Tram plans could drive commuters off the buses

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Tram plans could drive commuters off the buses

Jacob Saulwick

May 26, 2012

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THOUSANDS of commuters would be forced off buses at a major new tram interchange at Central Station under early plans to revitalise Sydney’s central business district and put a light rail line down George Street.

The state government is poised to unveil detailed proposals for new light rail connections to Circular Quay, Central and Randwick, potentially as early as next week.

But papers obtained under freedom of information show that while a tram line in Sydney’s CBD could save time for some commuters moving through the city, that line would also demand widespread changes to existing travel patterns.

The proposed tram route along George Street would push out  several bus routes from the city's core.

The proposed tram route along George Street would push out several bus routes from the city’s core. Photo: Jon Reid

A previously unreleased feasibility study into the CBD light rail, commissioned in the dying days of the Keneally government, demonstrates how bus routes would need to be reconfigured to accommodate trams running through the heart of the city.

The study, which recommended George Street form the spine of any new light rail route, proposes redirecting buses that pass through Broadway from Parramatta Road and King Street, Newtown, to the eastern suburbs once they reach Central Station.

The redirected buses would help clear George Street for trams and a pedestrian strip. They would provide new connections between the inner west and east.

But they would also inconvenience commuters travelling into the city, many of whom may have to transfer to trams at Central.

The study, by consultants GHD, proposes similar measures for city-bound buses from the eastern suburbs on William Street and Oxford Street. Instead of turning into the city, they would pass across the CBD to Pyrmont or Wentworth Park.

The study recommends the construction of a new bus and tram interchange at Rawson Place, north of Central Station.

But senior transport sources say the government has since considered an interchange at Chalmers Street, to the east of the station. The Herald understands an announcement on the future light rail line is imminent.

While GHD’s CBD preliminary technical feasibility study has not been adopted by the O’Farrell government, some decisions made since the election reflect its recommendations.

The study, for instance, argues against a line down Sussex Street, which the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, has ruled out.

GHD’s study acknowledges that while George Street would cause disruption, it also offered the most benefit among CBD light rail proposals.

One benefit would be the opportunity to realign bus services. Turning services away from the city centre would ”improve mobility between inner-city suburbs, east and west of the city”, it says.

”While these areas have good service to the CBD, they have few opportunities for travel between dense, active suburbs, trips such as Darlinghurst to Newtown, Balmain to Surry Hills, or Glebe to Kings Cross.”

At a forum at Town Hall, organised by the City of Sydney on Monday night, the Tourism & Transport Forum, Australian National Retailers Association, Property Council of Australia and the Committee for Sydney expressed strong support for CBD light rail.

Ms Berejiklian said a light rail project team was studying potential road and traffic issues, and no final decision had been made on the precise route.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals have always believed that light rail should play a part of Sydney’s transport future,” she said.

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