NEW South Wales Premier Bob Carr announced on June 9 that A$8bn would be spent over the next 15 years on construction of a new deep-level north-south tunnel under Sydney’s central business district.

The line would continue under the harbour to serve suburbs north of the city that currently rely heavily on cars for commuting. The tunnel will run close to the existing rail and road bridge, and join the existing line to Hornsby at St Leonards. Total cost of the project is put at A$8bn, and it will be the biggest urban rail investment in the city since the Loop and Eastern Suburbs Railway were constructed in the last century.

Core of the project will be a line from Rouse Hill in the northwest through the city centre to Leppington in the southwest. This would be completed by 2017, with the Glenfield to Leppington section opening first in 2012. There will also be three extensions including a northwest line by 2017 plus another in the northwest to Vineyard by 2020. In the southwest, an extension to Bringelly should complete the project by 2020. Altogether, there will be 25 km in tunnel and 13 km of surface railway on new alignments.

The government will immediately start spending A$26m buying land along the rail corridor in the southwest, and A$5m on planning the harbour tunnel. Land acquisition in the northwest will see A$360m spent over the next six years, with A$80m contributed by developers.