Light rail tipped for Sydney's gay mile
In a return to its glorious past, trams may be running down the Oxford Street once again in the near future no matter which of two plans is favoured by the NSW Government to extend light rail to Sydney’s eastern suburbs, a leading transport expert believes.
The City of Sydney has confirmed it is closely watching developments with a project team from Transport for NSW currently looking at the feasibility of tunnel or surface routes linking Central railway station and Surry Hills to the University of NSW.
Premier Barry O’Farrell has previously committed to finalising a light rail expansion plan with the release of the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan expected by the middle of this year.
According to preliminary reports, a tunnel route to the University of NSW through Surry Hills is said to minimise journey times by up to eight minutes compared to a surface line built between Central and Anzac Parade.
Gavin Gatenby, convener of EcoTransit, a not-for-profit advocacy group that argues for a less car-reliant urban landscape, told SX that although he supported a tunnel route to Surry Hills to be built initially, he found it difficult to imagine that in coming years that line would not be extended to Oxford Street.
“That’s because the light rail network will eventually need to join up with the existing CBD network, and in time there will be just too many trams using the tunnel to Surry Hills.
“We need to rip great chunks of bus traffic from out of the city, inner-west and eastern suburbs. Currently, it is simply choked up with buses,” Gatenby said.
“The best way to remove most of that road traffic is to get an express underground light rail route.”
An underground tunnel from Surry Hills to the University of NSW is thought to cost in the region of $100 million while an above ground link would be considerably cheaper.
A City of Sydney spokesperson told SX that it remained too early in the process to discuss technical or transport aspects of the project.
“The City welcomes the prospect of a light rail link to the University of NSW, and will work closely with the NSW Government to ensure the project benefits both the local community along the route, and the future patrons of the light rail,” the spokesperson said.
Gatenby told SX that he believed that there was a great opportunity to revitalise the Oxford Street strip if, or when, the line is extended to the area.
“It would potentially open up a whole lot of possibilities to improve commercial value and aspects of the area, as well as giving the amenities a big boost,” Gatenby said.
“You only have to look at some of the images from Europe to see what an effect new tram lines have on an area and how it can boost an area. It’s wonderful seeing clean, modern trams against a backdrop of some of the more historical areas of a city.”
Trams used to run along Oxford Street linking the city to Bondi for most of the early part of last century until the line was closed in 1960.
Photo: Trams running across Taylor Square in 1959 (City of Sydney archives)