A Peter Martin article entitled ¨Benefits from a Wollongong-to-Sydney rail upgrade would exceed costs, Cabinet told¨ appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald on 13 July 2017. The article suggests that a $5bn upgrade to the rail line from Sydney to Wollongong would potentially provide benefits more than double their cost. It suggests that this is a favourable option to an $18bn extension of the F6 Motorway between Sydney and Wollongong.

The biggest obstacle to upgrading the rail line to Wollongong is that there is actually no business case currently available for the full project. The SMH article claims ¨the total cost of upgrading the Sydney to Wollongong commuter line would be around $5 billion¨, of which a rail tunnel from Thirroul to Waterfall is the largest expense at $2.9bn.

A Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) of 1.5 to 2.4 is provided only for the Maldon to Dombarton freight line, which at $700m-$800m represents no more than 16% of the full project on a cost basis. This line would allow freight trains to travel to Sydney from Wollongong via Campbelltown rather than the current path via Sutherland.

The Maldon to Dombarton Railway would allow freight trains to travel between Sydney and Port Kembla without using the T4 Line through Hurstville and Sutherland. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 65.)

However, the BCR drops to 0.9 when a discount rate of 7% is used rather than 4.4%. A discount rate of 7% is the standard one used in order to compare all infrastructure projects. Using a lower discount rate inflates the benefits when compared to other projects. The reduction in BCR below 1.0 suggests that the costs of this project outweight the benefits.

Infrastructure Australia also pointed out that the benefits are probably to be overstated for 2 reasons: (1) coal freight tonnage is likely to decline in coming decades and (2) there are no current plans to convert part of the T4 Illawarra Line to metro standard which would subsequently require a new entry path for rail freight from the Illawarra into Sydney.

The full text of Infrastructure Australia´s conclusion is included below.

¨There is significant uncertainty around forecast future freight demand, particularly from 2031 onwards. Freight throughputs were estimated for 2014, 2021 and 2031. Beyond 2031, demand was assumed to remain constant at 2031 levels. The business case assumed coal would represent 58% of projected freight tonnage using the line in 2031. However, a number of coal mines which were projected to use the Maldon-Dombarton Rail Link over the entire 50-year evaluation period are expected to be exhausted within the next 20 years. For example, the Tahmoor coal mine – which was expected to account for around 22% of rail paths on the Maldon-Dombarton Rail Link from 2031 – is expected to close by early 2019. This lost freight demand is unlikely to be replaced, and lower freight demand would lower project benefits.

The base case is not a ‘do-minimum’ base case because it assumes uncommitted future network changes to the Sydney rail system, including the potential introduction of rapid transit services to Hurstville by 2031. This would affect freight rail capacity on the Illawarra line. However, these changes have not been committed or funded, so it is not certain that the related project benefits would be realised.Also important to consider is that the $700m-$800m cost was calculated at P50. In other words, there is a 50% chance that the cost will be higher than that estimate, and a 50% chance that it will be lower. Additionally, the analysis excludes wider economic benefits. These include things like agglomeration economies, improving market competitiveness, or increased tax revenues from labour markets. They are excluded in part because they are indirect and thus hard to measure. But it does mean that a BCR of close to 1.0 could still make a project such as this viable as WEBs would ultimately make the benefits outweigh the costs. However, as previously stated, if the benefits are overstated then it is unlikely that the BCR would be close to 1.0 anyway.¨

So does this mean that an upgrade of the South Coast Line from Wollongong to Sydney does not stack up? The answer is: we actually don´t know.

A section of the partly completed Maldon to Dombarton freight railway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Marcus Wong.)

Remember: this is a $5bn project and the Maldon to Dombarton freight line is just one small part of it. In order to determine if the full project is economically viable, a business case needs to be developed for the full project. Not one part of the project. Not all of the parts separately. The full project. This is because when taken as a whole, individual parts of the full project could provide benefits for another part and vice versa.

What certainly doesn´t help is a government decision to look into a road improvement to connect Sydney to Wollongong, excluding all other options. Instead, the government could have committed itself to evaluating the transport corridor first, then determining which mode provides the best possible outcome.

It remains possible that improved road connections could provide a greater benefit than improved rail connections. However, the higher estimated cost of road ($18bn) compared to rail ($5bn) makes this seem less likely when taken at face value.

But without a study into the business case of both, we won´t know for sure.

Train capacity would be boosted by 10% into Sydney’s CBD and 16% into Central Station by terminating more trains at Central according to plans prepared for the NSW Government in 2014. The plans would seek to increase rail capacity by maximising the use of existing infrastructure rather than building new infrastructure. However, commuters from stations in Sydney’s West such as Penrith would see their trains terminating at Central’s Sydney Terminal, requiring them to change trains if they wish to continue their journey into the CBD.The changes come in the wake of warnings from the Auditor General that Sydney’s rail network requires additional investment to keep up with growing demand. The Sydney Metro CBD and Southwest will be the first increase in heavy rail capacity into the CBD since the 1979 opening of the Eastern Suburbs Line, but is not set to occur until the year 2024.


Performance data published by Sydney Trains indicates that the most crowded lines into the CBD are in order: the T4 Illawarra Line, T1 Northern Line, T1 Western Line, and T3 Bankstown Line. Each line has patronage during the busiest hour of the morning peak equal to between 147% and 158% of total seats. Crowding levels above 135% often result in delays as passengers struggle to enter and exit trains quickly at stations, resulting in fewer trains per hour and thus reducing total line capacity.

The proposed changes would seek to alleviate pressure on each of these four lines.

  • The T4 Illawarra Line would see an increase in TPH (trains per hour) from 18 to 20, the maximum possible under current signalling.
  • The T1 Northern Line would see its capacity boosted via Strathfield from 10TPH to 15 TPH and eventually an increase in capacity via Chatswood when the Sydney Metro is extended to the CBD in 2024.
  • The T1 Western Line would controversially see cuts to services West of St Marys, which would terminate at Central rather than continue on to the CBD, and on the Richmond Line, which would see a reduction in services from 6TPH to 5TPH. This would be offset by an increase in services between Parramatta and Central, from 20TPH to 26TPH, by extending the Inner West Line out to Parramatta. However, there would be no increase in the current 16TPH that continue past Central into the CBD.
  • The T3 Bankstown Line would see a 25% increase in services, rising from 8TPH to 10TPH; further increasing to 15TPH in 2024 with the extension of Sydney Metro to Bankstown (albeit with a reduction in seated capacity).


Other changes include lengthening some intercity trains from 8 carriages to 12 carriages, while a pair of peak hour train departing from Epping that currently run with 4 carriages could be doubled to 8 in order to further increase capacity. Together, the final effect of these changes could see capacity (measured in terms of the number of 8 carriage trains) of all lines during the busiest hour of the morning peak increased by 10.1% into the CBD, from 109 to 120 trains, and by 16.5% into Central Station, from 118 to 137.5 trains.

Commentary: Changes like these are a needed stop gap

Seeking ways to increase Sydney’s existing passenger rail capacity without having to resort to large investments into its infrastructure should be welcomed. This is something this blog has been calling for since 2013. While unlikely to be welcomed by those adversely affected, if implementing these proposed changes results in 16% or even 10% increases in capacity to the network overall then it will do a lot to get Sydney moving.

The opposing perspective would argue that all main suburban lines deserve direct rail access into the CBD during peak hour without requiring passengers to change trains. Demoting parts of the Western Line to the same status as the Cumberland or Olympic Park Line sets a clear precedent. This argument contains valid concerns.

Either way, infrastructure investment is still needed to cope with future increases in demand. The Auditor General’s report mentioned above found patronage had grown by 4.3% each year since 2011. At this rate, even a 16% increase in capacity would be absorbed by less than 4 years of patronage growth.

This is why new infrastructure such as the 2 Sydney Metro Lines currently being touted cannot come soon enough. Unfortunately, the 2024 opening date for the CBD and Southwest stage of the first line is already too late to meet existing demand. This is why recent suggestions that a second metro line could be opened between Parramatta and the CBD in the mid 2020s should also be welcomed.

Finally, it’s important to note is that these plans are both internal and old. Many aspects already appear to be obsolete, such as the North Shore Line only running 18TPH (the current timetable operates 19TPH) or referring to the first Sydney Metro line as T8 (current government publications suggest it will be branded with an M rather than a T). The Transport Minister Andrew Constance himself raised this in an interview with the ABC. So treat this more as a guide than actual concrete plans or promises.

VIDEO: Sydney Metro West, Transport for NSW (13 Nov 2016)

When first proposed by the then State Opposition in 2010, the principal aim of the CSELR (CBD and South East Light Rail) was to reduce congestion by adding additional capacity to the Anzac Parade Corridor. Ironically, one of the major criticisms of the line today, in 2017 a full 2 years before it is due to open, is that it will not provide sufficent additional capacity. Instead, the argument goes, a metro line should have been built from the beginning. The recent decision to defer, in effect abandon, a planned light rail line between Parramatta and Olympic Park in favour of a metro line would appear to reinforce this argument.

(All this puts aside the shortcomings of the arguments against the CSELR from the recent Randwick Council report – click here and go to pages 32-34 for the report itself; that being it assumes express bus services are set to be scrapped and thus total capcity along the corridor will decrease. The express buses into the CBD along the Eastern Distributor are not only to be retained, but expanded. So the main shortcoming of the CSELR is not that it will reduce capacity, but rather that it will not increase capacity sufficiently to handle the projected growth in coming years.)

Route of the CBD and South East Light Rail Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Route of the CBD and South East Light Rail Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

In the case of both light rail lines, it appears that they have been a victim of their own success. Local Councils in Randwick and Parramatta pushed for the construction of light rail to improve transport capacity, often in the belief that this was a realistic improvement to lobby for. These were then taken up by the state government and soon began to appear insufficient. In the case of the CSELR, the project has matured so much that it is effectively too late to cancel and start again as a metro. In the case of the Olympic Park project, the change from light rail to metro was possible, but will push back the introduction of rail to that corridor by many years. If these plans are successful, eventually a metro line from Parramatta to Long Bay will provide heavy rail capacity along both of these corridors. Thus providing heavy rail capacity where light rail was first proposed.

Parramatta Light Rail route map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Parramatta Light Rail route map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

This raises a key question: why didn´t this happen from the start? There are two likely answers.

One was that the studies into these corridors began with a transport solution (light rail) for a particular corridor first, then tested whether it would be viable (yes) second. They should have identified a congested corridor first, then identified the ideal transport solution(s) second.

Another reason for this was the lack of sufficient funding. Heavy rail is much more expensive than light rail. As an imperfect comparison, the cost of the CSELR ($2.1bn) is much less than the estimated cost of a metro from Parramatta to the CBD ($11bn). Indeed, a Parramatta to CBD metro has been little more than lines on a map until NSW privatisations brought in more money than was initially expected.

Planned route of the 2008 West Metro, which may be indicative of the future Sydney Metro West. Click to enlarge. (Source: Railway Gazette)

Planned route of the 2008 West Metro, which may be indicative of the future Sydney Metro West. Click to enlarge. (Source: Railway Gazette)

The solution to all of these problems would appear to be simple: let Transport for NSW do its job. Have them identify corridors that need upgrades to transport infrastructure. Then let them decide what the best options are for those corridors, along with the cost for each option. The government of the time can then make decisions based on what they can afford at each moment. The good news is that this already happens. The last Transport Masterplan in 2012 operated in this manner.

The problem arises when politicians or interest groups have their special pet projects. It results in deciding on a mode of transport first and then looking for somewhere to build it. This is an answer in search of a question. It´s backwards and temptations to engage in such actions must be rejected by both decision makers and the pubic at large.

With an updated 5 yearly transport plan due this year, now is the time to go back to letting Transport for NSW do its job.

A metro line connecting Sydney’s CBD to Parramatta is firming as the most likely major rail project to be completed once the currently under construction Sydney Metro opens in 2024. This follows the windfall gains received by the NSW Government in the 99 year lease of its poles and wires, with Daily Telegraph political editor Andrew Clennel citing senior government sources that the highest priority in using the proceeds of the privatisation funds will be a “third Metro line from the CBD to Parramatta — taking pressure off the above-ground rail line which is already near capacity”.

The NSW Government is currently reviewing an unsolicited proposal to build such a line, received in July of this year. The cost is estimated at $10bn and could be partly funded through value capture. This would be possible in sites like the Bays Precinct, Olympic Park, Camellia, and Badgerys Creek. However, it remains uncertain what this means for current plans for a light rail connection from Parramatta to Olympic Park, with suggestions that such a link may be shelved and replaced by a metro rail line.

2017-10-23 All Options.png

Transport for NSW subsequently published a discussion paper and is now seeking feedback until 28 October. The discussion paper outlines a number of options, split into Options A-E Western Sydney (mostly connecting Parramatta to the Sydney CBD) and Options 1-6 Western Sydney Airport (connecting the new Western Sydney Airport to the rail network).

Option A, a new western metro-style service, would appear to be the proposal being put forward by the consortium and therefore be the front runner. It is described as:

This line requires a tunnel to be built between Sydney and Parramatta / Westmead with stations located every few kilometres. It could operate as a stand-alone, metro-style, all stops service using high capacity single deck trains with the potential to transport 40,000 extra passengers per hour. It could potentially provide journey times between Sydney and Parramatta of around 30 minutes and relieve some demand on the existing network. This could also support opportunities for new developments at locations such as Olympic Park, Five Dock and The Bays precinct.

2016-10-23 Option A.png

Option 5, a direct rail express service from Western Sydney Airport to Parramatta, appears to be the proposal most similar to that being put forward by the consortium and would therefore also be the front runner. However, it involves a 160km/hour express service rather than a metro style service with frequent stops as previous Option A put forward:

This option would include a direct rail express service from the proposed Western Sydney Airport to Parramatta and through to Sydney CBD. This line would require a new tunnel as it approaches Parramatta and from Parramatta through to the Sydney CBD. This service offers the potential for the fastest service between the airport and these two major centres, but would be comparatively expensive to construct. Initial assessments indicate that such a line could achieve journey times of 15 minutes from the proposed Western Sydney Airport to Parramatta and 12 minutes from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD based on a maximum speed of 160 kilometres per hour. While such a service would provide a short travel time to the broader Sydney Basin and CBD, it would not necessarily service the population who are expected to work at and use a Western Sydney Airport in the short-term.

2016-10-23 Option 5.png

This proposal builds on a March 2016 Parramatta City Council feasability study which suggested a fast train rail link along this corridor, providing a 15 minute rail journey from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD that would also connect Parramatta to a Western Sydney Airport.

2016-03-12 Parramatta Fast Rail Route.PNG

 

Should such a line go ahead, it would pass though and potentially create a new economic corridor for Sydney. The existing “Global Economic Corridor” originally consisted of an zone spanning across Sydney Airport, the Sydney CBD, North Sydney, St Leonards, Chatswood, and Macquarie Park; recently also being expanded to include Norwest Business Park and Parramatta. This new economic corridor would encapsulate Western Sydney Airport, Parramatta, Olympic Park, the Bays District, and the Sydney CBD. This new corridor would pass through Sydney’s 3 cities described by Greater Sydney Commission Chair Lucy Turnbull.

Commentary: How might this line be built?

The Western rail corridor from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD remains one of the most congested in the Sydney network and yet has been seemingly neglected in terms of capacity improvements. Therefore, additional rail capacity is a welcome possibility. What is less certain is how much of it can be paid for with value capture, whether the journey times will be 15 or 30 minutes, and $10bn price tag.

A recent study focused on the Gold Coast Light Rail line found that value capture would be able to pay for only 25% of the capital costs of building the line. Using that as a benchmark suggests that governments will still be liable to fund the majority of the construction costs for major public transport projects. This is also why the windfall gains from recent privatisations is so significant: it makes a project like this possible.

The 15 minute journey time is possible, but unlikely unless the journey is express. The predicted journey times for the 2008 West Metro, which involved a 22km journey that included 10 stations, was 26 minutes. This equates roughly to 45 seconds/km (the equivalent of 80km/hour), plus an additional 1 minute/station. This also corresponds to the estimated journey times for the Sydney Metro currently under construction. So 25-30 minutes would appear a much more realistic journey time than 15 minutes.

2016-10-23 CBD to Parramatta Metro estimated costs.PNG

Finally, there is the construction costs. Here, a lot depends on how the line is constructed and a number of assumptions will be made. The 2008 West Metro is a good starting point, with the adjustment that it pass through the Bays Precinct and then most likely entering the CBD at Barangaroo. This would involve a similar number of stations, but with a slightly shorter length of perhaps 21km rather than 22km. Curiously, this would effectively see a hybrid of the West Metro and CBD Metro alignments, with the 2008 proposed alignments seen in the map below.

2016-10-18 West Metro and CBD Metro Alignment.PNG

Based on the costs of recent projects, but not taking future inflation into account, a more realistic cost could be just under $11bn for the Sydney CBD to Parramatta portion. From Parramatta to Badgerys Creek, the distance is longer at 26km, but about two thirds of this could be above ground rather than in a tunnel. Additionally, it would likely have fewer stations, probably 4 in total not counting Parramatta. So using the same assumptions, that portion of the project could come in at about $6bn.

That is approximately $17bn, approaching double the $10bn cited by the unsolicited proposal. This should come as no surprise, as unsolicited proposals are in the business of selling their case to the government and thus have an interest in underestimating the potential costs.

Finally there is the question of where to run the line through the CBD. The map accompanying the proposal submitted to the Government, published by the Sydney Morning Herald, suggests connecting the line to the future Sydney Metro at Barangaroo and then another line out from Waterloo out to the soon to be redeveloped Long Bay Prison in Sydney’s South East. This would have the benefit of funneling trains from two separate lines on each end of the central portion of this line, ensuring constant high frequency along the CBD portion of the Sydney Metro.

However, it would also place capacity constraints on the line. For example, it would prevent the Northwest line of the Sydney Metro from increasing its current 15 trains per hour during the peak if the Western line of the Sydney Metro were also to enjoy 15 trains per hour. It would be possible to extend the trains from 6 to 8 carriages, providing a 33% increase in capacity, but not the 167% increase in capacity that is currently possible.

The alternative is to build an additional rail line through the CBD. A second corridor under Sussex St has been reserved for such a future line, in addition to the Pitt St corridor that the current Sydney Metro line will use. Alternatively, the line could cross the CBD in an East-West direction, rather than the typical North-South direction that all the existing rail lines follow. This could potentially provide heavy rail access to Pyrmont or Taylor Square.

Either option would be challenging and disruptive. It would ordinarily also be expensive. But it could be transformational in a way very little else could and NSW has recently come across the billions of dollars necessary for such an endeavour.

Pedestrianising the suburbs

Posted: September 18, 2016 in Urban planning
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VIDEO: Perth Busport (TransperthOnline)

The Committee for Sydney recently tweeted about the importance of dense intersections in creating better quality urban areas. Small blocks with frequent intersections improve pedestrian movement and lead to better experiences, whereas larger blocks with fewer intersections do the opposite.

In suburban areas, cul-de-sacs often have the effect of calming traffic on the streets, but with the negative side effect of hindering mobility by foot. It effectively forces individuals into their cars in order to get around.

But that is not always the case. Below is a map of Baulkham Hills, the neighbouring suburb to Winston Hills (second from the right in the Committee for Sydney tweet above). The two suburbs are separated by the M2, seen on the right half of the bottom edge of the image below. There are 2 main roads running North-South on either side of the image, with the connecting streets often ending in quiet cul-de-sacs. The 2 main roads, together with the M2, are also where bus routes provide public transport for this area.

The focal point is the small park in the centre of the image. It has 3 cul-de-sacs surrounding it, two to the North (above) and one to the East (right). This park has pathways connecting the park to each of these sul-de-sacs, as well as to the other street just to the West (left), which are all accessible by pedestrians but not to cars.

Satellite image of Baulkham Hills. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps.)

Satellite image of Baulkham Hills. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps.)

Someone in the cul-de-sac to the East would ordinarily be quite isolated. The map below shows the same area, with a red spot showing that particular cul-de-sac and the blue areas shows everywhere accessible within 400m using only streets. This is equivalent to a 5 minute walk and reaches neither of the 2 roads where the buses operate.

As can be seen, it does not provide much coverage and it is this sort of urban design that leads many suburban residents to abandon walking or even public transport in favour of their private car to get around.

2016-09-18-baulkham-hills-pedestrian-catchments

Green areas are accessible only by pedestrians. All areas accessible within 400m of the red spot if only streets are used is shown in blue; if pedestrian only areas are included then all areas accessible within 400m is shown in blue/green/yellow. Click to enlarge. (Source: Open Street Map.)

This is where the park comes in to play. By linking up the 4 surrounding streets, it massively enhances the areas accessible within 400m. An additional 3 pedestrian walkways, also shown in green, provide further access. So the actual areas accessible on foot can be seen in green and yellow as well as the initial blue on accessible by streets only. This has the added benefit of extending the areas within 400m to both the roads where buses operate.

By providing these pedestrian links, the urban design achieves the dual goals of quiet suburban street with limited traffic as well as easy and convenient pedestrian access to a large catchment.

VIDEO: Sydney’s Ghost Railways – Part 1 (Bambul Shakibaei)

Lachlan Drummond visited the Transport Heritage Expo on Monday 13 June 2016, the final day of the 3 day event. Below is his account of the event, which he wrote shortly after the event and would have been posted a week ago had this blog’s regular author not allowed it to sit idly during that time.

On the Monday public holiday, my partner and I decided to go down to the Transport Heritage Expo. I had been meaning to go for a few years but something had always crept up.

What is the expo?

The Transport Heritage Expo is a collaboration between Transport Heritage NSW, Transport for NSW, and a number of other NSW transport heritage organisations who are involved in operating and restoring old transport. It has been running for a few years now at Central Station over the June long weekend.

Central station allocates four platforms on the main concourse to display vintage steam, electric and diesel trains and carriages and to run vintage train rides on the actual Sydney trains network.

Steam engine 3642. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

Steam engine 3642. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

The event begins on the Saturday with the now traditional Great Train Race, where 3 vintage trains race down the Western Line from central to Strathfield. After this, the trains come back to central and continue to run services on other city rail lines every two hours or so over the long weekend.

At the station there are vintage trains and carriages on display that have been lovingly restored and maintained by the various transport heritage organisations. You can book a Devonshire tea cooked inside an original 1950s train carriage, and you can even hop into the driver’s cab of a Waratah train on the platform. There’s also a merch stand, a jazz band, and some vintage buses running outside on the colonnade.

The great thing about this expo is you don’t just get to see the trains and buses as a static museum piece. You get to see the trains leave and arrive at a real train station. You get to jump inside the carriages, hop into the drivers cabs and have a look around. And best of all – it’s mostly free. It does cost $25 to ride one of the vintage trains or to have Devonshire tea, but you don’t have to pay anything to climb around them while they’re back at the station. It’s also free to ride the buses. It’s a really great event for train enthusiasts, families and kids in particular.

The trains and carriages

This year the expo showed off a variety of different trains. The big highlight for most people was probably to see a fully operational steam train – engine 3642, hauling vintage carriages down to Hurstville (with an assist from a vintage diesel engine). This train has been beautifully restored, and it was a real joy to see it at the station (unfortunately I didn’t get to ride this one as tickets sold out very quickly). When it pulled into the station you could jump into the drivers cab and have a look around.

A variety of organisations also had some lovely diesel engines on display. The blue engine 4001 was a standout – beautifully painted, and sitting on the platform with its engine open so you could see the inner workings.

Red Rattler F1 with diesel engine 4001 in the background at Central Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

Red Rattler F1 with diesel engine 4001 in the background at Central Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

The guys at 3801 Limited also showed of their excellent restoration job on an old lounge and sleeper car, including the sitting area and bunk cabins. They are looking for some financial assistance to restore the toilet to full working order – if you want to give them a hand you can visit their website. Diesel engine 42101 also looked great.

Sydney Trains also came to the party with a very new Waratah set sitting at the station with the driver cab open. Kids young and old got to sit in the front seat and were shown by a driver how it works.

Riding on the Red Rattler

For me, the train that really stole the show was the recently restored “F1” red rattler electric train, returning to heritage service for the first time in 15 years. We hopped on the 9:30AM Monday service to East Hills and back.

Red Rattler F1 at East Hills Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

Red Rattler F1 at East Hills Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

A collection of 4 carriages built in the 1920s in Clyde and Newcastle, the set features three driver cabins and one passenger cabin, which we travelled in. Amazingly, one of the driver cabins (C3426) was part of the first scheduled service across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. Some of the carriages saw some renovation work in the 1980s as they were kept in service until 1992 due to the delay of the Tangara trains. After this, Sydney Trains grabbed them and restored them for heritage services in about 1999, but they hadn’t been seen since 2002.

These carriages and interiors were in fantastic condition, with the seats containing the old NSWGR logo on them and the windows and (manual!) doors were fully functioning. An old 1970s network map was still on the wall above my head, featuring stations such as “Goodyear” (Goodyear tires) and “Hardies” (James Hardie) on a spur line near Clyde. An interesting insight into Sydney’s industrial past.

Best of all, this train is in fantastic working order and was an absolute joy to ride. We travelled down the Erskinville-Sydenham-Tempe line, slowly through stations due to the width of the train and rebuilt platforms. Once we hit Wolli Creek and the East Hills express line, the driver opened the throttle and we were soon overtaking local Waratah train services at what must have been close to 70kph. It was seriously impressive stuff.  At East Hills we got out to admire the train before we turned around and went back to central. Plenty of the heritage guys were on the train and were happy to answer questions.

The restoration work on this set is absolutely top notch and full credit must go to Transport Heritage, Heritage Express, Sydney Trains, Howard Collins, and everyone else who worked on it and helped get it back on the rails. Have a ride on this if you get the chance- it’s a real gem.

Riding on a Vintage Bus

The guys from the Sydney Bus Museum are currently going through renovations (and will be reopening in August). This didn’t stop them from bringing out a collection of four vintage double decker buses for some joyrides through the Sydney CBD.

A vintage Sydney double decker bus. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

A vintage Sydney double decker bus. Click to enlarge. (Source: Lachlan Drummond.)

Their collection included two sky blue Sydney double deckers, a Green one, in fantastic condition. They also had something pretty special – a genuine Leyland London Routemaster from the 1960s, complete with the great old red colours. By chance we were lucky enough to get on it, and we drove up Pitt street up to Park street, and then around Hyde park and back. These rides were free and very popular, although I did chuck 5 bucks in their donation box (and I hope others did too). It was great to see the city from another angle.

Overall

Last year the Transport Heritage Expo won first prize in the NSW Heritage awards, and it’s not hard to see why. This really is a great day out for everyone, whether you’re a kid, a train enthusiast, or just an older person wanting a bit of nostalgia. While there’s plenty of great stuff to do for free, I really recommend spending the 25 bucks (adult) to ride on one of the old heritage trains. It’s not often that you get the chance to get on a vintage train at central and go somewhere far away on the network. You know the money will be used to keep these great machines running.

This expo is a credit to all the transport heritage organisations who put aside their differences for a weekend to create something really special. It’s an example of what can be achieved when everyone works together. I can see it growing into the future – hopefully in a few years we could get some vintage Sydney trams running through the CBD when the new line is built. How awesome would that be?

VIDEO: Central to Eveleigh Urban Transformation Program – Overview (UrbanGrowth NSW)

The NSW Government’s decision to build the Sydney Metro via Waterloo rather than Sydney University was based on the radical densification of the area surrounding a new Waterloo station. The precinct, currently made up of about 2,000 dwellings for public housing, is set to be re-developed with 7,000 dwellings. For a site that is 19 hectares in size, this represents 368 dwellings per hectare or about 700 residents per hectare.

The response has been mostly negative, with criticism emanating from the City of Sydney Council as well as the state opposition, raising concerns that the development is too dense. Comparisons have been made to Green Square, an urban renewal site about 1km South of Waterloo, where an additional 53,000 residents are expected to occupy an area equal to 278 hectares. This represents 190 residents per hectare, much lower than the 700 planned for Waterloo. To find a comparable city with population densities that high requires comparisons with Hong Kong.

Redevelopment sites along the Central to Eveleigh corridor. Click to enlarge. (Source: UrbanGrowth NSW.)

Redevelopment sites along the Central to Eveleigh corridor. Click to enlarge. (Source: UrbanGrowth NSW.)

But that is not a fair comparison. It compares a dense town centre (the Waterloo precinct), where densities are high but are surrounded by lower density residential areas, with entire suburbs (Green Square) or even metropolitan regions (Hong Kong).

A much better comparison would be with the 5.8 hectare Central Park which contains 2,200 residential apartments and 900 units of student accommodation. All together that is 3,100 dwellings which equates to 534 dwellings per hectare, compared to a proposed 368 dwellings per hectare in Waterloo. If Central Park can handle a higher density well, then surely Waterloo can too.

This is an important distinction as Central Park has been hailed as a great success story, one of density done right and in a manner that the community supports. Ironically, some of the same individuals and groups who have supported Central Park and are concerned about reducing Sydney’s housing shortage have also come out to oppose this, a similar project that would achieve that very goal.

The key is density done right. It’s not just a matter of plonking a row of high rise towers on top of a metro station near the CBD and assume they will automatically be a success story. It has to be well planned and well integrated into the existing urban fabric.

That is the debate that should be occurring right now – how to best build the 7,000 new apartments in a way that minimises the impact on existing residents and ensures that they are supported by the necessary infrastructure. Flat out opposing it or scamongering to appease the NIMBY voters is not helping.