BY JADE MORELLINI
Light Rail construction taking place along the Sydney CBD, Randwick and Kingsford is having a substantial impact on smaller businesses in the area, with a large number of stores having moved out or closed down.
Kensington Supermarket has been thriving for five years along Anzac Parade but now, it is one of many businesses that has experienced great losses due to construction. Manager Alex Romano is heavily concerned about the drop of his sales since light rail works began.
“Our sales have gone down by about 75%, simply because no one can see my shop. It has been blocked from the other side of the road by the construction which is in the middle of Anzac Parade, so residents on the other side don’t come to my store anymore.”
Construction for the light rail commenced in 2016 and is expected to be completed in 2019 as part of the $2.1 billion CBD and South East Light Rail project, so businesses need to deal with noise and blockage for another few years.
A spokesperson for Transport for NSW said, “To date, over 12 kilometres of track has been laid with the first overhead wires installed along Alison Road (from Wansey) to Lang Road (along Anzac Parade) in preparation for vehicle testing in the coming months.”
The Light Rail works have caused a dramatic change for traffic conditions since the closure of Randwick’s High Street to general traffic between Clara Street and Avoca Street in March, making it harder to access stores and cafes along that strip.
“Our business has been running for 50 years and yeah I have seen a decrease in sales since construction started,” Manager of Auto One Kensington, Darren Huckins said. “People coming from the city can’t really see our signage and where our shop is because it’s been blocked off by all the tram lines and equipment, so that’s been a big impact.”
“The construction has also impacted on the traffic in Anzac Parade,” Manager of Max Brenner Chocolate Bar at Anzac Parade, Wendy Liu said. “Our shop is facing High Street and there is no parking in the area, so it really is causing problems for customers to get here, especially when it comes to trying to find parking.”
With an estimated 700 – 750 on street parking spaces having being removed since construction began in Randwick, it is putting shops in a difficult position as it means local residents and shoppers will have a hard time trying to find parking spaces. This will have a flow on effect for businesses in the area as they may lose customers.
Light Rail Liaison Officer at Randwick Council, Chris Bastic said: “The council have had their own $30 million package to try and assist businesses during the construction of light rail by creating extra car parking spaces around Kingsford and Kensington and they are incorporating different traffic measures to increase car parking spots.”
Under the City of Randwick Council parking recovery plan, they have identified 21 streets with enough space to create more than 400 new on street parking spaces and they have also changed the parking time limits to better assist residents and businesses.
But a lot of stores rely on foot traffic for a large proportion of their trade and with the construction sights blocking their shopfronts, it is making it much harder to draw customers in.
In an attempt to numb the loss and aid these businesses, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said: “To address and assist with this we have established signs and boardings, produced Facebook videos and prepared local newspaper advertorials to promote shops, cafes and pubs, and emphasise the fact that businesses remain very much open and operational during this time.”
In this zone, construction work was estimated to last until November, however it has taken longer than expected.
“Small businesses on the light rail alignment who believe they have been impacted where construction has taken longer than originally expected, may request assistance from Transport for NSW to help with their rent,” a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.
“Every shop has lost quite a lot of business, so the State Government has also established a rent relief program, whereby if the businesses can prove that they’ve lost business the government will give them rent relief,” Bastic explained.
Rent relief will remove some of the financial pressure and compensate businesses for the losses they may be experiencing due to the Light Rail construction.
But many businesses aren’t aware of the initiatives in place by the council and state government to assist with the losses caused by construction.
“Nothing has been done to help and a fair few other stores have actually moved out,” Huckins said. “Consultation is a major part of the CBD and South East Light Rail project and we regularly consult with the community, businesses and residents via information sessions, regular notifications and doorknocking.
“We are committed to assisting small businesses during light rail construction and addressing any concerns that may arise,” a Transport for NSW spokesperson said. “As such we have created the “Business Reference Group” as an advisory and consultative council, in addition to holding business forums for the wider business community, to openly engage us to provide feedback on their needs as well as allowing us to inform of upcoming works and completion of construction.”