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The transport system we really need

Every time you walk around the “hood” you may very well meet one of the 50,000 new residents moving to southern Sydney. The newly planned Southern Growth Area is loosely defined from the Eastern Distributor to the Southern Railway and from Cleveland Street to Gardeners Road. The City is being redrawn dramatically, with the old Waterloo Swamp now transforming into the dense heart of the city. This ambitious venture deserves all the attention it can get from the community.

Local residents aren’t NIMBYs; they know another 50,000 new residents in an under-resourced and under-serviced region will be devastating. The real problem is the “planning” – a chronically deficient process which seems to favour mega-development over sensible incremental solutions. It’s no wonder residents have little trust in the process and in the authorities’ ability to get it right.

The government’s 2012 aviation report identified transport bottlenecks in the region. Consider the Airport Rail Line, currently delivering 12 trains an hour. Soon these trains will be filled with passengers from the far south-west with almost no space left for passengers from the intermediate stations. The problems are exacerbated by not completing the planned Alexandria station and the Redfern East station.

The plan for the last 20 years also included the now unfinished Sydenham to Erskineville railway clearway. When completed this would allow the south-western passengers to catch express trains to the City. The Airport Line would be free to run dedicated services from Revesby to Central, providing the 20 trains an hour needed to serve Alexandria and Green Square.

If completed, the Alexandria station, corner of Doody Street and Bourke Road, would serve the planned dense commercial precinct surrounding it. Similarly the Redfern East station, corner of Raglan Street and George Street, would serve the existing residential and the emerging commercial precincts in Redfern. These two stations would provide locals with new ways to access jobs and services.

Sydney’s previous tram network was 290 kilometres long, with seven lines servicing southern Sydney. The trams served more passengers, then, than Sydney Trains do today. One of these lines serviced Zetland through Crown Street, Baptist Street and Phillip Street. The City of Sydney is planning to restore this line as a light rail and extend it south through the new dense residential heart of Zetland and Rosebery.

Local governments throughout the city are clamouring for light rail services; it is time for the state government to deliver. Restoring light rail to Flinders Street and Oxford Street would double the capacity and allow the city’s network to be built. This is also advocated by the Waverley and Randwick Councils.

The arithmetic is simple. We know that one tram can replace five buses or two hundred cars. Now consider moving 48,000 people in an hour. This would take one train line or three tram lines or 480 bendy-buses or a 60-metre wide, 20-lane toll road. In Victoria, the treasury estimated that extending light rail would cost about $20 million per kilometre. Compare that with the NSW government proposal for WestConnex – a six-lane motorway costing at least $240 million dollars per kilometre.

The inner suburbs of Sydney grew and flourished around tram networks, not around motorways and toll roads. The community is demanding low-cost transport solutions that will build on our strengths and make the city we all love just a little bit better. We are left wondering why the state government is bent on driving a $15 billion toll road through the heart of southern Sydney. We have seen toll roads continually fail across the city and the nation. How much public money will be wasted before politicians accept reality and build the transport system people really need?

 

Mathew Hounsell is the Co-convenor of EcoTransit Sydney.

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