By Emily Contador-Kelsall
The south Sydney community is calling for a “tailored dialogue” with the government bodies involved in the Sydney Metro project, following the announcement that the state government has secured funding for the project through the leasing of the state’s electricity network.
The government has allocated $7 billion of funding towards the project and community consultation has already begun, remaining open until July 17.
REDWatch spokesperson Geoff Turnbull said that while the group supports public transport infrastructure, a broader dialogue between government bodies and the community was needed due to the “complex interaction by a range of different parties” on the project.
The Better Planning Network also posted on Facebook that “local communities are still in the dark”.
The recently renamed Sydney Metro, previously Sydney Rapid Transit, will run under Sydney Harbour and through the CBD to Bankstown. Several station options are yet to be determined including whether to place a station at Waterloo or the University of Sydney.
A spokesperson for Transport for NSW (TfNSW) said that as part of the early planning process for Sydney Metro, the NSW government is encouraging community feedback on either Waterloo or University of Sydney proposals.
“Once a final decision is made, the government will work together with the community and other stakeholders to deliver an integrated transport solution,” the spokesperson said.
While the University of Sydney supports a metro station on site, UrbanGrowth NSW is reportedly backing the Waterloo station, according to planning consultants JPA Urban and Mr Turnbull.
An UrbanGrowth spokesperson told City Hub that both options could provide benefits to the inner city.
“UrbanGrowth NSW is considering the opportunities around Waterloo, as this is within the study area of the Central to Eveleigh Program and will affect a large area of government owned land that has public housing,” the spokesperson said.
“If, following consultation and assessment, Waterloo is chosen as the site for a new station, we can then fully consider how public housing could be renewed to return the same number of public housing dwellings together with affordable housing choices.”
But Mr Turnbull said UrbanGrowth had been justifying their push for the Waterloo option “on the basis of substantial increase in density, built around the redevelopment of the public housing estate”.
“UrbanGrowth is claiming that if you put a station here then we can put a lot of new housing development in this area and service people in that Waterloo-Green Square area and provide transport options that wouldn’t be there,” he said.
The effect of the potential station on the public housing estate at Waterloo brings the Land and Housing Corporation and Housing NSW into the “mesh” of involved government bodies, according to Mr Turnbull.
Mr Turnbull said REDWatch’s main concern stems from the Metro’s impact on public housing and that “at the present moment neither UrbanGrowth or the Land and Housing Corporation or Housing NSW are engaging the public housing community in the discussion”.
“The problem is, when tenants go and talk to Land and Housing or Housing NSW, they say ‘we don’t have any plans’ and they’re quite correct because other parts of government have plans that when they go through, it’ll cascade down to eventually redeveloping the estates,” he said.
Mr Turnbull’s comment was confirmed when City Hub asked the Land and Housing Corporation if there were any plans to engage the public housing community at Waterloo about the future of the site.
REDWatch is currently attempting to organise a meeting between the community, TfNSW, UrbanGrowth, Housing NSW and the Land and Housing Corporation, to have a direct dialogue that addresses the “broader context”
TfNSW is currently holding community information sessions, and those regarding the Waterloo-University of Sydney station option will be this Thursday June 18 and Saturday June 20.
Community engagement triggered the recent project name change according to the state government, with “customers telling us they wanted a simple name just like the London Tube”.
The Sydney Business Chamber applauded this change and Executive Director Patricia Forsythe said in a statement that “changing the name to Metro may seem small but it gives clarity to the system that is based on high-frequency trains”.
This is not the first time Sydney has been presented with the possibility of a metro system. The state government proposed a CBD Metro in 2008, that ran from Rozelle and Pyrmont to Wynyard, Town Hall and Central, with one train every four to five minutes.
This project was shelved by the Kenneally government in 2010. The project’s former CEO and chief of the North West Rail Link, Rodd Staples, is leading the new Sydney Metro project.
Premier Mike Baird called the Metro “the new backbone of our public transport network”.