Opinion: Wagga can learn from the traffic chaos in Sydney this week

Sydney is an awesome city.

It’s got great beaches, fabulous restaurants, amazing culture and bucket-loads of other pluses. But I wouldn’t want to live there if Malcolm Turnbull himself handed me the keys to a waterfront mansion.

It’s not that the waterfront mansion wouldn’t be wonderful, it’s just that at some point, I’d have to leave the house and deal with the traffic. And that’s the deal-breaker.

This week’s chaos on Sydney’s rail network would have been a nightmare for commuters, who have been advised to delay non-essential travel or take buses to ease pressure on the rail network.

It’s said to have been caused by a combination of storm damage, staff shortages and a new timetable.

Now, no one could have anticipated storm damage, but exactly how did the management types fail to spot a looming issue with staff shortages, or come up with a timetable that is worse than the old one?

Trains are not new to Sydney, yet it seems that on every occasion that a new timetable is introduced, there are big hiccups.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has been quick to condemn the situation, which he described as a “shambolic meltdown”, having apparently forgotten that Labor has had a fair number of attempts at tinkering with the network and its timetable, with just as little apparent improvement as his Liberal counterparts.

Sydney’s rail network has been a work in progress for as long as I can remember, yet nothing ever seems to have been improved.

Cities are a hodge-podge of haphazard development, with old infrastructure being increasingly required to carry heavier loads, as more people are shoe-horned onto trains, into buses or across bridges in their cars.

We all know the solution is to spend enormous amounts of money, and since that’s never likely to happen, the Band-Aids will continue to be applied and the politicians will continue to bicker as commuters just try to get between home and work.

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s a point worth repeating: Wagga can learn from the mistakes of the major cities.

Wagga has the advantage – right now, at least – of having time and space to plan ahead and develop facilities which will meet the community’s needs for decades to come.

Forward planning is going to be the key to our city remaining such a great place to live.

Those of us who relish commutes that can be counted in minutes rather than hours should be making sure our planners understand exactly what it is that attracts new residents.

Feedback we at The Daily Advertiser have had from readers this week has highlighted the importance of transport.

Readers would like to see more public transport, but they also recognise that in a regional city, parking is an issue.

Getting enough parking, including disabled spaces, which offers easy access to shops matters not only to residents, but also to retailers, who need a turnover of customers to survive.

We all hope the day will come when the car has been made obsolete by a cleaner, greener mode of transport, but for now, a vehicle is a necessity for a great many.

This week’s chaos in Sydney is a reminder of the challenges of making sure a city continues to hum along.

Wagga can look and sigh with relief that the problems are someone else’s, or it can use Sydney’s experiences this week as a kick in the pants to make sure we get it right.

jody.lindbeck@fairfaxmedia.com.au