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Alternative light rail plan dismissed

An artist's impression of the CBD and South East Light Rail project

Transport for NSW has dismissed an alternative plan for the CBD and South East Light Rail project, but community group People Unite Surry Hills has vowed to respond by registering an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

People Unite Surry Hills (PUSH) convenor Venietta Slama-Powell said she was concerned about the inconsistent feedback engineer Robin Bean had received, who met with Transport for NSW (TFNSW) to discuss the Foveaux St subsurface route.

“The debrief they [TFNSW] provided to Robin Bean was very conflicting,” she said.

“What Transport [for NSW] told him is very different to what they told [City of Sydney] Council, so there is a great concern regarding consistency.

“They haven’t provided anything in writing. Robin Bean has gone back to them with his interpretation of what they were saying. He provided that about three weeks ago and hasn’t heard back from Transport [for NSW].”

Ms Slama-Powell said the merits of moving forward with the EIS will be discussed with at PUSH’s upcoming committee meeting on Thursday.

“The next step is to formally submit the Foveaux St subsurface into the EIS, which they [TFNSW] then need to legally respond to,” she said.

A spokesperson for TFNSW said the Foveaux St subsurface plan was rejected, along with other alternatives.

“TFNSW investigated a range of potential light rail route options travelling through Surry Hills,” the spokesperson said.

“Foveaux St was one of the options considered; however the route is too steep for light rail vehicles to operate effectively.

“A tunnel under Surry Hills was also explored, but this option was not progressed as it would have meant no stop in Surry Hills and presented significant engineering challenges.”

TFNSW pointed to conflicting constructing concerns with the Eastern Suburbs Railway tunnels and major utilities (sewer, water, telecommunications) in the vicinity of Central Station.

“The [Devonshire St] light rail route the NSW Government announced in December was selected because it delivers the best public transport benefits and is the most feasible option,” the spokesperson for TFNSW said.

Nathan English, a spokesperson for public transport lobby group EcoTransit, said that forward thinking is needed in introducing light rail.

“A lot of the arguments being used by the PUSH group are arguments that favour motoring – the freedom to drive,” he said.

“That’s detrimental in the long term. Think about the open space you’d be able to create if a lot of us wouldn’t need to drive. For a vast majority of commuter trips, light rail is an empowering tool – for the aged, the disabled, even for exercise.

“Why would you want to bury a service that drops you at the front door of your cafes and restaurants? Instead, they want to put it underground down Foveaux St. Surry Hills is going to be the hub of activity in five years time.”

Mr English applauded Gladys Berejiklian, the NSW Minister for Transport, for looking past conventional modes of public transport.

“Gladys Berejiklian should be commended for sticking to her guns and her commitment to introduce something other than buses for this city,” he said.

“PUSH are attacking the mode of [light rail] itself, rather than the lack of consultation that the government has entered into,” he said.

“This mode is not going to destroy Devonshire St. If done properly, it’s going to enhance Devonshire St.”

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