Light rail extensions to Adelaide Airport and the inner eastern suburbs should also be explored as part of a “transit centred growth” strategy, the council states in its draft submission to the government’s Greater Adelaide Regional Plan (GARP) discussion paper.
Scheduled for completion next year, the GARP will be an overarching 30-year strategic vision for Adelaide’s land use, infrastructure, transport and public realm.
Neither the GARP discussion paper nor Infrastructure SA’s discussion paper for South Australia’s next 20-Year State Infrastructure Strategy float any major extensions of Adelaide’s public transport network.
“The GARP should commit to a Light Rail extension to North Adelaide and into Prospect to support a residential and business growth corridor to O’Connell Street timed for redevelopment of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital,” states council’s draft submission, which will be debated by councillors on Tuesday.
“[It should also] explore light rail connections to… Airport and the inner East to support transit centred growth.”
A council spokesperson confirmed the timing referred to when the old Women’s and Children’s Hospital in North Adelaide is redeveloped.
There is currently no date for when this will occur, although it likely won’t be until after 2031 when the site is vacated for the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital on the Thebarton police barracks site.
Trams have not serviced North Adelaide since the 1950s. The former Weatherill Labor Government pledged in 2018 to bring them back with a $259 million line extension – but lost the election.
The Marshall Liberal Government then shelved the North Adelaide project along with other Labor plans for a CBD tram loop and an extension into Norwood.
Since coming to office last year, the Malinauskas Labor Government has not committed to any rail network extensions on the scale of the North Adelaide and Norwood projects. The government’s most significant rail extension is a $56.4 million spur line to Port Adelaide.
InDaily asked Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis’ office whether the government was open to exploring a tram extension to North Adelaide and Prospect, and why it was not pursuing the Weatherill Government’s 2018 policies.
In response, a government spokesperson said: “The Malinauskas Labor Government is getting on with delivering the policies we took to the 2022 state election.
“The State Planning Commission will consider all feedback received in response to the Greater Adelaide Regional Plan Discussion Paper.”
It’s not the first time Adelaide City Council has pushed the state government to act on bringing trams back to North Adelaide.
The Lord Mayor Martin Haese-led council in 2018 frequently advocated for a North Adelaide extension and adopted council policies in support of this position.
In 2022, the Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor-led council unanimously adopted a motion to advocate for the extension of the tramline down O’Connell Street. This motion also said trackless trams, which don’t need fixed rail infrastructure to operate, could be a solution.
North Ward councillor Mary Couros, who moved the 2022 motion, today said a tramline extension would be “a game changer for North Adelaide”.
“The transformative light rail initiative will not only improve the daily lives of North Adelaide residents by providing convenient eco-friendly transportation but it will breathe new life into… our vibrant main streets,” she said.
Fellow North Ward councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor Phillip Martin agreed, saying an extension to North Adelaide was a “no-brainer”.
“It would bring great connections to the city and go a very long way to helping reduce city traffic congestion and carbon emissions,” he said.
“The challenge is to try [to] persuade a State Government already burdened with big ticket infrastructure projects that this is a priority.
“I can’t imagine the Adelaide we all want it to be in the second half of this century without a comprehensive tram system criss crossing the City.”
The council’s call comes as the federal government signals that it will be cutting back on infrastructure spending due to inflationary pressures and cost blowouts.
An independent review of the infrastructure investment program has found $33 billion of cost pressures to the economy, with that figure tipped to grow even further.
The 2018 North Adelaide tram extension project was a two-kilometre line running down O’Connell Street with stops at Adelaide Oval, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Archer Street and the Piccadilly Cinema.
A further leg to Prospect was planned but dependent on federal government funding.
The state government’s 2015 Integrated Transport and Land Use Plan included a “ProspectLink” tram extension running up Prospect Road to Grand Junction Road, but this never materialised.
Any tramline extension to North Adelaide is likely to hinge on an upgrade of the state heritage listed Adelaide Bridge over the River Torrens.
The King William Road bridge was built between 1929 and 1931. A council tender released in September said it could deteriorate to an “unsafe level” if not upgraded or replaced within five years.
The council has sought a report on the costs of pursuing an upgrade or full bridge replacement.
It has asked the contractor to consider upgrade/replacement options that accommodate a tram extension to North Adelaide, stating that the current structure is not strong enough for trams.
“The increased loading of a tram crossing is not feasible with the current bridge’s strength and would require increased capacity as part of an option to facilitate trams,” the council tender stated.
The estimated cost to upgrade the bridge is around $63 million.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.