Inner West Light Rail Link: Parramatta Road and White Bay/Balmain

Greens MP Jamie Parker outlined a plan to expand light rail in the inner west, starting with an extension up Parramatta Rd and then to White Bay and Balmain.

Watch Mr Parker's speech here or read the transcript below.

Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [6.05 p.m.]: I speak today on the important issue of public transport in my community and throughout New South Wales. The Government this week released the draft NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan in which it outlines a direction for transport over the next 20 years. New South Wales needs a comprehensive approach to meeting our transport needs. I am pleased that the Government is taking a strategic approach but I am equally concerned about the focus on tollways and the lack of focus on light rail. I have been a long-time campaigner for light rail in my community and I acknowledge the role of councils in the wider community in winning the extension of the light rail to Dulwich Hill. I will continue to campaign for the inclusion of the important GreenWay corridor in the State's transport plans. Light rail has the potential to play a key role in our city's transport system, connecting with other transport options and providing fast, reliable and environmentally sustainable transport. Compared with alternatives, light rail is relatively cheap and fast to build.

Light rail has the capacity to carry up to 720 passengers in each set—even with a modest carriage configuration. This means that it has a carrying capacity of up to 20,000 passengers per hour in each direction. To put that in perspective, one tram carrying 200 passengers is equivalent to a single line of peak-period traffic two kilometres long. A tram line can carry 7,500 people an hour, compared with a general traffic lane that can carry fewer than 2,000 people per hour. Light rail is also more effective than buses in moving large numbers of commuters, without the noise impacts and pollution. It also reduces city bus congestion that impacts on the entire transport network. Anyone who has stood on Parramatta Road will tell you that the noise of buses is one of the factors that makes it so unliveable and so unworkable for businesses.

There are two viable and important opportunities for light rail in my electorate that will benefit all of Sydney—the Parramatta Road and White Bay extension. It is generally agreed that Parramatta Road is a classic traffic sewer. Congestion is a real issue but the way to solve this is not to invest $8 billion or $12 billion in some megaproject that Nick Greiner has thought up, such as the M4 East. A staged light rail plan would revitalise this important corridor, reduce traffic and eliminate the need for the M4 East. It is important to note that only around 6,000 cars pass through Taverners Hill during the two-hour peak period. Integrated light rail—linked to the Dulwich Hill extension—would create a loop that would significantly reduce that peak hour, along with dedicated park-and-ride stations.

The expansion of the light rail network in Sydney will significantly alleviate the pressures on our bus network and markedly reduce traffic congestion. Why would the Government consider spending $8 billion to $12 billion on the M4 East when, in the two-hour peak, the traffic is a mere 6,000 vehicles? It requires spending billions of dollars for the sake of 6,000 vehicles. Global experience demonstrates that having light rail on the doorstep encourages retail, commercial and residential development when a location becomes more liveable. I call on the Minister to consider this option as part of the review of the draft NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan and also the Sydney Light Rail Strategic Plan.

The other critical light rail link is the retention, of course, of the existing goods line corridor to White Bay in Balmain in order to allow for future extension of light rail. I am pleased that the Minister for Transport stated in response to a question yesterday in Parliament that the development of the White Bay cruise terminal does not preclude the future development of light rail in that precinct, and can be examined in the future. This is an important link as it will run off the Rozelle goods yards, which have an existing line, and move along the Balmain waterfront, which is the subject of a major redevelopment, strengthening the economic viability and accessibility of the precinct. There is the potential also for a very short tunnel into Gladstone Park, Balmain, which already has a huge disused water reservoir underneath. This tunnel would provide a station in the middle of a highly populated area next to a hospital and local businesses that are linked in just minutes to the city. The light rail needs patronage and the Gladstone Park link would deliver that patronage in spades.

I also note that public transport lobby group EcoTransit has a proposal to extend the light rail to Barangaroo. This would integrate and enliven the north-west central business district, including Barangaroo and the Walsh Bay theatre precinct. I will be developing and consulting on these plans in the coming months and encourage the Government to consider this option as part of the draft document and the Sydney Light Rail Strategic Plan. I thank all the local residents who attended the range of public meetings I held in my electorate to ask the local and business communities for their views on the draft NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan. I believe also that the Minister and the Government face a real challenge with this project, but the Minister and former Premier Greiner have the chance to change the transport paradigm in New South Wales for a cleaner, vibrant, greener and liveable New South Wales. This plan is a chance to give the people of New South Wales the public transport options they demand and to promote the kind of cultural change that can help make New South Wales and Sydney much more liveable.

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