Sydney says: ‘Fix NSW Public Transport’

Dozens of local community groups march through Sydney demanding better public transport on February 17. Photo Pip Hinman

Several thousand people from about 30 community groups and trade unions joined forces in the first mass Fix NSW Transport march and rally through Sydney on February 17.

United in anger at the state Coalition government's private tollway frenzy, privatisation of public transport and developer scams parading as infrastructure plans, they called on the government to fix NSW roads and public transport.

Resident action groups have been active against tollway schemes, such as WestConnex, the F6 toll road, the Western Harbour Tunnel and Beaches Link. The recent banning of a train drivers' strike, ongoing problems with the rail system, the private Metro line and the privatisation of Newcastle and Inner West bus services added to the anger and brought trade unions into the fray.

As the rally wound its way through the streets and entered Martin Place, protesters were asked to bunch up, just as they would on an overcrowded train.

Secretary of Penrith Valley Community Unions Mary Court told the rally private toll road building is "sucking billions" out of public transport and warned Premier Gladys Berejiklian not to "mess with the west".

She called the new M4 toll "highway robbery". "The M4 was paid off in 2014," she said. "Why are western Sydney and regional NSW being exploited with this massive tax for the next 41 years? To pay for WestConnex and the Harbour Tunnel.

"Dump this M4 toll or we will dump you."

The rally also criticised the extension of the F6 freeway, for which the government will clear 60 hectares of the Royal National Park, and its impact on endangered species.

Greta Werner from F6 Action said: "It's incredible to think the NSW Government would put such ecological communities at risk for five minutes of travel time savings.

Last year, the government signed off on the first stage of the F6 extension project in southern Sydney: a 4 kilometre tunnel under the Princes Highway.

Werner said: "We are concerned tunnelling works will damage homes and unfiltered exhaust stacks will pollute our homes, schools and child care centres. We know public transport is much more efficient but the government is refusing to consider alternatives for our region.

"It is a 1950s-style solution that will become ineffective in less time than it would take to build."

NSW state secretary of the Rail Tram and Bus Union Alex Claassens, “a frustrated transport worker”, told the rally: “When [transport minister Andrew] Constance introduced an ill-conceived timetable on our train network — without consulting the workers that had to deliver it — we said it would fail. And fail it did”.

Other speakers at the rally included Davie Macdonald (STOP Western Harbour and Beaches Motorways), Peter Olive (Sydenham to Bankstown Alliance), Colin Schroeder (EcoTransit) and Councillor Philip Thalis (City of Sydney Council).

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