By Lydia Watson-Moore
Eastern Suburbs residents have continued to express concern about the proposed CBD and South East Light Rail following the recently released construction schedule.
Residents, business owners and local councillors have said the light rail is bringing more harm than good, voicing concerns over parking, environmental destruction and congestion.
Randwick resident Andrew Roydhouse has studied the government’s proposals and believes the light rail will have less capacity than the current bus system it serves to replace.
“The government is spending nearly $2.2 billion to cut public transport capacity by nearly two thirds,” he said.
“It’s going to worsen traffic congestion, which [the NSW government] acknowledge, it’s slower to do a journey, which the minister has finally acknowledged, it eliminates nearly 1000 car spots, and gets rid of many significant trees,” he said.
Transport for NSW (TfNSW) said in a statement that ‘turn up and go’ services will arrive every four minutes in the CBD during peak hour, and every eight minutes on the branch lines.
On the Sydney Light Rail website, TfNSW said the line will “transform Sydney by offering fast, reliable journeys”.
The construction schedule, released on May 28, details the route map and timeline for stages of construction. The light rail will run through Surry Hills to Moore Park and then split, one route through Anzac Parade to Kingsford and the other to Randwick via Alison Road and High St.
Construction on the Randwick and Kingsford branches is set to begin early next year, while Surry Hills will wait until August 2016.
One key concern of locals is the 24-hour-clearways to be put in place on Anzac Parade and High St. The clearways mean that cars will not be able to pull over or stop along these roads.
Local medical secretary Kay Jarvie said the clearway will prohibit vehicles pulling up to let out elderly, immobile patients.
“[ The clearways] will prevent patients alighting from ambulances, community service transport, taxis and private cars,” she said.
Mrs Jarvie is also concerned that local patients do not realise the looming situation in High St.
“When I expressed my concern at a public meeting about the lack of information to the public, I was informed that people can read about the light rail on the internet. However, many people, especially the elderly, do not have the internet,” she said.
Local resident and business owner Rosa Colagrossi said Anzac Parade businesses were not made aware of the clearway in initial consultations about the light rail.
The light rail’s impact on trees and the natural environment is another prominent issue. Rickie-Lee McLaurin-Smith, spokesperson from community group Keeping Randwick’s Trees, said the group was alarmed about the proposed removal of trees.
“The light rail project’s plans to remove over 400 trees in Randwick City, with many of those trees being listed as having ‘exceptional significance’ at around 100 years old, was a shocking wake up call,” Ms McLaurnin-Smith said.
“Our opinion is that the light rail project and the NSW state government are not prioritising the preservation of our trees and parklands as they should be,” she said.
Randwick Greens councillor Murray Matson said that while the light rail was an important infrastructure development, the removal of parking, and destruction of High Cross Park are issues that need addressing.
“We’re very hopeful that the government is close to accepting the Council’s successful identification of an alternative site to High Cross Park,” he said.
“I call upon members of Parliament such as Bruce Notley-Smith. I think he now needs to get out and start putting on a lot of pressure on behalf of his community, and to back up the council when it’s pursuing these design changes,” Mr Matson said.
Mr Notley-Smith was approached by City Hub but did not reply in time for publication.
Clr Matson also identified a Council proposal to purchase the Kingsford market site from the state government to alleviate parking pressure.
“We want to use that site, and others in the area for parking that will be lost to the light rail,” he said.
“The Council’s also putting up a sum of $78 million of offset negative impacts of the light rail on our residents and businesses,” Mr Matson said.
Randwick City Council expressed approval of the light rail.
“Light rail will provide much-needed improved transport for the south east and will transform our City for the better,” Mayor Ted Seng said in a statement.