White Bay rail line must be retained for future light rail expansion

Greens MP Jamie Parker asked the Minister for Transport to confirm that the Government will retain the existing goods line corridor to White Bay and Balmain in order to allow for the potential extension of light rail in the future.

Watch Jamie's question and the Minister's answer here, or read the transcript below.

Mr JAMIE PARKER: My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will retain the existing goods line corridor to White Bay and Balmain in order to allow for the potential extension of light rail in the future?

Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: I thank the member for Balmain for his question and his strong interest in public transport issues. I take this opportunity to update the House on what we are doing in relation to light rail in his community and the plans we have for light rail. This Government recognises the Balmain and Rozelle community's strong interest in light rail especially in the precinct to which the member referred. This is a planning issue that this Government has not only thought about but also acted upon. One of the first things we did in the first 100 days of government was to extend light rail ticketing to pensioners and families, which did not exist prior to that. We made it part of the MyZone ticketing. That was an important step to demonstrate that this Government was committed to making light rail part of our integrated network.

Since that time we have also made a lot of progress on the inner west light rail extension. I am pleased to report to the House that we signed a major contract for construction of the project with John Holland and that area is now a construction site, as I am sure local residents will have noticed with the scaffolding and the signage. The early project works are underway and major construction is about to start. It is important to note that as part of that inner west light rail extension we will be delivering nine new stations. It will be an important new transport option for the inner-west community. We have great hopes that it will be a very successful addition to the range of existing services. I can also confirm—I know the member for Balmain is very keen to hear this—that the project is on track for passengers to start using it in 2014.

I can confirm that passengers will be using that extension in 2014. I was also pleased to announce a couple of weeks ago that a $20 million contract had been awarded for the supply of new light rail vehicles. That is underway. That will ensure we have the rolling stock by the time the light rail extension is open. The contract will deliver six new and four leased vehicles, which will be delivered progressively from next year. That is part of our strategy of expanding light rail. I note some interjections from members opposite. It is important to recall that when Minister Watkins was Minister for Transport he said the Labor Party did not support light rail and had no vision for light rail. That was the Labor Party's position until it went into opposition and now it has suddenly decided it wants light rail. The Labor Party failed to do anything—

The SPEAKER: Order! Question time is not an opportunity for Opposition members to argue with the Minister. The member for Macquarie Fields will come to order.

Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: —but we will deliver what they failed to deliver. Prior to the elections we also committed to examining the feasibility of extending light rail beyond the inner west and we are getting on with the job of doing just that. I thank all the stakeholders who have been involved in that process, including the member for Coogee, the City of Sydney and other stakeholders who have had direct input. To respond directly to the member for Balmain's question, the bays precinct is a uniquely located and important piece of the Sydney Harbour foreshore. I recognise the special place the precinct holds for the local community. I am pleased that my colleague the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure has established a task force to prepare a report on its future for the next 25 years.

I am pleased to say that Transport for NSW has been involved in that process and will continue to be so. As I have been saying, it is important to develop long-term plans for the future, identifying corridors that could be preserved. This work needs to be based on evidence and that is the approach we have taken with this project and with the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan. As I noted yesterday, the master plan identifies corridors that are experiencing strong growth and lays out their protection into the future. We are doing that because we do not want to repeat the mistakes made by the former Labor Government in not preserving those essential corridors. I am advised that the development of the White Bay cruise terminal does not preclude the future development of light rail in that precinct. This issue can be examined in the future. Again, that is dependent on the task force and the work done by the Minister for Planning in that regard.

The Government is getting on with the job of delivering an integrated light rail network for Sydney. We are pleased to continue our work with the Inner West Light Rail Extension, which will be of enormous benefit to residents. It will improve the amenity not only for people of the inner west, but also for people travelling to and from the area. The patronage figures show a huge increase since we extended MyZone on light rail. We have had to acquire additional rolling stock to keep up with the demand. That is a positive sign. I thank the member again for his question and acknowledge his interest in this issue. I reiterate our commitment to public transport in this area.

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