Christie Report on Sydney’s Transportation Development

On Saturday February 13, the Sydney Morning Herald published the first synopsis of the recommendations of the ‘Christie Report’, an independent inquiry headed by the State’s former rail and roads boss Ron Christie, and backed by the Herald.

PCI has previously reported on several of the interim recommendations of the report (see Sydney’s Traffic Solutions? and Sydney Parking 2029), warming our readers up to the full report, and priming them with recommendations from other sources, including a user-pay model including congestion charging and public transportation.

The Christie Report’s main recommendations for Sydney’s transport system include the following:

  • Delay building an expensive underground metro network for at least 10 years and focus on new heavy and light rail projects across the city.
  • Develop a new heavy rail line through the CBD and across the harbour, providing at least 25% more passenger capacity on the CityRail system for decades.
  • Building rail links to connect commuters to the job-rich arc between North Ryde and Mascot in Sydney’s north-west and south-west suburbs.
  • Supporting the proposed West Metro, but only between Westmead and Barangaroo, not to Pyrmont or Rozelle and, critically, not using a corridor under Pitt Street, which should be reserved for CityRail to build a future heavy rail capacity expansion and congestion-relief options within the CBD and across the Harbour Bridge.
  • Spending up to $2.7 billion on road upgrades in western Sydney but recommending against new motorways between the city and the suburbs, saying this would lead to urban sprawl that could not accommodate the huge growth in Sydney’s population. The report claims that ‘road-building solutions – whether road widenings or new roads – are destined to fail because these dense centres, by their very nature, simply do not have room for everyone’s car’
  • Extending the light rail network that runs through Chinatown, removing large numbers of buses and transforming bus-choked George Street. Under this plan, large sections of the street would also be made car-free.

The Sydney Morning Herald has published numerous articles on the report over the past five days, with a succinct synopsis best articulated in the article ‘The Vision for a system to meet the needs’.

The NSW Labour Government has been long criticised for announcing ambitious transportation plans, only to subsequently change its mind in the short term due to reprioritisation or reallocation of funding, leaving Sydney with no major transportation blueprint and increasing pressure from population and traffic growth.

On Monday, Premier Keneally told the treasury and transport departments to study the recommendations of the independent Christie Report – leaving the door open to delay the metro network in favour of expanding heavy rail. Ms Keneally said she wanted to sit down with Mr Christie to learn how the recommendations could be incorporated into the government’s transport and land use blueprint, to be released this month.

However, the one potential shortfall of the Christie Report is that it relies on significant funding – including $15 billion in new Commonwealth funding, and between $20 billion and $50 billion in new taxes from a proposed one-off increase in fares, public transport levies on households, businesses and car parking spaces and a congestion charge.

Whilst traffic and parking is only one part of the puzzle, PCI welcomes the independent report’s recommendations and believes that the key to successful and expanding urbanisation is reducing the dependence on the car as the primary mode of transport. It will be very interesting to see how the Government reacts to the report, and PCI will keep you informed as the government moves to release their transport and land use blueprint later this month.

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