October 28, 2015

Sydney Light Rail Orbital – White Bay Green Link

White Bay Green-Link - an efficient and sustainable transport concept for the InnerWest and Sydney's Northern CBD

White Bay Green-Link – an efficient and sustainable transport concept for the InnerWest and Sydney’s Northern CBD

Introduction

Our proposal to bring light rail to Balmain is about reducing car-dependence in the inner city catchment – not development.

The White Bay Green Link represents a bold solution to several important planning imperatives for the City of Sydney and the wider metropolis.

It addresses the need to:

  • Future-proof Sydney in the face of declining oil supplies.
  • Reduce reliance on buses for access to, or circulation within, the CBD in favour of a modern and more efficient light rail system.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint and the air pollutant load associated with the current, heavily congested transport mix of private vehicles and buses.
  • Provide fast commuter access to Barangaroo from Sydney’s west and inner west, without putting additional stress on the heavy rail network.
  • Reduce the volume of car traffic entering CBD and diffuse predictable acute congestion points.
  • Relieve pressure on CBD heavy rail stations, especially Wynyard and Town Hall.
  • Increase cycling’s share of commuter trips to and from the CBD.
  • Simplify and speed up access to the central and northern CBD from the west and the north-west.

We suggest it could be developed in two stages:

Stage 1

Balmain Light Rail Stage One

Balmain Light Rail Stage One

Stage 1 would see the Lilyfield light rail extended through the Rozelle Rail Yards, under Victoria Road and into White Bay, before connecting tracks with the Balmain Reservoir beneath Gladstone Park, via a 200m tunnel through the cliffs under Balmain’s Birrung Park.

This would not be expensive as the rail corridor already exists for the majority of the distance proposed – and the tunnel could be achieved through solid sandstone bedrock with no real disturbance to the suburb of Balmain above or indeed Gladstone Park.

A petition exists rallying the State Government to fund an independent feasibility study for this stage of our proposal, via the Greens MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker.

Had enough of road tolls, traffic gridlock and late buses? Join the campaign for transport that works for us. Right now Sydney’s transport network is heavily weighed down. The overloaded bus network crawls along city streets and motorways during peak hour, while our rail system is also close to capacity in many regions, and simply non-existent in much of the Inner West. This forces commuters onto roadways and tollways, and turns residents’ streets into stressed-out, noisy and polluted traffic zones.

Stage 2

Balmain Light Rail Stage Two - Barrangaroo White Bay Green Link

Balmain Light Rail Stage Two – Barrangaroo White Bay Green Link

Stage 2 may well require further consultation with the local community of Balmain, because it sees a more ambitious addition to the simple Gladstone Park link, which we call the ‘White Bay Green-Link’ (WBGL).

The WBGL would extend the 200m tunnel to Gladstone park all the way east under the Balmain Peninsula, then Darling Harbour, towards Barangaroo and Wynyard.

This additional tunnelling investment may seem colloquially misplaced, but it would allow the entire existing Inner West light rail network to access the northern CBD far more efficiently – saving a potential half an hour in travel time each way!

This would make light rail the far more appealing mode choice into the city, compared to private vehicles and buses – finally giving Barangaroo the direct rail line it’s going to require, and relieving additional pressures on Wynyard station.

There is also a distinct possibility that some existing (but abandoned) heavy rail tunnels that sit beneath Macquarie Street and Hyde Park (around St James station) could be used to further link the WBGL to a future Oxford Street light rail service (above ground), all the way to Bondi.

This proposal for light rail along Oxford Street exists separately to EcoTransit’s proposals, and is actively being pursued by Waverley and Woollahra Councils combined – so the possibility of one day linking our proposal with theirs remains quite real.

Sydney Light Rail Orbital

Sydney Light Rail Orbital Map

Sydney Light Rail Orbital Map

The WBGL also provide as crucial arc to support the efficient operation of our full Inner Sydney Orbital light rail proposal, dependent on a spur line down Flinders Street, towards Anzac Parade from Taylor Square.

The combination of both Stage 1 and Stage 2 proposals are things we support in equal measure. So too, does the NSW branch of the National Trust – who’ve recognised the value of each element to foster better access to Sydney’s existing heritage, improve the quality of inner-city streetscapes and the environment more generally.

The branch also appreciates our proposed use of existing but under-utilised and historically significant infrastructure which already sits in State hands – as they see this will reduce costs and give new purpose to otherwise ill-maintained heritage.

EcoTransit Sydney advocates that such proposals be developed with funds gathered from ‘value capture’ techniques across a broad catchment of better connected communities who eventually benefit.

We do not suggest the mass development of surrounding lands or the compulsory acquisition of existing houses to fund urban consolidation projects on a mass level, like recent motorway proposals – we feel this to be completely unnecessary – and we would oppose it, these projects can pay for themselves – and they would cost a fraction of the proposed ludicrous motorway projects the State is now considering.

Detail

The White Bay Green Link (WBGL) concept is a combined light rail route and cycleway running from Lilyfield light rail stop to the Barangaroo precinct and the northern CBD via the existing, now unused, White Bay rail corridor and a tunnel beneath the Balmain Peninsula and under Darling Harbour. An overview of the proposal can be downloaded here

This new route would create a direct express corridor (or ‘arc’) from the inner west to the northern and central CBD and would act as the spine on which a more comprehensive light rail and cycling network would, by steps, serve a widening commuter catchment.

The WBGL would transform the Barangaroo precinct from an enclave with poor public transport into a major public and active transport entry point for the CBD.

The Broader Planning Context

Originally included as part of EcoTransit Sydney’s submission to the Barangaroo Review the White Bay Green Link concept has benefits that extend beyond its immediate environs. The White Bay Green-Link was designed by members of EcoTransit Sydney (a not-for-profit, volunteer transport advocacy group) to provide a far more efficient light rail connection to Barangaroo and Wynyard from Sydney’s Inner West. It involves the creation of a cost-effective 400m underwater immersed tube tunnel, which would connect available infrastructure on the Balmain Peninsula with the northern CBD.

This game-changing tunnel connection would not only provide Barangaroo with a badly needed rail link, it would also remain completely free of all motor vehicle congestion and make the existing light rail service half an hour faster into the northern CBD for most people living across Sydney’s InnerWest. Beyond that, it will also provide much needed relief for motorists who currently have no alternative but to use the Anzac Bridge when reaching other parts of Sydney. This is because it can offering local motorists a real incentive to finally adopt an alternative transport mode.

Despite seeming ambitious, we have good reason to believe (based on world’s best practice) that implementing the White Bay Green-Link could cost well less than half a billion dollars. This is because the plan itself asks to utilise an existing freight rail corridor that runs from the existing light rail stop at Lilyfield, all the way to White Bay. This corridor is currently in State hands, so it means no land acquisitions would be required.

The benefits of the plan are many, given en route, it could provide a very valuable high capacity public transport connection for the Cruise Terminal at White Bay and The Glebe Island Expo site as well as providing a service which would revitalise the appeal of the Balmain Hospital, local interest in public transport and local businesses across the entire Balmain peninsula. All this is possible with a discrete underground stop at Balmain’s Gladstone Park (the heart of the existing retail village).

This stop would be dug into an old, empty water reservoir which is no longer in use. Its dimensions are 7m deep, 35m wide and 45m long. This new underground stop could ensure (with heritage protections in place), that the historic nature of Balmain would remain intact – while the rest of the InnerWest could share the benefit of a faster light rail service to the city.

The White Bay Green-Link also provides a designated cycle path element to this proposal, which would share the immersed tube tunnel after running the full length of White Bay, mostly alongside the light rail and above ground. This combined concept is about providing a rewarding and sustainable transport alternative for those in Sydney’s community who wish to adopt it.

To date, the NSW Government has not actioned this proposal – despite the fact it continues to allow Barangaroo to develop without adequate rail connections – and without adequate public consultation. In an age of rising fuel costs, we believe the White Bay Green-Link is a fantastic opportunity to provide the necessary, efficient and comfortable transport means we require for getting people out of their private vehicles, reducing the number of buses we rely on to enter the CBD (via allocated bus interchanges along the InnerWest Light Rail line), thereby providing a far more effective connection from western Sydney, into the northern CBD.