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SYDNEY'S Lord Mayor has threatened to pull out of a major study into the extension of the light rail network after the Rees Government unilaterally ruled out a light rail line through the city centre.
Clover Moore wants the study to examine a loop up George Street and down Hickson Road via the planned development at Barangaroo on the western side of the central business district.
But last night the Minister for Transport, David Campbell, refused to extend the terms of reference for the study, which Sydney City and three other inner-city councils are helping to fund.
''He is not going to look at the George Street loop,'' his spokeswoman said. ''He is staying with the current scope.''
In response, Cr Moore's office said the mayor was bound by a resolution of the councillors that specified the city's contribution of $50,000 depended on its ''participating in a steering committee to establish the study's terms of reference and guide the project''.
The spokesman said: ''Unless we are happy with the terms of reference, and if the Government is indicating that these terms are already set and they're not making any changes, then we will have no choice [but to withdraw].''
Mr Campbell has appointed a 10-member panel, comprising four inner-city councils and representatives of six government agencies, to consider extending the light rail from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill via Summer Hill. The extension would link the Bankstown and Strathfield city rail lines. The panel's brief includes studying a light rail extension from Central down Sussex Street and Hickson Road to Barangaroo.
Last week, Cr Moore and a Danish urban designer, Jan Gehl, met Mr Campbell and, according to Cr Moore's office, the minister was open-minded about a George Street loop. After the meeting, the office of the Premier, Nathan Rees, requested more information from the council.
Light rail advocates believe the Government is refusing to consider a George Street loop because its fears a light rail extension through the city centre could further erode the case for the planned seven-kilometre, $5.3 billion CBD Metro between central and Rozelle.
The mayor has vowed to continue her campaign before a public meeting in Sydney tonight, as part of the Herald's independent inquiry into transport needs. ''Jan Gehl highlighted the opportunity for city surface improvements, which included George Street light rail as part of the solution,'' she said.
A light rail loop in the CBD is integral to the council's plan to remake central Sydney with a series of squares and plazas, and remove buses from the CBD.
The city is choked with buses and the Ministry of Transport's documents reveal that more than 500 buses a day will go in and out of its proposed Domain bus layover. The average peak-hour bus journey between Central and Circular Quay is 30 to 40 minutes, compared with an estimated 14 minutes for light rail.
Have your say about public transport.
A public meeting is being held tonight at City Recital Hall, Angel Place, from 6-30pm-8.30pm, to hear ideas on public transport.
It is convened by the Independent Public Inquiry reviewing Sydney's transport.
For more information about the inquiry: http://www.transportpublicinquiry.com.au
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