NSW government must fund more light rail

The cost of a light rail line through Parramatta would climb if it included the transport-starved suburb of Carlingford, putting pressure on the state government to fork out more funds for the billion-dollar project, Parramatta lord mayor John Chedid has warned.

The government committed $400 million in Tuesday’s budget to building the line to Sydney’s second-biggest central business district, but debate is raging about the route it should follow.

Parramatta Council favours two routes: Rydalmere to Castle Hill via Windsor Road, and Westmead to Macquarie Park via Eastwood, bypassing Carlingford. The lines both go through central Parramatta and would cost a combined $1.5 billion.

But Hills Shire mayor Michelle Byrnes said a light rail line that does not include Carlingford “isn’t worth building”.

“There’s more than 21,000 residents living in Carlingford at the moment and they’re serviced by one train an hour to Clyde and infrequent buses,” she said, adding the suburb’s population would rise by 46 per cent by 2031.

The government is conducting a feasibility study examining 10 options, including a route to Carlingford and one down Parramatta Road to central Sydney.

Cr Chedid said the council’s preferred routes linked hospitals, job centres, universities, heavy rail stations, high-density apartments, growth areas and entertainment precincts.

Should the government’s feasibility study support it, he would back a Carlingford stop “unconditionally”. However if it involved a new spur from Eastwood, the government must be “willing to fund an additional connection”, he said.

The council would also seek private sector investment and was fielding interest from several companies, he said.

Early modelling indicates that by 2031, the Macquarie Park line would carry up to 5750 passengers an hour in the peak, and the Hills line would carry up to 5100 passengers.

Cr Byrne signalled her council would not fund the extra cost of a Carlingford connection, saying it was a state government responsibility to “fund major infrastructure projects that cross several local government boundaries”.

A study by Parramatta council last year identified several challenges facing its preferred routes. They include an impact on bus services and congestion at Macquarie Park and Castle Hill, crossing Parramatta River and major roads, and environmental impacts at Brush Farm Park.

The Parramatta project would mark a major expansion in Sydney’s light rail infrastructure.

It follows a recent inner west light rail extension, which is so popular it is routinely overcrowded, and $265 million allocated in the budget to start work on a line linking central Sydney to the eastern suburbs, which was approved this month.

Waverley Council is examining the prospect of light rail to Bondi Beach and a new light rail project has been confirmed for central Newcastle.

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