IN politics, as in comedy, timing is everything.
And with less than six months until the state election, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the NSW Government has got its timing all wrong with its ambitious transport agenda.
At a time when it needs a ribbon cutting to show that at least some of the construction pain is over and the gain is about to begin, the government seems unlikely to get it – and it could make the Coalition’s task in March 2019 that much harder.
The Sydney Light Rail, at the time of its announcement, looked set to be the pre-election present, all ready to be completed and unwrapped as the voters went to the polls.
But what was originally to have opened early in 2019 is now not due to be finished until 2020 – and even that date seems to be drifting further away as the problems mount.
Elsewhere in Sydney, the gargantuan Westconnex road project will be going on for years yet and the opening of the Northconnex tunnel has been pushed out by six months to the second quarter of 2020.
The first stage of the Sydney Metro project, a new train line through Sydney’s north-west, is on track for an opening in the “first half of 2019”, but there has been no indication yet that it will be the first three months of the year rather than the next three.
And in Bathurst, where the NSW Government’s upgrade to the Great Western Highway through Kelso was on time (though over budget), its completion came as a mid-term highlight that many residents of the city would now have forgotten.
The extension to that upgrade, from Kelso to Raglan, has been announced, but it will take concrete construction work along that route to remind residents that it is happening – and there is not much time left for that as the March election draws close.
The NSW Government has been a building government up until this point, but to keep the voters of the state on side it needs to start to show that it is a government that can complete projects as well.
It needs to get the new trams and trains running on the new lines, the cars pouring into the new tunnel. It needs to let the memories of the years of construction gradually fade as the jackhammers fall silent and the barriers come down.
That hasn’t happened yet.
We will find out in March whether the voters are willing to let the government finish what it started.