But Transport Minister Andrew Constance has vowed to build a bridge between Wentworth Point and Melrose Park, and take a “very serious look” at running trackless trams along the proposed second stage. “We have a bridge that we are going to get on and build,” he said in March.
The Minister’s office declined to answer specific questions about the proposed bridge, saying that the government was focused on delivering the first stage of the Parramatta light rail and the Sydney Metro West rail project between the central city and Westmead.
A concept design report in November last year by Turnbull Engineering shows the time to design, gain approval and build the bridge is estimated at five years and nine months. It cited the relocation of utilities and property acquisitions as the key risks to the project’s timing.
Based on that timeframe, the prospect of a bridge becoming a reality is now 2026 at the earliest.
Labor finance spokesman Daniel Mookhey said Melrose Park and Wentworth Point residents should feel disappointed about having to wait six more years for a bridge.
“More people will fall prey to the transport black-hole near Olympic Park when the rest of the precinct’s high-rise developments finish,” he said.
Turnbull Engineering, which was commissioned by developer PAYCE, considered three options before settling on a preferred five-span bridge design. The preferred option was the least expensive to build and maintain.
The engineering reports were provided to Transport for NSW, which has refused to release the costs for the various bridge options, or the final business case for the second stage of the light rail line, declaring them Cabinet in confidence.
The engineers did not consider cable-stayed or arch bridges because of the high cost, which they estimated could increase the design bill by as much as 200 per cent.
Western Sydney Business Chamber executive director David Borger said a new bridge was “absolutely critical” to connect high-density communities and allow residents from Melrose Park and other nearby suburbs to access a metro train station planned to be built at Olympic Park.
“Rivers are wonderful things to travel down but they can be brick walls for cities unless they can be crossed,” he said. “There have been a lot of river-bound communities that have been built but unless they have access they can become isolated enclaves.”
Mr Borger also urged the government to release the final business case for the second stage of the light rail project so that people could understand the rationale for its decisions.
The final business case has been in the hands of the government since at least July last year.
Transport for NSW said in a statement that the government was still considering the business case for the second stage, including the preferred route and the bridge at Wentworth Point.
It did not answer specific questions about when the bridge would be built or how it would be funded.
Matt O’Sullivan is City Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.