NOVEMBER 9 2017 – 11:45PM
The state’s transport agency has walked away from an agreement with the Inner West Council to help fund a feasibility study into running track-free electric trams along Sydney’s Parramatta Road.
Despite signing a memorandum of understanding in August, Transport for NSW said it had decided soon afterwards that committing to a detailed study of only one option for Parramatta Road would “pre-empt the outcome of our strategic planning process”.
That process culminated in the release of the government’s 40-year transport plan last month.
Under the deal in August, the lead agency and council had agreed to stump up $80,000 each for a study on how guided track-free trams could run along the Parramatta Road corridor linking Sydney’s central business district to Burwood.
But several days after it was signed, the senior transport official who inked it on behalf of Transport for NSW in August left the agency.
Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne described the decision to abandon the study as a joke and accused Transport Minister Andrew Constance of political interference.
“The department signed on to a memorandum of understanding to undertake this feasibility study and clearly Andrew Constance for base political purposes has interfered and rescinded that agreement.”
Mr Constance is on leave, and his office referred questions to Transport for NSW. The agency declined to comment further.
Cr Byrne said the 40-year strategic plan for Sydney’s transport released last month by the government provided no plans for Parramatta Road or an examination of track-free trams.
Transport for NSW developed plans for a light rail line along Parramatta Road, but they were abandoned early this year.
Under a plan unveiled in March by the Inner West and Canada Bay councils, electric trams operating on battery power would run along the middle of Parramatta Road.
The cost of the track-free trams had been estimated at between $200 million and $300 million, which Cr Byrne said was “exponentially” cheaper than light rail projects such as the $2.1 billion line under construction from Circular Quay to the city’s south east.
“Transport experts understand that track-free trams have the potential to transform Parramatta Road,” he said.
The council’s goal was for track-free trams to start operating in time for the completion of the $16.8 billion WestConnex tollroad, which is meant to help reduce traffic on Parramatta Road. The final stage of WestConnex – a link between the M4 and M5 motorways – is scheduled to be opened to motorists in 2023.
Ken Welsh, the council’s strategic transport planner, said the optically-guided trams that had been under consideration were only about 2.6 metres wide, which meant they could be operated along the centre of Parramatta Road.
In contrast, a light rail line or conventional buses could only be used in a lane next to the kerb.
Mr Welsh said the ability to run trams along the centre of Parramatta Road was critical because it would free up kerbside lanes for parking, which was key to revitalising businesses along the corridor.
Source : Sydney Morning Herald