CityRail

One of the biggest headaches for the New South Wales government has to be CityRail. It requires a billion dollar a year subsidy on running cost alone, not to mention the requirement for capital injections to upgrade equipment and service. Yet despite the money spent trains are late and the service mediocre. The need for reform should be obvious to anyone and to its credit, the NSW government is talking of privatizing maintenance and other services. While such reforms are to be welcomed I’m doubtful they will really remove this albatross from the necks of taxpayers.

Think of CityRail is as a failed business. If it was a proper commercial business, rather then a government run make work program, it would be declared bankrupt, the shareholders would absorb the loss but importantly the assets would be released to be reused by other investors.
The government needs to do something similar with CityRail.

Sell it to whoever wants to buy it. New South Welshmen would need to cop the the debts and still pay them off but we are doing that anyway. At least the debts will eventually be paid off.
Sell it all, rolling stock, tracks and importantly, the real estate. Don’t do the mistake the Brits did of having different companies run competing trains on the same track, that didn’t work. Sell it as one big unit. It would properly be purchased at a small fraction of its real value but that’s ok, that’s what happens to bankrupt companies. We are not trying to raise capital for the government here , we are trying to liberate assets for better use.

To make it politically possible, tell the new owners there will be a price cap on raising fares and they will have to maintain a minimum service. However do NOT tell time how that service will be provided. If they want to replace heavy rail on some routes by light rail, buses or something else they should be able to do so.

Entrepreneurs with new thinking can see business opportunities that current management can not. People generally see CityRail as a train business, but is it? Its an organisation that owns large strips of land and earns cash flow from moving people up and down that real estate. How about building shopping centres on train stations.? What can be done with the air space above the tracks? Consumers want transportation not train rides, so can some services be replaced by other type of transport such as light rail, buses or something else?

Unless radical steps are taken I expect the continual decay of our public transport system.
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