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Options for Redfern station upgrade

The South Sydney Herald has also obtained the documents released by RailCorp to Lift Redfern regarding “information relating to planned upgrades at Redfern Train Station”. The documents show the various plans for redevelopment, from the mid 2000s until about 2010, including one favoured by RailCorp for which construction was planned to start in July 2011. Sandra Beeston reports on the documents in the November 2013 issue of the SSH.

Redfern Station is one of the busiest in Sydney, with over 40,000 commuters using it every day to access Sydney University, the Australian Technology Park, North Eveleigh, or simply to transfer to one of numerous suburban lines. The increasing pedestrian traffic, with only one entry point to each platform, and a narrow entry on Lawson Street, makes it more and more congested and difficult for commuters, as well as not very safe in the eventuality of a fire or accident and the need to evacuate people. Poor accessibility also makes it hard, sometimes impossible, for people with disabilities, prams or heavy luggage to use the station. The need for an upgrade has seen several plans considered by the previous state government. These plans have only just been released to the public.

The SSH has obtained documents released by RailCorp regarding “information relating to planned upgrades at Redfern Train Station”. The documents show the various plans for redevelopment, from the mid 2000s until about 2010, including one favoured by RailCorp for which construction was planned to start in July 2011, over three financial years (or four, depending on the documents).

The documents show that in 2007 Sydney architecture firm Jackson Teece was commissioned by RailCorp and the Redfern-Waterloo Authority to review the designs from previous studies and prepare a set of station upgrade options, that would make the station compliant with fire and safety regulations and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and therefore more easily accessible. They recommended three options for the redevelopment, which later formed the basis for a Cox Arup Bovis Report used for the Gateway funding proposal in 2010 submitted to the Treasury:

(1) A Base Case (Option D) that would address Easy Access (lifts), fire and other compliance issues (pedestrian evacuation) on the same footprint as it is now. This option was estimated to cost $29.5m. This solution, while the cheapest and fastest to implement, might not alleviate congestion problems. It is described by the Australian Centre for Value Management (ACVM) as a “band-aid” solution which won’t help promote Redfern nor serve as a “catalyst for development”.

(2) A Base Case Plus (Option E) that would include the basic upgrade, but also provide a connection with the surrounding areas thanks to additional interface works and remodeling the entry on Lawson and Gibbon streets – $55.5m. This was the RWA’s preferred option, but considered “poor value for money” by ACVM, not solving congestion issues and not going far enough in terms of DDA compliance.

(3) A Full Station Redevelopment (Option C). This option suggested a centrally located concourse, relocating the Gibbons Street entrance of the station further down Gibbons Street and the Lawson Street entrance on Little Eveleigh Street. The plan shows a high-rise building on the eastern side of the station to the left of the Gibbons Street entry. The plan also included the construction of a non-paying pedestrian bridge going from Marian Street over to Little Eveleigh Street that would alleviate congestion and allow a pedestrian link between the ATP and North Eveleigh. The Lawson Street concourse would be closed and only used as fire egress.

Option C was considered the worst option regarding the heritage of the station, as all the platform heritage buildings except those on Platform 1 (and the booking office on Platform 1) would be removed. This option, preferred by RailCorp, would be the most expensive with an estimated $143.3m budget. Due do the high cost and magnitude of the enterprise, this option might also take the longest time to complete (about four years), which raises the question of how long Redfern Station can sustain the steadily increasing flow of commuters. A cheaper and faster option could at least address the urgent issue of accessibility.

The cheapest option, however, would not much improve the fire and safety compliance of the station. The documents all highlight the issues around accessibility, as well as fire safety issues, especially with underground platforms 11 and 12, where there is only one exit point. According to egress calculations indicated in the Jackson Teece Report, it turned out that it took almost double the time normally required to evacuate platforms 11 and 12 at Redfern, with 8.8 minutes instead of the four minutes required by RailCorp Standards and NFPA 130 (the Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems). For Platform 2/3, the busiest of the station, the platform evacuation time using NFPA criteria was of 16.3 minutes, four times the required time.

Obviously, nothing happened in July 2011 and it is not yet known what the new government plans to do regarding an upgrade. As indicated in the pages of recent SSH issues, the NSW cabinet has put together a proposal for the redevelopment of the Central-Eveleigh corridor, so there is hope that an upgrade of the station will be in the plans as well.

As per the ACVM Report, a “deferral of these works for an indefinite period is not an option for RailCorp as it must comply with the legislative requirements with respect to disabled access and fire and life safety. Deferral is also not an option given the growth in demand that will keep Redfern as one of the network’s busiest and critical points.”

The SSH has contacted RailCorp in order to know if any of the plans considered previously are being considered by the current government, but has not received a reply at the time of printing.

These documents were released under a GIPA request initiated by Lift Redfern. REDWatch, a member of Lift Redfern, has made the documents available at www.redwatch.org.au/RWA/statesignificant/station/studies

Source: South Sydney Herald November 2013