Light rail saga: end is in sight

While commuters count down to the end of traffic jams, local businesses count the cost

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To eastern suburbs commuters stuck in daily traffic jams, it might seem like eons since construction on the South East Light Rail started in October 2015.

But Transport for NSW maintains the project is running to schedule and catching a light rail to work should be a reality in 2019, although it declined to name a date.

A Transport for NSW representative said: “Nearly 15km of track has been laid with a number of major intersections in the CBD, Surry Hills, Randwick, Kensington and Kingsford areas also completed.”

Overhead wires are up and vehicle testing is underway on Alison Road. Anzac Parade is shaping up between Todman Ave and High St with tracks complete and work now going underground for the electrical and communications network.

Surry Hills faces new traffic arrangements with Holt St closed and Waterloo now open. Utility work is the main focus across the Chalmers and Devonshire St areas while finishing work (footpaths and kerbs) is done between Chalmers and Elizabeth. Track installation is almost finished on Devonshire St between Crown and Bourke.

New diversions were implemented earlier this month with access to Devonshire St between Nickson and Bourke now prohibited. Work on the Devonshire and Bourke intersection will happen over Easter.

“We expect ALTRAC to complete light rail major construction in the Surry Hills area in 2018. Work after this date will entail systems work, including stringing overhead cables and installing equipment on platforms,” said Transport NSW.

Many locals however are less than impressed. Heather Mabry, who commutes to Camperdown, said, “It doubles my journey from 30 minutes to an hour because Anzac Parade is so slow.”

Meanwhile, many businesses on the route face financial ruin. Owner of Vivo Cafe, business advocate and local Councillor Angela Vithoulkas claims they will never recoup their losses.

“I’ve experienced half my lease in a construction zone with half my business gone, paying full rent for a prime position that no longer exists.The State government is underestimating the depth of impact on people.”

Some are considering action against Transport NSW. Open to residents, property owners and business owners, the Sydney Light Rail Class Action Suit (SLRCAS) has already had claims of mental health issues and significant financial losses from the construction.

According to Transport NSW, “Small businesses are a priority and we want to

ensure that those who have experienced disruption will reap the benefits once services start. As such, Transport for NSW has established a program to provide rental assistance to small businesses along the light rail route.”

ALTRAC did not respond to our questions in time for deadline.

The SLRCAS claims,

however, that the government has “neglected its duty of care” alleging “small

businesses have applied for rental assistance and been rejected or outright refused.”

I’ve experienced half my lease in a construction zone ... paying full rent.