Olympic Park light rail becomes preferred option

Posted: June 8, 2015 in Transport
Tags: , ,

A new light rail line connecting Parramatta and Sydney Olympic Park, running from Westmead to Strathfield, has firmed up as the favourite route to be built by the NSW Government according to a Daily Telegraph report today. A route from Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood had been the initial preferred alignment, promoted by Parramatta City Council. However, the NSW Government has opted to consider an alignment via Carlingford and Epping for this route instead.

Parramatta City Council's proposed 4 light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6)

Parramatta City Council’s proposed 4 light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6)

The Olympic Park route received strong support from business groups, which formed the West Line Alliance and offered to part fund the line to the tune $1.1bn in “voluntary planning arrangements”. It also provides the opportunity for urban renewal of the Camellia industrial zone, which West Line Alliance spokesman Christopher Brown claims could provide 21,000 homes over the next 20 years.

Artists impression of light rail in Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artists impression of light rail in Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The reason for this change of heart on the Macquarie Park alignment remains unclear. But a hint comes from Simon in the comments section of this blog:

“I’ve heard back from the government that a reason the via Eastwood alignment has not been proceeded with for the Parramatta Light Rail is difficulty getting through Brush Farm.” – Simon (June 5, 2015 at 5:16 PM)

The Brush Farm Estate was purchased by Gregory Blaxland in 1807, while the Brush Farm House built on the property in 1820 is “one of the most substantial houses surviving from the Macquarie period…[and] represents a nationally important site where some of the colony’s initial land grants were made”. Prior plans for a light rail line through this site involved a viaduct travelling above the property.

Commentary: Why the Olympic Park line is a winner

Last year in 2014, this blog called for light rail from Westmead to Macquarie Park to be built. That view stands. A line from Westmead to Macquarie Park, via Parramatta and Eastwood, takes advantage of existing rail corridors and preserved reservations. It also provides much needed direct connections between growing centres that currently lack them. This was the proposal put forward by Parramatta City Council in 2013.

But that option is not on the table. Instead, in 2015 the NSW Government is considering a line to Macquarie Park via Carlingford and Epping. This would require a difficult connection between Carlingford and Epping, currently heavily congested on the surface; it would then either duplicate an existing heavy rail line from Epping to Macquarie Park or terminate at Epping, requiring a transfer to complete the journey.

If the choice is between a line to Macquarie Park via Epping or a line to Olympic Park, then the Government’s preferred choice of Olympic Park becomes a lot more convincing. Add in the potential for private sector funding and opportunities for urban renewal, and the case for an Olympic Park line is even harder to argue against. This line will also provide the core of a future network. It will make future extensions to Macquarie Park, Carlingford, Castle Hill, and Bankstown easier.

  1. Dudley Horscroft says:

    Sounds very sensible. And if the private businesses are really willing to fund the line to $1.1B, then it would be ideal to let them get on with the job, they can contract the various consultants and the construction companies, and keep TfNSW out of the loop. But I don’t think TfNSW would like that, might show them up!

  2. Simon says:

    Sounds like you’re saying it’s a second best option.

    In any event, all of these line proposals do not do enough. There needs to be a wholesale readjustment in attitude across all modes.

  3. cragfitz1 says:

    Gosh; the Daily Telegraph writing a positive article on light rail, given their almost hysterical campaign against the George St plans for light rail. What’s come over them?

    Anyway, good news that business is on board with this venture.

    But, I really hope that the transit times and frequency can be a major focus of this new venture.

    Hopefully the fact that it will run on its own dedicated corridor much of the way will really help in this regard. I still think that the Dulwich Hill light rail transit times are far too slow, and frequency is not all that it could be for an alleged ‘turn up and go’ service.

    Still, at least there appears to be some action at last and decisions being made.

  4. Frosty says:

    I like the Olympic Line idea but my problem is still with the current heavy rail Carlingford Line its underused and must cost a lot operate and maintain. There was must be some real action otherwise it looks like it will probably be closed for good soon.

  5. JC says:

    Better to have the second best option if the first best is not on the table (and by the time we get to route B, the Eastwood route may be back on the table.

    Also useful if as much as the basic costs as possible are paid for by developers – including the Parra CBD and Westmeand bits – which would be needed for all routes

  6. Ray says:

    My sentiments entirely JC. I have to say I’m not surprised at this decision as I didn’t think that the government would give serious consideration to the Macquarie Park via Carlingford and Epping route, with the Eastwood route being off the table. The issue of crossing Brush Farm Park on the Eastwood route is a furphy, as it is far removed from Brush Farm House and wouldn’t even be visible from the property. In fact Brush Farm House is surrounded by the Department of Corrective Services Academy with a public road in front of it (Lawson St). So much for “preserving” the heritage signifigance of the Brush Farm Estate. If the government is so concerned about this, then why don’t they just remove the road corridor reservation across Brush Farm Park altogether if they have no intention of using it? I dare them to.

    However, what is disturbing is that the decision in favour of the Sydney Olympic Park route appears to be influenced by lobbying by vested interests rather than an objective transport planning outcome. The original feasibility study commissioned by Parramatta Council, which I believe was genuinely independent and which recommended the Macquarie Park via Eastwood route as the first stage followed by a route to Castle Hill, has been completely ignored, even by Parramatta Council. A future West Metro line from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta would also duplicate this route.

    If this is the level to which proper planning processes have descended, then god help this state.

  7. Alex says:

    Ray and JC I largely agree with you, but ideally this shouldn’t be an either/or scenario. If the private sector is willing to fund a substantial portion of the Olympic Park/Strathfield line then the government should be able to fund the Macquarie Park option – unless of course they are counting the private sector commitment to the Olympic Park line as part of their election promise of $1 billion (including $600 million from the electricity deal) for Western Sydney light rail.

    If this is the case then it is very disappointing and I agree both about the disregard for Parramatta Council’s original feasibility study and the long-term implications for any potential western metro line in the Parramatta Road corridor.

    On the positive side however at least the construction of the Westmead-Parramatta-Camillia section will provide the core of the system proposed by Parramatta Council. Provided this done right then the branches to Macquarie Park, Bankstown and Castle Hill can be added later. This may also be the best scenario given the government’s unwillingness to explore the options for any new Sydney Metro branch south of the CBD even as an add-on to the Bankstown line conversion.

  8. Todd says:

    I just wanted to point out that there is nothing wrong with vested interest having a say in transport policy – especially where they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. As pointed out above – and in the report commissioned by Parramatta Council, the Olympic Park light rail line represents a great second choice.

    A good example is NorthConnex. With the WestConnex the main road project for both the federal and state Governments there is no way that it would have been built if it wasn’t for vested interest volunteering to stump up most of the risk and the money. Because of the proposal by vested interest it was too much of a good deal for Government to pass up on.

    A poor example of vested interest can be seen in the Epping-Chatswood rail link where local NIMBYs prevented the bridge over Lane Cove River and therefore the station at the nearby UTS campus being cut.

    The political pain of truncating the rail line in Newcastle – even when there was significant local support – is a lesson for any Government that wants to replace the Carlingford rail line with light rail.

    I think the future of the Carlingford line will be much the same as what it is now until sometime in the future when a Government extends it to Epping and operates it as a stand alone shuttle service (which wouldn’t be half bad).

  9. XPhung says:

    The flaw in the Macquarie Park via Eastwood route is it doesn’t service Carlingford without adding a spur… and if a spur is to be added anyway, then this spur can equally be added to Olympic Park line.

    Macquarie Park light rail however could be funded if NSW govt imposes Parking Space Levy there. At present, the 37000 parking spaces in MacPark pay $0 (in comparison Sydney CBD has 50K parking spaces, most of which pay $2200pa)…. Macquarie Park should pay it’s own way for infrastructure, as at present it is free-loading off Sydney’s road capacity, to detriment of other centres which do have to pay the parking levy.

  10. PeteD says:

    It is architecturally easier to run Light Rail along the river rather than through the Hills.

    Those who want better public transport in Carlingford (which is most people) will have to find a way to link the Carlingford Line to either the Sydney Metro North West or the Northern Line. Running it through Epping just created problems.

  11. Ray says:

    Running a light rail line to Macquarie Park via Eastwood doesn’t preclude a spur line to Carlingford utilising the existing rail line. It could also be feasible to extend the line beyond Carlingford Station via a short tunnel to Carlingford Court Shopping Centre as well as to Clyde via the existing line (also connecting with the Sydney Olympic Park route). I can’t see the need for extending the light rail beyond Carlingford to Epping as the route via Eastwood (which has greater redevelopment potential than Epping) would provide a more direct and faster route via a new transport corridor all the way to Macquarie Park, without unnecessarily duplicating the existing rail line from Epping.

    I acknowledge that the proposed route via Sydney Olympic Park does have some benefit in establishing the core of the light rail network through Parramatta CBD and hopefully a later stage to Macquarie Park will look more favourably on the route via Eastwood.

    However, I still have a problem with moneyed vested interests having too much influence in our transport planning.

  12. If reports surrounding the proposed line are correct, then I would certainly hope that a spur line to Carlingford is included in stage one. This should be cheap, while providing vastly improved services compared to the existing Carlingford Line. This would provide for high frequencies in the core section of the line; while also allowing for an easier future extension to Macquarie Park, be it via Eastwood or Epping.

    I would leave Rosehill as a heavy rail service and get rid of Clyde Station. Regular train services could run to Rosehill on race days. This makes more sense to me than a Southern extension of light rail.

  13. Anthony says:

    I don’t see the point of light rail on this route as between Parramatta and Olympic Park is largely heavy industry in the Clyde area. Although this area is proposed to be turned into residential, it is many years away that this will occur meaning the light rail will just be not be of benefit to a large enough number of people. Travelling from Parramatta to Olympic Park (or Strathfield to Olympic Park) is something that could be done much more cheaply by running direct train services along the existing railway line from Parramatta to Olympic Park.

  14. Ray says:

    It does seem a bit premature in selecting the Olympic Park route considering that it will be some years before this corridor will be fully developed, particularly through Camellia. It undoubtedly has strong potential as a future link, depending on whether a West Metro line is constructed, but it shouldn’t be the first priority. The Macquarie Park line by whichever route should be the first priority, as it will have immediate patronage. The original feasibility report recommended this route (via Eastwood) and I have yet to see any valid reason why this should be discounted.

  15. Simon says:

    XPhung, do you have a source for those counts of parking spaces? 50K in the CBD seems a bit low if PT use is only around 80% for 454k jobs.

    However, you have a pretty good point. Parking levies are a real driver of change.

  16. michblogs says:

    Most of the industry north of Parramatta is gone. The oil refinery is gone. Going around the north side of the racecourse and crossing the Duck river brings you straight to Silverwater and Newington. Many people don’t realise that, there is currently no road.

    The Brush Farm story is complete nonsense. The tram needs to cross the deep gully which is the reason the current road road zigs zags around near Marsden Road. Thats about 500 metres from the 200 year old house.

    I’d recommend building the tram from Parramatta to Eastwood and Macquarie, and converting the Carlingford line to a tram, with an interchange at Dundas. That makes more sense than having a “branch” tramline, and creates network connectivity in 4 directions.

  17. michblogs says:

    I meant to say, most of the industry EAST of Parramatta is gone.

  18. Dudley Horscroft says:

    Re Simon, refer to:

    Click to access Parking_in_the_Sydney_CBD_An_International_Comparison.pdf

    This states, at para 3.1.1 that:

    “In 2006, there were 52,515 parking spaces in the Sydney CBD, an area of approximately 4.4
    km2. Of those, 2,506 spaces were on-street parking and 50,030 off-street parking, including
    spaces in both public and private car parks. However, it is worth noting that approximately
    half of the on-street spaces in Central Sydney are designated as loading zones for some
    portion of the day. The City of Sydney has estimated that there is just one parking space
    available for every six workers in the area.”

    According to that document the charge for a parking space is $8 per week day. The annual rate would be $2088 pa.

  19. Simon says:

    Thanks. So the nrma’s point is that there isn’t enough car parking in the CBD? What a bunch of retards.

    I still can’t easily find the number of parks in Macquarie Park.

  20. michblogs says:

    A lot of the car parking spaces in the sydney CBD belong to residents and are generally not available for CBD workers.

  21. XPhung says:

    Simon: the link for Macquarie Park parking numbers comes from:

    Click to access gm1110_270710a_Att1.pdf

    Page 8:

    “The commercial zones of the study area have approximately one off street car parking
    space for each employee in the area, ie 31,500 car parking spaces vs 32,000
    employees ( Year 2006 Census Data ). There are also a further 5,000 off street car
    parking spaces currently, for use by the Macquarie University Staff and Students and
    1,300 on street car parking spaces ”

    This report was from 2009, since then AMP has expanded the parking at Macquarie Centre.

    The Sydney CBD parking numbers come from the link provided by Dudley above.

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