| 10.01,12. 03:57 AM |
Premier embraces light rail network
Jacob Saulwick, Anna Patty
January 10, 2012.
BARRY O'FARRELL has given the clearest sign yet that he will expand Sydney's tram network, saying work should begin on a light rail project in the city or eastern suburbs before the next election.
In a wide-ranging interview to mark the start of a new year in power, the Premier defended the pace of progress since his election in March and said he aimed to deliver ''stable, mainstream, competent government''.
The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, has said any light rail through the city would be down George Street but has always stressed that the expansion would be subject to studies still being undertaken.
Advertisement: Story continues below Mr O'Farrell said he was ''absolutely'' attracted to the idea of light rail in the central business district. ''We understand there's … no point in having light rail to Sydney University or to UNSW unless it connects to something. And getting light rail into the CBD I think is important - and if it wasn't important before, it is certainly important I think in the context of Barangaroo.''
The government has commissioned feasibility studies into a CBD route along George Street as well as connections to the University of Sydney, either down Parramatta Road or City Road, and to the University of NSW along Anzac Parade.
Asked if construction would begin on any of those projects before the next election, due in March 2015, Mr O'Farrell said: ''I absolutely would expect there to be a start to work on light rail before the next election.''
But he could not say which project would start first. Light rail would also depend on a new public transport smartcard, to be introduced over two years, to allow commuters to transfer easily between buses and trams.
Despite his enthusiasm for light rail, Mr O'Farrell said his clear message to his ministers and agencies had been to avoid making half-baked announcements as the former government had done. ''We have moved out of marketing,'' he said.
''I abhor thought bubbles, whether from public servants, whether from agencies, whether from ministers. Don't announce a good idea. Don't announce what might happen one day or what might be considered … get on and do it.
''People had a gutful for the better part of a dozen years of being told this could work in transport or we could do that in education, or we could do this in policing, and nothing ever happened.''
Mr O'Farrell said economic management would remain his No. 1 priority, and by the time of the election, voters would see his government's progress on a range of fronts.
Much of this progress would be driven by Infrastructure NSW, the advisory body he created which is chaired by the former premier Nick Greiner.
But Mr O'Farrell said he was impatient to receive Infrastructure NSW's plan for the state. ''No one's more frustrated that I have to wait until September to get from them their 20-year infrastructure strategy,'' he said. ''The sooner they give us the strategy, the sooner we can get on with it.''
As well as infrastructure and transport, other achievements the public would be able to notice by the time of the election would be the Public Service Commission having improved the competency, professionalism and capacity of the bureaucracy, as well as the empowering of school principals and more local control in hospitals.
''And so it will be different. But will every need, will every desire have been met? No. I don't think it ever has [been] in human kind.''