SUTHERLAND TO CRONULLA CYCLEWAY
Mr MARK SPEAKMAN
(Cronulla) [5.18 p.m.]: Last week the member for Miranda, the member for Heathcote and I made several submissions regarding the New South Wales Long Term Transport Master Plan. One of those submissions supported a Sutherland to Cronulla off-road cycleway using, at least in part, the railway corridor. That would create an east-west link between the Sutherland and Cronulla railway stations. At the moment there are very few options for cyclists travelling that route, other than congested and dangerous arterial roads. The route would connect significant town centres, including Sutherland, which is an administrative and commercial hub, Miranda, which is a retail centre, and Cronulla, which is the locus of leisure and entertainment facilities.
The cycleway is especially important as the Sutherland Shire Council proposes to allow greater residential densities around some town centres, and new dwellings are likely to be designed in a way that limit the use of cars. It is also important because of the number of short journeys that people undertake. The transport data centre for the Sutherland shire has showed that in 2008 on an average weekday in the shire 39 per cent of trips are less than two kilometres and 24 per cent are between two and five kilometres. In 2010 the previous Labor Government left out of its New South Wales Bike Plan a Sutherland to Cronulla off-road cycleway using the railway corridor. It also failed to incorporate the cycleway into the railway corridor when the Sutherland to Cronulla train line was duplicated. It would have been far easier and cheaper to build the cycleway at that time. But there is still room for the cycleway to be built.
Sutherland Shire Council and the former Roads and Traffic Authority [RTA] commissioned a study by GTA Consultants, which produced its final report in February 2010. The GTA report identified four main corridors for the cycleway and concluded that the preferred route for the implementation of a cycleway between Sutherland and Cronulla stations was what it refers to as the "railway corridor route", but with a link between President Avenue in Sutherland to Avery Avenue in Kirrawee. The preferred route is the easiest route from a planning perspective. It utilises existing road and rail corridors. No land acquisition would be required. There would be no significant construction activities close to areas of natural bushland.
RailCorp was consulted about the proposed cycleway. Its position was that only two short sections in Miranda and Caringbah were suitable. But the GTA report concluded that beyond those two short sections, there were other sections where RailCorp's concern about the "separation of pedestrians, cyclists and rail operations" could be addressed. This is so for various reasons. First, appropriate safety management measures, such as the inclusion of fences, would be possible. Secondly, the topography at the base and top of embankments physically separates rail activity from pedestrians and cyclists. Thirdly, the shared path is generally outside the safety zone for rail operations. Fourthly, the embankments appear not to be used, or are used very infrequently, for track and corridor maintenance. Fifthly, there are alternative routes available, if ever a section needs to be temporarily closed while track works are undertaken.
The route preferred by the GTA report is 11 kilometres in length, of which 3.7 kilometres is situated within the rail corridor. The proposal for a cycleway is consistent with government policy at all levels. At the national level, the Australian National Cycling Strategy 2005-2010 recommends that all levels of government adopt cycling as a significant transport option. At the State level, the New South Wales Bike Plan states that the Government should establish a series of bicycle networks across the State and attempt to make cycling a viable transport alternative. New South Wales 2021 states that the Government will work with local councils to complete local cycle networks as a part of an integrated transport network.
Finally at the local level, the Sutherland Shire Council's strategic plan states that one key direction is "improved transport options that include well integrated cycling paths". GTA estimates the cost of the cycleway at roughly $16.3 million. It is not cheap. New South Wales faces a tough budget outlook. Sutherland Shire Council may have to contribute to meeting the cost of the cycleway. It will not be constructed overnight, and I do not want to create unrealistic expectations. But I am convinced that the cycleway must be part of a holistic long-term transport plan for southern Sydney.