An artist's impression of the CBD and South East Light Rail

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By Joe Bourke

Community action groups opposing the Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) are becoming more outspoken in their opposition to the project.

Community groups People Unite Surry Hills (PUSH) and Stop This Light Rail (STLR) have both been campaigning against the construction since the plan’s announcement.

Convenor and spokesperson for PUSH and member of STLR Venietta Slama-Powell said that the group first set out with the intention of working with the government and community, but this proved to be useless.

“Unfortunately, all of the concerns that have been expressed have been fobbed off and in some cases treated with derision from the project team, although the questions asked have been legitimate,” she said.

“We have been to great lengths to engineer some alternatives which have proven to be future-proof, unlike their current design, and they’ve given us no reason as to why this wouldn’t work, so we believe that this project is being driven by other interests than that of the public.”

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said earlier in the year that the community had made a positive impact on the proposal, bettering the overall project.

“The NSW Government has undertaken significant community and stakeholder consultation to better understand the needs of the community and our customers as light rail moves towards construction and future operation,” the Minister said.

But, with construction looming residents are concerned about the prospect of the demolition of 69 homes, affecting 100 people, and the proposed light rail track through the narrow Devonshire St.

Member of STLR and PUSH David Siebert is a resident of Devonshire St and said that he, like many others, can’t seethe positives from the Light Rail’s installation.

“We’ve had a number of transport engineers on the project that have looked at it and they’re scratching their heads as to where the benefits are coming from for this,” he said.

“People along the street have already moved out due to the project, but one house is having a lot of trouble being sold at the moment because it’s where the station is supposed to be.”

Ms Powell said that the Light Rail will be detrimental for many reasons, not just the residents displaced from the area.

“[The construction includes] the loss of 150 residents’ parking spaces, the loss of over 200 trees, the loss of green space, and an impact on the churches and parks,” she said.

“We’re also really concerned about the traffic and the subsequent safety concerns for pedestrians along the whole route and how emergency services will be able to access the densely populated and narrow streets in and around Surry Hills.”

Both Ms Powell and Mr Siebert maintain that the State Government and Transport for NSW have ignored the community group and resident’s attempts at dialogue regarding these concerns.

According to Ms Powell, action groups are continuing to grow, with more members of a diverse range of demographics presenting themselves to take action.

Many of these new members will attend a meeting at Randwick Boys High School scheduled for Thursday November 6 at 6.30pm. Residents and industry experts are expected to voice concerns and plan their action against the route.