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The member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee is calling for his government to consider constructing two shorter light rail lines around Parramatta rather than a single long route.
Dr Lee said simultaneously building shorter lines, which could later be extended to meet demand, would create the skeleton of a western Sydney light rail network.
The state government is analysing which of four possible light rail routes should be built first.
The four routes are Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Carlingford, Parramatta to Castle Hill via Old Northern Road, Parramatta to Bankstown and Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park and Strathfield/Burwood.
Dr Lee said the state government should instead build two short routes around Parramatta and then gradually expand them in line with demand and suburb growth.
"This approach would have the advantage of providing long term solutions for Parramatta's connection to economic and population centres," Dr Lee said.
"It will also allow the biggest bang for our buck. We would be able to get the most from our investment and allow the system to be scalable."
Under Dr Lee's proposal, a line would be built from Parramatta to Camellia. This would allow for the initial replacement of the Carlingford rail line, one of Sydney's most underused lines. As Camellia develops, the line could be extended to Sydney Olympic Park and Strathfield, or connected with another line to Epping.
At the same time, a line would be built from Parramatta to North Parramatta. This route could later be extended to the Westmead hospital precinct, Baulkham Hills and Castle Hill.
Ryde mayor Bill Pickering said a complete route to Macquarie Park must be built before any other lines were considered.
"I am not against looking at alternatives and additional routes but I think the priority has to be to get Macquarie Park on the first take of the light rail primarily because we need to deal with already significant traffic issue within the area, plus it's a major employment hub that people need transport to," Cr Pickering said.
The Hills mayor Andrew Jefferies is also pushing for the Macquarie Park route because of the transport link it would provide Carlingford. Parramatta Council has elected this route and the line to Castle Hill as its preferred options.
"I am all too familiar with being promised the world of public transport and having nothing delivered," Cr Jefferies said at the Western Sydney Light Rail Conference held in Parramatta on Friday.
"It seems we are closer than ever to finally getting some decent public transport for this long ignored corner of western Sydney. It's absolutely clear that the priority must be the Parramatta to Macquarie park via Carlingford. It's a must."
A less championed route to Sydney Olympic Park has the support of Sydney Business Chamber western Sydney director and former state Labor MP for Granville, David Borger.
Mr Borger said Sydney Olympic Park and its surrounding suburbs are among the most productive employment areas in Australia and have the potential to shift from manufacturing to knowledge-based industry.
"I actually think debate about routes is a very healthy thing and I think its good that people are starting to embrace the potential of these various routes and where they might head. I think that's been a bit absent in some projects in the past," Mr Borger told the conference.
Last week the state government revealed another $600 million would be set aside for the light rail project, on top of the $400 million already allocated. Construction on the selected route is due to start in the next term of Parliament.
This article first appeared on www.brisbanetimes.com.au
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