Åsa Wahlquist, convenor of The Glebe Society’s Bays and Foreshores Sub Committee, and The Glebe Society’s representative on the new Sydney Fish Market Community Consultative Committee. Bulletin 5/2022, July 2022

What happens when you move a busy fish market, visited daily by hundreds of trucks and vans, buses and thousands of private vehicles, from a side street to a major arterial road? The answer must be traffic chaos.

The Community Consultative Committee to the new Sydney Fish Market (SFM) recently met with Infrastructure NSW bureaucrats after raising concerns about how the new SFM would cope with heavy early morning fish industry traffic. The meeting raised more questions than it answered.

In answer to questioning by CCC member John Faulkner, one bureaucrat stated there was ‘an acknowledgment by the Department of Transport there could be queuing’ along Bridge Rd in the morning.

Wentworth Park Rd traffic lights and Bridge Rd, the entrance to the new SFM (lozenged roof), including turning lanes from Bridge Rd (source: Transport Impact Assessment, p. 62, https://tinyurl.com/2p8jhdhu)

How many trucks and vehicles would be queuing? How long would the queue be? How long would the vehicles in the queue wait before entering the SFM? Would vehicles be queuing in both directions? How disruptive would it be? These are all unanswered questions.

The new SFM is being constructed on Bridge Rd, over Blackwattle Bay. It will have one entrance, opposite Wentworth Park Rd. Traffic lights will be constructed at that junction, and there will be turning lanes into the SMH from both directions.

Vehicles accessing the Market will include semi-trailers and large trucks delivering fish – despite the SFM’s claim to authenticity, over 90 percent of the fish sold in the market are not locally caught but arrive by heavy vehicle – as well as the vans of retailers who purchase the wholesale fish for their shops. There will be other vans delivering goods for the restaurants in the new building, cars of workers and visitors, and buses and taxis. All these vehicles – except for the buses and taxis – will cross the footpath along Bridge Rd that, under current plans, will be shared by pedestrians and cyclists.

The casual early morning visitor to the current SFM at Banks St might wonder how all the trucks, vans and cars crowding into the area and the surrounding streets will be managed at the new SFM. Glebe Society member Andrew Wood took the question one step further recently and counted the vehicles at the SFM one morning between 6 am and 6.45 am. The result was 99 trucks that were four tonnes or larger, 97 vans and 166 cars.

The car park in the new SFM will be in the basement, where there will be room for 137 small trucks up to 3.5 metres high.

According to the Development Application (DA) for the new SFM, about 35 heavy vehicles will enter the market between 4am and 5am; more than 40 between 5am and 6am; and more than 20 between 6am and 7am.

Sydney Fish Market currently under construction (https://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/projects-nsw/blackwattle-bay/, October 2020)

On the ground level there will be 20 loading docks for vans and smaller trucks at the back of the building and five mid-way for heavy trucks and semi-trailers. Both will be accessed by the same driveway. This leads to visions of vans waiting to enter and exit, while semi-trailers back out of the docks, blocking the driveway.

Time at the loading dock is limited to half an hour. This raises the question: if ten heavy vehicles can be handled in one hour, but more than 40 usually arrive, where do the other 30 wait? The answer can only be queueing, most likely on Bridge Rd.

There is only one lane on Wentworth Park Rd, if vehicles queued there, they would block it.

Buses and taxis will pull off Bridge Rd to drop off visitors. But because they cannot do a U turn on Bridge Rd, they must all come from the south, from Glebe. And where will the buses park once they have dropped off their passengers? That is another question yet to be answered.

The new SFM will have 417 parking spaces, the same number as the current SFM, despite an expectation the number of visitors will double in ten years (an expectation largely based on Chinese tourism, which has since ceased). The assumption is that people will use public transport. The reality is they will end up parking in Glebe streets and lanes or queuing along Bridge Rd, waiting for a parking space in the SFM to become available.

The Transport Assessment suggests there will be little increase in the number of fish industry vehicles, stating: ‘Given the auction hall and wholesale offering will be similar to that already provided on the current site, the increase in the number of buyers/distributors is expected to be modest.’ (p. 63) But the new SFM will have nearly double the number of customers as the current SFM and almost double the retail space; the vehicular increase will be in vans serving commercial retail and restaurants.

Incidentally, the Traffic Assessment did not look at the impact of SFM traffic on the nearby intersections before 8 am.

Four further studies will be undertaken: Freight and Servicing Management Plan; Traffic and Transport Management Plan; Pick Up and Drop Off Plan; and the Green Travel Plan.

It is imperative that the plans take into consideration the impact on early morning traffic, on access to the new SFM, and the impact of nearby development, particularly the proposed development of the Blackwattle Bay precinct. This gross overdevelopment, presumably designed to recoup the $750 million cost of constructing the new SFM, would see another 2,800 residents and 5,600 workers in the vicinity.

The Glebe Society opposed the construction of the new SFM for a slew of reasons that have only strengthened as construction has begun and the reality of just how disruptive the new SFM will be.

References: Appendix 11, Transport Impact Assessment Application for the new Sydney Fish Market. The document can also be accessed by googling the search term: “the new Sydney Fish Market Transport Impact Assessment: concept and Stage 1 works and Stage 2 main works”.