Greg Smith lectures constituents
RAW VISION: during a fiery north-west rail link meeting in Cheltenham on Monday night, former cabinet minister Greg Smith chastises his electorate.PT1M7S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-37tog 620 349 May 6, 2014
Former cabinet minister Greg Smith told a fiery public meeting in his electorate on Monday night that he expects the state’s remaining electricity assets to be sold off to pay for another rail line through the city.
At the meeting, organised to oppose plans to limit the north-west rail link to single-deck carriages with fewer seats, Mr Smith also complained of being threatened when a member of the audience tried to take his microphone from him, and appeared to mock residents of Beecroft and Cheltenham for being less polite than residents of Epping.
I'm amazed that the people of Beecroft and Cheltenham would be so rude.
The state government’s plans for the north-west rail link have produced a hostile response from people in northern suburbs whose train services will be downgraded for the new line.
Offended by rudeness: Greg Smith. Photo: Helen Nezdropa
The new line to Rouse Hill, which will also take over the existing Epping to Chatswood line, will run as a shuttle train to Chatswood.
For residents of nearby stations such as Beecroft and Cheltenham, this will mean that they will have to catch three trains to get to the centre of Sydney. At present they can catch one.
Mr Smith told the meeting at the Cheltenham Recreation Club that in time services on the north-west rail link would be extended from Chatswood to the city through another harbour crossing.
''Obviously it will be built after this north-west rail link is complete,'' Mr Smith, the Member for Epping and until recently the attorney-general, said.
''There's no doubt about that. But it is clear that the minister wishes to build it, she wishes to expedite it, and if we go ahead and do certain other infrastructure things, sell certain things, such as the powers and wires, there will be money available to build that second harbour crossing. I predict that that's going to happen. And it is going to happen in the next 10 years.''
In opposition, the Coalition promised to run trains from the north-west rail link all the way into the city. But it broke that promise in 2012 when it instead said it would build the $8.3 billion line as a privately operated shuttle to Chatswood.
This means the existing Epping to Chatswood line, which was completed only in 2009, will need to be handed over to a new operator and modified to carry a different type of train.
At Monday’s meeting, the project director for the north-west rail link, Rodd Staples, was unable to say how long the Epping to Chatswood line would need to be closed to be modified. He said the signalling system would need to be upgraded and screens installed on station platforms.
Mr Staples and Mr Smith were both heckled for not being able to answer questions about how existing train services would change to accommodate the new line.
Mr Smith told the crowd to think of those areas of Sydney that did not have train services.
''You have a very good train service,'' he said. ''Better than most parts of Sydney. You have the creme de creme at the moment. And you may have light cream as a result of these changes.''
He objected when one woman tried to take his microphone from him: ''Madam, take your hands off me, please. Take your hands off me.''
And he said he was disappointed in the behaviour of his constituents.
''There's a lack of common courtesy here tonight,'' he said. ''I'm amazed that the people of Beecroft and Cheltenham would be so rude. People from Epping, who are also very well bred are normally not rude either. If I go to a meeting at the Epping Civic Trust, the people are usually very temperate.''
Mr Smith expressed confidence in retaining his seat at the 2015 election, citing a redistribution that meant Epping would take in areas to benefit from the north-west rail link.
''My electorate has moved into Castle Hill, West Pennant Hills, Cherrybrook, which are blue ribbon Liberal areas,'' he said.
In response to Mr Smith’s speech, a number of residents said they did not oppose the north-west rail link, just the way in which it is proposed to be built.
The meeting was also addressed by Labor transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe, Greens transport spokeswoman Mehreen Faruqi and convenor of EcoTransit Gavin Gatenby.
New premier Mike Baird is expected to be more likely to sell off the state’s remaining electricity assets – the poles and wires – than previous premier Barry O’Farrell.