and conversion, and which would therefore enable Sydney Metro to finalise detailed planning and financial analysis of the Sydney Metro West Partnership delivery model for subsequent Government consideration.
  • That Sydney Metro provide urgent advice to Government on feasibility, value-for-money, and overall alignment and station options relating to a potential eastern extension to Sydney Metro West.
  • That the NSW Government should note that the City & Southwest project is likely to require an increase to the total cost envelope of around $1.1 billion. It is likely that this can be at least partly supported from a cashflow perspective within the existing total Sydney Metro capital funding provision of the Forward Estimates but may require deferring some non-contracted Sydney Metro West packages by up to 12 months.
    • That Sydney Metro should provide urgent advice to Government on options to at least partly self cashflow the C&SW cost-to-complete;
    • That the NSW Government should note that any revision to the procurement timings of remaining Sydney Metro West packages is highly likely to impact to the target 2030 opening date and generate additional escalation impacts which may require additional funding support/cost envelope increases (beyond the Forward Estimates, potentially also requiring recognition of forecast Property returns from across the Portfolio).
  • That Sydney Metro should continue to target a 2024 opening for full services on the City section and work to have all stations completed to enable full testing and operations of metro services. Every effort should be made to avoid by-passing non-complete stations to minimise risk and maximise service testing before the line opens fully –a go/no-go recommendation for all City stations should be provided to Government by end-Q3 2023.
  • That Sydney Metro should supplement the capacity of its current Executive team by appointing a fixed-term senior lead with singular focus on a successful 24-month transition into full and safe operations of the entire City & Southwest line.
  • That Sydney Metro should provide advice to Government on potential ‘soft-start’ scenarios, the cost & service impacts of those options (including for the wider Public Transport network), and time horizons for either confirming readiness or recommending pivoting to those alternate options.
  • That Sydney Metro and TfNSW should provide advice to the Minister for Transport (at least every other month) on integrated readiness for safe first passenger services for City-section, with specific reference to:
    • Lessons learned from the Metro North West Line commissioning & opening,
    • Relevant safety accreditation of the extended operations from ONRSR,
    • Status of incident response training and emergency services readiness,
    • Network-level timetable adjustment readiness, and
    • Associated changes to customer-facing services.
  • That the Minister for Transport and Transport Secretary should consider the ongoing fitness of the Public Transport Network-level Concept of Operations, especially with regard to multi-modal integration of new services, coordination of incident management at interchange stations, and (especially as related to the delivery of Metro works) prioritisation of rail possessions.
    • That TfNSW should review its integrated service commissioning processes for explicit and documented clarity of accountabilities among its Divisions.
    • That TfNSW should appoint a single, appropriately empowered leader accountable for safe and efficient network changes in 2024, and to that end, for them to be responsible for driving timely inputs and actions from across all TfNSW Divisions.
  • That iNSW should consider the fitness of pre-commissioning reviews within the Infrastructure Investor Assurance Framework, with specific respect to changing the focus to early and progressive operational and safety assurances that network-level interdependencies and emergency management processes are on track and meet all requirements.
  • That the NSW Government should progress with the conversion and upgrade of the Sydenham to Bankstown line, noting that:
    • Timely conversion requires some early works to be procured and commissioned by end-July 2023 to enable appropriate mobilisation in time for leveraging of the September 2023 temporary possessions availability;
    • There remains critical asset condition and other technical surveys which require significant possession periods prior to the line closure. Remaining possession periods should be reviewed considering potential benefits to be gained from minor extensions, and additional ‘reserve’ possessions in early 2024 should be planned for contingency purposes;
    • The conversion and upgrade are likely to require around a 12-month continuous shutdown period (depending on performance of City section opening). Sydney Metro, Sydney Trains, and TfNSW must work collaboratively and proactively to enable coordinated readiness to implement a new Standard Working Timetable (for Sydney Trains) and Temporary Transport Plan in time for conversion works to occur.
    • Final costs of the conversion will be progressively refined over the coming nine months, as further asset condition assessments are known, and procurement of contractors progresses. The unfunded cost-to-complete is likely to be up to $1.1 billion; and that
    • The conversion works will be upgrading a century-old railway corridor to Metro requirements and will not constitute a complete rebuild. Accordingly, some currently-live operational issues may yet persist after conversion is completed –for example, there will remain a historical (and non-Metro specific) risk of flooding at Marrickville and Campsie during exceptional weather events. Options to efficiently manage this service performance issue post-upgrade should be advised to Government as a priority following the better scoping of works during the first possessions periods.
  • That TfNSW and Sydney Metro should urgently finalise a revised customer options plan for the extended final shutdown and a no-regrets ‘minimum’ Temporary Transport Plan (including commencing procurement), in order to most actively minimise community disruption during the shutdown. Accordingly, that the NSW Government should note:
    • That Temporary Transport services should also include options to maximise the use of the Bankstown station as a hub for rail connections to other lines including Lidcombe. This planning should be finalised and presented to Government as soon as possible, but without delaying the commencement of procurement for replacement bus services; and
    • That scale and/or route options are most likely to be able to be validated only once procurement commences and the scale of bus and driver availability become better known.
  • That the NSW Government should consider the ongoing fitness and efficiency of a predominantly Local Council-led rezoning effort along the Sydenham-Bankstown corridor, which is likely lagging in its potential to support additional housing supply and land use improvement. The Southwest corridor upgrade is an import catalyst opportunity to both improve and increase the stock of housing with access to turn-up-and-go Metro services and provide better urban space & community amenity for suburbs on the line.
    • That Sydney Metro (supported by DPE) should provide advice to the Government regarding ‘unconstrained’ options for improved planning and approvals processes and land use development along this corridor, with a focus on optimising land use of existing Government-owned land within 1.2km of Metro station locations. This may involve a refreshed Rapid Corridor Strategic Assessment to also identify planning system enhancement opportunities, as well as re-consideration of accountabilities among the proliferation of urban development Agencies across Government.
  • That the Minister for Transport should consider further bolstering the skills of the Sydney Metro Board in transport operations, specifically regarding deep expertise in not only safe and efficient operations of a rapid transit service but also of (commercial) management of a contracted Operator & Maintainer.
  • That the NSW Government should note the extensive current ambiguities and complex governance relating to Whole-of-Government planning & delivery of Place-based infrastructure investments, which may imperil timely and integrated alignment of transport, housing, health, education, utilities, and community outcomes.
    • That the NSW Government should review the extent to which current State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP) appropriately drive integrated land use outcomes and maximises the opportunity to support additional housing supply in vicinity of Metro precincts.
    • That Sydney Metro (supported by Landcom) should provide advice to Government regarding options to further maximise housing and city development along the existing Metro North West Line (including opportunities for new housing developments in the station precincts at Bella Vista and Cherrybrook).
  • Following from the Kanofski Strategic Infrastructure Review and within the parameters of a fiscally sustainable investment program, that the NSW Government should urgently review its medium-term transport infrastructure investment pipeline and priorities, especially relating to selection and timing of future Metro projects.
  • For future megaproject investment decisions, that the NSW Government should consider better clarifying cross-Agency responsibilities and contributions to Outcomes at the time of Investment. This may include more explicitly clarifying lead Agencies and requisite timeframes (such as for relevant rezoning activities and coordinating community feedback initiatives

Final findings and recommendations will be tabled by end of 2023 for consideration by Cabinet.

Click here to view the full Sydney Metro Independent Review – Interim Report Summary.

Click here to view the Sydney Metro Review.

Source: © Sydney Metro 2023

Image source: © Sydney Metro 2023

Source: NSW Government

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