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Thousands rallied at the weekend to protest transport projects delivering a message to the NSW Government ahead of next year's election.
Transport activists, community groups and concerned residents took part in a lantern walk in the Sydney CBD calling for an end to the Westconnex project and for further funding for public transport.
Delivering a speech to the crowd on Saturday night, Lord Mayor Clover Moore was critical of government’s transport infrastructure policies .
“Westconnex is the very opposite of state and city policy to reduce the number of cars coming into the city centre,” Cr Moore said.
“Westconnex has been negotiated and built in secret, beyond the scrutiny of parliament, ICAC [the independent commission against corruption] and the public. And will create a massive budget black hole for public transport spending for future generations,” she said.
In June the NSW Government announced it has allocated $14.4 billion to various public transport infrastructure projects in Sydney. This includes the new automated Metro rail system from the CBD to Sydney’s North Shore and the light rail system extending to the Eastern suburbs.
“The NSW Budget 2018 includes a total of $4.3 billion for the Sydney Metro network, including $1.9 billion to continue building Sydney Metro City and Southwest, $2.4 billion to complete Sydney Metro Northwest,” NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said in a media release.
But Cr Moore doesn’t think this is enough.
“We acknowledge the coalition government has embarked on a metro system and is building a light rail in the city after years of public transport neglect by former governments. But so much more is needed,” she said.
“We want more public transport not more private tollways.”
Labor councillor for Waverley and state candidate for Coogee, Marjorie O’Neil was most concerned about the impact that the light rail project was having on the Eastern suburbs.
“One of the problems with Westconnex around Coogee is what they’re calling the “continuous flow intersection” on the corner of Anzac parade and Dacy Avenue, which is fundamentally the Eastern suburbs on-ramp to Westconnex.”
“It’s coming increasingly at the cost of more trees and open space which we’ve already been losing at the hands of this light rail,” Cr. O’Neil said.
Cr. O’ Neil claimed the new light rail was an “absolute debacle”.
“It’s not increasing capacity, it’s going to be doing the exact same amount as the buses and because it’s being used as a Trojan horse for mass development, it’s not going to fulfil the public transport needs. And we’re going to still need more buses in the area.”
NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker said the current public transport infrastructure scheme was too “Sydney-centric” and left those living in regional Australia behind.
The NSW Government’s budget allocated $31 million into the regional rail network to replace the ageing fleet and “create more comfortable and more reliable services for customers travelling long distances”.
Mr Parker said the Greens would prefer to see investment in a high speed rail system.
“We think there needs to be high speed rail, between Sydney and Melbourne in particular, it’s the fourth busiest air route in the world,” he said.
When asked whether the Westconnex project and light rail project were too far along for campaigning to make a difference, Cr. O’Neil did not provide comment but said that she would like to see increased funding for higher capacity public transport.
Cr O'Neil said that if Labor won the next election, it would hold a parliamentary inquiry into the Westconnex project.
Mr Parker said if Labor won the next state election the NSW Greens would work with them to create a better public transport plan for the state.
“It’s disappointing that the alternative to the Liberals is poor old NSW Labor,” he said.
“What we need to do is to work collaboratively with Labor to make sure that their plans are pro-public transport and protect public transport.”