New South Wales premier Mike Baird has announced the route for the new $2 billion light rail network around Parramatta as part of the government’s push to turn western Sydney into an economic powerhouse.
The Sydney basin is predicted to be home to 6 million people by 2030, plans for increased residential density around the city’s CBD are being rolled out, the government is racing to improve infrastructure west of the city as the population booms around Parramatta too.
The 22-kilometre route connects runs from Westmead Hospital to Strathfield via Parramatta CBD, and takes in Western Sydney University and Sydney Olympic Park. It combines two of the four proposed routes considered. A light rail line will also branch to Carlingford, replacing the existing heavy rail shuttle.
The NSW government also announced today that it is relocating 1800 education jobs from the CBD to western Sydney.
The new route comes on top of the light rail line currently being built through Sydney’s CBD to Randwick in the city’s south east, and follows on from the 5.6km extension of the existing inner west line, which now runs from the city to Dulwich Hill.
But the challenge for the government is finding the additional $1 billion to fund the Parramatta project on top of the $1 billion Baird has already committed.
“The light rail network will help Parramatta reach its potential as Sydney’s second CBD and be a major boost to existing public transport services in Western Sydney,” the premier said.
The cost on the project remains unclear but is expected to top $2 billion. Construction is expected to get underway within two years, but no completion date was outlined at today’s announcement.
Work on a final business case and assessment of the preferred network will begin to determine the exact route and stops, as well the final project cost, but the government is looking at introducing a levy of $200 a square metre on new residential developments in the area to help pay for the light rail, as well as new schools and road upgrades.
Baird said consultation with the development industry about the “Special Infrastructure Contribution” levy will be held before the rate is finalised.
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