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WORK on the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill will begin by December and should be completed within two years, with the state government using more of the disused freight rail corridor for urban passenger transport.
The $500 million project will connect the light rail terminus at Lilyfield with the heavy rail network in Dulwich Hill, which is on the Bankstown line.
From Lilyfield, the stations will be Leichhardt North, Hawthorne, Marion, Taverners Hill, Lewisham West, Waratah Mills, Arlington and Dulwich Grove, with an interchange at Dulwich Hill.
The government has included a ''greenway'' - a cycle and walkway, with an extended bush regeneration project - which will run along the nearby stormwater channel from Iron Cove to Marion Street, Leichhardt, then beside the tracks for much of the remaining distance to Dulwich Hill, and on to the Cooks River.
''People will be able to walk or cycle from the Cooks River to Iron Cove.'' the Premier, Kristina Keneally, said. . ''The cycle and walking path will run 80 per cent along that sought by the community.''
However, some sections would run along the road, she said.
The government hopes the project, along with the proposed ''greenway'' will help the electoral fortunes of the Deputy Premier, Carmel Tebbutt, who is the member for Marrickville, and the Education Minister, Verity Firth, the member for Balmain. The Greens are poised to make strong gains in both electorates at the next state election.
The Premier yesterday denied the government's focus was on improving public transport for inner-city residents at the expense of elsewhere, particularly in the north-west. Some 300 new buses came into service last month and she signalled a coming announcement on the expansion of transport services to the north and north-west.
''Progress with the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill comes as planning is also continuing on a light rail link from Circular Quay, via Barangaroo and King Street Wharf, to Central. Talks are also under way with the City of Sydney, which wants more light rail to connect areas such as Green Square with the city.
The opposition spokeswoman on transport, Gladys Berejiklian, was concerned the government was rushing the light rail project.
''We are 100 per cent committed to the light rail route and we are 100 per cent committed to having an integrated strategy which involves bikes and pedestrian access, but we want to be sure … the experts have had a proper look at it,'' she said.
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