The NSW government will push ahead with a light rail line
from Sydney's CBD to the eastern suburbs, ignoring
recommendations of its own infrastructure advisory body for
an underground rapid bus system.
An $A1.6 billion light rail line will be built between
Circular Quay and Randwick to reduce congestion in the city,
as part of the final 20-year transport masterplan announced
by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell today.
The 12km link will run along George Street, past the Moore
Park precinct, Randwick Racecourse and the University of NSW,
to the Prince of Wales Hospital.
The stretch of George Street between Bathurst and Hunter
Streets - about 40 per cent of the major artery - will be
closed to general traffic and opened to pedestrians.
Mr O'Farrell dubbed the light rail line a
"once-in-a-generation project", which would "revitalise the
centre of Sydney by reducing congestion and offering a fast,
attractive public transport option to key locations".
The announcement ignores a recommendation in Infrastructure
NSW's (INSW) 20-year strategy for an underground Bus Rapid
Transit system in the CBD, instead of what it described as a
disruptive light rail line through the city.
Mr O'Farrell dismissed suggestions the light rail
announcement was a slap in the face for INSW chair Nick
Greiner, saying legislation to set up the body "says we get
advice from Infrastructure NSW and we respond".
"We're responding today," he said.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the light rail
line, together with a redesigned bus network in the city,
would reduce by more than 220 an hour the number of buses
entering the CBD during the morning peak.
"Remember people from all over greater Sydney come to work in
the city, this is going to make it much easier for all of
them," Ms Berejiklian said.
"Within an hour each direction you can move 9000 people on
light rail very reliably.
"At the moment, unfortunately, only about 19 to 30 per cent
of buses actually run within two minutes of schedule because
of the traffic problems."
The light rail line is the major new announcement in the
masterplan, which restates previous commitments to the
northwest and southwest rail links, Sydney's WestConnex road
project, and the government's bridges for the bush program.
Sydney Lord Mayor and light rail advocate Clover Moore hailed
the new tram line, to be completed by 2020, saying "Sydney
really needs this network".
"It's the right thing to do for our city, and it's what other
major cities are doing," she said.
Business groups were unanimous in their backing for the light
rail link to Sydney's east, with Sydney Business Chamber boss
Patricia Forsythe saying it would transform commuting in the
But opposition leader John Robertson dubbed the transport
plan "a glossy brochure" with no details about how projects
would be funded.
The government also released on Thursday its response to
INSW's State Infrastructure Strategy, supporting 59 of the 70
recommendations it made in October.
However, it ignored INSW's push for a second Sydney airport
at Badgerys Creek, instead saying it would call on the
federal government to increase Kingsford Smith airport's
flight cap from 80 to 85 an hour.
"This report makes clear that we believe that within the
existing curfew arrangements, greater use, greater capacity
can be made of Kingsford Smith, including increasing the
capacity throughout the day," Mr O'Farrell said.