You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
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 CBD.
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.