Dulwich Hill Light Rail Extension “Community Forum”

In February this year the NSW Government announced that the existing light rail from Central to Lilyfield would be extended along the only-recently-disused goods line from Rozelle to Dulwich Hill.

Tonight I attended a “community forum” convened by Carmel Tebbutt and Linda Burney, two local state parliamentarians. It was held in the gym (which is probably the closest approximation the school has to a hall) at the gloriously-named Dulwich Hill High School of Performing Arts and Design. This just so happens to be the place where I generally get to cast my vote.

I didn’t get there at the start (6pm – are you serious?). The picture above was taken from my vantage point at the sidelines.

I don’t go to many “public meetings,” but on my own limited experience I would say this meeting was fairly well-attended. Election posters displayed out at the front of the school for Mesdames Tebbutt and Burney suggested that they think they are on to a real winner here and that, from their point of view, notwithstanding the conscription of a number of bureaucrats (including the fellow pictured on the dais whose name I did not catch) this was a thinly disguised campaign meeting.

But it wasn’t quite as simple as that. Although the format of the forum was for Ms Tebbutt to invite questions, a number of questions disguised as speeches were given, and in particular by representatives of the friends of the greenway. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for this group. For years they have been agitating for the completion of a “greenway” along the goods line corridor between the Cooks River and the Parramatta River. By that I think they mean a pedestrian and cycling link which takes advantage of and preserves or even regenerates the vestiges of nature which have been preserved or which have fortuitously reemerged as a result of the decrease in use of the goods line over time. Now the state government has announced, willy-nilly, in a bout of pre-election panic, the extension of the light rail, but (in the spirit of the law reforms by the Federal Government on gay relationships for welfare beneficiaries: you want it, you’ve got it and now you can lump it) without any assurances that this will be done in conjunction with a cycleway/pedestrian path or with any respect or sensitivity for what little bush has been regenerated along the corridor.

It’s a tricky situation, because my guess is that the greenway people (and if so, I agree with them) are generally in favour of the use of the existing rail line as a light rail, but they don’t want just any old light rail link, and they are (as I am) rightly suspicious of what might actually be done in the name of giving the people what it will be said (as with gay old age pensioners) they have been asking for. The fact is, we (you’ll see I’m presuming to make common cause) want a light railway, but not on any old terms.

There is more to be said about this proposal, if only because it is obvious that not much has been worked out. In particular, it was clear at the meeting that, even if, as claimed, construction of the extension is funded, its operation most definitely is not. Undoubtedly, the current owners (I think lessees) and their operators of the light rail to Lilyfield have got the State Government over a barrel, because presumably their contract still has some time to run, and it hardly makes any sense for there to be two different operators of the old and new segments of the line. If the extension runs at the prices of the present light rail, it will be very expensive. Few will use it. It will be like the Airport rail extension and Cross-city tunnel.

It all depends on how determined the state government is to recoup the “funded” cost of the construction of the extension from whoever gets to run it once it is built, and what price (including, if necessary, replacing the present owners and paying them out, if need be) the state government is prepared to pay to bring the light rail fares in line with the new scheme of universal public transport pricing.

I predict a minefield ahead. Because the government has already announced it will go ahead with this, just to mix my metaphors up a bit more, it is not only over a barrel, but a bit of a sitting duck.

3 Responses to “Dulwich Hill Light Rail Extension “Community Forum””

  1. Victor Says:

    In addition to the fare structure I suggest another issue for the usefulness of a light rail service is whether the operators will use a timetable that reflects a commuter service rather than an amusement ride. The timetable and speed of the present service appear to me more Disneyland than people mover.

  2. marcellous Says:

    They are promising 5 or 6 services an hour, I think, though I will believe that when I see it.

    The more critical thing is probably the link into the useful (as opposed to the Chinatown/Central) end of Sydney: the plan is to run a line up along Hickson Road through “Barrangaroo” and round to Circular Quay, but of course that will require a change of tram, and changes are always problematic.

  3. Technical issue – pictures on this blog vertically stretched or horizontally compressed « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] (I can’t work out exactly how) 450:253 as their dimensions. I’ve done the same with Dulwich Hill Light Rail Community Forum, but not yet Good Friday, driving […]

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