Residents campaign for second entrance to stations to increase patronage

Friends of Erskineville with Newtown MP Jenny Leong on August 27. Photo: Cathy Peters

After a several years of campaigning for mobility access to the Erskineville Station platform, last year the Gladys Berejiklian government promised to build lifts by 2023.

Rather than wait another three years for infrastructure that should have been built long ago, the resident action group Friends of Erskineville decided to set our sights higher and push for a second entrance at the southern end of the platforms.

In 2019, Professor David Levinson gave a presentation about measures to make neighbourhoods more walkable. In addition to improving the timing cycles at signalised pedestrian crossings, his study into improving the catchment areas of existing train stations was discussed.

It has been shown that public transport use drops off dramatically when the walking distance to a train station is more than 400 to 800 metres. Levinson’s study showed that many stations on the Sydney Trains network only have a single entrance and that by creating an extra entrance at the other end, there would be a significant increase in train patronage.

Erskineville station was identified as having the most potential upside, with a 35% increase in commuters according to the model. A much greater uptake of public transport will be necessary as part of tackling the country’s very high carbon emissions from transport.

Friends of Erskineville started by writing a letter to the NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance. The response was negative, so we decided to start a petition. With 500 signatures we can be guaranteed a response from the minister. At last year’s Erskineville Public School Fair we quickly collected about half the number necessary. The remaining signatures were collected at a local cafe.

Locals quickly realised the benefits. Many were new residents living in some of the 3000 new apartments being built at the southern end of the station — in the Ashmore estate precinct.

We had been making the point for many years that private housing development should only proceed if there were parallel improvements in the public sphere — public transport, public housing, parks, schools, community spaces and flood mitigation.

Such improvements should be funded by appropriate levies on developers, who made windfall gains when Ashmore estate was up-zoned.

On August 27, we organised a petition “hand over” to local Greens MP Jenny Leong, whose electorate borders the train station. We were joined by members of WalkSydney and a local professor of engineering who discussed design options.

The project is considered fairly straightforward from an engineering stand point. If billions can be spent building the globally unprecedented multi-level WestConnex motorway interchange underground in Rozelle, a simple footbridge should not be too much to ask.

Leong will present the petition to NSW parliament soon. The next steps will be to build wider support to exert more pressure. The City of Sydney is starting to show interest and there are more stations that would benefit from similar improvements. Already Redfern Station’s southern entrance is at an advanced stage of planning, with Bankstown, Villawood, Newtown, Burwood and Sydenham in the top 10 of Levinson’s study. The fight for Planet A is in the hands of the community.

[Andrew Chuter is the president of Friends of Erskineville.]

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