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The inner city has largely welcomed the State Government’s commitment to building new light rail lines, announced last Thursday.
The CBD and South East Light Rail will run from Circular Quay to Central Railway Station via George St, then on to Moore Park, with lines branching off to Kingsford and Randwick.
Twelve kilometres of new tram tracks will connect numerous landmarks and localities, including Martin Place, the QVB, World Square, the Sydney Cricket Ground, Randwick Racecourse and the University of NSW.
The $1.6 billion project will also see George St between Bathurst and Hunter Streets pedestrianised and closed to private vehicles as part of a major upgrade of Sydney’s main downtown thoroughfare.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who has long campaigned for light rail, greeted the plan enthusiastically.
“The NSW Government’s decision to extend light rail along George St is a significant win for Sydney,” she said.
“We want to make George St the kind of main street Sydney deserves, with convenient public transport, great food and world-class retail. Light rail is essential to this and I’m pleased to see the government’s new plan.
“The City of Sydney will work closely with the government on the project, and we’ve already committed $180 million to improve the public domain in and around George St to complement light rail.”
Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich also hailed it as a win for Sydney.
“This State Government has made some bad decisions but I’m very pleased to give credit where it’s due, and this announcement is a very positive one,” he said.
But Liberal City of Sydney Councillor Christine Forster expressed some reservations, reiterating her recent calls for a month-long trial closure of George St before a final route is determined.
“I absolutely stand by that,” she said. “It’s just good common sense to try before you buy, especially when committing so much money.
“We owe it to the City’s retailers to fully investigate the impact of changed traffic and pedestrian flows before making a permanent change to George St.”
Cr Forster said she had no problem expressing concerns about a project overseen by her state Liberal counterparts.
“I have no worries about that at all,” she said. “The Liberal Party is a broad church which accommodates a variety of views and fosters healthy debate within the ranks.”
She was keen to stress, however, that she avidly supported light rail in principle.
“I’m a huge supporter of this project, which I think is just fantastic – all I’m saying is I believe the George St closure should be investigated.”
Possible dissent is also looming in Surry Hills, where a large apartment block may be compulsorily acquired by the State Government and demolished to accommodate the project.
However, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said: “Further design work is needed before we can confirm the exact route through Surry Hills.
“A full planning assessment will be undertaken for the project, including community consultation.”
Construction of the light rail lines will commence in 2014 and should be complete by 2020.
This article first appeared on www.altmedia.net.au
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