'Berejiklian turning dreams into reality'
NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell talks up Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian and the Sydney Light Rail on the opening of it's extension to Dulwich Hill.PT0M0S 620 349
It was raining on the day 13 years, seven months and two weeks ago that Bob Carr opened the previous extension of Sydney's tram line - to Lilyfield.
That is according to the recollection of Tim Boxsell who, wearing an "I Love Trams" T-shirt, was one of a number of rail enthusiasts and politicians – as well as the odd commuter – who braved the weather on Thursday morning to welcome Sydney's latest piece of public transport infrastructure, the extension of that line to Dulwich Hill.
"I remember Bob Carr coming up and basically stealing the show from his transport minister," recalled Mr Boxsell's fellow tram buff Matthew Geier.
Early morning scenes at Dulwich Hill station. Photo: Ben Rushton
"He was talking about public transport and saying 'We are going to have trams everywhere' and was all very upbeat – but then absolutely nothing," he said.
On Thursday morning, the latest NSW Premier, Barry O'Farrell, was also very upbeat.
At a press conference in Leichhardt to mark the opening of the 5.6-kilometre tram extension – the first piece of public transport to begin under his government – Mr O'Farrell paid tribute to his Transport Minister.
A view from the driver's compartment. Photo: Ben Rushton
"Gladys Berejiklian really is the minister who turns dreams into reality, inherits visions from the former government and makes them real, makes them available to commuters," the Premier said.
The tram extension to Dulwich Hill runs along a goods line that once ran to the working port of Darling Harbour.
The Labor government of former premier Kristina Keneally promised to convert the line to a commuter tramway in 2010, saying the service should be open in 2012.
Daily life on Sydney's light rail
Fairfax Media photographer Ben Rushton joins passengers on the first day of the Light Rail extension from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill to capture a daily life photo essay early morning commuting on the new service in Sydney's inner west. Like these photos? Go to www.fairfaxphotos.com.au Photo: Ben Rushton
But Ms Berejiklian pushed back the opening to this week, on the grounds that not enough planning had been done.
About 100 people gathered for the first service from Dulwich Hill at 6am. The crowds thinned later in the morning, particularly on trams running south along the nine new stops on the line from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill.
Apart from Mr Geier, who stayed near the drivers' cabin to take photos, Trinity Grammar students Jason Doric and Louis Tanner were the only two passengers on one of the new trams heading towards Dulwich Hill just before 8am.
Commuters enjoy a problem free journey on the light rail extension. Photo: Ben Rushton
"It is cool – I like it," Jason, in year 9, said.
As well as Mr O'Farrell and Ms Berejiklian, who held a press conference at the Hawthorne stop near Leichhardt and then caught a tram with the member for Strathfield Charles Casuscelli, other politicians dotted the line on Thursday.
The Labor mayors of Ashfield, Leichhardt, Marrickville – Lucille McKenna, Darcy Byrne and Jo Haylen – were not invited to the Premier's official opening.
But they posed for photographs a little later at the Dulwich Hill stop, where they also mentioned what they referred to as some of the deficiencies of the tram line.
They said the state government should not have cancelled the Greenway bike path that was originally planned to run parallel to the tram corridor.
And Cr Haylen said it was a shame commuters would not be able to use the Opal smartcard on the line until next year.
Many of the commuters who used the tram extension on Thursday morning work in Pyrmont and Ultimo – fast-growing inner-city suburbs well-served by the tram line.
Sharon Dainty, who boarded at Dulwich Hill, said she used to drive to the tram stop at Rozelle Bay to travel to Pyrmont. But she would now be able to either walk or drive from her Hurlstone Park home to the Dulwich Hill stop.
"I expect it to build up gradually as people get the idea of how convenient it is," she said.
Another Ultimo worker, Michelle Sheard, said the line had not been heavily promoted.
"It was only by word of mouth that I knew about it," she said.
There was a time when it was hard to avoid trams in Sydney. The city had one of the largest tram networks in the world before they were pulled out by the then governments of Joe Cahill and Bob Heffron in the 1950s and 1960s.
John Cowper, another rail enthusiast on the new line on Thursday, remembers the last time a tram ran before they were pulled out: as a schoolboy he caught the 2.56pm service from Hunter Street in the city to La Perouse on February 25, 1961.
Mr Cowper said he would then go to Randwick to watch as the government burnt the trams it had just pulled from the city.
"Imagine a government doing that."
On Thursday, as one of the new services filled up with commuters on the way to Pyrmont, Mr Cowper felt more positive about these latest developments.
"There's an irony that we used this track to cart goods into Pyrmont, now we are carting people into Pyrmont."
The first section of Sydney's current tram line was built between Central Station and Wentworth Park in Glebe and opened in 1997.
It was extended to Lilyfield in 2000 and now runs to Dulwich Hill.
The state government plans to build new tram lines through the central business district and eastern suburbs by 2019.