Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Redfern - how bad can the NSW government get?

The single word 'Redfern' has recently been most evocative of the song in Keating the Musical (here at 14:44) which itself derives from PJK's great speech in which he observed:
 It might help us if we non-Aboriginal Australians imagined ourselves dispossessed of land we had lived on for fifty thousand years - and then imagined ourselves told that it had never been ours.

But today just over 25 years later 'Redfern' is now evocative of the absolute mess that the Liberal Government (in the thrall of every developer led proposal and desire to sell its own assets) is making of Sydney.

Redfern is known to most Sydney-siders as 'that stop before Central' as most train lines pass through it. Otherwise it was renowned as a working class suburb that housed the home ground of South Sydney.

At its Southern end on both sides of the tracks lies the Everleigh Railway yards the Eastern portion of which was re-purposed as the Australian Technology Park in 1995.

In 2015 the NSW Government's own property development arm UrbanGrowth NSW sold the site to the Commonwealth Bank for $263 million.  After years of decentralising its workforce to Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park and Lidcombe the bank had had enough of waiting for the promised transport infrastructure.

Over more recent decades as the University of Sydney has expanded into Darlington, Redfern station has become the favoured transport hub for many students. During term an almost continuous swarm of students four abreast stretches from the station in to the campus.

But the NSW Government like all its predecessors has meanwhile done nothing to increase the capacity of the train network. Current transport plans dominated by light rail and the metro whittle away at the network but still it is the trains that carry the heavy load.

The original plan for a Chatswood-Parramatta train line was to alleviate some of the train volume on the main Western line. But that plan was long ago abandoned as NSW Treasury viewed the new line as nothing more than an opportunity to rip apart the engineering culture and industrial relations nightmare of our trains.

As part of the latest attempt to squeeze more capacity out of the infrastructure, the latest timetable has some interurban trains bypassing Redfern.

Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence said the decision for trains on the line to bypass Redfern in favour of Central Station had "added greatly to the university's already significant public transport pressures."

But the latest people to discover the problems of Redfern Station are Mirvac who is developing the ATP site for the Commonwealth Bank. With 10,000 bank employees expected to use Redfern or transport more focus is turning on Redfern.

A spokeswoman for the bank, meanwhile, said it had been "working with Mirvac and relevant government agencies to explore how accessibility to the site, and known issues with Redfern Station, can be improved for our people and the community prior to our move". 

 A Mirvac spokeswoman said: "Mirvac is aware of accessibility issues at Redfern Station and is in constant dialogue with a number of parties, including the state government and its agencies, on how to improve the access at the station."

It is a fascinating tale. UrbanGrowth NSW has enticed the bank out of Western Sydney. The bank is moving because the promised transport in Western Sydney wasn't delivered. Even before the development at ATP is complete, the pressure of bringing more and more people to the CBD and surrounds means service to Redfern has been reduced! Now the bank and its developer realise Redfern station can't cope with the extra passengers they hope will be delivered on non-existant trains.

You couldn't make this stuff up!


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