By Joe Bourke
Community groups are uniting in opposition of the controversial CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR), following a meeting at public meeting at Randwick Boys High School for communities along the proposed route.
The meeting was chaired by Surry Hills activist Venietta Slama-Powell, also featured appearances from an economist, a Medical specialist, and an infrastructure analyst.
The meeting had the largest attendance yet and infrastructure analyst Andrew Roydhouse said that this is a sign of the general feeling toward the state government’s treatment of the affected communities.
“We had almost 200 people, which was roughly four or five times the amount which turned up to the official Transport for NSW (TfNSW) meeting. They sent a letter to the local newspaper which said that after being to two meetings previously and treated as a joke they weren’t going to go along to the latest one,” Mr Roydhouse said.
Ms Slama-Powell also said that the number of people at the meeting was encouraging.
“Certainly it was successful from that point of view. It was quite broad in terms of the people who attended from the CBD, Surry Hills, Kingsford, Randwick, Maroubra, Coogee and the vast majority of the attendees were opposed to the project, and asking for ways that they can assist us in stopping the project as it is,” she said.
According to Ms Slama-Powell, the South East could be the most heavily affected area, and the light rail will actually decrease public transport to the region.
“Along the whole precinct it’s impacted in terms of significant reduction of public transport activity, with twenty bus services being removed from the area.” Ms Slama-Powell said.
Mr Roydhouse said that the implications of the light rail service will be dire for Sydney’s South East.
“It doesn’t increase public capacity, in fact the figures are that they’re spending 2.2 billion dollars to slash public transport to Randwick, Kingsford and beyond to the South East by over 10,000 passenger capacity an hour,” he said.
“At the same time they’ve proposed rezoning up to 1100 hectares from Moore Park to La Perouse for up to 20 storey high rise, including 20 hectares of Randwick race course.”
With the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on the November 10 that the cost for the light rail was likely to go $600 million over the original budget of $1.6 billion, Mr Roydhouse said that the taxpayer deserves to know where their money is going.
“It’s costing over $180 million a kilometre, so if you think about it that’s $180 000 a metre. This is above the ground, virtually no tunnelling and it costs $180 000 a metre. There seems to be a disease in NSW where public infrastructure costs more than any other state,” he said.
“The transport minister and the Premier are spending taxpayer’s funds, and if they are not prepared to justify and prove to the public that this stands up on its own merits then why should they be entitled to spend that money? Numerous groups have put in freedom of information orders and they have been denied.”
Eloise Walker is a resident of Kingsford, and says that something needs to be done with the transport in her area.
“I want a train station, but I know that’s not going to happen. The buses to neighbouring suburbs are horrible. I need to take multiple buses that take triple the amount of time and effort to get to places that are a five minute drive from my house and an example of this would be Coogee,” she said.
“I am hopeful that the light rail will improve reliability, but I don’t think it will improve accessibility. There are already lots of existing buses that serve such a purpose.”
Both Mr Roydhouse and Ms Slama-Powell are hopeful that with continued community support, they will be able to stop the light rail in its current form.
“From my perspective with anything, people always say no until they say yes. Just like a job seeker, they might get 20 or 30 knock backs, and until the minute before they get the call to tell them they’ve got the job, they feel hopeless. If you despair and give up, you’ll never achieve.” Mr Roydhouse said.