Rail project great news, but compact communities around stations crucial

11 August 2010

A Parramatta to Epping rail link will ease Western Sydneys congestion, but only if its accompanied by a plan for the development of new compact, pedestrian friendly communities within walking distance of the rail stations, according to the Urban Taskforce.

The Taskforces chief executive, Aaron Gadiel, said the funding commitment by the federal Labor Party and the NSW Government was terrific news.


It would be great if the federal Liberal Party now made a similar commitment to Western Sydney, Mr Gadiel said.


Too much of this federal campaign has been caught up debating the wrong issues.


Western Sydneys real problem is a lack of infrastructure investment, not population growth.


“In the five years to June 2009, Western Sydney only saw an annual population increase of 1.5 per cent a year, slower than Melbournes growth rate of 2 per cent a year, Brisbanes annual growth rate of 2.3 per cent, or Perths growth rate of 2.6 per cent or even the national growth rate of 1.8 per cent a year.


Less than half of the extra people whove come to Sydney in that period settled in Western Sydney.


Its good that, for the moment, we seem to have moved from debating a problem that Western Sydney doesnt have and were now talking about the real issue infrastructure provision.


Mr Gadiel said the planned $2.6 billion rail project will only ease Sydneys congestion if the state government commits to new town plans for the precincts within an 800 metre radius of each new and upgraded rail station.


This project was cancelled last time, because there was no serious effort to allow more compact pedestrian friendly residences, workplaces and retail areas around rail stations, he said.


The former NSW transport minister Michael Costa cancelled the extension to Parramatta in 2003, declaring he could not “see the sense in spending $1.2 billion on a project providing only 15,000 extra passenger trips” a day.


The evidence consistently shows that the best way to get people onto public transport is to provide opportunities to live and work within walking distance of its transit stations.


For every 10 percent increase in population density at a transit station, there is a 6 percent increase in public transport patronage.


This is an opportunity for more of Sydneys new housing to be accommodated around high quality public transport.


New compact, pedestrian-friendly, neighbourhoods should bring together housing, workplaces, shopping and recreation areas within walking distance of public transport, he said.


State and federal governments will be wasting their investment if significant apartment, retail and office development is not also permitted in Carlingford, Telopea, Dundas, Rydalmere, Rosehill and Camellia.


Work on reviewing the zoning of land in this corridor should start immediately.


We want this new transport infrastructure to be a success this means, from day one, there should be sufficient numbers of people living and working in close proximity to the line to ensure its well patronised.


Mr Gadiel said that federal funding was vital for the North West rail link, the acceleration of the South West rail line, the duplication of the M5 and the extension of the M4 through to the city and the airport was still vital.


Mr Gadiel said a strong steady planned program of infrastructure investment was crucial for all cities, including Western Sydney.


This makes it easier to deal with the challenge of population growth, and reap the economic benefits.


“Throughout much of the last decade, Victoria has experienced double the population growth of NSW, and as a result, has enjoyed double the level of economic growth.


The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australias most prominent property developers and equity financiers.



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