The NSW government has refused to comment on the future of the Parramatta Light Rail’s second stage.
The first stage of the $2.4 billion project, which will connect Westmead to Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD, broke ground at Hawkesbury Road last week, with the two-way track—set to span 12 kilometres, expected to be operational by 2023.
The light rail line from Westmead to Carlingford is supposed to be part of a two-stage project, connecting with the Parramatta CBD and stage one before extending to Olympic Park at Homebush.
The NSW government announced its preferred route for the project's second stage in 2017, but has since refused to commit to the additional nine-kilometre route despite a final business case for the second stage being lodged in 2019.
Transport minister Andrew Constance said the government remained in conversation over plans to build a bridge linking the high-density suburbs of Melrose Park and Wentworth Point as part of a potential stage two extension to Homebush.
“It’s about connecting precinct to precinct, it’s not a cross-town solution, and ultimately that’s the solution for this area.
"Ultimately into the future, if we had the option with either bus rapid transit or trackless tram technology, that’s what we’re going to do,” Constance said.
Almost two years ago, Constance said he was hopeful construction would start on the second stage before 2020.
Constance has since conceded that the state government had been pushed back due to a number of infrastructure projects including Sydney Metro West and another metro rail line from St Marys to the airport at Badgerys, with its focus firmly on the first stage.
The NSW government has raised $9.3 billion by selling a majority stake in its WestConnex project to Transurban, and is using some $23 billion from the sale of electricity assets to pay for a new metro and other motorway projects as well as school and hospital projects.
Transport for NSW said investigative works would continue along the alignment of the second stage.
However, it is understood the government is increasingly likely to instead use "trackless trams" or buses to service the stage two route between Camellia and Sydney Olympic Park.
Parramatta lord mayor Bob Dwyer said it was now up to the NSW government to deliver on its commitment.
“With roads around Parramatta already under strain and limited transport options in our newer neighbourhoods, stage two is essential to keep the city connected, accessible and moving.
“Parramatta has contributed significantly to the state government’s goal to increase housing supply by providing the largest number of housing approvals in the state.
“But we need the premier’s continued commitment to provide the infrastructure to support this growth,” Dwyer said.
Dwyer said about 11,000 homes are forecast to be built in Melrose Park by 2036 if major transport infrastructure, such as stage two, was delivered.
The forecast would drop to 6,700 dwellings if infrastructure was not provided.
As part of the recent federal budget, NSW received more than any other state for new infrastructure projects, securing some $2.7 billion, with $1.8 billion going to the proposed Sydney Metro-Western Sydney Airport rail line.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said more than $650 million would be included in the forthcoming 2020-21 NSW budget for the light rail’s first stage.
A leaked government document in 2016 put the cost of the entire line at more than $3.5 billion.
Once operational, the light rail will provide a tram ever seven minutes in peak periods helping to cater for an estimated population of more than 40,000 staff and 30,000 students.