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FOR a state that less than two decades ago didn’t boast even a single operational tram, NSW is the midst of a light rail boom, with Premier Mike Baird announcing a new network centred on the western Sydney hub of Parramatta.
But Mr Baird has had to fend off questions that the chosen route doubles up with current transport options. While critics have said the chosen route of the $1bn network is designed for developers, not residents, and could end up as a “white elephant”.
Under the proposal, the new system will start in Westmead and then head to Sydney Olympic Park and Strathfield via Parramatta CBD and the Western Sydney University campus in Rydalmere. A branch line will see some trams serve Carlingford replacing the current rail services.
“We are bringing the light rail revolution here to western Sydney.,” Mr Baird said late yesterday.
“The light rail network will help Parramatta reach its potential as Sydney’s second CBD and be a major boost to existing public transport services in western Sydney.”
Artist's impression of the light rail in Parramatta CBD. Supplied.Source:Supplied
It will be the third light rail system to be announced in NSW in recent years following the Sydney CBD and south east network, currently under construction, and a $460m line slated for Newcastle to replace the heavy rail service into the city centre which the Baird Government shut down last Christmas.
NSW’s only current tram line runs from Central station to Dulwich Hill via Darling Harbour and Sydney’s Inner west.
‘A WIN FOR EVERYBODY’
Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the new network could move 10,000 passengers an hour. “From Westmead Hospital to the Sydney Olympic Stadium, this is a win for everybody.”
However, the Government has had to justify the route of the new tram given Strathfield and Parramatta are already linked by regular fast trains that can make the journey in a little as 15 minutes.
Asked if the government’s priorities reflected Sydneysiders’ needs, given other parts of the city had no public transport connections, Mr Baird said the new lines were a first step.
“There are opportunities to go further and longer and wider in the long term,” he told reporters in Parramatta.
RESIDENTS NOT DEVELOPERS
Greens NSW MP and Transport spokeswoman Dr Mehreen Faruqi said while western Sydney needed a light rail network it should be for the benefit of residents not developers.
“The priority should be to provide public transport options for people currently undeserved by the system, not build purely for commercial and development interests, which seems to have driven the Olympic Park decision.”
Local politicians mounted a concerted campaign against Olympic Park being the tram’s only destination.
Hills Shire Mayor Michelle Byrne and councillor Andrew Jefferies, along with local resident Grahame Smith, have been calling for better public transport options for Carlingford residents. Picture: Craig WilsonSource:News Corp Australia
Former Lord Mayor of Parramatta, Scott Lloyd, told the Parramatta Advertiser in June that the corridor was scarred by industry and it would be at least five years before it was repatriated.
Talking to news.com.au, Mr Lloyd struck a more conciliatory tone and said the inclusion of the branch to Carlingford “lays the foundation for light rail grow in to the future.”
As for the Olympic Park leg, he said footy matches and the Easter Show would not bring in enough traffic alone. “Once they start cleaning up the land and we start seeing housing in that precinct, the line will be wonderful, but by itself it word be a white elephant,” he said.
Former Mayor of the Hills District, Andrew Jefferies, said in June that while reinventing the former “oil refinery wastelands of Rosehill and Camellia” was important it was a long way off realisation.
“I fail to understand why the Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park option would be built first when it simply duplicates the existing heavy rail line and ferry service,” he said at the time.
The Carlingford announcement was a “good start” he told news.com.au today, but the shire would continue to lobby for the tram to go to Epping, where connections could be made to the new driverless Sydney Metro Northwest trains and onwards to the Macquarie Park business and retail park.
The new light rail will pass ANZ Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park.Source:News Limited
“The population between Carlingford and Parramatta is ready for light rail now; the route to Olympic Park is not going to be ready with residents for quite some time,” he said.
The new light rail line will come as a welcome boost to western Sydney which is still reeling from Commonwealth Bank’s decision to move thousands of jobs from the area, including in Parramatta and Olympic Park, to the CBD fringe. In a parallel announcement today, the Government announced 1800 staff of the Education department would move to Parramatta in 2018 at least partially offsetting CBA’s withdrawal.
Labor leader Luke Foley criticised the Government for not revealing any costings or a timetable for the light rail route and said it was only the CBA’s jobs move that had forced the announcement.
“It’s sad that it took the loss of 8500 jobs from western Sydney before the Government would pay attention to address the public transport deficit in the area. This move has come much too late to save those jobs.”
Mr Foley said western Sydney light rail should be given precedence over the light rail to Kingsford and Randwick currently under construction.
This article first appeared on www.news.com.au
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