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Does the new Inner West Light Rail deliver the best for users?

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702 ABC Sydney: Does the new Inner West Light Rail deliver the best for users? By Matthew Bevan (27 March, 2014)

Some elements of the Inner West Light Rail Extension may leave a little to be desired, according to a transport expert.

Transport for New South Wales promised that the new Inner West Light Rail Extension will allow easy changeover between bus, bicycle and heavy rail services, but according to one expert, some of the interchanges may leave a little to be desired.

Lewisham West Light Rail station is built in an industrial district, separated from Lewisham heavy rail station by a 500 metre walk, a busy road and a narrow alleyway between an industrial district and a construction site.

“In public transport, especially when you’re talking about interchanges, attention to detail is everything and when professionals don’t do that, the community we should be serving suffers,” said Dr Michelle Zeibots from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney.

“During the development of the proposal there was a lot of effort from communities to see that interchange point between the Light Rail and Lewisham heavy rail station fixed up,”

“The interchange could have been cut down to about 200 metres,” she said.

According to Dr Zeibots, a plan devised by by EcoTransit Sydney and the developer of a local shopping centre would have allowed a transfer between the transport forms including lifts and overhead walkways.

“For some reason the state government planners just didn’t want to look at that in any great detail,” Dr Zeibots said.

NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian responded by saying that in a global city such as Sydney, resources were finite.

“Integrating a service is critical, I believe, to having a good network,” she said.

“Ideally you’d love to have all the cross-platform transfers, but that’s not always possible,”

“It’s impossible to cater to everyone’s individual needs,” said the Minister.

Dr Zeibots also said she was concerned that the travel time from one end of the line to another was too long to be useful to commuters.

“At 38 minutes from Dulwich Hill to the City that’s looking a bit long to me, and I’d like to see the folks in the government do an assessment on the operating procedures as things go along, because I think there’s lots of opportunities there to speed up that service,” she said.

The Inner West Light Rail Extension is the first major Sydney infrastructure project to open under the O’Farrell government.

The installation of the system along the existing freight rail between Lilyfield and Dulwich Hill required no land acquisition, no roads to be ripped up and no new road bridges.

Dr Zeibots said that though this is a relatively simple project it may have widespread implications for other more complicated infrastructure projects such as the North West Rail Link and potential light rail projects in the Eastern Suburbs, Newcastle and Western Sydney.

“Attention to detail is everything. That is what determines whether a project like this is ultimately usable to the people who are going to get on it every day,” Dr Zeibots said.

“If we can’t get the details right on this one, then there’s a few question marks on the forthcoming one,” she added.

Dr Zeibots said that though she holds the transport minister in high regard there are certain elements of this project that leave a little to be desired.

“I have an enormous amount of respect for Gladys Berejiklian. I think we’ve waited a long time for a Transport Minister that has gone and integrated so many things,” she said.

“But, on this particular project it’s taken a lot longer to get to this point than what it should have,” Dr Zeibots added.

For more information about the Inner West Light Rail Extension, including maps of each station click here.