An announcement by Cityrail states that a new timetable will come into operation later this month on 23 October, adding an additional 63 train services each week. The biggest winners are in Western Sydney, who see 3 new peak hour services plus 1 new off-peak service each weekday on the Western Line and 4 new services each day on weekends for the Blue Mountains Line, which together account for 28 new services. Southwest Sydney miss out, with no new services for Liverpool or Campbelltown.
This is well short of the 135 new services that the current Liberal government promised when they were in opposition (
and promised to do so “within months”), which will now cost four times as much as anticipated and even then not happen for another two years while additional staff are trained and the long delayed Waratah trains arrive to boost the available rolling stock available. I do take issue with the argument that rolling stock capacity constraints is put forward as an excuse. While this may be the case during peak hour, when most trains would be in service, there should remain significant free capacity during the off peak periods, and this is also when there is spare infrastructure capacity on the network by way of free slots on the rails to run trains. One example is the Cumberland Line, which the current government promised to run trains on all day while in opposition. Many stations along this line have only 2 off-peak services per hour and running half hourly all stations services along the Cumberland Line would ensure these stations had 15 minute services all day to either Parramatta or the city (and linking them to major interchanges to allow for easy change overs to another train or bus, should that help to speed up their journey). The other issue I take with the government not meeting it’s pledge of 135 services is that those additional 135 services were described at the time as being cautious and conservative, which was meant to differentiate them from the over-promising and under-delivering Labor government.
UPDATE (25 March 2012): I was probably a bit too harsh on the state government, so I’ve retracted one piece. It turns out they really promised only to introduce 6 new services per day “within months” and managed 4. Not technically fulfilling their promise, but close enough. From what I hear the next major timetable overhaul will come in 2014 when the Kingsgrove to Revesby quadruplication is complete and the maximum capacity of the City Circle will be lifted from 12 or 14 trains per hour up to 20. That will be the time to pass judgement on their promise.
Even when the full 135 services are introduced, it will still mean many fewer services in place than was the case before the 2005 timetable changes that axed hundreds of services and slowed the trains to get them to run on time. It should be pointed out, that this change in 2005 was a necessary one. It did get the trains running on time, where previously service cancellations and 20 minute delays were common and expected. Governing transport is not easy, as a number of ministers from the previous Labor government have outlined. John Watkins, a former Transport Minister under NSW Premier Bob Carr, recently outlined some of the practical difficulties of running the transport department, including an attack on the state Treasury. David Borger, a former Roads Minister under NSW Premier Kristina Keneally, also spoke of the challenges in managing transport from a government perspective, in his case his criticism was aimed at the now defunct Roads and Traffic Authority.
Also included in the timetable changes are an additional 25 Parramatta and 140 North Shore ferry services and 91 new nightride buses, including services to Richmond and Carlingford for the first time. However, it should be pointed out that these new services to Richmond and Carlingford are on weekends only (defined as Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights through to the following morning) and in the case of Richmond, the timetable shows services from the city terminating one station early at East Richmond! (The timetable shows citybound services departing from Richmond, so I’m hoping this is just a typo.) My experiences with catching nightride buses, which replace trains roughly between the hours of midnight and 5AM, are that they tend to be quite packed, and that these additional services will help to improve both capacity and frequency, which often is as low as hourly (or half hourly on weekends).