Thursday, May 28, 2009

Inner West Light Rail

There was some excitement in the Sydney media this week as it appeared the NSW government was starting to take the idea of extending Sydney's light-rail to Dulwich Hill vaguely seriously, after years of entrenched resistance.

Ever since Sydney's light-rail system was extended to Lilyfield in 2000, there has been agitation to further extend it in various directions. The two that have gained most traction are a CBD loop; and taking advantage of an existing goods line to extend the existing line to Summer Hill and then to Dulwich Hill. Sydney Council have been vocal in lobbying for a CBD loop, utilising either George or Castlereagh Street, and have gone as far as to fund several feasibility studies. However the NSW ALP government have always given these ideas short shrift, preferring (famously) to release, re-release and cancel various heavy rail and metro projects; at the same time pooh-poohing light rail as a toy solution that wouldn't work on Sydney's narrow streets.

Closer to home, the Summer Hill (or Dulwich Hill) extension seems like even more of a no-brainer. Clearance and tracks are already in place, and in this age where trillion is the new billion, projected costs for the more expensive option - at less than $100 million - seem like small change. There's a lot of interesting information on the EcoTransit lobby site - they've gone as far as to release newsletters and nail up posters supporting this push.

Light Rail map from EcoTransit website

The supporters of the Greenway are also keen (their proposed nature route from Iron Cove to the Cook's River would share a large part of the trail), although their very detailed studies have identified problems with a pinch point in Dulwich Hill that is not wide enough for both light rail tracks and the cycleway/path. I'm sure a clever resolution can be found; either single tracking the light rail at that point or implementing a shared cycleway/pathway/tramway.

Bruce Ashley/Friends of the GreenWay Inc., 2008

It seems that in David Campbell, the Premier might have accidentally chosen a Transport Minister who evaluates transport projects based on community/environment benefits rather than headlines and kick-back possibilities. See private eye Nick Possum's amusing and informative website for more on that ! However, he is still actively pushing the dubious benefits of the CBD Metro plan - more on that one another day.

Fingers crossed then that the Dulwich Hill extension gets up. Already the remnants of the Costa regime have tried to sabotage the process (so early) but the Councils called their bluff and the process is still on track - indeed Clover Moore may also have got the CBD option a bit more oxygen.

Newtown Junction c1912 -
reproduced with permission from City of Sydney Archives

What about Newtown then ? Of course, Newtown was an important junction of Sydney's original tram network, and there are those who'd like to see a line installed down King Street, potentially looping back to the City via Green Square. As much as I'd love to see that, I'm not sure how the shopkeepers would react to losing parking on one side of King Street - and unfortunately King Street way too narrow to support a central track.

Another view from c1908. Thanks to Nick Possum

Any thoughts ? Could Newtown support light-rail ? Is there anywhere else in the Inner-West that would benefit from light-rail ? Are you in favour of the Dulwich Hill extension. Comments please !


  1. Yes the shopkeepers will scream bloody murder. Who cares? Why is it the government's job to supply storage for vehicles visiting your store?

  2. I think there are many other places with a more urgent need for public transport expansion.

    You can live in most parts of Newtown and be within 15 minute's walk of 3 cityrail stations. There are also countless buses.

  3. I'm a big fan of bike paths. Have heard that the Gov is seriously considering sponsoring the Sydney bike bus teams Bicycle rebates, bicycle road safety gear or money to fund web sites are just some ideas. I know this might sound like a cost to the community… but studies have shown that the benefits to the community outweigh the small cost (benefits to the environment and health system). More bike paths please.

  4. I think that the Dulwich Hill extension makes a lot of sense. At first glance, the inner West appears well supported by buses, primarily along Parramatta Road. However, as any bus driver will readily confirm, given the amount of heavy goods traffic on Parramatta Road combined with telegraph poles too close to the road, the bus lanes end up being too narrow and when the traffic is heavy (which is frequent), buses often get caught up in it, unable to benefit from the bus lanes.

  5. Thanks all for your comments.

    I tend to agree with comicstriphero that we are pretty well catered for, as far as PT is concerned, in Newtown and there are places - even in the Inner West - with far greater need.

    I really hope the Dulwich Hill extension goes ahead quickly, and that its success inspires the CBD extension. After that, Marrickville and Five Dock / Drummoyne and maybe even Balmain seem like logical extensions in the inner-west.

    To the east, the old tram route through Taylor Square, Moore Park (Sports venues) down to Randwick and UNSW is an obvious candidate for a tramline.

  6. PS Anonymous - your Mayor is a big supporter of cycling. Stand by for a post dedicated to bikes !