Public transport is vital to liveable cities. Delivering substantive transport options to as broad a cross-section of the community as possible is also a touchstone of an equitable and sustainable city.
As our city grows, it is increasingly critical that we expand transport services to meet growing demand and that we invest in infrastructure that will encourage more commuters to choose public transport options over private vehicles.
The consequences for our city of failing to do so are dire:
Increased congestion on our already congested streets;
Mounting pressure on existing transport infrastructure;
Intensifying carbon emissions, escalating the impacts of climate change; and
Growing inequity as communities are excluded from access to jobs and opportunity.
As our city grows, we must consolidate and expand our transport network. But we must also respect the community’s strong demands to retain publicly built assets as publicly owned assets. We must not ignore that our inter-suburban railways are lifelines for our communities, built for the benefit of future generations.
Like so many of my constituents, I am a passionate advocate for public transport, but it must be the right kind of public transport that meets a clear community need. I am concerned that the Government has done little to justify the need to upgrade the existing T3 Bankstown heavy rail line with a Metro service.
Instead, the project has been coupled with the Government’s flawed proposal for mass rezoning along the line, with tens of thousands of extra apartments scheduled to be built a decade before the line is due to open.
The Government has put the cart before the horse, in the meantime allowing developers carte blanche to carve up heritage suburbs and divide communities.
I categorically oppose the Government’s plans for mass rezoning along the Sydenham to Bankstown Line. These plans have failed to account for existing demands on community infrastructure and are the wrong way to grow our suburbs.
The proposed Metro conversion will see extensive shutdowns and the replacement of bridges at the same time as tens of thousands of residents are shuffled on to shuttle buses. Heritage stations will be upgraded, but with little consideration of how transport hubs might deliver for the future, including failing to include parking at Dulwich Hill, one of the busiest stations along the line.
Given the Government’s track record on delivering infrastructure, the community is right to be wary about any mooted benefits of this Metro project:
The cost of WestConnex continues to blow out by billions of dollars, destroying inner west communities and condemning motorists to a lifetime of expensive tolls. At the same time, this polluting toll-road fails to achieve its stated goal of connecting the western suburbs to the airport and port.
The Eastern suburbs light rail project has been plagued with cost blow-outs and construction complications.
The Sydney North-West Metro has similarly seen budget blowouts, construction delays and concerning defects including span cracks and buckling.
Questions have been raised about the value of the Government’s new $514 million B-Line bus services to the northern beaches, given it is likely to only increase capacity by 30 passengers in the morning peak.
$2.3 billion trains purchased by the Government to run along the Blue Mountains line don’t fit the tracks.
Game-changing proposals – including for Parramatta Road light rail – are being left on the shelf. Strathfield has been excised from the Parramatta Light Rail project.
At the same time as the Government is spruiking the Metro for the inner west, traffic modelling shows our streets and local roads will be jammed with traffic as a result of WestConnex. Our bus services are facing dereliction through privatisation. Local bus stops are being removed in a decision that will undoubtedly make transport less accessible for seniors, parents with prams and people with disability, and force more and more people into cars.
Given the Government’s record, Inner west residents have serious and understandable doubts as to whether this is the right infrastructure for our community.
KEY ISSUES RAISED BY THE COMMUNITY IN RESPONSE TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
1. Project justification
The Government has used commuter capacity on the T3 Sydenham line as its principal justification for embarking on this project.
While commuters on the line understand that there are broader capacity constraints across the network and that the T3 Line is subject to overcrowding at certain periods, they also understand that the western T1 line is the busiest in Sydney and requires more urgent upgrade. The most recent data indicates that the morning peak on the T1 line sees an average load of 134%, just 1% below the benchmark used by Transport for NSW to gauge overcrowding.
It is clear that establishing a metro line to Sydney’s west must be a priority if we are to meaningfully connect the three cities laid out by the Greater Sydney Commission in their most recent draft plans.
Residents are also incensed at revelations that the Government excluded any consideration of a Western Metro line when considering the $16.8 billion WestConnex motorway, a decision which vastly improved the rationale for the toll-road.
Generally, the community accepts the important need to improve accessibility at inner west stations and this work is welcomed.
2. Property acquisition
The extent of property acquisition proposed is unclear, with precise maps in the State Significant Infrastructure Application Report (SSIAR) submitted earlier this year now replaced in the EIS with unclear technical language.
The SSIAR appeared to suggest that new acquisitions relating to these stage of the project would occur at Edinburgh Road, Marrickville (Sydenham Station Precinct), the Dulwich Hill Station building and Leofrene Avenue and Station Streets in Marrickville (Marrickville Station Precinct).
The EIS continues to propose acquisition of the properties in the Marrickville Station Precinct, however is far vague about the acquisition of the heritage station building at Dulwich Hill Station and any need for new acquisition at the Sydenham Station Precinct.
Urgent clarification is required to allow the community to fully understand the practical ramifications of property acquisition.
3. Construction impacts
a. Construction noise and vibration
There are strong community concerns around the impacts of construction, including the impacts of noise and vibration. Our community is very wary of the Government’s record on noise and vibration mitigation given previous interactions around WestConnex.
The construction timetable proposes that residents along the line will be subject to noise, vibration, dust and disruption from Q2 2018 through to Q4 2024. While this will be staggered, residents are alarmed that work is permitted 24/7 during possession periods.
The interaction between the project and associated stakeholders - including utilities - must be more clearly and strongly regulated in any condition of approval. We have learned from projects including WestConnex that loopholes allowing utilities to conduct work during the night has made a mockery of mandated respite periods and subjected residents to round the clock disruption.
A large construction compound is proposed within the rail corridor at Marrickville in what is a densely populated neighbourhood. The proposed compound is immediately adjacent to the Revolution Building just north of the line, and will subject residents to excessive noise and disruption.
If approved, the Government’s proposed mass rezoning will also see thousands more apartments in the blocks surrounding this site. This EIS fails to acknowledge or examine how construction for the project would interact with the construction of thousands of apartments under the strategy. The Carrington Road precinct alone, immediately south of the proposed construction compound, would see development of the entire precinct bounded by the freight line and Carrington Road, with 2,600 apartments proposed for construction.
Similar problems arise at the site on Station Street, Marrickville, and at the construction compound at Dulwich Hill Station, which is under threat of overdevelopment.
b. Parking and haulage routes
Residents are concerned with the proposed loss of parking on Ewart Lane whilst the site is utilised as a construction compound for the duration of the project’s construction.
The EIS indicates that between 60 and 130 workers will be present at both the Marrickville and Dulwich Hill sites during peak periods.
Overall, there is very little information provided on worker parking, and I am concerned that the vague commitment to “investigate” additional parking outside of the construction sites themselves will result in nothing more than local streets being jammed with worker’s parking. Parking in Marrickville and Dulwich Hill is already at a premium with local council recently required to introducing residential parking schemes in the Station precincts.
Furthermore, the imposition of 20 heavy vehicles per hour on local streets - including up to 18 between 6pm and 10am) are of concern to residents.
Importantly, Figure 9.6 indicates local roads throughout Marrickville and Dulwich Hill will be used as haulage routes. Of particular concern is the use of Carrington Road given the massive proposal for development on the Carrington road precinct site as well as along the western side of Carrington Road.
This will place even further pressure on traffic around Carrington Road and Richardsons Crescent. The roundabout at this location is regularly blocked with traffic, causing traffic to back up all the way to the Cooks River and along Carrington Road. This traffic also poses safety issues for students walking to and from local schools in Tempe and South Marrickville.
These roads cannot see additional heavy congestion, particularly during peak periods, impacting South Marrickville, Tempe, St Peters, Earlwood and beyond.
It also appears that Warren Road has been identified as a haulage route, which is entirely inappropriate. Warren Road is a narrow street that regularly backs up, forcing drivers to pull to the side to let opposing traffic pass. Residents have campaigned for many years for this road to be made one-way to manage this problem and strongly oppose Warren Road or any adjacent streets being subjected to increased traffic pressures as a result of this project.
Similarly, the use of narrow streets around Marrickville and Dulwich Hill stations are entirely inappropriate.
The use of Marrickville Road as a spoilage route will put pressure on local businesses and also interact with the proposed haulage route for development of the old Marrickville Hospital site.
c. Cross-over with WestConnex and other development
The EIS fails to substantively address how the Metro project will interact with WestConnex, development proposed under the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor other major infrastructure including the Eastern stormwater channel connecting Sydenham to the Cooks River.
This is a serious deficiency that must be addressed prior to any planning determination.
d. Use of McNeilly Park
The use of McNeilly Park for drainage is a significant concern for residents. McNeilly Park is the only open and recreational space in the local vicinity and is heavily utilised. The loss of the park for construction will not be tolerated. The local community is deeply concerned that the loss of this space, even for a short-period, will have a negative impact on local amenity.
There is also concern at the lack of detail as to how the underground stormwater detention basin will operate and whether the location of the basin at this site poses any risk to residents using the park. Similarly, there is no detail on how construction at this site might interact with construction at adjacent developments in the event that the Government’s rezoning plans are approved.
e. Loss of vegetation
Residents have raised objection to the potential loss of 88 trees at Marrickville Station and 19 trees at Dulwich Hill Station. Along the line, one hectare of native vegetation would be removed, 7.3 hectares of planted native vegetation and nine hectares of exotic scrub and forest. These trees are important in mitigating heat, particularly given the low ratios of open and green space in the former Marrickville Local Government Area. These trees also provide habitat to native birds and wildlife and help to reduce carbon emissions.
f. Water quality and local hydrology
The project predicts to use 1,000,000 litres of water at Marrickville and Dulwich Hill alone. These communities lie within the Cooks River’s riparian zone and residents have raised concerns with the impact of construction and operation on the Cooks River and the interaction between the project and the fragile and overburdened stormwater infrastructure owned and operated by Sydney Water.
The construction site for Marrickville sits wholly within a flood-plain that once formed the Gumbramorra Swamp. The area around Carrington Road regularly floods and is highly sensitive to any development.
The plain drains into a central channel that is currently under investigation for land use changes as part of the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor plans, or into an eastern channel that will be impacted by works for Sydney metro at both Sydenham and Marrickville.
Residents have raised serious objection to any proposal by Sydney Metro to fill the water retention basin north of Sydenham Station and have expressed alarm at any impact on the eastern channel or on the fragile hydrology of the Carrington Road valley.
g. Loss of industrial land and impact on Sydenham Creative Hub
The loss of industrial land around Sydenham Station for use as stabling yards represents a further erosion of employment lands in the inner west. It also impacts the development of the Sydenham Creative Hub, a creative arts precinct under consideration by the Department of Planning and Inner West Council. There must be no further impact on this precinct.
4. Replacement of existing line
a. Shutdown periods
While it is understood that some service disruption is required during this project, the community is deeply concerned about the final shutdown period of up to six months. While other periods of possession scheduled aim to avoid busy travel periods, it will be impossible to avoid commuter peaks during this likely six month shutdown.
There is concern that the EIS leaves the door open for additional periods of possession beyond the times outlined.
With no clarity on replacement bus services and likely construction chaos, there needs to be significant assurances to the community that they can still rely on public transport during this time and that additional car usage won’t add to the traffic chaos on Inner West roads.
Traffic congestion will be significantly worsened as a result of the considerable construction unleashed if the Government’s plans for mass rezoning are gazetted, with developments set to commence immediately due to high property values in the local area.
b. Replacement buses
There is significant community concern about the use of replacement buses during shutdown periods, most notably in the three to six month period at the end of the construction phase. This EIS shirks the responsibility of providing detailed plans about how these replacement buses will operate during these periods. Instead the EIS suggests individual plans will be developed prior to each line shutdown. The deferral of these plans simply do not allow commuters to fully understand the impacts of the construction of this project.
The community can already foresee significant delays on these replacement buses, especially when combined with bridge closures, road detours and other construction impacts. Without adequate detail now on how these replacement buses will operate it is difficult to truly understand the impact of this proposal.
These buses will also cause traffic chaos on our local roads, with streets like Marrickville Road to see up to 1,020 replacement commuter buses a day in some periods at the same time that heavy vehicles will be using the road as a haulage route. Combined with mass rezoning places, bridge replacements and construction zones, these roads are set to be jam packed, unleashing nothing short of chaos.
c. Bridge replacements
The proposal requires the redevelopment of almost every bridge which crosses the train line, an issue which will only worsen the traffic chaos this project is likely to create on our local roads. While some assurances are provided that where possible neighbouring bridges will not be closed for construction simultaneously, this must be a promise of the final construction schedule. Residents must continue to be able to move between schools, workplaces and community hubs during this six year construction period and access to rail overpasses is key to this.
d. Station amenity
There is a significant disconnect between the plans for the Sydney Metro project and the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Plans, meaning each appears to exist in a vacuum.
Each project appears to propose station designs, with different objectives and technical specifications. Notably, while the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Plans appear to remove the dedicated commuter car park at Dulwich Hill Station, the Sydney Metro EIS suggests there will be no change to dedicated commuter parking at the station. The gaps and inconsistencies between the two plans require rectification before the operational impacts of either can truly be assessed.
The community is rightly outraged at the low levels of new open space and public domain works proposed in either the Sydney Metro EIS or the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Plans. Detailed proposals and clear plans must be provided to support exponential housing growth and pressure on existing parks and recreation spaces.
The proposal does not address the dangerous pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Wardell Road and Dudley Street. This crossing is heavily utilised by commuters walking to and from the station. Residents have also raised the constant dangers posed by the interaction of buses, traffic and pedestrians using Dudley Street, a persistent issue which requires urgent attention.
As the EIS acknowledges, Marrickville Station is listed on the State Heritage Register and other stations, including Dulwich Hill, have heritage value. It is imperative that the heritage value of these stations be retained for community benefit. It is heartening to see changes to design be made to accommodate heritage concerns at Marrickville. But the plans for heritage conservation at Dulwich Hill Station are less clear and require clarification to be in line with community expectation.
Local residents are furious that Marrickville Station will be closed for refurbishment such a short period after it was closed for years for an upgrade. That upgrade saw delays, considerable inconvenience for commuters and negative impacts for local businesses.
Moves to increase accessibility at Dulwich Hill Station, including an improved link with the Inner West Light Rail line, are very welcome. I urge the Government to expedite this upgrade if the project is approved given the heavy utilisation of the station and to commit to upgrading the station in the event that the project is not approved.
5. Opportunities for active transport
The Government must commit to safeguarding a corridor along the rail line for use as an active transport corridor, particularly for separated cycleways that would encourage more commuters to cycle to and from the city.
Developing meaningful active transport corridors is vital to encouraging sustainable transport, and also allows for greater connections between modes of transport.
The pressures of growing our city and delivering equitable transport demand that the Western Metro be prioritised above the conversion of the T3 Bankstown Line. Mass rezoning of suburbs along the line as part of the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor must be immediately abandoned
Any proposal to replace the existing heavy rail line on the T3 Bankstown Line with a metro line must also include a definitive guarantee that the line will stay in public hands. Our community will accept nothing less.
Similarly, a guarantee must be made that there will be no loss of seating for passengers, particularly for vulnerable passengers such as seniors, parents with prams and people with disability.
Clarity on the interaction between the impacts of this proposal and the deluge of construction facilitated by the associated mass rezoning plans must be forthcoming, and exhibited for public comment.
Construction along the rail corridor must be limited, and interaction with associated utilities properly managed to ensure residents are not subject to round the clock construction or disruption.
The indicated haulage routes must be completely reworked to account for existing traffic pressures, particularly on local roads in residential neighbourhoods. Much further detail on parking must be provided, with a guarantee that existing on-street parking for residents will be protected. I support calls for local councils to be granted additional resources to monitor construction worker parking.
Work must not occur in McNeilly Park and further investigation undertaken to ensure minimal destruction of vegetation along the line.
A detailed temporary transit plan must be provided and subject to public exhibition. This plan must include reference to the likely traffic impacts caused by construction in the event the draft plans for rezoning along the line are gazetted. The plan must also provide clarity on how the removal and refurbishment of local bridges will impact replacement bus services.
A guarantee must be provided that the project will have no impact on water quality or the fragile hydrology of the region around Marrickville and Sydenham Station.
Heritage must be at the heart of any refurbishment of stations along the line, and a rock solid guarantee must be made that Marrickville and Dulwich Hill stations will not be subject to over-station development. Stations should reflect the unique heritage and character of each community, rather than the “brand identity” of Sydney Metro.
I call on the Government to expedite accessibility upgrades at Dulwich Hill station and to commit to a station upgrade in the event that this project is not approved.
Any approval must be conditional on an active transport corridor being reserved along the length of the line.