I went down to the light rail meeting at the Dulwich Hill high school, prompted by both the DHBC and the Friends of the Greenway.
It was an interesting meeting. There were two local Labour Party members one being my local member, Carmel Tebbutt, and the CEO of the Transport part of the government and one of his top advisors. They recently announced the initial planning for this project. The Greenway were incensed that it would not be guaranteed to include the cycleway. There are a few contentious points, where the railway reserve is narrow and passes under a bridge. That’s about all I know. Here is what I saw.
- The plan is all about the extension of the light rail with a double track (this latter point is the point of contention). Other uses can be fitted in if it is possible only. (this is what has incensed the greenway group.)
- Carmel is an astute politician and only once ignored a question and handled herself very well.
- The CEO was a public servant and behaved like one. I was reminded of 1984, but that is perhaps a bit unkind. He was deliberately and knowingly laconic. He was also clearly there at the bidding of his political masters and was very careful with his words and his insistence that there would be public consultation. He was towing the line.
- The other Labour member who I do not know seemed to be an old time labour person, party through and through in a dinky-die Australian way.
- The high ranking advisor I did not hear speak, but if I saw him in a movie I would immediately think, bad guys…
In the Audience there were several groups.
- Long time supporters and friends of the politicians there to celebrate what was happening.
- People who only wanted the light rail and wished that all the others would piss off. They seemed to be on good terms with the party members at the meeting.
- A vocal group, who are the friends of the greenway who asked many questions stating their fury at the fact that the bike track was not part of the deliverable but a nice to have.
- One woman, who was completely ignored by Carmen, who said that the greenway was not only about bicycles, but it was also about land care and that care should be taken to protected the local replanting of native vegetation in the corridor. There were a few others who were worried about the environmental impact.
- Some residents who were concerned about changes to privacy and the local areas as a result of the new stations and passenger line. (The existing line is a goods only line.)
- A few people who are against the high rise developments currently in the approval processes. The fat cat did a good job of fending off these arguments that the developments would receive preferential treatment in the placement of stations by saying that the planning process takes into account a 30 year view, not a view of what is currently on the boards. They did talk a bit about local and city planning rules and how they would be integrated with the transport plan. (I think this is a good idea, but is must end up meaning higher density housing along the route to make use of the facility.)
- Some people who were concerned by accessibility for old and young people. They were given the assurance that all new developments are accessible. But there was still an issue with the existing network much of which dates from the 19th century. They did not say anything about Lewisham, which is where the train crosses, but aparently they are also upgrading Marrickville and Sydenham stations (yay!) as well as Newtown to be accessible, though these three are unrelated to the light rail.
My own view is that the plan should include the greenway. I think that the problem the state government has is that they have knowingly not included sufficient funds to do what the greenway people want and are going to go into damage control mode and say, but we do not have the money to do this! The greenway is going to fight tooth and nail to get the to provide the money or come up with a satisfactory plan that fits within the money. I am much more amenable to a compromise solution. But I also think that the stops should have good bike parking and the local bike paths leading away from the facility should have their bike paths upgraded.
The other problem I see, which the lady who was concerned about the trees said, is that being a ligth rail implied limited public access. This is also a result of it being a rail corridor. But a light rail is designed to go on the streets. Hence it is important that the rail not be fenced off from the public and that the spaces around the rail be fully accessible and usable by the local communities. Railway corridors are evil in the way they slice through communities and the operators jealously guard their land as the know once it is used for something else, it is very had to get that changed. So if no one else is using it, then the problem goes away.
Oh, and back on the light rail itself, there were many who were unhappy with the ticketing arrangement and that the system is not part of Sydney’s ticketing system. The government seem to be on their side, but they are saddled with contractual issues and it sounded like there was going to be some hard bargaining, but that the government may not have much choice on the issue. Of particular concern was the lack of a seniors ticked.