Rail, Tram and Bus Union retired members have lashed out at proposals by Transport for NSW (TfNSW) to rezone the Large Erecting Shop (LES) at the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops for purely commercial and retail uses for property developer Mirvac.
The rezoning proposal will result in a business park with the ground level of the workshop converted into commercial office and retail premises and the creation of two new “internal storeys” for the same uses.
It is outrageous that the last surviving rail connection to the world famous heritage workshops will be obliterated if this drive for commercial gain is allowed to proceed. It will end a 123-year rail connection and will prevent future generations from seeing steam locomotives and rolling stock in the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops. The NSW Government wants to take the locomotive out of the Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops.
There is logic in Mirvac taking over the last surviving piece of South Eveleigh as it already owns the Locomotive Workshop. However, the rezoning proposal is entirely lacking in imagination and proposes yet more commercial and retail office space. It disrespects the history of the LES.
Mirvac has invested over half a billion dollars at South Eveleigh in commercial and retail premises which have added hundreds of thousands of gross floor square metres to its portfolio and this has resulted in some of the biggest property leasing deals in Australian history.
Railworkers are proposing a hybrid development which maintains an operating rail line into the LES, a mini museum as well as commercial offices and retail space.
The rail union has a long association with Redfern having been formed there in 1886 and establishing its head office in Cleveland Street in 1931.
The Large, as it is affectionately known, was built in 1899 to accommodate the expanding NSW railways industry. It is one of Australia’s finest remaining complete railway heritage buildings. It contains a number of architectural and operational features which are of exceptional heritage significance. It was part of an era when locomotives and rolling stock were proudly Australian made.
The main Eveleigh Locomotive Workshop facility closed in 1985, whereas The Large continued from 1988 until 2017 as an operational rail facility for rail heritage operator 3801 Ltd.
Railworkers are incensed at the major flaws in the rezoning process. It has excluded the hundreds of volunteers, community organisations and railway associations from being consulted. The failure of the rezoning proposal to take into account the enormous potential of cultural heritage tourism for the entire Eveleigh Railway Workshop Precinct is a serious shortcoming that cries out to be remedied by a co-ordinated campaign by unions, community organisations and local councils.