By ALEC SMART
A footbridge that will span Redfern rail corridor and link platforms at the southern end of the station has been criticised for its failure to link arts and business hubs on either side of the railway tracks.
The footbridge, currently under construction by the NSW Government’s transport authority, Transport for NSW (TfNSW), has also been described as a “missed opportunity” because it doesn’t take into account the needs of the local community.
A coalition of Redfern, Eveleigh, Alexandria and Waterloo residents and businesses, as well as the University of Sydney, lobbied TfNSW for an west-east pedestrian bridge, with two separate options.
The preferred option would have linked the historic railway construction and maintenance workshops on either side of the rail tracks to connect contemporary tourist, arts and commercial interests that now occupy the former rail sheds, while facilitating the safe movement of students.
The preferred option would have also connected the Carriageworks arts hub, galleries and Saturday farmers’ market in the former railyard and blacksmith workshops on the north-west side of Eveleigh, to the Australian Technology Park business hub in the converted locomotive workshops and foundry on the south side of Eveleigh.
Opal card access only
Instead, the new footbridge, travelling north-south between Little Eveleigh Street and Marian Street, Redfern, will only be accessible via automated ticket barriers using an Opal ‘smartcard’, the credit card-sized electronic ticket managed by TfNSW.
Users who avoid the ticket charge barriers and walk across the bridge without paying the fare will be regarded as fare evaders and subject to a fine.
REDWatch – the Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo volunteer community group that monitors and advises on issues affecting the aforementioned suburbs – is among the residents’ associations to have expressed disappointment at TfNSW’s choice of location for the footbridge.
REDWatch co-spokesperson Geoff Turnbull told the Sentinel: “TfNSW are building a southern concourse to Redfern Station. When that was in planning, the community proposed a bridge connecting North and South Eveleigh and linking it to the new southern concourse.
“TfNSW knocked that proposal back and so the community put up a hybrid proposal with an open pedestrian concourse that TfNSW knocked back. (You can see these proposals on the REDWatch website.) The new concourse is currently proposed to be closed when trains are not running [and will be a] tap on, tap off and potentially gated concourse.
“This is opposed by the community and major organisations in the area who want to see an open concourse.”
REDWatch also confirmed the Mirvac property group – who purchased the Australian Technology Park South Eveleigh precinct from the NSW Government in late 2015 – are receptive to the idea of a footbridge linking their site to Carriageworks.
“We got UrbanGrowth, with the help of a [City of Sydney Council] risk/benefit assessment study, to put a caveat on the South Eveleigh sale that ensured that the buyer would allow such a bridge to land on their property,” REDWatch said.
“Mirvac are very supportive of such a connection and their unsolicited proposal for North Eveleigh had such a connection.”
Students let down
Future students commuting to Sydney University from Waterloo Station (currently under construction, with a planned 2024 opening) via the new Sydney Metro rail service, will also be impacted by the new footbridge.
Students walking to classes will be expected to undertake a half-hour walk covering a distance of over two kilometres to the university campus via the Redfern Station vehicle bridge. They will only save a few minutes of their journey if they cross via the new south-north footbridge using the compulsory Opal card ‘tap on/tap off’ turnstiles.
Conversely, an east-west footbridge crossing between Australian Technology Park and Carriageworks on the preferred route would reduce their walking distance by approximately 800 metres, save ten minutes in travel time and cost nothing.
A University of Sydney spokesperson told the Sentinel, “As noted in our submission to the Department, we are concerned about pedestrian safety under the current proposal. We’re also very keen to see open access to the bridge for pedestrians, to allow for easy connection and collaboration between the University … South Eveleigh and the future Waterloo Metro station.”
A Transport for NSW spokesperson told the Sentinel, “The Redfern Station Southern Concourse is being designed to take into consideration a range of measures, such as pedestrian movements, the needs of people with limited mobility, safety, security and potential impacts to the heritage significance of the surrounding precinct.
“Transport for NSW is continuing to review options for providing barrier-free access across the concourse. This has to be balanced against the need to maintain safety and security for customers and staff and minimising the loss of income from fare evasion.”
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