When Liberal MP Jamie Briggs was in Hong Kong and was not busy making unwanted advances on public servants, he was meeting with private rail operator MTR. This aspect of his travels should also be under scrutiny.
MTR already runs Melbourne's Metro train system, which, under its management, was rated the worst metropolitan train service in Australia. It is are also set to run the new Northwest Metro in Sydney and are bidding for contracts for all the remaining sections of the Sydney Metro.
MTR is trying to export its “value capture” model, whereby property owners next to new public infrastructure are levied on the windfall gains they usually experience.
This raises several questions.
Why privatise the rail network when the resulting service is so bad? Why give the profits away when we could keep them in public hands? MTR is 76% owned by the Hong Kong government, so the problem is not that governments do not know how to make a profit.
Why build the Sydney Metro at all instead of sensible improvements to our existing dual-deck system, such as high-capacity signalling and upgrading existing lines?
Many critics are scathing of the Metro design, which is not compatible with the existing rail infrastructure.
Finally, the “value capture” model may well capture the windfall gains made by large corporate land bankers for the public purse, but it may also mean public land is sold to developers at bargain prices — as seems likely to occur at Waterloo — or ordinary homeowners are forced to pay levies that ultimately end up in the pockets of MTR and the like.
When we say “westCONnex won't work — public transport will”, we are talking about the real deal: publicly owned public transport, not some sell-off to corporate raiders determined to turn Sydney into an urban theme park.
Briggs was looking to betray the Australian public in Hong Kong too.
[Andrew Chuter is an anti-WestConnex activist.]