The NSW Government will acquire and potentially demolish around 52 properties in Sydney over the coming years in order to construct new rail stations for Australia’s largest public transport project, Sydney Metro.
Updated plans for the $11-billion project were released last week, showing the chosen construction sites for nine of the 31 stations in the 65-kilometre automated rail network.
The plans involve the demolition of 19 buildings in the CBD, including the 22-storey Tiffany building in Martin Place.
A further 17 buildings in North Sydney and Crows Nest will also be acquired and levelled to allow for construction of the Chatswood – Sydenham line.
Sydney Metro program director Rodd Staples told 2UE radio station that although the project will involve widespread construction in the city centre, a “keyhole surgery type of approach” has been taken to limit disruption.
Mr Staples said: “I’d love nothing more than build this railway and not have to do anything on the surface, but obviously we need to break a few eggs for this to occur.
“Look back 100 years – what we required at Wynyard and Hyde Park [rail stations] was open heart surgery, we had to dig up streets and whole areas. But this is a keyhole surgery type of approach. It will be much more targeted.
“So let’s say at Martin Place, we’re acquiring buildings at either end of what the station will be like underground. [It’s] almost two football fields long in length underground, but we’re essentially buying the two buildings at each end, at the ‘goal posts’, so we can dig down… and then mine to the halfway mark from each direction to minimise the amount of construction activity that goes on at the surface.”
He noted, however, that care has been taken to ensure that heritage buildings are protected.
Potential for redevelopment
Once the Sydney Metro project is completed, it is expected that the government will look to redevelop the buildings demolished.
Mr Staples added: “There’s opportunity to develop over the top of the stations long-term, which will be a fantastic thing for the city and there could ultimately be quite iconic buildings in and around there, and they’ll be a place that people want to go.”
He said that the project was all about “giving more connectivity to people to be able to do different types of trips” and “giving more capacity for the next 50 to 100 years through the CBD”.
He highlighted that Sydney Metro would make travelling from Bondi Junction to North Sydney and Macquarie Park “much quicker”, by having an underground interchange between the heavy rail and metro rails, and that the automated [driverless] system could “help carry more people through Sydney metro than can currently [be carried] on the bridge and harbour tunnel put together”.
Speaking to The Fifth Estate, Corinne Mulley, professor in public transport at the University of Sydney, said: “If we want to get people out of their cars and onto public transport, increasing frequency and quality is the best way. So if you’re providing journey times that are the same as cars or better – which the Sydney Metro system appears to do – then, from a public transport point of view, it can only be a good thing for Sydney.
“Having said that, density is important to make public transport work, as it provides a bigger pool of people in which to draw your passengers. The more people you have in the catchment area of a stop or station, the smaller the proportion of those people you need to attract to the public transport stop.”
She added that the demolition of the buildings in the CBD would therefore “not be quite such a bad thing if it provides the opportunity for redevelopment”, as densification of the city will be required as the population increases.
Sydney Metro timeline
The first part of the Sydney Metro rail line is set to open up in the first half of 2019 between Rouse Hill and Chatswood.
The whole system is expected to be in operation by 2024.
Members of the public will have the opportunity to give further feedback on the project as part of the environmental planning assessment process towards the middle of 2016, and a second industry briefing will be held next month to update the new project scope and proposed delivery method.