Sydney Light Rail Program

(Question Without Notice, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

Mr ALEX GREENWICH: My question is to the Minister for Transport. Given that residents are distressed that the Devonshire Street route for the proposed south-east light rail will divide Surry Hills, destroy homes and parklands, and create pedestrian and cycling risks, and given the multipartisan opposition for this route by the City of Sydney Council, will the Minister commit to a public forum with residents to provide information and respond to concerns?

The SPEAKER: Order! The Minister does not need any assistance in answering the question.

Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: I thank the member for this question because it does give me the opportunity to comment on this very important project for Sydney. I place on record that our Government is absolutely committed to extending light rail from Circular Quay to Kingsford and Randwick, through the Sydney central business district and, of course, to that very critical south-eastern precinct. This is on top of the light rail extension that is already underway in the inner west. The 12-kilometre line will be built in parallel with the implementation of a redesigned bus network that I had the opportunity to speak about last week. In fact, we will be able to remove 220 buses that currently clog up the central business district.

We also know that it will provide fast and reliable links to key destinations like the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Sydney Football Stadium, Moore Park, Randwick Racecourse, and, of course, Central and Circular Quay. Also, not only will it deliver these benefits to people attending major events in that precinct from other parts of Sydney and other regions, but it is also a key transport link to the hospital and university destinations, the Prince of Wales Hospital and the University of New South Wales. We also know that light rail has a reliability of 97 per cent versus buses, which regrettably, due to congestion and other reasons, have reliability of between only 19 per cent and 34 per cent. We also know that light rail vehicles can carry up to 300 people each compared to the standard bus, which only carries 60 people.

We know this is an important project. In fact, as the member for Sydney would know, back in 2011 we consulted through the round table process with the City of Sydney and Randwick councils, the Sydney Business Chamber, the Property Council, health and education providers and also event and recreation precincts in the central business district, as well as in the south-east. My focus is on delivering the best project for the people of New South Wales, and that is what we are doing. The final light rail route has been determined and is outlined in a document we put out called "Sydney's Light Rail Future". I urge every member of this place who cares about public transport and light rail to actually have a look at that document.

We have made it clear that whatever the final alignment is, it will have impacts around Surry Hills. However, light rail will also bring many positives to Surry Hills such as improved amenity and access. I can assure the residents of Olivia Gardens and Devonshire Street, and their neighbours, that they will be consulted as the design work is progressed. I have always said that. Already Transport for NSW has met with representatives of Olivia Gardens and I have also arranged to have meetings with some residents in Surry Hills. But let me stress, these are informal discussions until the wider and formal consultation takes place, which is imminent. Once our plans are confirmed we will ensure that all affected parties are advised.

There is no doubt that when you are building a major public transport infrastructure project there are disruptions, there are challenges, but that is why governments are there to make those decisions. Unfortunately, this State has not experienced what it is like to have a number of major projects on the go because for 16 years those opposite did not build anything. In fact, it is very interesting because last year the shadow Minister in the other place was criticising me for not expanding the light rail network when she said, "The Government's record on light rail expansion has been atrocious." She also said, "No real money has been committed for light rail extensions elsewhere in Sydney by the O'Farrell Government despite Labor having put up $500 million on the table prior to the election." I raise this because last year the shadow Minister was saying I was not doing enough to expand light rail and last week the member for Keira asked me a question criticising me for building light rail.

Mr Alex Greenwich: Point of order: My point of order is relevance. I share the Government's support for light rail. My question was about a public forum.

The SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The member for Sydney will resume his seat.

Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: I welcome the support of the member for Sydney, which he has put on the record today. I also welcome the fact that the member for Sydney has re-confirmed his support for the project. But I wonder what the Opposition's position is? The shadow Minister for Transport says that I am not doing enough about light rail, while the member for Keira says I should not build light rail. I do not know what the position of the Leader of the Opposition is, but I wish he had one.

The SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will come to order.

Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: The Opposition has different positions all over the place. But I want to give the hardworking people of New South Wales the message that those on this side of the House are committed to building major public transport projects. [Time expired.]