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THE state opposition has bought into a fight with the federal government before its likely election win by refusing to back the Epping-to-Parramatta rail link.
A Coalition government would also axe the planned Sydney western express line, the so-called city relief line, which it says is meaningless unless part of larger upgrades of the city's rail services.
Yesterday the opposition outlined $3.8 billion in spending cuts, with $2.4 billion of that to start the long-deferred north-west rail link.
The other $1.4 billion is an election war chest.
The Coalition said it would slice 25 per cent off spending on consultants, advertising and travel, axe the displaced public servants list and push for $1 billion in savings on government procurement over the four-year budget estimates period.
During last year's federal election, the ALP committed to invest $2 billion in the Epping-to-Parramatta rail link, which would be funded jointly with $520 million provided by the state.
The NSW opposition treasury spokesman, Mike Baird, said yesterday that the commitment by Canberra had been an election gimmick. ''Infrastructure has become an election plaything,'' he said. ''We will talk directly with the federal government. That's $2 billion they've committed to NSW … Our priorities … are building the links that we say need to be built, north-west and south-west.''
The proposal was quickly rejected by the federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, who said Canberra was committed to its rail promise.
The brewing stoush between the federal government and a future state Coalition government is just the latest snag for the troubled transport project, first proposed in 1998.
''We are absolutely committed to building the Parramatta-to-Epping rail link,'' Mr Albanese said. ''This federal Labor government doesn't renegotiate our commitments - we deliver.''
Mr Baird also pledged to defer Sydney's western express line as part of $2.4 billion in capital savings. The $4.5 billion line, due to be finished in 2018, will transport commuters between Sydney's west to the CBD on long express trains. It requires a tunnel between Redfern and Wynyard, known as the City Relief Line.
The state Transport Minister, John Robertson, said the proposal to defer both rail lines was a $7 billion slap in the face for western Sydney. ''Barry O'Farrell is intent on making the people of western Sydney spend more time on trains and less time with their families,'' he said. ''This is an irresponsible, reckless decision.''
Outlining the opposition's savings and fiscal commitments, Mr Baird promised a further $1.4 billion saving in recurrent spending, including a 25 per cent cut in consultancy, travel and advertising expenses. The Coalition would also abolish the displaced employees list, which keeps public servants on the books even if they do not have a job.
The measure would save $56 million over four years, he said. He also pledged not to hit voters with a ''big-spending'' campaign before the March 26 poll. ''What we're going to identify with our policies … is going to be modest, it's going to be targeted and it's going to be achievable.''
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