Light rail’s heavy impact on Devonshire Street

SURRY HILLS: Many small businesses in Devonshire Street have been hit by falling trade because of the ALTRAC Light Rail project, with three restaurants already shut down and other businesses looking to relocate. And the 18-month construction phase hasn’t started yet.

Disruption to Devonshire Street. Photo: Peter Murphy
Disruption to Devonshire Street. Photo: Peter Murphy

Surry Hills Chamber of Commerce Vice-President, Leigh Harris, said that local businesses had to make the best of it, and that good information from Transport for NSW and the contractor was very important. “There is no compensation for business losses or relocation, so we have to make decisions as early as possible,” he said.

Local business has benefited from government-financed marketing information for the area produced by Urban Walkabout, and this is expected to continue through the construction phase and beyond. See for more on the Surry Hills Creative Precinct.

“We have used the community forums to make sure we can raise objections quickly, over noise at night time, safety from poorly placed construction vehicles or traffic controllers who have inhibited customers from reaching businesses. We have found them to respond quickly to complaints,” said Mr Harris.

Local businesses are finding no rent relief from landlords as their revenues fall, and so some of them face big losses, closure and significant relocation costs. There is an expectation that landlords will leave premises vacant until the light rail is operating, and then redevelop.

“There could be a significant gentrification of Devonshire Street,” Mr Harris said.

Devonshire Street between Elizabeth Street and Crown Street is the narrowest roadway along the entire route of the light rail. When construction begins the hoardings will extend almost to the front doors of businesses, which include three well-patronised hotels. “We have to expect that foot traffic to the businesses will be virtually nil during the 18 months of construction,” Mr Harris said.

For all this disruption, Devonshire Street will have only one tram stop, at Eddy Ward Park. While this will be an attractive space, the light rail will not be bringing customers to the Devonshire Street businesses. But foot traffic will be able to re-emerge.

ALTRAC Light Rail says construction between Elizabeth Street and Crown Street is planned to start in the first quarter of 2017. So it will probably be operational early in 2019.

During construction, Devonshire Street will lose all its trees.


You can contact ALTRAC Light Rail at

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