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PUSH-ing the case for alternative light rail plan

An artist's impression of light rail at South Dowling St

Community action group People Unite Surry Hills (PUSH) is hopeful that the light rail subsurface plan proposed by local Surry Hills engineers has enough merit to be supported by the State Government.

“The engineer is touching base with the government this week,” said Venietta Slama-Powell, Director of PUSH. “They are reassuring us that they are giving [the plan] genuine consideration and review. We are expecting more feedback this or next week.”

The alternative plan – which PUSH calls the ‘Get It Right’ plan – runs under the road, from the corner of Driver’s Triangle, going under it, along Fitzroy and Foveaux Streets, to Central Station.

Ms Slama-Powell argued that the government’s current light rail plan, which goes via Devonshire St, has serious shortcomings from a technical and social perspective.

“There are a lot of issues with the government’s route,” she said. “From an engineering point of view, it’s not a sound engineering plan. You are looking at pushing Australia’s biggest trams up a very narrow street that is not an existing traffic corridor.

“There are a lot of residents, who only have one-way access to their property, so how do they get to their property? People with disabilities who rely on taxis to come to their house won’t be able to have that.”

Along with technical and social drawbacks, Ms Slama-Powell argued that the government’s plan lacks contextual foresight and might prove to be a risk to people’s lives, if implemented.

“We have emergency services up and down Devonshire St all the time,” she said. “There are always people who are just wandering along the road, but also the elderly people who need access to emergency services. Again, their life is very much threatened.”

Furthermore, Ms Slama-Powell claimed that rather than being a hindrance, the alternative plan is actually better suited to the government’s objectives.

“Really importantly, for the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the government, [Surry Hills] is the spine of the network,” she said. “The spine of the network does not work along Devonshire St because it’s not future proof. It only allows for two tracks so it can never expand, unlike the Foveaux subsurface [plan].

“What we are suggesting is to make it a better delivery of the KPIs, which is the most direct route between Central and [the] stadium.”

But Gavin Gatenby, Convenor of public transport lobby group EcoTransit, disagreed with the PUSH stance and said he supported the State Government’s current planned route, up Devonshire St.

“Devonshire St is the natural, logical and most direct route,” said Mr Gantenby.

“The PUSH people complain about 45-metre trams in a street that’s supposedly too narrow, but it would raise no eyebrows whatsoever in Europe,” he said.

The State Government is yet to release final, detailed plans of the route through Surry Hills and has not confirmed its intentions towards the PUSH plan.

By Virat Nehru

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