Opinion By ROYDON NG
Forcing 19,000 commuters to catch three separate trains to reach the City Circle doesn’t seem to concern the NSW Government despite warnings that the Sydenham to Bankstown Metro will reduce reliability on Sydney’s train network.
Community anger is growing at the government’s broken promise for public consultation in the Bankstown Line shutdown’s Temporary Transport Plans which are yet to be released, even though Sydney Metro announced in 2017 that draft plans would be published “several years beforehand”.
Doubts are also being raised over the 2024 opening of Sydney Metro City and Southwest, with Treasury unable to announce the specific cost of the southwest section from Sydenham to Bankstown.
As the NSW Budget is increasingly stretched by the government’s rush to build toll roads, the funding option for Sydney Metro may come from privatisation of the railway based on the Hong Kong MTR’s business model of high-rise development above and around Metro stations.
The Sydenham to Bankstown Metro is the prime example of the government sacrificing the community’s public transport needs for the interests of property developers.
“Not Welcome” in Sydney
Using cleverly worded brochures and fancy video animations, the government has been busy covering up the fact that Sydenham to Bankstown is barely half of the entire T3 Bankstown Line.
In fact, the current Bankstown Line begins in the City Circle followed by Redfern, Erskineville and St Peters before travelling to Sydenham then eventually to Bankstown, with train services continuing either to Lidcombe or Liverpool.
By referring to the Metro Southwest project as the “Bankstown Line upgrade”, Transport Minister Andrew Constance is leading the charge in ignoring the impact on stations east of Sydenham and west of Bankstown that will not be receiving Metro services.
Every Bankstown Line commuter will lose direct access to the City Circle, but the hardest hit will be the 19,000 commuters from the nine stations west of Bankstown, now being forced to interchange twice.
Stations such as Chester Hill, Villawood and Sefton having already lost the Inner West Line: City to Liverpool (and Bankstown) via Regents Park train service in 2013, will now have to change at Bankstown and again at either Sydenham or Central Station to reach the City Circle.
Shutting down the Bankstown Line will have serious impacts on the Inner West and Canterbury-Bankstown, no matter how the government tries to downplay the increased traffic congestion among a host of other consequences arising from the Metro.
Unlike the Epping to Chatswood rail shutdown with replacement buses having the pleasure of a multi-lane motorway and dedicated lanes around Macquarie Park, the Inner West does not have the capacity to handle the substantial increase traffic from former train commuters now driving, let alone 100 buses an hour arriving at Sydenham.
Transport for NSW documents also reveal that shutting down the Bankstown Line will increase overcrowding at Ashfield, Strathfield and Lidcombe stations on the T2 Inner West Line.
Passenger numbers will more than double at Ashfield from 2,486 to 5,218 in a single hour during the morning peak.
Displaced Bankstown Line commuters will also add 10% to patronage at Strathfield, with Lidcombe bracing for a 22% increase in rail boardings.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance is also refusing to officially release the complete Bankstown Line shutdown schedule, perhaps in fear of a backlash from businesses fearing, a repeat of the Sydney Light Rail construction debacle.
Restore Inner West Line
The Sydenham to Bankstown Metro isn’t the first cut to the Bankstown Line and unfortunately won’t be the last, with a Sydney Metro newsletter announcing the line’s future termination at Cabramatta.
The breakup of the Bankstown loop began in 2013 with the termination of the Inner West Line at Homebush and the termination of the Bankstown Line at Lidcombe.
Previously the Inner West Line was the City to Liverpool (and Bankstown) via Regents Park service, with Bankstown commuters having two options of travelling to the City Circle.
Original rail plans drafted in 2011 show that cuts to both the Inner West Line and Bankstown Line was to allow for conversion of the line for Metro, but only Sydenham to Bankstown has been officially earmarked for the time being.
The extensive impact on Canterbury-Bankstown and Inner West caused by Sydney Metro is completely avoidable because the Sydenham to Bankstown Metro isn’t about improving public transport but designed and financially modelled to benefit developers in their pursuit of high-rise.
There is so much hardship on families, commuters and businesses that can be avoided if the government would respect the wishes of the community and restore the Inner West Line.
Roydon Ng is an investigative journalist and member of the Restore Inner West Line (Liverpool via Regents Park) community action group.