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Plans to close Sydney's Bankstown rail line for six weeks a year for five years have been ditched following community opposition to the disruption caused during construction to convert it to carry single-deck metro trains.
The state government has also promised residents that the heritage character of stations along the 122-year-old line between Bankstown and Sydenham, such as ticket booths and platform buildings, will be retained following the multibillion-dollar project.
While the six-week annual closures will not go ahead, Transport for NSW is yet to reveal exactly how it will find the time needed for construction of the metro line.
It said a “program of closures is being refined to minimise impacts” and was investigating “short individual station closures”.
Thousands of commuters will be forced to catch buses during any shutdowns of the 13.5-kilometre stretch of the line between Bankstown and Sydenham.
Under the previous plans, the six-week closures were to occur during the December-January school holidays, as well as those in July each year.
Apart from the as-yet-undefined closures over a five-year period from later this year, a shutdown is still planned for up to six months towards the end of the construction phase in late 2023.
The Sydenham to Bankstown Alliance, a group opposed to conversion of the line, said the transport agency needed to “come clean” on how construction would occur if it was dropping 30 of 71 weeks previously planned for line closures for the project.
Commuters will be forced to catch buses during closures of the Bankstown line.
Photo: Peter Rae“How are they going to make that up? It just shows they are in a state of some confusion about how they will deliver the project,” the group's spokesman, Peter Olive, said.
“This should be a concern for people who live along the line and people who use the trains.”
The conversion of the rail corridor is due to start later this year as part of the second stage of the $20 billion metro train line from Sydney's north west to Chatswood, the CBD, and on to Bankstown. Upgrades to 11 stations between Sydenham and Bankstown will each take about two years.
Transport for NSW said disruption caused to nearby roads and road bridges and underpasses would also be reduced, following further work on refining the project.
Under the initial plans, 23 road bridges and underpassesin Sydney's west would need to be upgraded or rebuilt to enable the Bankstown rail line to be converted.
Labor has vowed to ditch the project to convert the Bankstown line if it wins the state election next March, and divert funds to fast-tracking a proposed $16 billion-plus metro line from Sydney's CBD to Westmead near Parramatta via Olympic Park.
But the Berejiklian government has said it can build both lines, and has attacked Labor's policy as a move that will “condemn the entire rail network to decades of delays”.
An existing 13-kilometre line between Epping and Chatswood in Sydney's north will also be closed for seven months from September 30 to allow for its conversion to a metro line.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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