Parramatta Light Rail: industry briefing
By Gerald Arends and Swati Johri
Following the NSW Government’s announcement of the preferred network of the Parramatta Light Rail in December 2015, further details of the project were provided by Transport for NSW at yesterday’s industry briefing.
The preferred network
While the precise route of the light rail has not yet been determined, the NSW Government has stated that the 20km ‘core spine’ of the rail corridor will start from the newly redeveloped Westmead Healthcare Precinct and run through Parramatta, Camellia and Sydney Olympic Park to Strathfield. A branch line will run from Camelia to Carlingford with this branch line replacing the current heavy rail service.
The preferred network will also include 6 new transport interchanges along the route which are designed to provide commuters with access to the wider rail network and connecting transport such as buses and ferries. The 5 interchanges identified at this stage are Westmead, Parramatta, Carlingford, Olympic Park and Strathfield.
While the project has been allocated $1 billion in funding from Restart NSW and Rebuilding New South Wales, the NSW Government has acknowledged that these funds will not be sufficient to meet the project’s expected capital cost.
Additional funding for the project is expected to come from ‘land value capture’ along the rail corridor. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment will levy a Special Infrastructure Contribution on residential development within the Greater Parramatta to Olympic Peninsula Priority Growth Area. The funds raised from the Special Infrastructure Contribution are to be applied towards funding for the Parramatta Light Rail and other infrastructure, such as school and road upgrades, in the area.
‘Land value capture’ is of course one of the hot topics in the development of new linear infrastructure such as rail corridors. It will be interesting to see the nature of the developments that will be caught by the Special Infrastructure Contribution and whether this will have retroactive application. Further details of this scheme are expected to become available as the business case for the project develops.
Current status and timeline
The Parramatta Light Rail project is still in the very early stages of development. The NSW Government is currently carrying out a design scoping study and preparing the strategic business case for the project.
The delivery and funding model for project has not yet been determined; it is anticipated that the preferred business model and delivery strategy will be issued by the NSW Government at the end of 2016.
The Environmental Impact Statement for the project is also expected to be on display for public comment in 2017. The final business case for the project and delivery procurement is scheduled to occur by mid-2017. Procurement for construction of the project is scheduled for 2017 with the construction expected to commence in mid-2018 and take up to 5 years to complete.
Message for industry
The key message delivered to industry at yesterday’s briefing was not to view this project in isolation. Given the number of large-scale transport projects currently in procurement across Sydney, the NSW Government has said that it is expecting the private sector to take a holistic approach in project delivery, in particular taking into account the interface with other transport projects that will be underway at the same time and minimising the impact on communities.
The management of the cumulative impacts of the infrastructure development taking place across Sydney should be an important consideration for project sponsors and developers interested in Parramatta Light Rail. Interesting times on the road (rail?) ahead!