BY CHARLOTTE GRIEVE
Transport for NSW announced last week that Wimbo Park on Bourke Street, Surry Hills will be “future proofed” to allow for an additional light rail stop to service Devonshire Street and the surrounding community.
This decision came as a response to a community campaign calling to increase accessibility for the residents of Surry Hills.
“The light rail track slices Surry Hills in half,” said local resident, Biddy Oquist.
“Under the current plan, it won’t provide a genuine transport option for a large proportion of residents including the frail elderly, people with mobility issues, families and others,” he said.
The Sydney Light Rail project has triggered a number of community campaigns in response to the felling of trees, the desecration of aboriginal artefacts and disruptions to local businesses.
In mid August, on Anzac Parade in Kensington, Premier Mike Baird helped lay the first tracks of the $2.1 billion project. Two weeks later, several long serving businesses are closing their doors.
John Bellamy from the Sydney Light Rail Action Group believes the closure of these businesses to be a direct result of the construction site that dominates Anzac Parade.
“As soon as they took away all the parking and made this a clear way, the effect on business was instantaneous,” he said.
Among the recent business closures are Baby Things, Happy Wheels and Angelos Portugalia.
“It’s killing the area,” Mr Bellamy told City Hub.
Whilst the additional stop is considered “a win” for those who live near Wimbo Park in Surry Hills, Mr Bellamy regards it as “another delay” that isn’t going to stop the destruction of local business nor the lopping of heritage trees.
City of Sydney Councilor and Lord Mayoral candidate, Angela Vithoulkas, is also the owner of Vivo Café, located on George Street in the CBD. Her business is among the many others that have suffered set backs as a result of the Light Rail project.
“We’ve had trouble getting supplies delivered, we’ve had trouble getting our rubbish collected. We’ve certainly lost a lot of our foot traffic considering the barriers that are on the road where people can’t see the business anymore,” she said.
Clr Vithoulkas is calling for businesses to be “properly compensated” for the losses they have incurred. If elected as the Mayor, she has promised to take a “collaborative approach” between local and state government to ensure proper mitigation measures are put in place for small business owners.
“We are the backbone of this City, huge contributors to GDP and a great source of local employment,” Clr Vithoulkas told City Hub.
“But when it comes down to the Light rail impact, Town Hall has absolutely turned its back on small businesses.”
Aside from financial compensation, Clr Vithoulkas also believes that temporary cosmetic measures should be applied to the construction site.
“It could be turned into vertical gardens, there could be digital signage that could show what business are there and advertise that, updates on transport,” she said.
With years left until the project’s cessation, Clr Vithoulkas predicts the impact is going to “get worse.”
“So far it’s only been the CBD, the impacts are going to affect more and more people,” she said.