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EcoTransit Sydney submission on the Bays West Stage 1 Draft Master Plan

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EcoTransit Sydney submission on the Bays West Stage 1 Draft Master Plan (White Bay Power Station [and Metro] and Robert St sub-precincts)

1. Introduction

EcoTransit Sydney (ETS) welcomes the opportunity to comment on this draft plan for the White Bay Power Station and Metro, and the Robert St sub-precincts. This project holds great potential to deliver a world-class sustainable precinct that is carbon neutral.

1.1 It is the fundamental position of ETS and this submission that the precinct, and the larger project, must be made accessible to the greatest number of people in the most efficient and equitable manner. ETS is of the firm view that this involves provision of connected public transport in a cost-effective way, as well as the utilisation of existing infrastructure to its best effect. To this end, the former Rozelle Railyards must be used to connect the new White Bay with existing light rail networks, namely the Inner West Light Rail (IWLR) at Rozelle Bay and Lilyfield. This can be achieved via a simple spur line through existing open space and proposed parklands. Specific designs are for the Department although some indicative images are enclosed.

1.2 ETS welcomes the Bays West project as a vital opportunity to shape the future of our city

ETS believes in principles of sustainability and carefully crafted urban form that will stand the test of time as well as promoting a range of positive outcomes through proactive public transport planning.

Included among these principles that we believe the Bays project and the IWLR spur line can help to realise for Sydney is:

1.2.1 the need for flexibility and making this project responsive to evolving needs.

Utilising a Y-link at Rozelle Bay, commuters and visitors aboard the existing IWLR trams could easily access the White Bay precinct and its many attractions, including but not limited to the White Bay Power Station and the new Metro. The provision of a ready-made feeder network to the new Metro stop would be advantageous to the precinct and would cater to evolving needs. The distance from Rozelle Bay stop to the underpass under Victoria Rd is little more than 500 metres, yet this may not necessarily be an attractive proposition for many walkers. Yet under the ETS proposal an IWLR traveller from Marion St, Leichhardt could be at the Metro station in little more than 10 minutes.

Providing another public transport option for site users of the Bays is inherently flexible. Given that this spur line would act as a separate feeder line into the Rozelle Bay – Pyrmont – Central part of the existing IWLR, it would enable greater operational flexibility and system-wide resilience for the entire IWLR, as well as the potential for increased services between Rozelle Bay and the City (i.e. in addition to present trips that travel to/from Dulwich Hill).

1.2.2 the integration of this precinct with the wider inner-west and the entire city.

It is a stated aim of this project to facilitate wider connections including with the nearby communities of Rozelle, Balmain, Annandale, Glebe, and Pyrmont. Connections between the Bays and every one of these is better-served by the IWLR spur and in different respects. It is a flexible and adaptive proposal. And going beyond this, it would bring Lilyfield, Leichhardt and the Hawthorne Canal as far as Dulwich Hill readily into the sights of Bays West.

Giving public transport users from across Sydney different options for accessing the inner west would also be of benefit. The Tramsheds at Glebe and Marketplace in Leichhardt are but two of the trip attractors. It would also promote the economic sustainability of the Metro station as it could be used by more commuters/travellers. A Metro user from Parramatta could alight at White Bay and be on Norton St, Leichhardt, in short order.

1.2.3 It is the clear view of ETS that public and active transport has a prime role in making this precinct, and the larger project, function to its optimal level. As such the IWLR spur line is an elegant method for achieving all of the stated urban design aims of this project. These are elaborated on below.

2. Bays West Stage 1 and the draft master plan

2.1 Urban Design
The draft Urban Design Framework for the precinct states the guiding principles for the Master Plan. This submission will focus on two of these, namely “balancing the need for public and active transport with high quality places” and “demonstrating the proposed development can achieve high-quality place outcomes.”

In relation to delivering high quality places while accommodating the necessary public and active transport, the ETS proposal elegantly achieves these desired outcomes. The proposed spur line provides a relatively noiseless and comfortable travelling experience for its users. It should be noted that, notwithstanding the upheaval of recent times, the new CSELR through the city is leading the post-pandemic return to public transport for commuters in Sydney (T. Rabe and P. Singhal, ‘Sydney’s public transport growing back differently post-pandemic’, Sydney Morning Herald, April 28, 2021).

The new IWLR addition would only enhance the public spaces of the Rozelle Railyards parkland, potentially via a new brick viaduct that replicates the much-loved viaducts (see image below) that traverse the nearby Glebe parklands. It is envisaged that the tram would travel at a slow pace in the vicinity of the Metro Station and other specified places, and pick up speed on the viaducts. Given that it returns rail to another disused freight corridor, it would very likely become as much-loved as the present iteration of the IWLR (whose numbers have also been burgeoning in recent years). The ability to achieve ‘high-quality place outcomes’ is very much consistent with the proposed IWLR spur. Delivery of patrons to the precinct [and Metro stop] via tram would for many enhance the experience of arriving at the Bays.

Through connection with the IWLR line the ETS proposal vastly expands the catchment for the new precinct and Metro stop in terms of public and active transport. This includes stations to the west and south of Rozelle Bay, and brings much of Annandale and Leichhardt into the non-car transit equation. It connects the green corridor along the Hawthorne Canal with the Bays, as well as the Inner West train stations via Lewisham West. There are a number of further active communities along the line heading down to Dulwich Hill, which opens up access to the Bays for residents living along the Bankstown line as well, regardless of whether the planned Metro conversion of the T3 line is delivered on its present timeline.

Heading east from Rozelle Bay, the residents of Glebe could easily access the Bays Precinct via the proposed IWLR spur. And of even greater importance would be the new Fish Markets. Assuming the users of this world-class destination would prefer to walk approximately one kilometre to the Pyrmont Metro station is a dangerous assumption, and in any case providing these users with a practical public transport alternative for travelling between these two great destinations makes sound planning sense.

This IWLR modification (critically, it is an amplification of existing infrastructure) effectively balances the need for public and active transport with ‘high-quality places,’ and helps bring about the ‘high-quality place outcomes’ sought by the Bays West precinct planners and the larger project.

[The brick viaducts through Bicentennial Park, Glebe]

2.2 ‘activating the area around the new metro station’
Among the principles highlighted in the draft master plan is activation of the area near the new Metro station at White Bay. The uses and yields of the Bays West project, and specifically this precinct, are supported by the ETS proposal. Whether the precinct is to be an employment-led area or more focused on residential, the value in terms of the boost to amenity entailed by the IWLR modification stands. The opportunity for day and night-time activation is significantly boosted by increased connectivity, as seen in other areas close to the CBD that are served by light rail including Surry Hills.

The aim of activation would also be facilitated if people alighting at or joining the Metro station at the Bays are aware that they can access nearby areas that would otherwise require a significant walk or cycle. Delivery of many more locals to the area, including from the Buchanan St village (half a kilometre away) would result were the IWLR spur to proceed northward beyond the precinct and alongside Roberts St. If these locals were to do their grocery or convenience shopping near the Metro station, such a walk (with shopping bags) may be a deterrent. The light rail spur would remove the need to drive this comparatively short (yet problematic) distance. The same applies to many other residents of the Balmain peninsula.

2.3 ‘consolidate open space … connect with and extend the green infrastructure of Rozelle Railyards’
Another important principle is to promote the green infrastructure of the area. The IWLR spur is entirely consistent with this and indeed promotes that green space by allowing more people to move through it at a human pace. We must adjust to the needs of all in enjoying fantastic new green spaces such as the Rozelle Railyards and recognise those among us who are mobility-impaired.

2.4 ‘active multi-modal interchange’
The new Metro station at the Bays has tremendous potential to be a vital multi-modal interchange. However the project is selling itself, and the wider metropolitan area, short by not looking to capitalise on the opportunities for as wide a modal interchange as possible. This would encourage still more people to move through the area and in a sustainable way.
To this end, adding light rail (via the spur line contemplated) to the other modes, including [Victoria Rd] buses, local cyclists and walkers, and the MetroWest trains would result in a thriving transit hub in this area. Absent this proposal and the opportunity for significant interchange would be limited.

2.5 ‘key heritage considerations’
The Draft Master Plan also contains among its principles respect for important heritage items. ETS does not have a view on the indigenous heritage implications/possibilities of this project, beyond being generally supportive, and also notes that none of these possibilities are precluded by the proposed IWLR modification and its human-scale movement.
We also note that, very importantly, the new line would be covering area that was formerly served by freight rail lines. Interpretive plaques recognising this as important to the development of Sydney industry could be located around potential stops on the new tram line, and allow for people to go beyond the White Bay Power Station in understanding the Bays’ industrial heritage.

Finally, the White Bay Power Station presents tremendous opportunities as it acts as a ‘key anchor’ for the precinct. As noted above (at 2.1), a simple light rail connection between the iconic [redeveloped] Fish Markets and the arguably still more iconic White Bay Power Station would facilitate fantastic connectivity between these two great destinations of the inner west. This in no way precludes other infrastructure initiatives such as investigation of the reopening of the Glebe Island Bridge.

3. Transport planning principles: capitalising on opportunities presented by this project

3.1 “The renewal of Bays West will connect the surrounding communities of Rozelle, Balmain, Annandale, Glebe, and Pyrmont. This will encourage broader connectivity of these communities to the rest of Sydney, including connecting with ‘Tech Central’ (around Central Station), Sydney CBD, Sydney Olympic Park, Parramatta and Westmead”

~ The proposed IWLR spur line goes well beyond the connectivity that is proposed in the Draft Masterplan should it proceed without the light rail line. Its ability to plug residents of nearby suburbs into the wider Sydney network via the Metro at White Bay is unrivalled. Every one of the inner-west locations cited would benefit from connectivity between the Metro at White Bay and the IWLR.

3.2 The “approach [of the Bays West Place Strategy] is to deliver an ultra-low car environment with reduced private parking rates and a focus on active and public transport.”

~ The ambition to achieve an ultra low-car environment may not be easily achieved without the public transport connectivity that this ETS proposal entails.

3.3 A ‘Place-Based Transport Strategy’ acknowledging the “known traffic and transport constraints to, through and within the precinct. These include limited access points, a constrained road network and poor connectivity and permeability.” Also noted is the need to maintain freight and ports traffic, and White Bay as a ‘key cruise destination.’

~ The ETS proposal elegantly achieves the aims of the Place-Based Transport Strategy through acknowledging the known transport constraints yet seeking to work with planners to achieve the positive outcomes we know are within our grasp. The connectivity and permeability advantages of the IWLR spur line are tremendous. It is also noted that, via an extension along Roberts St, the line could also achieve the Department’s aims in terms of the maintenance of freight and ports traffic, together with White Bay’s continued role as a key cruise destination (with visiting travellers being able to access Sydney’s wider transport network).

3.4 The Master Plan explicitly states that ‘[t]he staged delivery of the broader Bays West precinct over the coming decades needs to ensure that future connectivity options and opportunities are not discounted at this stage [and … r]etaining options will allow flexibility within the precinct as it grows.’

~ If the planning for the Bays Precinct is to achieve its goals, future infrastructure needs must not be discounted through ignoring (or foreclosing!) the opportunities that presently exist. Foremost among these is the possibility for returning rail via the Rozelle Railyards to White Bay.

Conclusion –
The Draft Master Plan and documents associated with this specific component of the Bays West precinct also explicitly make reference to the “wider Bays West precinct.” It is imperative that the planners behind this project make reference to this and to the critical need for connectivity with th broader area that this proposal can facilitate. This proposal from ETS, both in the sense of the necessary reservation being set aside for it as well as its realisation as an active transport initiative, makes real the connections for the broader inner West and satisfies (indeed it frequently goes well beyond) all of these requirements.

EcoTransit Sydney commends to the NSW government the idea of a modification to the IWLR from Rozelle Bay that will connect directly into the Bays Precinct and the new Metro station.

Matthew Doherty, on behalf of EcoTransit Sydney
Monday 30 May 2022