Rail plan ‘drawn on back of envelope’

The Labor plan for a rail link between Parramatta and Epping in Sydney was “drawn up on the back of an envelope at the last minute”, federal opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says.

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The $2.6 billion project was announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally on Wednesday.

Originally proposed by the state government in 1998, it was abandoned in 2003 and does not appear in the state government’s 10-year transport plan.

Mr Hockey says federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese evaded questions on ABC radio on Thursday morning about when the project was approved by the federal government.

“Anthony Albanese today confirmed this rail promise was drawn up at the last minute on the back of a coaster, because there was no official planning or submissions,” Mr Hockey said in a statement.

The project had not been officially submitted to Infrastructure Australia for proper assessment, feasibility study or scrutiny, he said.

Mr Hockey also questioned whether the NSW government could pay its $520 million share of the project and whether the rail line would ever be constructed.

Referring to the cancellation or deferral of other major rail projects in Sydney, he said: “Labor is good at drawing lines on maps during election campaigns but hopeless at delivering real rail lines”.

“Labor drew up the announcement on the back of an envelope at the last minute in a desperate attempt to win marginal seats,” he added.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said a coalition government would not commit to funding the rail link.

“The people of western Sydney know enough about politics to mistrust politicians who come in like Santa Claus with a sack of goodies, handing out presents to every voter,” he told reporters in the western Sydney suburb of Penrith.

“I am going to treat the public with respect and I’m going to treat the taxpayers’ dollar with respect.”

The federal government’s contribution to infrastructure should be done carefully, Mr Abbott said.

“It can’t all be a business of pre-election bribery.”

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