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Perrottet snubs advice over light rail

Dominic Perrottet NSW teacher wages
Premier Dominic Perrottet accused union bosses of "playing politics with the people of NSW". Photo: AAP
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Dominic Perrottet is vowing to push ahead with stage two of the multi-million dollar Parramatta Light Rail, a day after an independent agency urged the NSW government to reassess the project.

The NSW premier says the government is fully committed to the project and substantial funds will be allocated in the June 21 budget.

The premier would not be drawn on how much the megaproject would cost, however his office tweeted on Wednesday the project would cost $600 million.

The tweet was subsequently deleted.

“Well, I’m not aware of that tweet but I’d say it’s substantial,” the premier said.

Infrastructure NSW, the state’s independent advisory body, on Monday said the government should reconsider a number of its ‘megaprojects’, as rising costs raised doubts over their benefit.

The government also needed to ensure it had enough construction workers to complete the projects, and that projects be sequenced by need.

“These days megaprojects lay the foundations for communities to thrive and to flourish,” Mr Perrottet said on Wednesday.

Labour shortages and rising material costs posed a challenge to infrastructure both locally and nationally, Mr Perrottet acknowledged.

“It’s only proper that we would … look at the pipeline of those projects, and ensure that we sequence them in a way that works.”

Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes said the government chose the Western Sydney megaproject and was determined to deliver for the residents of the area.

“We’ve already seen the transformative benefits that light rail brings to communities,” Mr Stokes said.

Another megaproject, the Northern Beaches Link, was not “pork barrelling” in a 2017 by-election, and had been a response to failed planning in the 1960s, the member for Pittwater said.

“What we are recognising, however, is that because of the headwinds we are facing that … the program of works, of which Beaches Link is a part, needs to be developed over time,” he said.

Earlier the premier told the Sydney Morning Herald Infrastructure Summit the state was at a “crossroads moment” regarding its infrastructure pipeline.

He insisted NSW would “remain the mega-capital-deliverer of projects in this country”.

“If the government was looking for an easy way out, an opportunity to slam the breaks and bring it all to a halt, this would be the moment,” the premier said.

Business Western Sydney Executive Director David Borger told AAP Western Sydney was crying out for public transport, and the commitment to funding was welcome news.

Multiple high-density estates in Wentworth Point, Melrose Park, Carter Street and Olympic Park were designed for light rail, he added.

“Western Sydney is underserved in terms of public transport. There just isn’t enough,” Mr Borger said.

“It has been frustrating to see projects like the Eastern Suburbs Light Rail and even the Northwest Metro, very expensive public transport projects developed without the sort of housing uplift that we see in Western Sydney.”

Labor leader Chris Minns said the report had thrown doubt on the viability of infrastructure work for NSW and western Sydney.

He accused the government of timing the report’s release for after the federal election, so it would not affect votes in key western Sydney electorates.

“At the 2019 state election the Liberals and Nationals told the people of this state that they could ‘have it all’,” Mr Minns said on Tuesday.

“All the infrastructure projects that were under consideration, everything that had begun, everything that was planned would be done on time and on budget.

“This report indicates that both those things are in jeopardy.”

– AAP