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When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s controversial $2.1 billion CBD light rail opens in 2019, it will have 1000 more people wanting to use it than what her Transport Minister has said is its capacity.
Documents obtained under freedom of information show that in a Transport for NSW “CBD and South East Light Rail Project Benefits Realisation Plan”, dated April 2015, the document puts demand for the light rail at “14,547 morning peak one-hour demand growing at an annual rate of 1 per cent to 16,935 in 2036’’.
Yet in an answer to a question on notice from a budget estimates committee delivered last month, Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that from early 2019 light rail would have 15 services operating in each direction per hour, “meaning total hourly capacity is 13,500 in both directions”.
The Transport for NSW document also contains figures for demand “modelled for the business case” of the project — an earlier estimate — which has demand at 17,866 one-hour peak demand in 2021 growing to 22,533 in 2036.
Labor parliamentary secretary for transport Daniel Mookhey said the documents meant “Gladys Berejiklian and Andrew Constance knew that on the very first day of the Sydney light rail, 1047 people will stand by the kerb, watching packed trains go by’’.
“If people are packed like sardines from day one, imagine what it will be like by 2036, when the area is surrounded by the high-rise apartments meant to pay for it,” Mr Mookhey said.
Mr Constance declined to comment yesterday, referring The Australian to Transport for NSW, which claimed the 14,500 figure would be met because the capacity figure Mr Constance cited did not refer to people jumping off and on the service at landmarks such as Central Station. “The capacity relates to the end-to-end journey, not the total number of customers to use the services in that time,” a Transport for NSW spokeswoman said. “The CBD and southeast light rail will have a total hourly capacity of up to 13,500 in both directions end to end.
“This will cater for around 14,500 people, which are expected to use the light rail at various points in the morning peak hour, with customers taking shorter trips and hopping on and off at popular hubs such as UNSW, the Randwick hospital precinct, Central and Town Hall.
“The light rail hourly capacity can increase up to 18,000 in both directions and will be supported by a redesigned bus network based on the patronage and demand evidenced by Opal data (i.e. actual origin — destination information) and include direct express buses between southeast and the CBD as well as improved connections for customers for cross-regional travel.”
Mr Mookhey said that if success of the light rail depended on passengers “jumping off every few stops and no one else getting on, it’s no wonder Andrew Constance labelled it a ‘dog of a project’ ”.
The Australian revealed last week that upon becoming minister after the 2015 state election, Mr Constance asked bureaucrats what it would cost to dump the project and was told there was “sovereign risk” in doing so and it would cost the taxpayer too much.
At the time, sources said, Mr Constance and his office believed the project — pioneered by former premier Barry O’Farrell and Ms Berejiklian as transport minister — was “a dog”.
This article first appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au
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