Foreign equity in NSW transport: when did we debate it?

The Government of NSW’s merchant bankers are no doubt delighted that one of the world’s biggest engineering-finance plays is likely to own and operate an increasing share of NSW’s transport assets.

The Spanish conglomerate Grupo ACS is vast, with enormous projects and operations in many countries, largely as a result of taking over Hochtief, Germany’s largest construction company. This in turn meant that ACS owns CIMIC (which is what they called the Australian contractor Leighton when they took it over) as well as CPB Contractors, Thiess, UGL, Sedgman, Pacific Partners and Broad Constructions — all of them Australian-grown infrastructure companies.

A number of these ACS subsidiaries formed the so-called consortium that built Sydney Metro’s northwest metro line, now operated by ACS-owned UGL Rail.

In November 2019, Sydney Metro awarded the ACS ‘consortium’ the contract to build and operate the rest of the metro line to Bankstown.

ACS must be best placed to own the T4 line from Bondi Junction to Cronulla and Waterfall when (predictably) it is privatised some time in the 2020s. Presumably the South Coast line to Wollongong and Bombaderry will be part of the deal.

When critical strategic transport investments serving 70% of the state’s population – including the region’s public transport systems and toll roads – are reconfigured into packages that are perfect for tricky financial instruments and investment plays, government and the public sector is changing in ways we haven’t expected or debated.

Did we miss something?

Were we asked to consider the pros and cons of effective foreign control of metropolitan transport services during consultation on the Greater Sydney strategy and the NSW transport strategy?

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