Fix N.S.W. Transport!

Sydney's CBD and south-east light rail

In 2012, the NSW government decided to construct a light rail service ("CSELR" or "CBD&SELR") between Circular Quay and the Randwick area. Major work started in October 2015, safely after the NSW state election on 28th March 2015. Under a 2013 plan coyly called Sydney City Centre Access Strategy, George Street was gradually closed between Circular Quay and Haymarket. From 4 October 2015, all George Street buses (including those that use the Anzac Bridge) were forced to divert, many along Elizabeth Street. The intention was that most Elizabeth Street bus services would be replaced by light rail but that might not happen with peak-hour services. Most former George Street passengers now have to change between bus and light rail at Haymarket. Many businesses along George Street and Devonshire St lost customers during construction disruption and had to close.

The light rail vehicles are about 67 metres long (more than five times as long as a standard bus). Unfortunately, they only have a few more seats than two buses. During peak demand with normal loads, most light rail passengers will have to stand. Even so there won't be enough room to carry the passengers that peak-hour buses did every day.

The capacity problem seems to follow from two constraints.

Obviously, both of these matters should have been resolved before the project proceeded.

More crowded;
Fewer seats;
Many must change
  bus/tram at
Loss of access;
More CBD congestion
  esp. for cross traffic.

Construction noise and dust drove customers away;
Loss of parking.
Noise from 4:30 am to after midnight 7 d/w;
Loss of parking;
Loss of trees.

One notable idiocy, announced on 3rd December 2014, was to delete the planned World Square stop as unfeasible. Apparently the 67-metre length of the platform on a sloping street would require disruptive engineering works to comply with disability access requirements. So there'll be no station between Town Hall and Chinatown - a gap of 525 metres. Unsurprisingly, many World Square businesses and Eastern Suburbs residents expressed opposition to this announcement and/or the whole project. Learn more ...

The obvious way to avoid the problems was to cancel the proposed light rail and instead complete the heavy rail from Bondi Junction to about UNSW. Otherwise, worthwhile mitigation of the principal problem (lack of passenger-carrying capacity) could have been achieved by having some trams from Kingsford and/or Randwick travel to somewhere other than Devonshire St and George St. Possible destinations which should be considered include Bondi Junction, Kings Cross, St James, Green Square and Redfern/Darlington. No announcement has ever been made suggesting that the NSW government is evaluating such extensions. Rather, numerous well-meaning but uninformed commentators want the lines extended southward to Coogee, Maroubra, Eastgardens etc. which would attract more passengers and thus exacerbate the shortage of capacity in the CBD.

Following pressure from Randwick Council and elsewhere, the Randwick terminus was moved to High St, which could have left High Cross Park untouched; however, the largest piece of grass there was taken for an almost-underground electric substation.

A welcome reaction from Randwick Council was a push to save trees around Alison Road by reversing the change of alignment near the racecourse. As noted elsewhere, the total CSELR toll on trees will be many hundred, including Devonshire Street. If you object to motorways because they take trees, you should also object to anything else that takes trees. But the push failed, apparently because the racecourse suddenly decided the trams should be on the opposite side of Alison Road.

Learn more about the issues ...

Youtube video of similar trams in Arabat or Rabat (Morocco), showing how cumbersome 67-metre trams are at traffic signals.

Sydney Light Rail Action Group website.

Save the Trees and Buses website.

People Unite Surry Hills website with some observations.

Website questioning the proposed Canberra light rail.
...still more.

Video about tree removal.

The NSW Auditor-General's report on the project. There is to be a second audit during 2020.

A report on the NSW Supreme Court case which was settled by a large (over $500 million) from the NSW Government to the light rail construction consortium.

NSW Legislative Council inquiry into the effects of CBD&S-E light rail. Unfortunately, the inquiry's final report was emasculated by Government members of the committee who voted en bloc against findings and recommendations that would embarrass the NSW government. So did the chairman. And the report omitted some important matters, such as how best to fix the capacity shortfall, that were discussed at hearings.

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Fix N.S.W. Transport!