By Joe Bourke
Co-convenor of EcoTransit Sydney, Gavin Gatenby has attacked Mike Baird’s plan for a second harbour rail crossing, calling the government’s recent announcement that drilling has begun on the project a “stunt”.
Mr Baird and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance last week announced geotechnical drilling would occur up to 70 metres below Sydney Harbour to work out where the new Sydney Rapid Transit tunnels, connecting Chatswood with Sydenham, would be created.
Mr Gatenby said the project was not a definite, but that the government was attempting to create the impression that they had already started work.
“In fact, all they are doing is exploratory drilling to add to the geological knowledge of various route options under the CBD, and the geological conditions,” he said.
“I would say that this is a stunt to persuade people that the sort of harbour rail crossing favoured by the government has now been described as ‘inevitable’, and really naïve people would think that it’s already underway. It’s not the case.”
A spokesperson for Mr Constance said this “is a standard first step for all major infrastructure projects”, citing the need to determine the best location for new infrastructure.
“This is a critical part of the design process for Sydney Rapid Transit, allowing us to make sure the city’s brand new state-of-the-art railway network can be delivered as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.
The geotechnical drilling started in early April, and will take place at Sydenham, the CBD, Barangaroo, North Sydney, Crows Nest and Artarmon. Boreholes will also be drilled beneath Sydney Harbour.
The new line, which is a continuation of the privatised North West Rail Link could see five new stations built at Central, Pitt Street, Martin Place, Victoria Cross and St Leonards. Other stations could be built at Barangaroo, Waterloo or the University of Sydney.
Geoff Turnbull, Chair of REDWatch thinks the line will go ahead but is concerned about the possible impacts on Waterloo if a new trainline were to come in.
Mr Turnbull said Waterloo’s transport problems would be much more easily fixed by putting a station on the already existing airport line.
“In terms of providing some connectivity into Waterloo, that would be a lot cheaper than actually bringing a new railway line out through that area,” he said.
Former CEO of the failed Sydney metro line and current chief of the North West Rail Link Rodd Staples is leading the project.
Mr Gatenby criticised Mr Staples, saying one of his main agendas would be to privatise the Sydney rail network and reverting to a “small bore, low capacity metro system”.
“Ultimately what they really want it to do is plug into the Bankstown line and privatise the Bankstown line and move it to low capacity metro,” Mr Gatenby said.