Inquiry to look at rail corridors building

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Inquiry to look at rail corridors building

Josephine Tovey

March 27, 2012


“Development has taken place above and around only a small number of stations in Sydney – such as Chatswood, Kogarah and Edgecliff.” Photo: James Brickwood

THE state government should consider creating a special authority to facilitate redevelopment around Sydney’s train stations and railway lines for things such as new apartments and shopping centres, says the state’s top transport official.

A parliamentary inquiry is under way into the benefits and barriers to building Hong Kong-style developments above and around Sydney’s rail corridors, a concept given general support by a broad range of groups, including the City of Sydney, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and the government’s own Department of Planning. Benefits cited include providing housing where public transport infrastructure already exists and reducing reliance on cars and road congestion.

Development has taken place above and around only a small number of stations in Sydney – such as Chatswood, Kogarah and Edgecliff.

Part of the difficulty in allowing such developments to proceed is the complexity of dealing with a number of different agencies, said the director-general of Transport NSW, Les Wielinga.

He told the inquiry yesterday a separate authority, a ”one-stop shop” bringing together various necessary expertise and powers including planning, construction and finance, would ideally be established to allow such development to go ahead.

”You’ve got to bring together a group of people that have got the capabilities, the skills, to make these developments happen,” he said.

Mr Wielinga said the authority could function in a similar way to the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. ”This sort of a model is the right sort of model, provided you give it the appropriate powers that the community needs,” he said.

A number of submissions supporting the proposal cite Hong Kong as an example of successful ”transit-oriented development”. But Mr Wielinga pointed out developments usually took place at the same time as stations were constructed – avoiding the challenges developers would face building over or around already established Sydney stations.

David Spiteri from RailCorp told the inquiry the difficulty of shutting down stations or whole train lines, and organising alternative transport during construction, was a major impediment to such development.

”The biggest constraint to a developer is shutting a railway down to the work,” he said.

The City of Sydney said in its submission it had long recommended that opportunities for building above Central Station and its rail yards be explored.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia identified five city stations in its submission that it considered ideal for redevelopment by public private partnerships – Redfern, Central, Town Hall, Martin Place and Circular Quay.

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