- Posted by IanMuttonAdmin
- On September 2, 2021
- Sydney Harbour HighLine
A Community Asset
Until 1932 the main rail line from Hornsby to North Sydney passed through Waverton and terminated on the harbour foreshore at Milsons Point (North Sydney)
In 1932 the rail line was diverted from Waverton to North Sydney and then over the Harbour Bridge and on to the “City Circle.”
The Waverton to Milsons Point: line remains and is largely disused – in 2017 Sydney Trains advised that it would cease to be used in about 2023 (following completion of the Metro). It:
- is 3.3km long and covers 3.77 hectares;
- runs through a 310 metre tunnel and
- ends in a harbour fronting 2 hectare train yard.
“Ownership” of the Asset
In 2004 Rail Corporation New South Wales (RailCorp) was established as an agency of the State of New South Wales, Australia
- In 2004 it was established under the Transport Administration Act 1988 (TA Act)
- In 2011 it was converted into a state-owned corporation
- In 2015 it was renamed Transport Asset Holding Entity of New South Wales (TAHE)
TAHE is now the “owner “of railway assets, including property, stations rolling stock and rail infrastructure within the Sydney metropolitan area, the Country Rail Network and other limited country locations across NSW.
Railway and yard attract attention of property developer
Luna Park borders the eastern end of the train yard in Lavender Bay..
Luna Park is operated by Luna Park Sydney Pty Ltd, a member of the Brookfield Multiplex Group – its Financial Reports to 30 June 2013 reported
The loans from related entities … repayable on the successful development and sale of development sites adjacent to the Park.
Railway and yard attract attention of property developer
Late in 2011 RailCorp, following a review of its assets on the NSW Heritage Register, requested that the Waverton underbridge on the line connecting the Lavender Bay railway/car siding to Waverton be removed from the Heritage Register.
The Heritage Council of NSW:
- concluded, after consultation with RailCorp, that the Waverton underbridge was no longer of “State significance”; and
- resolved to recommend to the Minister that it be removed from the Heritage Register.
Rail line declared a bottleneck in the operation of the Western Line
In 2012 the Minister for Transport reported the North Sydney railway/car siding (1):
As one of 12 key bottlenecks “on the western line” where trains have to merge tracks with other lines, wait for opposing trains to cross”
Taking trains off the main line and sending them down to the siding is a time-consuming exercise – it takes 11 minutes to shunt a train from the main line onto the siding; it disrupts operations and thereby reduces the train carrying capacity of the main line. For this reason, the utilisation of the siding is minimal – three trains each weekday being the minimum necessary to keep the track operational.
On 11 October 2015 the Minister for Transport was asked if the Government had plans for the rail line and train yard – he advised:
The Lavender Bay rail sidings are an essential part of the Sydney Trains network and are used to park trains every day. There are no plans to sell or lease any part of the land for commercial development.
Legislated impediments to development removed
Prior to 2016 a rail line could only be disposed of by an Act of the NSW Parliament.
In 2016 the NSW Government amended the TA Act. Its stated objective of the amendment:
To enable the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure to authorise a rail infrastructure owner to close any other railway line in the greater Sydney area for the purposes of or in connection with development that is declared to be State significant infrastructure under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The Act provides:
- State significant infrastructure is development declared to be State significant infrastructure.
- infrastructure means a development for purposes … prescribed by the regulations.
Wendy’s “secret” Garden lease hints at a future plan
In 2016 part of the rail land at Milsons Point that had been made into a garden by Wendy Whiteley was leased to North Sydney Council.
A provision of the 2016 Wendy’s “secret” Garden lease reads:
The Lessee agrees:
(a) The New South Wales Government has indicated that it will restructure the Lessor; and
(b) The restructure of the Lessor may result in the Lessor’s assets, rights and liabilities being transferred to other government agencies.
The future of the siding will be in the hands of “other Government agencies”
It is a term of the lease is that:
The Lessor may at any time make rules and regulations in relation to the use of the Common Areas by the Lessee … and the Lessee must, at all times, comply … comply with those rules and regulations.
It is a requirement that the lessee comply with the:
rules made by the Lessor under this Lease.
If it fails, the lease can be terminated.
The vision for the HighLine
In 2016 the community came together with a shared purpose to deliver on the 1991 Luna Park Plan of Management proposal that the railway be repurposed.
However, if and when, the Waverton to Lavender Bay rail line becomes surplus to railway purposes it is recommended that it be considered for dedication as a corridor of open space, providing a magnificent pedestrian link between Luna Park and Waverton Station, linking existing parkland’ and open space, providing significant opportunities for viewing the harbour, enabling retention of identified significant elements and promoting their public appreciation.
What’s holding construction of the Sydney Harbour HighLine?
In February 2017 Minister Constance (then the Minister for Transport and responsible for Sydney Trains) said
the Minister and Sydney Trains have agreed that work to create a walking path along the Lavender Bay Spur can commence on the side where tracks have been removed, before the active rail line is closed on the other side of the spur.
Then the Premier, in March 2017
- gave.. an iron clad guarantee that a NSW Liberals & Nationals Government will never sell off the land (railway corridor between Waverton (Berrys Bay) and Lavender Bay) and ensure it remains a community asset in the event it is not needed for railway use, AND
- established a Committee to investigate creating a scenic walking track along this unique stretch of railway land. a Committee of stakeholders – Waverton and Lavender Bay Precincts, Sydney Heritage Trains, Sydney Harbour Highline Association, North Sydney Council, Sydney Trains, Office of Environment and Heritage and Destination NSW along with State and Federal Members of Parliament
Next North Sydney Council
The Highline delivers on two of the three key strategic themes for North Sydney – Connected Community and Living Heritage. It also captures all three of the destination’s primary experience pillars:
- Urban nature and open space;
- History and Heritage, and with ample opportunity to feature innovative events; and
- Arts and Culture.
In December 2018 the Premier’s Committee reported on the benefits of the Highline –
- providing 3.3 km pathway
- adding (almost 4.4 hectares) to green space –at a time when the Government is taking more than 2 hectares of open space/parks from North Sydney to build its tunnels
- linking and making accessible the isolated harbour-side parks and attractions (Coal Loader, historic sites of Berrys Bay and Sawmillers Reserve) and the icons that are Luna Park, the Olympic Pool and the Bridge.
To this day the Premier has not commented on the report from her Committee..
Taking us all by surprise, in June 2019 Minister Constance reversed his February 2017 position because, he said, there was a need to keep the rail line – odd, we thought, because the HighLine is to be on land adjacent to the operating rail line. The Minister flatly said there was no money for the HighLine Project.
- Why not stand back and let the community fund it?
Minister Constance has stopped the project
The only reason given by the Government for stopping the project is that the line is needed for unspecified operation purposes – a reason that contradicts advice given by both the Minister and the CEO of Sydney Trains.
Does the State Government now have other plans for the rail line and in particular for the Lavender Bay harbour-fronting?