Light Rail 'debacle' could see GreenWay works accelerated

ACTIVE TRANSPORT: The Greenway along the Hawthorne Canal between Iron Cove and Marion station is complete, but to complete the southern end of the route, work will need to be done in the light rail corridor. Picture: Inner West Council
ACTIVE TRANSPORT: The Greenway along the Hawthorne Canal between Iron Cove and Marion station is complete, but to complete the southern end of the route, work will need to be done in the light rail corridor. Picture: Inner West Council

While the light rail shut down will cause disruption for thousands of inner west commuters, council thinks there's a way to "get some positives out of a negative" and bring forward construction on a missing link in the local active transport network.

Ttransport minister Rob Stokes announced earlier this month the inner west light rail line could be out of action for up to 18 months after extensive cracking was discovered on the rail vehicles during a routine inspection.

The announcement left commuters furious, with Opposition transport spokeswoman and member for Summer Hill Jo Haylen calling the situation a "debacle".

At last week's council meeting, Mayor Rochelle Porteous called the shut down an "absolute disaster for the inner west" but said council were looking at ways to "make it as good as a bad situation can be".

As part of her mayoral minute on the light rail situation, Porteous included a call to "immediately investigate opportunities to bring forward planned in-corridor GreenWay works".

"There may be opportunities here, if we are to have this long period of time where the light rail is decommissioned, to get some positives out of a negative and get some of the works on the GreenWay brought forward," said Ms Porteous.

The Cooks to Cove GreenWay is a 5.8 kilometre pedestrian and cycleway which follows the inner west light rail line and links the Cooks River in Earlwood to the Parramatta River at Iron Cove. Currently cycling the route takes 40 minutes, with the southern half on-road.

'AN OPPORTUNITY': A map showing where work will be undertaken within the light rail corridor and the current time frame. Council is investigating bringing work forward. Picture: Inner West Council

'AN OPPORTUNITY': A map showing where work will be undertaken within the light rail corridor and the current time frame. Council is investigating bringing work forward. Picture: Inner West Council

To enable pedestrians and cyclists to travel the whole link off-road, some work would need to be done inside the light rail corridor between Taverners Hill and Dulwich Hill stations.

Works within the corridor and on adjacent land include the construction of suspended walkways, under-street tunnels, new paths, signalised crossings and upgraded landscaping. Council is in the process of procuring a contractor for the project.

Construction is expected to start in November 2022 and be completed by March 2024. But Dylan Griffiths, a Greens candidate for Ashfield in the upcoming council election, said bringing forward works within the corridor to coincide with the shut-down could save council time and money.

"Currently cyclists need to cross Old Canterbury Road and a busy roundabout on Longport Street in Summer Hill. We now have the opportunity to complete tunnels in these sections sooner," he said.

"Completing in-corridor works without the light rail in operation means that contractors can complete the job in less time. This could cost the council less money in the long run".

In 2016, the NSW State Government and Inner West Council announced a joint funding commitment of $14.4 million towards the GreenWay. An additional $8.8 million was secure for the project by the Greater Sydney Commission in 2018.

'AN ENORMOUS APOLOGY': Commuters who normally take the light rail, which will be shut down for up to 18 months, will now only have to pay half price to ride the replacement bus services. Picture: Structus

'AN ENORMOUS APOLOGY': Commuters who normally take the light rail, which will be shut down for up to 18 months, will now only have to pay half price to ride the replacement bus services. Picture: Structus

Following last week's motion, council will now look at the possibility of starting work on the project earlier. They'll also be calling on the transport minister to do "everything possible" to get the light rail up and running again and to ensure replacement bus services are wheelchair accessible.

Commuters on replacement bus services will now only pay half-price fares after backlash led to Transport for NSW flipping on their decision to charge full price. This means a trip from Central to Dulwich Hill will cost about $1.90 as opposed to $3.79.

Mr Stokes thanked inner west commuters for their patience and said Transport for NSW "are looking at every option we have available to ease the trouble this is causing for those passengers".

"I want to offer an enormous apology to regular passengers on the Inner West Light Rail who've been inconvenienced by the current shut down," said Mr Stokes.

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