‘Take a breath’:Elliott won’t commit to Parramatta light rail stage two

NSW’s new Transport Minister David Elliott will not commit to building the second stage of the multibillion-dollar Parramatta light rail line,arguing he wants to focus on resolving problems with ferries and other existing services.

The news prompted Labor to accuse the government of breaking an election promise,while residents and business groups say it is a blow to a project that has major support from communities lacking public transport.

A week after he was sworn in as Transport Minister,Mr Elliott said he was “certainly not committing” himself to proceeding with the second stage from Camellia to Olympic Park because he had “enough challenges with the current projects” under way in NSW.

Transport Minister David Elliott says he will not commit to the second stage of the Parramatta light rail line.

Transport Minister David Elliott says he will not commit to the second stage of the Parramatta light rail line.Gaye Gerard

“I’m not going to go out and announce brand new projects while our current projects are facing challenges. That would be treating commuters like idiots,” he told 2GB on Tuesday.

“I’m going to be honest with them and at the moment I’ve got enough challenges with the current projects without going around promising ones that may be unfunded.”

Mr Elliott said the government had made “huge investments” in public transport infrastructure over the past decade,citing projects such as theNorthwest Metro rail line from Rouse Hill to Chatswood. “Let’s take a breath – let’s catch up with what we have got going at the moment,” he said.

“Let’s get the ferries going OK;let’s get the light rail back on track.”

An artist’s impression of the second stage of the light rail line over Parramatta River between Melrose Park and Wentworth Point.

An artist’s impression of the second stage of the light rail line over Parramatta River between Melrose Park and Wentworth Point.PAYCE

Services on the inner west light rail line been Central Station and Dulwich Hill have been suspended since late October aftercracks were discovered in the Spanish-built trams that run on it.

The Transport Minister’s comments come after theHerald reported that the proposed second stage of the Parramatta light rail line had been deemed an “uncommitted” project in long-term government plans for Olympic Park.

Shadow transport minister Jo Haylen said the government had no intention of keeping a four-year-old election promise to the people of western Sydney to build the nine-kilometre second stage.

“Parramatta light rail stage two is not a brand new project. The government first promised it to the people of western Sydney in 2017,” she said.

“Rapidly growing communities like Wentworth Point,Olympic Park and Melrose Park have been promised this project for years. The government’s broken promise will have serious consequences for them.”

While Transport for NSW has begun preparing an environmental impact statement,the government hasrepeatedly delayed making an investment decision on the second stage. A final business case for the project has been in the government’s hands since mid-2019.

Wentworth Point Residents Action Group spokesman Clement Lun said Mr Elliott’s comments were disappointing because the light rail was vital to relieving road congestion in his high-density suburb which had “one road in and one road out” due to its location on a peninsula.

“Traffic congestion is a big issue here and that is why the community is crying out for more public transport,” he said.

“The light rail stage two is meant to feed to the future metro line[station at Olympic Park] and connect us to the city’s second CBD in Parramatta. It is almost like a lifeline for residents here to connect to the wider transport network.”

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Mr Lun said residents needed to catch two buses to get to the Parramatta CBD,and car sharing was high in the area because of “how inaccessible we are”.

Business Western Sydney executive director David Borger said the government was alienating a large group of residents who had moved into suburbs on the back of the promise of the second stage proceeding.

“We’d encourage the new Transport Minister to take a closer look at the project. Parramatta light rail stage two has a strong benefit cost ratio,and it has huge support from communities and businesses along the proposed route,” he said.

When the proposed route of the second stage was unveiled in 2017,the government said it was hopeful construction would startbefore 2020.

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Matt O'Sullivan is Transport and Infrastructure Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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