Inner west light rail shutdown: More transport options for commuters unveiled

LIGHT RAIL 'DEBACLE': Cracking in tram carriages has led to the light rail line to be shut down for up to 18 months. Picture: Transport for NSW
LIGHT RAIL 'DEBACLE': Cracking in tram carriages has led to the light rail line to be shut down for up to 18 months. Picture: Transport for NSW

From Monday, inner west commuters inconvenienced by the light rail shut down will have more public transport options.

Transport Minister Rob Stokes today announced more replacement bus services options and a new permanent ferry route from the inner west into the CBD.

"We have developed this enhanced travel plan to provide customers with more options in addition to regular train, bus and ferry services," Mr Stokes said.

The new rail-replacement services include direct buses from Lilyfield to Central via Glebe, Dulwich Hill to the Star Casino via the Anzac Bridge and from Central to the Star. A permanent direct ferry service will also link Blackwattle Bay to Barangaroo.

The bus services will operate every 10 minutes in peak periods and 15 minutes outside of peak hour and on the weekend. The bus services will be $1.90, half the price of a regular light rail fare.

The new F10 ferry service will run every 30 minutes from Monday to Friday and, as it's a permanent service, passengers will have to pay the full adult ferry fare.

"I thank the community for their patience as we work to restore the inner west light rail," said Mr Stokes.

Balmain MP Jamie Parker said the return of the Blackwattle Bay ferry was "good news" and thanked the government for listening to the community's requests for more express replacement buses. He said he'd like to see additional ferry services running from Annandale to the city.

But Member for Summer Hill and Labor's Transport spokesperson Jo Haylen said bus and ferry services were not sufficient to replace the light rail which was servicing around 30,000 trips per day before COVID-19.

"Replacement buses and a ferry can simply never be a substitute for the inner west light rail, which is the inner west's only north-south mass transit line servicing key employment hubs like Pyrmont and Haymarket and thousands of school students every day," she said.

'CANNOT BE REPLACED': Labor's transport spokesperson, Jo Haylen, addresses the media following the announcement of the light rail shut down. Picture: Facebook/Jo Haylen

'CANNOT BE REPLACED': Labor's transport spokesperson, Jo Haylen, addresses the media following the announcement of the light rail shut down. Picture: Facebook/Jo Haylen

"The consequences of the light rail's forced shutdown for up to a year and a half will be more cars on our roads and longer journeys for passengers."

The shutdown came after significant cracking was discovered in all 12 trams servicing the inner west light rail last month. The trams could be out of commission for up to 18 months.

In England, the West Midlands public transport network is dealing with a similar cracking issue in the same model of tram. Two Transport for NSW staff members will travel to England to inspect their repair process.

Engineers from the Spanish manufacturer who built the trams, CAF, are also in Sydney to assist Transport for NSW staff in finding a solution to the cracking issues.

Transport for NSW say they will continue to work with the private tram operator Transdev, rail line contractor Altrac, CAF and the rail safety regulator to assess the 12 light rail vehicles, detect the cause of the cracking and complete repairs.

For Ms Haylen, the government's promise to get the line up and running again "as soon as possible" falls short.

"It is extraordinary that the government still doesn't have an engineering solution ... even though it's been a month since this crisis began and two weeks since Spanish engineers flew in," she said.

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