Victor P Taffa
How many single lane roads exist?
How many single lane railway lines exist?
The answer to the first question is none and the answer to the second question is too many to name.
Over many decades obstacles and excuses have been put in the way to stop heavy railway construction. Since the advent of the Department of Planning in the 1970s many people have sought to justify their opposition to heavy railway construction on the basis that new urban planning had to be a reason to build a railway line.
How many suburbs throughout Sydney have been built without a railway line? The answer is countless. Even as we speak the Oran Park raceway is being turned into housing and no new railway line has even been considered.
The proposed South West Leppington railway sounds great however a railway line running from Macarthur to Parramatta and then to Epping will be of greater value to the South West of Sydney than a small circle loop that is being built simply to suit the Department of Planning.
On Thursday 26 March 2009 on Radio 2GB on the Ray Hadley programme Planning Minister Kristina Keneally said “the duplication to schofields will be done when required.” When I travelled to Riverstone recently the issue that concerns local residents is that new development will occur without the duplication of the Richmond railway line.
Had the Richmond line been duplicated thirty years ago then the current Minister for Planning would not need to make such comments regarding the duplication of the line. As with roads that lead to Richmond and Riverstone at least they are 2 lanes wide. The railway line is only 1 lane wide.
Again the argument that railway line duplication will occur when the need arises is a spurious argument because patronage on a railway will only ever increase if trains can operate in both directions simultaneously.
We do not have single lane roads so why do we have single lane railway lines?
Single lane railway lines may have suited times of the past but in 2009 they are simply inadequate. Once again when you consider Urban Planning on flood prone areas of land if the Department was professional in its approach then drainage basins or tunnels would be built.
Instead people are only concerned about approving developments and ignoring the need to improve the railway line or drainage. For many decades nothing was done for flood prone West Ryde and Eastwood and only when the floods hit in the 1980s was the Mons Avenue West Ryde drainage tunnel built.
When the Richmond Railway line is duplicated it should also extend to Mount Victoria. Is this under consideration with the Department of Planning? The need to extend the railway to Mount Victoria is to provide a safer and faster alternative to the narrow and windy section of the Western line at Glenbrook. It would not mean a closure of the Western line but an improvement to it.
According to locals Richmond Railway Station is built at the lowest point at sea level. The underground car park to a shopping centre that is lower than sea level was also approved and yet nothing has been done to offset the flooding problem. When the Richmond railway line is extended there would be a bridge over the Hawkesbury River and the Richmond railway station would be a 4 platform twin island station. So as not to split the township in two the station would be placed underground.
If the problem with this lies in the flooding issue of Richmond then a drainage tunnel similar to the Mons Avenue West Ryde should be built. The need to expand our heavy railway lines is undeniable.
To justify their construction through the Department of Planning does not stack up. With all of the constraints on heavy railway construction it is amazing that New South Wales was ever able to build a railway system.
If we don’t need to separate railway line planning from urban planning then why did the State Government pass special private Metro Rail legislation through the Parliament?
What is required is The Railway Construction Act. This would allow for the construction of above/below ground or elevated railway lines wherever the need arose. There would be no requirement to obtain the permission of a local government council and the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.
The Railway Construction Act would not operate once a railway line had been constructed and the type of development that would occur along the route of a new railway line would be governed by existing procedures. This would not avoid the need to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement into the construction of a new railway line. The new act would require the Department of Railways to engage in the same EIS process that currently exists. Once the new railway was constructed, the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning would resume its function in determining the style of development that was to occur along the new rail corridor.
Railway lines would be built in such a way so as to reduce to a minimum the number of homes that would be affected. As the issue of noise along the Southern railway line at Casula is affecting residents it is not unreasonable for noise barriers to be built at the area of greatest concern. This is an issue for the New South Wales Government to address because they alone own the Southern line.
Had the Department of Planning existed in 1855 our state may never have got a railway to Casula. Not only is it time that Railway line planning is separated from urban planning, a Minister for Railways in addition to a Minister for Transport is needed to balance the argument and provide the people of New South Wales with choice that on the surface is provided but in reality it is not.