Inner West Independent

Assumptions you could drive a train through

The Environmental Assessment (EA) for the CBD Metro has been put on display until October 12 at various public locations (although it was not on display at Leichhardt Library as advertised). Already copping a lot of flak from locals and experts alike, key problems identified include cost, effect on Rozelle’s streetscape, the six-year-long construction timetable and the fact that it represents, at best, a questionable use of resources when other transport projects should have priority. There are even claims that the State Government is using its enhanced planning powers to push through a project which is not part of an integrated transport policy, but rather to create a ‘hero’ project to freshen up Sydney’s big-city status.

This project could, and in all likelihood will, easily blow the $5.3 billion earmarked for it. Even allowing for the potential of extension to the west at an (unspecified) future date, transport experts say this is a huge sum of money to spend on a branch line when there are rail projects dotted all over Sydney which have been deferred or simply abandoned in the last twenty years. It might certainly be put to better use preventing the huge commuter bottlenecks currently developing in the city’s north-west and south-west.

Remarkably, according to Sydney Metro, peak-time patronage figures are in fact expected to be even lower than those previously incorrectly reported in the media. “The Environmental Assessment has revised the estimate for the year 2016 to 12,500 – 16,500; the number reported (21,000 – 28,000) is for 2031, some 15 years later,” a spokesperson said.

The entire full-time working population of the Leichhardt Local Government Area (LGA) was about 20,000 at the 2006 census, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). ABS census figures also show that 19 per cent of adults in Sydney used public transport, and a further five per cent either walked or cycled as their main form of transport to work or study. Using 20,000 as a baseline and assuming that 4,000 people in the entire LGA use public transport to commute, passengers coming from the Rozelle Metro ‘public transport catchment area’ could reasonably be expected to make up, at most, one-quarter of this daily figure, or 1,000 people. So the bulk of trips are going to be made by commuters, resulting in hundreds of buses a day stopping at the station.

A dedicated bus lane is proposed on the city-bound side of Victoria Road, and a large bus terminus on the outbound side. Bus passengers from the west will need to walk 60 metres to the entrance, another 20 metres through a narrow tunnel, and then descend 35 metres underground to the platform on the outbound side of Victoria Road, using three sets of escalators (see above). This is one-and-a-half times deeper than the lowest platform level at the City Circle Town Hall station, or about the same as the height of an eight-storey building.

Sydney Metro strongly tout the benefits of the increased pedestrian safety and amenity on what must be one of the nastiest inner-city intersections in Sydney. Unfortunately, the concourse will be located three metres underground, and people may still prefer to wait for the lights rather than going up and down escalators to cross under Victoria Road through a fluoro-lit, three-metre-square pedestrian tunnel.

Back in the Bradfield coal age, the mindset of the autocratic state government was that people needed to be led, not take part in the planning process. For all intents and purposes, it seems that sentiment is well and truly alive in Macquarie Street today. And if you live in the inner city and are unlucky enough to be on the back of a napkin in the Parliament House lunchroom – them’s the breaks.

by Jeremy Brown

N.B. Since the Independent went to press, we have been informed by Sydney Metro the EA is at the information desk within Leichhardt Library and posters are in place to let the community know it is on display.