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More than 40 homes and businesses along the 12-kilometre route of the first stage of the new Parramatta light rail line will be compulsorily acquired and another 78 are earmarked for partial purchase for the multibillion-dollar project.
Parramatta's well-known "eat street" al fresco dining strip along Church Street in the central business district also faces significant disruption while two rail tracks are laid.
Construction on the first stage of the line that stretches from Westmead to Carlingford via Parramatta's CBD and Camellia is due to start in the middle of next year and take as long as five years.
Trams are scheduled to start running in 2023 along the route which will feature 16 stops.
The environmental impact statement for the first stage, released on Wednesday, also reveals that hundreds of trees of varying sizes are set to be pruned or felled, and almost 700 car parks permanently removed.
Those businesses targeted for acquisition include the popular Royal Oak Hotel on Church Street.
But Transport Minister Andrew Constance urged people to keep in mind the "big picture" of the benefits a public transport project of the size of the light rail line would bring to businesses and residents.
"This is a gamer changer for the west. [But] when you build major infrastructure, unfortunately property acquisitions come into play," he said.
Mr Constance said one of the "great challenges" of the first stage would be reducing disruption to businesses along the restaurant-lined Church Street from construction.
The government has come under fire from the disruption caused to businesses from the $2.1 billion light rail line from Circular Quay in Sydney's CBD to Kensington and Randwick in the south-east.
Construction of the first stage of the line is due to start in the middle of next year. "I hope they have learnt from what happened in the CBD," Labor's transport spokeswoman, Jodi McKay, said. "They are already foreshadowing that this is going to have a negative impact and they need to get this right."
The project will also result in significant change to bus stops and routes, and roads in and around the planned light rail line. Parts of Church and Macquarie streets in Parramatta's CBD will be closed to traffic, resulting in them becoming pedestrian zones.
Four new bridges will be built for the line, and five existing bridges widened or modified. The T6 Carlingford heavy rail between Parramatta Road and Carlingford will be closed and replaced by light rail.
Ten Aboriginal archaeological sites along the route have also been identified. Test excavations found intact artefacts at five of the sites, and "salvage excavations" will be undertake at four of the five sites.
The 45-metre light rail vehicles that will operate on the Parramatta line will be longer than the 30-metre trams on the inner west line from Central Station to Dulwich Hill.
However, they will be shorter than the 67-metre tram sets that will run on the other new line under construction from Circular Quay to Sydney's south east.
The government has set aside $1 billion for the first stage of the Parramatta light rail line, while it will also impose a special infrastructure contribution on new developments along the route.
The contribution will amount to about $200 per square metre for new residential developments. Funding from the levy will also go towards infrastructure, such as new schools and road upgrades.
However, Mr Constance said other special levies such as an annual $110 fee on property owners in Parramatta would not be imposed.
Planning documents have previously put the total cost of the entire Parramatta light rail project at more than $3.5 billion, which was originally to be built in one fell swoop as far as Strathfield.
However, the government later decided to build it in two stages and will not reveal the final cost of the first part until after a contractor has been signed up.
Mr Constance said it was "too early to tell" whether the second stage of the light rail would extend as far as Strathfield, saying it would depend on plans for the proposed $20 billion metro rail line from Sydney's CBD to Parramatta.
"I don't want to create a light rail route that in essence runs along the metro route – that is just silly," he said.
Details about the route for stage two of the light rail line will be released later this year.
Each tram on the new line will be able to carry up to 300 passengers, and operate between 5am and 1am seven days a week.
Parramatta Light Rail program director Tim Poole said his team had been talking to affected property owners since the route was revealed in February.
"Obviously no one likes to be acquired but what we have is a process underway now where we are giving everyone a fair go," he said.
"We won't pretend to think that the construction period won't be tough [for the al fresco restaurants along Church Street]."
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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