Monthly Archives: April 2019

Newcastle harness racing boss backs club to end seven-year losing streak

CHIEF executive Tony Drew is hopeful of a “break-square” result this financial year forNewcastle Harness Racing Club (NHRC) despite it posting a seventh consecutive year of substantial loss.
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Newcastle Harness Racing Club CEO Tony Drew.

NHRC announced a$116,910 deficit for2015-16, which was down from $171,631 (2014-15) and about $207,000 (2013-14) –the club’s worst results. Those followedlosses of about $103,000, $122,000, $120,000 and $97,000 in the years since theclublost regular Saturday night TAB dates.

However, Drew was optimistic about the future given the improvement of 2015-16, an increase in Saturday night meetings and new concessions from Harness Racing NSW.

“It was a pleasing result,” Drew said.“We were able to secure for this financial year the Saturday meetings, and we’ve got to thank Harness Racing NSW. Halfway through last financial year they gave us quite a few Saturdays.We went from 12 to 25 and now we’ve got 41.

“The last financial year, the majority were twilight meetings, but it gave us a stepping stone to this year.We’ve got 41 Saturday nights and four Friday nights as well –it’s almost back in line with about seven years ago.

“We’re looking forward to this financial year with great anticipation and we would hope it would be a break-square.”

Drew said an HRNSW initiative to coverthe costs of photo-finish and ambulance services for each club would also help NHRC. It is believed the change will equate to about $75,000 in savingsfor Newcastle.

“For a club that runs 61 meetings, it certainly helps our bottom line,” Drew said.

He said the other significant cost-saving came from the expansion to 12-horse field with fewer meetings but more races on each program.

“Our fields since we’ve gone to 12 runners have held up remarkably well,” he said.

“All you can do is thank the local participants, they’ve been marvellous.

“They have embraced the 12-horse fields and we are having nine and 10-race meetings on a regular basis. We are down only about seven races from last year.”

He hoped the increase in Saturday night meetings would increase attendances and profits.

“We’re trading pretty well and heading in the right decision,” he said.

“Hopefully in the future people will realise we are racing on Saturdays. It’s been seven or eight years since we did regularly and people havefound other things to do. Hopefully with our promotions, we’ll start to get them back.”

To help the turnaround, NHRC has recently employed a marketing and business development manager, Jane Hextell.

“Give us 18 months, we’ll achieve our goals,” Drew said.

“It’s been a four-year plan and we’re getting there.”

Meanwhile, NHRC will on Tuesday farewell club accountant Steven Norris, who died last Wednesday.

Norris, 44, was with the club for about 18 months. His funeral service will be held at Lake Macquarie Memorial Park from 10am.

In other news, lone Hunter hope UltimateArt has arrived safe and well in Perth ahead of the Inter Dominion Series.

Ellalong trainer-driver Michael Formosa said Ultimate Art, which missed last year’s series in Perth but was a heat winner in the 2015 Menangle edition, had a good nature, which served him well for the long trip.

Mick Radley from GPTV interviews Michael Formosa about Ultimate Art’s arrival in Perth for the Inter Dominion.Ultimate Art is ranked 14thfor the series which starts on November 25.

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New Zealand earthquake: Hundreds of aftershocks pepper North and South islands

A map from GeoNet showing the distribution of aftershocks. Photo: GeoNet​The deadly earthquake that struck 90 kilometres north of Christchurch on Sunday night has been followed by hundreds of aftershocks.
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GeoNet, which monitors seismic activity in New Zealand, said: “We can say one thing with certainty: there will be more earthquakes to come in this area.”

About 10 hours after the huge quake hit, GeoNet had recorded 232 aftershock events. One of those tremors was of 6.1 magnitude. By noon AEDT close to 300 shocks had been recorded.

Caroline Little, a spokeswoman for GeoNet, told Fairfax Media that the agency was “pretty confident” the initial earthquake was two seismic events about 50 kilometres apart.

It is the largest earthquake recorded in New Zealand since 2009.

A statement from GeoNet said: “It looks like we’ve got two separate but related quakes going on. Our reports indicate that the combination of these two quakes lasted two minutes, with the most severe shaking at around 50 seconds.”

“It’s quite a complex quake,” Ms Little said. “It looks like two events happening almost simultaneously.”The M7.5 looks like TWO separate earthquakes, which is why we are seeing aftershocks in two locations. More info to come. #eqnz— GeoNet (@geonet) November 13, 2016

Geoscience Australia said that the seismic event released more than 50 times the amount of energy than the 2011 Christchurch earthquake that killed 185 people.

Dan Jaksa is the senior duty seismologist for Geoscience Australia. He said it was unlikely there were two separate quakes but that, as the earth’s crust ripped, seismologists can record movement at different locations.

“We put a dot on a map and call it the epicentre and give it a number but of course it’s more complex than that,” he said.

Mr Jaksa said an earthquake of this size had an impact zone of about 150 to 180 kilometres.

“It’s way too far away to affect Australia,” he said.UPDATE: Mag 7.9 South Island of New Zealand. 14 Nov 2016 00:03 (NZDT). Lat/Long -42.7 172.7. Depth 59km. Info is preliminary.— EarthquakesGA (@EarthquakesGA) November 13, 2016

“What is occurring is a rip through the earth’s crust,” he said. “From our measurements it seems this one started onshore about 15 kilometres underground and ruptured the crust from west to east in a slightly north-easterly direction.”

GeoNet released an initial report of expected likely scenarios.Scenario 1 (Very likely): a normal aftershock sequence over the next few months. This means gradually diminishing size and frequency of seismic events.Scenario 2 (Likely): Possible rupture earthquake of magnitude 6 in North Canterbury and/or offshore.Scenario 3 (Unlikely): Another large earthquake above magnitude 7 within a month in the Marlborough and Cook Strait regions.

GeoNet measured the quake at a magnitude of 7.5, although the United States Geological Survey said it was of a 7.8 magnitude and Geoscience Australia said the event was of a 7.9 magnitude.

“There are a number of ways we can look at an earthquake,” Mr Jaksa said.

He said GeoNet relied on measuring close readings, which can “saturate” the measurement devices causing what he called “clipping”.

The different seismic waves arrival times: p-waves, s-waves, surface waves. Graphic: Western University Canada

The first measurements from an earthquake are the “p-waves”, which are compression waves travelling through the earth, much like sound waves. Mr Jaksa said these dispersion waves allow detection of a quake’s location and an initial estimate of its size.

Following the “p-waves” seismologists measure “s-waves”, which are slower moving shear waves travelling perpendicular to the direction of the p-waves.

Seismologists then measure even slower surface waves that shake the crust in rolling waves allowing a better understanding of the event.

The different seismic waves and the way they travel across the earth: p-waves, s-waves, surface waves. Graphic: UNC Charlotte

Mr Jaksa said GeoNet relied on more localised measurements, whereas Geoscience Australia incorporated more longer-period waves. USGS uses a similar method, explaining why the US and Australian agencies have issued similar magnitudes for the event.

He said the NZ measurement was more like the older Richter scale, which measured amplitudes of seismic waves. The current scales incorporate measurements of earth movement.

Ms Little said that GeoNet’s use of local stations gave it a better ability to locate the epicentre and determine whether it was one or two seismic events.

“We’re pretty confident it was two,” she said.Last 48 hours in NZ in 30 seconds. #eqnz

All quakes above magnitude of 2.

Source: https://t.co/p9CvaAHuK3pic.twitter南京夜网/6SuProXUue— Harkanwal (@kamal_hothi) November 13, 2016

Mr Jaksa said: “These scales are logarithmic, which means each unit increase represents a 10 times increase in size.

“However, this doesn’t account for the amount of energy released. The event overnight released 50 times the amount of energy than the 6.1 magnitude Christchurch quake did in 2011.”

That quake was just five kilometres underground and 10 kilometres from the city centre. It killed 185 people.

Mr Jaksa said: “This is the most active seismic site on earth. It stretches from the Solomon Islands through Vanuatu and down to New Zealand.

“The Pacific Plate is going under the Australian Plate along this area. The Pacific Plate is moving 11 centimetres a year in a west-north-west direction. The Australian Plate is moving north-east at about seven centimetres a year,” he said.​

However, along the South Island things get complicated. Here the Australian Plate is largely going under the Pacific Plate.

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‘It wasn’t an intruder, it was an earthquake’: How it felt when the NZ quake hit

Part of the destruction caused by the earthquake. Photo: Iain McGregor/Fairfax NZ Sydney Morning Herald journalist Saimi Jeong.
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The door was rattling in my Christchurch hotel room. As it became more violent, I bolted upright, expecting an intruder.

The rattling turned into a rumble as the floor shook. It was only when I flicked on my beside light that I realised what was happening: lamp and curtains shaking, glasses and water bottle trembling on the table; it was the unmistakeable scene of an earthquake – straight out of the movies.

At first, I stayed in bed, waiting for it to pass. When it didn’t – and it could have been half a minute, but that’s a long time when the very earth itself is shaking – I slipped out from under the covers and carefully pulled on a shirt and shorts, in case we needed to evacuate. Unsure of what to do next, and with the tremor still going, I slipped back into bed. I imagined myself being pulled out of the rubble in the morning by figures in dusty body suits and hard hats.

After the first quake ended, I tiptoed across the floor in the new knowledge that nothing was as solid as it seemed, and poked my head out into the corridor.

Other heads were poking out, too. One of them, at the far end, was accompanied by a hand, waving gently at me as if to say: “Hey, we’re alive, isn’t that funny?”

I smiled and returned the wave. Another door creaked open and a hulking man with a shaved head emerged, walking down the corridor, my way. I waited, eager for more of an exchange than silent hand gestures.

“That was a long tremor,” he said as he walked past.

“Ye-e-e-eah,” I half laughed. He was already too far away for anything more to be said.

Unsatisfied, and with a post-rollercoaster-ride feeling in my stomach that was part adrenalin, part motion sickness, I grabbed my phone and texted: “Did you feel that tremor??” to a blogger from Australia in the room next door.

“Hell yeah. Just keeps going!” he texted back.

The room shook again every few minutes, then every 10 or so, and, again, hours later, by which time the shocks had lessened in severity and I had gained in confidence: What, this again?

To reach this level of cool, I had quickly Googled “what to do in an earthquake”.

In the stillness between shocks, I prepared according to the New Zealand government website Get Thru.

I swept my laptop and charger off the desk, then dragged it away from the outer wall of the hotel, positioning it so it wasn’t too close to the TV on the other side.

I pushed the chair away for unobstructed access and practised crouching under the desk, holding on to its edges. I tried another position: one hand on an edge and one clutching a table leg.

An hour and a half after the first tremor, I was feeling pretty self-assured.

Then the tsunami warning was sent around. I didn’t sleep for another two hours.

Saimi Jeong is a Sydney Morning Herald journalist.

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Australia’s most successful game studio is having an identity crisis

Fruit Ninja, one of the most successful games of all time, was an unexpected hit for Halfbrick.In years gone by Halfbrick had a tradition.
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When an employee decided to leave there was a farewell. A slideshow, a card signed by everyone. A speech — a celebration — topped off by a ceremonial bag stuffed full of marshmallows. Weird, flippant. By design. A sense of closure to dedicated service in pursuit of one unified goal: the creation of unique, innovative video game experiences.

A gesture reflective of the experience that — from the outside in — you might expect from a company like Halfbrick.

Halfbrick. Australia’s biggest, arguably most successful, video game studio.

Halfbrick: the golden child. Halfbrick: the success story. Halfbrick: the enduring symbol of an Australian games industry in full recovery. Halfbrick: the phoenix from the flames. After years of redundancy, studio closures and flat out misery, Halfbrick: everything we wanted Australian game development to represent. Verve, creativity, agility, polish, quality. Independence.

Halfbrick: the dream in action.

But Halfbrick as we once knew it has changed, and has been changing — according to sources — for years now. From the outside in Halfbrick has always existed as a static enduring example of success; living, breathing proof that Australia has a games industry worth believing in.

From the inside out; a different story. Halfbrick: a studio with a powerful, damaging identity crisis. Halfbrick: a company teetering on the edge of a chasm it doesn’t quite understand, can’t quite traverse.

Over the past six months we’ve spoken to numerous sources within Halfbrick. Ex-developers, ex-designers. Some left years ago, some left as recently as last month.

But they all tell the same story.

And that story begins with a little game called Fruit Ninja.

Fruit Ninja: the centrifugal force around which Halfbrick’s story orbits.

Fruit Ninja, released in April 2010. A minor miracle of design. One of the first mobile games to take full advantage of the iPhone. One of the first on the platform to seamlessly merge form and content. Fruit Ninja: a game built for touch screens. Almost instantly, it was a massive hit.

It sold 200,000 in its first month. A tremendous number at the time, but modest in comparison to what would come. In three months: 1 million. By September 2010: 2 million. March 2011: 20 million. By May 2012 it had sold 300 million units and was on one third of all iPhones in the US.

2015: 1 billion.

Fruit Ninja is one of the most successful video games ever made.

The kind of success story you could never predict, let alone plan for. In many ways Fruit Ninja was a glorious accident. In others it was a calculated stroke of genius, led by a small group of developers hell bent on success.

Fruit Ninja in its earliest state was designed by Luke Muscat, prototyped by Joe Gatling and worked upon furiously by Luke himself alongside Steve Last and Shath Maguire. Fruit Ninja was almost exclusively the end result of that team’s hard work.

“Fruit Ninja wasn’t planned,” one source explained. “It didn’t have a long development cycle and it wasn’t the result of management making the right call — except to get out of its way.

“Fruit Ninja was a miracle. And everything changed as a result of that miracle.”

The writing was on the wall. Alongside the shift towards free-to-play, sources say Shainiel Deo was determined to add a layer of middle-management to what was previously a flat company structure.

It was the source of much resentment, particularly amongst long-serving staff, who were now being asked to justify design decisions to middle managers with no real understanding of how Halfbrick had worked in years previous.

The real issue: Halfbrick traditionally promoted from within, which helped preserve its unique culture. Now Shainiel was creating what one source described as a “fairly draconian” management layer. Crucially, he was creating this management team using external hires.

Many in this middle management layer were notorious for drawn-out meetings that were frustrating and unproductive, particularly to those involved in design.

Others were more forgiving, believing middle-management was brought in to execute a new mandate from Shainiel himself — who was becoming increasingly distant (and inaccessible) to Halfbrick’s rank and file.

“Shaniel had the right intentions,” explained one ex-staffer. “The big issue at the heart of all this: how can a small, indie spirit which results in great games, be maintained in a big company with expensive overheads.

“Those two things were at war.”

In the midst of this expansion, Halfbrick opened a Sydney office.

There was an element of naivete among the new recruits. Some were young — direct from university or college — others were attracted to Halfbrick’s reputation as a space where game design was placed at a premium. It was 2011. Halfbrick was the most successful game studio in Australia. There was a reverence at play — some experienced developers took a pay cut just to be involved.

All were chasing that dream: creative freedom, working with like-minded people. There was a sense of myth-making, a romance to the idea of Halfbrick: a game design mecca where prototypes flowed freely in a glorious flat structure where everyone worked as equals.

“After I joined,” says one source, “it became quickly apparent that things weren’t going to play out that way.

“It wasn’t exactly flat management. It wasn’t exactly creative freedom.

“We arrived at a company that was trying to find its identity.”

Almost immediately, the Sydney studio was tasked with porting existing Halfbrick games to Asian markets. First off the rank, Fruit Ninja Champions for Korean consumers.

The team were disappointed. Mostly they were confused. This wasn’t what they signed up for. None of them spoke Korean. None of them had even visited Korea.

“The Korean market is extremely competitive,” explained our source. “It’s full of cultural nuances we couldn’t possibly master. It was an intense, saturated market we didn’t understand.

“It was a terrible idea. We tried to be friendly about it. At a certain point we all said, ‘we don’t want to do this’. We were basically told, ‘well you’re doing it anyway’.”

The Sydney operation operated as a satellite to the main studio in Brisbane. In the beginning the team felt part of a cohesive ‘Halfbrick’ culture, but that quickly deteriorated. Halfbrick was in the process of changing dramatically. This was reflected in Shainiel’s relationship with the development team in Sydney.

In the beginning Shainiel was on first name basis with everyone — including those in the Sydney studio. But that quickly changed. Sources say he was distancing himself from the day-to-day management of Halfbrick, which frustrated many within the Sydney studio.

Eventually, Shainiel decided to make the trip to Sydney. The team were excited.

“It was like dad coming to visit when dad doesn’t visit often,” one source said. “We were like little kids. The big man’s coming!”

The trip didn’t play out like the team had hoped.

“Shainiel had changed a lot,” we were told. “He wore different clothes, had a different attitude. He didn’t remember who in the office he’d actually met before.

“Suddenly he was like, ‘have I met you before?'”

“With Halfbrick’s choice to publish ‘Yes Chef’ and ‘Top Farm’ I think the penny dropped for more than a few people.”

Yes Chef and Top Farm: clearly inspired by existing franchises like Farmville and Bejewelled. Games that didn’t match the previous levels of polish and innovation expected of a studio with Halfbrick’s stellar reputation.

Many were disappointed by the shift in direction and the games being published.

Halfbrick began hemorrhaging staff. Most of whom left of their own volition.

Many left because the job felt dull and creatively redundant (“I wasn’t satisfied with the work I was doing there”). Others struggled with the new imposition of middle-management (“expert employees that had been making excellent games for years weren’t trusted to do their jobs — so they left.”)

Regardless of the reasons, over the course of a year roughly 30 frustrated developers left Halfbrick, choosing to work on their own projects independently or forming small micro-studios.

Among them, a core group of long-serving key staff members that included Chief Creative Officer Luke Muscat — the man responsible for so much of studio’s success. Arguably the most prolific game designer in Australia.

Luke — alongside Phil Larsen and Hugh Walters — left Halfbrick to form Prettygreat, a brand new studio devoted to making video games in the mobile space.

To those remaining at Halfbrick, it was a crushing blow.

“Design lost an advocate at the company [when Luke left],” explained one source. “It lost a voice.”

Many in the design team openly wondered if Luke would be replaced, but it soon became apparent that replacing Luke wasn’t going to be a priority.

“Vague answers were given like ‘someone will step up’. I now suspect that meant ‘we don’t want one.’

“By this point I think management lost faith in designers.”

“Halfbrick remains a design focused company and this change will empower everyone in our teams to contribute to design rather than concentrate design control in the hands of a few.

“Great ideas can come from anywhere and we want to create an environment that fosters this notion.”

That statement was sent to Kotaku on September 14, 2015. The day Halfbrick decided to make the role of ‘game designer’ redundant at its studio.

It was a move that surprised many. Few were aware how dramatically Halfbrick had changed since the release of Fruit Ninja.

But those with an insider’s perspective understood perfectly: it was consistent with the behaviour of a company consolidating past successes. As one source told us at the time, creative risk-taking was “a thing of the past” for Halfbrick.

There would be no slideshow. No giant bag of marshmallows. Despite years of combined service Layton Hawkes and Ryan Langley — Halfbrick’s two remaining designers — were given a handshake and 10 minutes to leave the office.

Two game designers. It didn’t make sense. For a studio as sizeable as Halfbrick, that number seemed low. It seemed low because it was low. In fact, just days previously, Halfbrick had at least four game designers on staff.

Sources report that, just days before Layton and Ryan were made redundant, the remaining two designers on staff were quietly taken into a room and ‘promoted’. Instead of being called ‘game designers’ they were now ‘product managers’.

“It was out of the blue,” one source said.

The day after those promotions, the remaining two game designers had lost their jobs.

But why Layton? Why Ryan?

Multiple sources informed Kotaku that Ryan and Layton had expressed concerns regarding Halfbrick’s direction; that both felt the need to defend design as a discipline.

Almost everyone we interviewed believes Halfbrick was in the process of creating a work environment where management decisions were accepted without question.

“They want ‘yes men’ that will agree to make the games they want,” said one source.

“A lot of issues came from hiring people who were ‘yes men’,” claimed one ex staff-member.

“Shainiel doesn’t want anyone to challenge him directly.”

Making video games at Halfbrick is different now.

Roughly three months ago Halfbrick formalised a new set of processes that determines what games would be created and released.

Games don’t start with an idea. They don’t start with a mechanic. They start with questions like ‘should this product be built’ or ‘can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?’

Those processes, those questions: they’re largely based around a book called The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

One source: “to get a project approved for development, you start by trying to find a gap in the market, and then interviewing people to see if you should build something in that area.”

Developers had to take ideas to marketing, describe their game’s potential audience, and wait for interviews to be set up.

“It means you have a bunch of developers sitting around trying to sort out interviews for six weeks without building anything.”

According to sources, Shainiel and the management team were rejecting prototypes at an alarmingly high rate.

“There was no real vision. So much standing between a team starting and finishing a game.

“The new lean process really encourages copying.”

Those who remained after the ‘game designer’ role was made redundant believe that decision, along with these newly mandated processes, are a major issue. Creativity has stagnated. Morale is at an all-time low.

“Developers also can’t focus on what they’re good at,” said one source.

“Mostly people don’t care,” said another. “They’ve managed to effectively weed out the people who care.”

In September 2016 there was another purge. But this time it was voluntary.

Frustrated by a lack of support for his ‘Lean Start-Up’ inspired processes, Shainiel sent out a company-wide email.

His offer: voluntary redundancy to anyone in the company who wanted it. His reasoning: Shainiel only wanted people who were “100% committed” to Halfbrick in its current state.

It was referred to as the “golden handshake”.

Anyone with issues regarding how Halfbrick was being run could leave, and would receive a payout. The minimum payment: $10,000, but employees would be paid whatever they were legally entitled to as a redundancy payment. For some long-term staff members, that number was upwards of $20,000.

Everyone had 10 days to decide.

Numbers regarding how many took the redundancy are vague, but most put the number at around 14.

14 staff members took Shainiel up on his offer, took the “golden handshake” and left Halfbrick of their own volition.

At this stage Halfbrick’s future is unclear.

“They’ve lost so much talent,” one source told us.

Some believe Halfbrick will continue to leverage its existing properties — cement Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride and expand those brands into new, potentially lucrative markets. Others believe Halfbrick will move towards publishing — helping other studios release games into an increasingly temperamental mobile market.

Previous communications suggest Halfbrick will continue releasing its own, studio developed video games, but it’s difficult to tell: Halfbrick and Shainiel Deo turned down repeated interview requests for the purposes of this story.

“Our focus lies in the future,” said a Halfbrick spokesperson, “and we don’t want to dwell on the past.” celebrates video game culture with news, reviews and long form features. read more »

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Metro rail from CBD to Parramatta confirmed – but it’s $10b and 10 years away

Another metro line will be built between Sydney’s CBD and Parramatta by the middle of next decade, the Baird government says Photo: Supplied The new metro rail line will include new stations at Olympic Park and the Bays Precinct around Rozelle. Photo: Supplied
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The Baird Government has committed to a new metro rail line between Sydney’s central business district and Parramatta, estimated to cost at least $10 billion.

Amid open warfare within the NSW Nationals following the backlash in the Orange byelection at the weekend, the government said it would use funds raised from the $16 billion sale of Ausgrid and so-called value capture to pay for the project, intended to relieve mounting pressure on Sydney’s overcrowded Western Line.

The new rail line will run driverless, single-deck trains and include new stations at Olympic Park and the Bays Precinct around Rozelle.

Premier Mike Baird said the government wants construction to start on the new line within five years and for it to be operating in the second half of the next decade.

But he was short on releasing details about the cost, the exact route or how many stations would be built. Those aspects would be subject to talks with industry and the wider community, and a business case for the project.

“We know where the rail link is going to go. What we need to finalise now is both the route, the number of stations and that is one of the great things we have through this – the opportunity to engage,” he said.

“We’re very confident that we have every capacity to deliver this project.”

Mr Baird said the Ausgrid deal had given the government the ability to bring forward planning for the project, which was first revealed by Fairfax Media in September.

“A metro line in Western Sydney will effectively double rail capacity between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD,” he said.

“This is the first step – we’ve identified the need for this project, we’re committing the government to delivering it and today we begin the work to bring metro rail to Western Sydney,” he said.

Called “Sydney Metro West”, much of the new line will run through tunnels. The route follows a similar abandoned scheme promised by the former Morris Iemma Labor government in 2007 and then abandoned.

The first stage of a $20 billion metro line under construction at present, between Sydney’s north-west and Chatswood, is due for completion in 2019. The second stage of this line will continue onto the CBD, Sydenham and on the existing Bankstown Line and should open in 2023.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the new west metro line to Parramatta would complement the existing Western Line, which was quickly reaching capacity.

“The growth in western Sydney means we have no choice. You’re not going to be able to get people onto trains in 15 years if we don’t start the firing gun,” he said.

The new metro project will dovetail with the planned 22-kilometre light rail line from Westmead and Parramatta to Olympic Park and Strathfield. The light rail line is likely to be built in stages from 2019 at a cost of more than $3.5 billion.

Mr Constance said the new metro link and the Parramatta light rail line were “two very different transport projects”.

“Light rail is about connecting precincts – this project is obviously a mass-transit solution which is going to lead to connectivity between Parramatta and the CBD,” he said.

David Borger, the western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber, said a metro line between the CBD and Parramatta was the “missing piece of Sydney’s transport puzzle” and would re-energise the city’s west, including Olympic Park.

“The Western Line is old, slow and congested. [The new line] will provide a significant incentive to the private sector to think about locating jobs in Parramatta … and Olympic Park will boom [because of the rail project],” he said.

Mr Borger said the planned metro line would require the construction of a new station at Parramatta, the best location for which was now occupied by a council-owned car park north of Parramatta Square.

Deputy Opposition Leader Michael Daley described the government’s announcement as a “desperate attempt to talk about anything other than the mauling they received in Orange” in the byelection at the weekend.

“It really is the mother of all distractions. There is no details, there is no designs, there is no dollars. No one can say where the stations will be going,” he said.

A consortium of property developers has already submitted to government an unsolicited proposal for a metro-style rail line from Central to Westmead in western Sydney via Strathfield, Olympic Park, Camellia and Parramatta.

Christopher Brown, the chairman of lobby group Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue, said a number of private-sector infrastructure groups were eager to become involved in the government’s new metro line.

And he called on the government to investigate a public-private funding model to fast-track the new line and reduce the burden on taxpayers.

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