By Joe Bourke
Shadow Minister for Transport Ryan Park has renewed calls for Transport for NSW (TfNSW) to release the construction schedule of the CBD and South East Light Rail.
The project, which is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the world, is set to begin around this Spring and will have a major affect on traffic and businesses along the route.
Mr Park said now is the time for a “full community awareness campaign” about the exact disruptions.
“This is something that can’t be done just once with an ad in the paper,” he said.
“It’s got to be be done regularly and frequently, all the way up to and including during the time when major construction is set to start.”
A TfNSW spokesperson told City Hub that the specifics of the construction schedule would be released “in the very near future”.
According to the spokesperson, the time taken has been in order to create the “most accurate schedule possible”.
“The NSW government has detailed plans in place to communicate the changes to the public and coordinate traffic and public transport changes throughout the construction process.”
“The construction process will have a significant impact but the benefits will last for generations to come.”
City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas is the owner of Vivo Cafe on George Street, and has been campaigning for the construction schedule to be released for some time.
Clr Vithoulkas will attend a business reference group committee meeting on Thursday, where business owners will officially meet the consortiums behind the construction.
Despite the ongoing consultation, Clr Vithoulkas said small businesses felt like they were being forced to “shoulder the economic burden” of the project without assistance.
“Every negative word they may hear on concerns from the business or small business community is being counterattacked with ‘Sydney still needs to stay open for business and we we all need to come together to make this happen’,” she said.
“Well it’s the retailers on the ground, it’s everyone that has a shop and some kind of business presence on the ground. We are the ones shouldering the burden and yet we are not being assisted.”
Clr Vithoulkas also said that although the concerns about what would happen to the heavy traffic on George Street had taken precedence in the media, the “economic drought” that will hit businesses would be a much more “drawn out, violent war”.
The TfNSW spokesperson said that the congestion in Sydney was currently having a “major” impact on the city’s economy.
“Sydney’s congestion is already having a major financial impact on the city’s economy. The transport network is straining and without major change will grind to a halt.”
Despite offering incentives to ALTRAC for finishing the project early and charging fees for overstaying in certain zones, there are no plans by TfNSW to compensate businesses for disruption caused by construction. But Clr Vithoulkas has called for an amendment to the Retail Leases Act 1994, which she said would be a “win-win for all”.
“The government has already made it clear that they won’t be providing compensation for business owners along the construction routes,” she said.
“Amending the Act would go some way to supportingsmall business and the financial and emotional toll that the construction process is going to place on their ability to trade and continue to provide jobs to their employees in the long-term.”
When City Hub asked Mr Park about possible compensation, he said it was something that should be considered, but that “what businesses really want to know is when, where, how, and who they can talk to if they are having issues”.