Labor promises $2.5bn for public transport improvements to Sydney's south
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Labor promises $2.5bn for public transport improvements to Sydney's south

A state Labor government would reserve $2.5 billion for public transport improvements to southern Sydney, set up a multi-billion dollar public transport acceleration fund and cancel three toll-roads promised by the Berejiklian government, opposition leader Luke Foley has confirmed, making a commitment to focus on improving the city’s public transport.

Announcing Labor’s priorities at Strathfield Station on Thursday, Mr Foley said Labor would consider building a new metro rail line through southern Sydney instead of a motorway, and expects its public transport acceleration fund would be made up of at least an initial $13.5 billion.

NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley, flanked by Deputy Leader, Michael Daley, and Jodi McKay, Shadow Minister for Transport, at a press conference at Strathfield Train Station.

NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley, flanked by Deputy Leader, Michael Daley, and Jodi McKay, Shadow Minister for Transport, at a press conference at Strathfield Train Station.Credit:Janie Barrett

Mr Foley made the announcement prior to the release of a statement by an ABC journalist, Ashleigh Raper, into his alleged harrasment of her at a bar in late 2016. He said Labor would not build an F6 motorway, the first stage of which is planned to run from Arncliffe to Kogarah, the Western Harbour Tunnel from Rozelle to the lower north shore, nor the Beaches Link to the Northern Beaches.

Cancelling those projects, as well as not proceeding with the government’s proposed conversion of the existing Bankstown Line between Sydenham and Bankstown to run metro-style trains, would reserve about $4.5 billion, Labor said.

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"We unashamedly prioritise public transport over toll roads, new rail lines over new toll roads," Mr Foley said. "This will set the stage for a contest of ideas and policies as we head towards the election."

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The announcement was immediately derided by the state government as "erratic politics," which reflected a failure to understand "how infrastructure is built".

"To be cancelling vital projects to communities that are dependent on these projects, I think is a simply outrageous political approach and one which again demonstrates that Luke Foley is rattled," Transport Minister Andrew Constance said.

The Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, called Labor's plan a "joke."

"I've never heard of an opposition announcing a transport policy and having the key plank to cancel projects," Ms Berejiklian said. "That is ridiculous."

In establishing its public transport acceleration fund, the state Labor party is banking on $6 billion promised by federal Labor for rail in western Sydney, and $3 billion reserved by the current government for a Metro West rail project between Parramatta and Sydney’s central business district.

“Is anyone here backing against a federal Labor government?” said Mr Foley, flanked by shadow infrastructure minister Michael Daley and shadow transport minister Jodi McKay. If Labor did not win the federal election, he said, state Labor would be "making the case very strongly" to a federal Coalition government.

That Metro West project would be Labor’s top priority, the Opposition Leader said. The second priority would be a rail link to a new airport at Badgerys Creek, with the initial line to be an extension of the existing South West Rail Link.

Mr Foley said there were a "couple of options" of how to improve public transport to southern Sydney, with one being improvements to the existing Illawarra and South Coast Line. "The second is metro extension from Sydenham south".

That would mean connecting the new metro rail line currently under construction from Chatswood to Sydenham to a new corridor running through southern Sydney.

The government has already started geo-technical work on a metro line from Westmead and Parramatta to the city. Mr Foley, however, said it would be delivered faster under Labor, which was not spending billions on separate motorway projects.

Mr Constance said: "They promised metro countless times when they were last in office. There is no ability for Luke Foley to deliver [it] any quicker because we've already started."

"Luke Foley is clearly demonstrating he doesn't understand how infrastructure is built."

Labor also confirmed it would not prevent the completion of the WestConnex motorway through the inner west. “The truth is that WestConnex is past the point of no return,” Mr Foley said.

More to come.

Jacob Saulwick is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Lisa Visentin is state political reporter. She has previously covered urban affairs, and worked in federal parliament.