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RESIDENTS of north-western Sydney could have an underground metro line from the CBD without the metro system taking up a critical heavy rail corridor beneath central Sydney, government documents show.
The metro to the north-western suburbs of Castle Hill and Rouse Hill would start at St James station, which is less crowded than Central, Town Hall and Wynyard stations, and follow an east-west alignment via Martin Place, then on to Wynyard, Pyrmont, Rozelle and beyond.
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The details are contained in the Metro Link plan of March last year and pushed by the former premier Morris Iemma.
But instead the Sydney Metro Authority has claimed the vital corridor under Pitt Street for its controversial seven-kilometre, $5.3 billion City Metro between Central and Rozelle.
The authority says that moving the City Metro to another corridor, on the western side of the city, as heavy rail advocates have urged, would prevent the metro from expanding to the north-west.
Heavy-rail planners insist the Pitt Street corridor is essential for a ''relief line'' for CityRail trains between Redfern and North Sydney. The line, which would include an expanded interchange at Martin Place, would ease congestion from passengers coming from the eastern suburbs and south-western Sydney. They say it could also deliver 50 per cent more rail capacity across suburban Sydney.
In January the head of RailCorp, Rob Mason, wrote to the director-general of the Department of Planning, Sam Haddad, urging him to preserve the Pitt Street corridor for rail.
While the Metro Authority argues, and CityRail agrees, this could apply to single-deck European metro-style rail, a RailCorp spokesman also said Mr Mason's letter explicitly said that the Pitt Street corridor should be able to accommodate double-deck trains - precisely the trains that CityRail runs.
A 2002 long-term rail plan warned: ''Without a new route through the CBD and serious relief for congested stations within the CBD, the metropolitan rail system will face progressive operational collapse.''
A spokesman for the Metro Authority said the aim of the City Metro was to support the development of a future network to the west and north-west, and address the need for more public transport capacity in the CBD.
To do this a line was needed to run north-south through the main centres of demand, and an east-west alignment to St James was considered as part of the North West Metro investigations, ''however it did not provide adequate direct access to the southern areas of the CBD''.
Sydney Morning Herald
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