Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Today I've flown north of Sydney to Coffs harbour, for work. I caught the train to the airport. It's a sparkling new station, completely under-utilised. The reason? It was built as a public-private partnership and costs an exorbitant amount to get off at the station. While the railway line and trains are just a part of the public transport system, the "station access fee" provides a premium payment for the private station owners. If there are more than one of you travelling, it is cheaper to take a taxi. Rather than encouraging people to take the train, it's a real disincentive.

Sydney has several highly unpopular pieces of public-private partnership infrastructure, includign many toll roads and tunnels. All because governments refuse to invest directly for the future, and the obsession with a "private is better" ideology. They have been shown over and over again to be very unpopular and inefficient when they collapse and the government has to buy them out anyway.

I live only two stations from the airport, and when I travel alone for work it is about the same price as a taxi to catch the train. I actually prefer it.

Do you have PPPs in your part of the world? What is public reaction?


  1. Haven't heard of PPP's 'til I read your post, but that doesn't mean that they don't exist. After our dreadful bridge collapse with 13 victims now recovered---finally, it might be a good idea for our own infrastructure problems. Good commentary on your post, sally!

  2. Sally, I think your presuming that private always equals bad and this isn't always the case. The reason State Governments often take this route is because they simply dont have the money: I'm betting the F6 corridor in Sydney is still undeveloped for example, despite it being put there in the 50s.
    Take a look at Melbourne for the flip side: the Citylink freeway system is world class and could never have been built at the time by Government (and probably still wouldn't be finished today if they'd started). The problem (as I see it) in Sydney is that they got the economics wrong to start with. Having said that though there must be some benefit to having this infrastructure now as opposed to 10, 20 or 30 years into the future. Also remember that ownership usually reverts to the Government in 30-50 years as well.

  3. Public-private partnerships in this political backwater? Missouri is a low-tax, low-service state. What we do have is called tax increment financing. That's where the government gives a real estate developer a big break on property taxes for years to come, in exchange for the hope of new jobs, new sales tax payments or new residents paying income tax. It can be good or bad. It can help a corporation build a new plant, bringing jobs; it can help a developer push homeowners out of the way for a shopping center; or it can help the people who rehab older, urban-core buildings for new uses, as I discussed in my post yesterday.


  4. You're lucky to get to fly as part of your job. I get the occasional rail trip or hire car. We have some PPP's here. I think one of the most controversial are city academies for students. They don't seem to be working properly. We were going to have one in Nottingham, but it seems to have been scrapped for now.

  5. Quite cool signs and colours.

  6. I used to live at Bronte and would take the regular suburban bus from the end of the street to the airport, just for a couple of dollars.
    The airport train just going to Central is awkward for a lot of people too.

    great blog, makes me homesick!