Sydney trains debacle a symptom of ‘economy-wrecking’ problem, says Freelancer boss Matt Barrie: “The whole country is mismanaged”

Emma Koehn /

Freelancer founder Matt Barrie says transport woes like those recently seen with widespread train cancellations in Sydney speak to a much bigger problem with project management in Australia that could have devastating effects.

“The whole country is mismanaged, transport woes are symptomatic of the bigger picture,” Barrie tells SmartCompany.

Sydney commuters have faced significant disruptions over the past week, with extreme weather and staff shortages blamed for cancellations and significant delays across the rail network.

Last week, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance told a press conference the government had requested a report from Sydney Trains over the issues in a fortnight, but no refunds will be given to commuters over the issue.

However, Barrie’s says there is more to the city’s infrastructure problems than train outages alone.

He has previously discussed the planning challenges for the nation in a LinkedIn post in November, calling for a rethink of how Australia positions itself as mining becomes a less and less important revenue generator.

Discussing business conditions in the city this morning, Barrie reflected that state and federal governments have done “everything they can to fuel a runaway housing market” in Melbourne and Sydney, but rapid construction of apartments and building projects is not helping Sydney citizens at all.

Soaring property prices are hurting both individual citizens and leading to expensive infrastructure and transportation challenges that emerge in the face of a property bubble, Barrie says.

“The average person takes home $61,034.60 per annum, and so to buy the average house they would have to save for 19.3 years — but only if they decided to forgo the basics, such as eating,” he says.

Meanwhile, state road projects like Westconnex are budgeted at tens of billions of dollars, because “property and construction costs are too high”, Barrie suggests.

“The problems on the rail network are symptomatic of a desperate government trying to squeeze juice out of every transport option they can to cope with this property bubble. A property bubble, that when it bursts, will wreck the economy for a generation.”

Entrepreneurs have previously said Sydney is already a difficult place to do business, with policies like the New South Wales’ government’s lockout laws wildly unpopular with customers and hospitality businesses alike.

When it comes to public transport in Sydney, the city’s business chamber has sent a plea for a long-term review of the system in the wake of the disruptions last week, saying in a statement that the business community had supported a new train timetable in Sydney last year because of “the belief that it represented a step forward in meeting Sydney’s public transport needs and we need to know that reliability has not been sacrificed”.

In a statement, executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber, Patricia Forsythe, said this was not the time for “finger pointing”, but it was critical a long-term plan was created to prevent similar situations from arising in the future.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.