Archive for November, 2011

UPDATE (6:40PM, 30 Nov): The government has announced the process for finalising its transport plan on Transport for NSW’s website. It will involve a 12 month period of consultation with the community and various interest groups before a final version of the plan is finalised. A discussion paper and draft plan will be released during 2012, prior to the completion of the process. This is a welcome move, and should help to prevent the transport planning disasters that we’ve had in Sydney in the last decade (such as the $500m cost of the aborted Rozelle Metro).

The NSW Government has released a draft version of the rail portion of its transport plan. It’s definitely worth a read – the first half outlines existing projects (NWRL, SWRL, etc), so if feel free to skip to page 24 if you want to get to the meat of the report. I have previously voiced concerns about a new transport plan, as it suggests trashing the previous plan and starting again from scratch. In NSW, this reminds me all too much of the Rees Labor Government’s Rozelle Metro, which cost NSW tax payers $500m before being scrapped – $500m that couldn’t be spent elsewhere. However, the new plan appears to retain all the key elements of the previous plan developed under Kristina Keneally’s government in 2010: a Southwest Rail Link, a Northwest Rail Link and a Western Express (including a City Relief Line), and then provides a number of options through to 2036 for expanding network capacity after these projects are complete.

This fear grew larger when it became apparent that the government was considering converting a portion of the Cityrail nework into a single deck metro style rail system (I wrote about it here, here and here). However, seeing that the new plan in effect locks in what was in the previous plan and then builds on it. I have since warmed somewhat to the metro plan as a result of reading the draft plan, and I might have been a bit too hostile to it initially. (I still think a second Harbour Crossing is more important than a conversion to single deck, but I’d be happy for that second pair of tracks to carry single deck trains.)

One thing not included in the report is the cost of each option. The Herald has obtained estimates of the costs, which range from $26 billion to $38 billion (see below). However, the Herald also points out that the costs may not have been calculated consistently, and that the Sector Five option (which involved maintaining a fully double deck network) includes the costs of necessary upgrades but the other options do not, despite also requiring the same upgrades. If true, this would suggest the report is biased towards the metro proposal.

Cost of various options. (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

Cost of various options. (Source: Sydney Morning Herald)

All plans follow the same initial timeline: SWRL to be completed in 2016, NWRL to be completed in 2019 (the diagram says 2021, but the document says 2019) and a City Relief Line to be completed in 2026 allowing express trains from Penrith and Richmond via Parramatta to go through the CBD (though not across the Harbour). Image quality is unfortunately quite poor, even at full resolution, but these were the maps included in the draft report:

Southwest Rail Link, completed in 2016. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 33.)

Southwest Rail Link, completed in 2016. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 33.)

Northwest Rail Link, completed in 2019. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 34.)

Northwest Rail Link, completed in 2019. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 34.)

Western Express/CBD Relief Line, completed in 2026. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 34.)

Western Express/City Relief Line, completed in 2026. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 34.)

It has been suggested (I can’t remember where) that the Western Express trains will stop at Blacktown, Seven Hills, Westmead and Parramatta before continuing express to Central and the CBD stations. Central may be misleading, as the platform may actually be located underneath Railway Square, a few hundred metres West of the suburban rail platforms, then continuing North most probably either under Sussex Street towards Barangaroo or under Pitt Street towards Martin Place.

It is after this point that the plans diverge. One plan recommends converting a large portion of the network to single deck metro, the other recommends connecting the City Relief Line to Chatswood. These plans seem to suggest the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link and Chatswood to St Leonards Quadruplication might also be built, but no mention is made of either in the document.

Metro option, completed in 2036. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 35.)

Metro option, completed in 2036. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 35.)

Second Harbour Crossing option, completed in 2036. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 35.)

Second Harbour Crossing option, completed in 2036. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 35.)

What is common for both plans is a merging of the non-express Western trains (which start at St Marys) with South Line trains going from Liverpool to the City via Granville. This makes a lot of sense as it puts each different line onto a different physical set of tracks: the Western Express trains on the Main West Line, the St Marys and Liverpool/Granville trains on the Suburban West Line and the Homebush starting Inner West trains on the Local West Line. Currently Western Line and South Line trains share track between Granville and Homebush, while South Line and Inner West Line trains share track between Homebush and Redfern, despite each having separate stopping patterns (i.e. express, limited stops and all stations).

This makes it a 25 year plan, however there are also a number of future corridors which it recommends should be kept for future consideration, allowing land to be reserved for any developments in the future. The report points out that these corridors may end up being developed either as a non-rail option (such as light rail along the Anzac Parade corridor) or as part of a “stand-alone rail system” (code for metro) in addition to just adding to the Cityrail network. Realistically, other than a minority of these corridors (the NWRL and SWRL extensions in particular), I would imagine that no further extensions would be made to the Cityrail network, with any new developments either forming the start of a new metro network or an extension of the metro network created by converting a portion of the Cityrail network.

Future corridors, for consideration post 2040. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 36.)

Future corridors, for consideration post 2040. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Rail options for the Sydney Greater Metropolitan area, page 36.)

The Cronulla Line, while electrified since it opened in 1939, remained almost entirely single track. Instead there were crossing loops at Gymea and Caringbah stations, each roughly at one third intervals between Cronulla and Sutherland stations, which allowed trains going in opposite directions to pass each other while at those two stations. The line between these two stations would eventually be duplicated in 1985, allowing trains to pass each other at any point in this middle third of the line.

Next week: the East Hills Line is extended to Glenfield on the South Line.

I’m a supporter of higher density, as my post last week on the Randwick Council housing plan decision probably suggested. I think it helps in building walkable communities, improved public transport and more sustainable living. But whatever your views on the pros and cons of density, there is undeniably a link between urban planning and transport. Where we live determines where we go and, more importantly, how we get there.

There’s a couple of articles/talks/documentaries which I think cover these topics really well, and I’d highly recommend them to anyone interested in contemporary housing/transport in Sydney.

Housing for Millions – This is a Background Briefing piece on how Australian cities will manage the challenge of finding sufficient housing for the estimated 10 million additional residents that are expected be living in Australia over the coming decades (not to mention those who are already here). It outlines the problem of housing affordability, the impact of NIMBYism, what constitutes good urban planning and what governments are currently doing to tackle housing.

Building Better Cities

This presentation by Rob Adams (head of urban planning for the City of Melbourne) at the TEDx conference in Sydney in 2010 is probably the most influential thing I’ve ever seen/heard/read when it comes to urban planning. It is why I think that higher density is good and urban sprawl is bad. Rob Adams outlines Melbourne’s plan to double its population without increasing the footprint the city, while only using 7.5% of the land.

NSW Off the Rails – Another Background Briefing documentary, this one is on the problems that Sydney has had with rail infrastructure. Unfortunately, this documentary is getting a bit dated, having been produced in 2008 and talking a lot about Labor’s later dumped metro proposal, but many of the problems and challenges still exist today.

Off the Rails – A Four Corners follow-up to the Background Briefing documentary from 2008. This was produced a year later in 2009 and overlaps quite a bit with the Background Briefing documentary.

Up until 1980, the Western Line had 4 tracks as far out as Blacktown. This allowed trains to be separated into express and all stations services, each with its own line, without having to worry about express trains getting stuck behind slower all stations trains and unable to overtake them. From Blacktown, one track pair went Northwest towards Richmond and another track pair continued West to Penrith and the Blue Mountains.

The lack of a second track pair between Blacktown and Penrith made express services difficult, potentially adding 9 minutes to a train trip for Penrith commuters. This problem was solved in 1980, when the track between Blacktown and St Marys was quadruplicated, allowing the separation of trains depending on their stopping patterns.

There was one proposal to extend the quadruplication all the way to Penrith in 2002 when the Fast Rail Link was proposed. This would be a private sector project that would also construct a tunnel from Parramatta to the CBD, allowing a trip from Penrith to the CBD to be cut from 55 to 28 minutes. However, it would do so by gaining exclusive control of a track pair between Penrith and Westmead, before continuing though the underground tunnel. This would prevent the operation of express trains between Penrith and Parramatta on the remaining Cityrail track pair, forcing Penrith commuters that did not pay for the premium express service onto 84 minute all stop services. This, along with concerns that the $2.5 billion price tag was highly optimistic, ultimately led to the government rejecting the proposal.

Western Express

The Western Express is shown highlighted in yellow. The City Relief Line can be seen on the bottom right hand corner, running North through the CBD. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Metropolitan Transport Plan 2010)

A more recent proposal is the Western Express, first announced in February 2010 as part of the Metropolitan Transport Plan (which I wrote about here), it would involve the construction of the $4.5 billion City Relief Line, a new line between Redfern and Wynyard. This would then connect up to the “express” Western Line track pair (officially known as the Main West Line, with all stops trains using the Suburban West Line), allowing express trains to remain separated from all stops trains all the way to the Northern end of the CBD. Currently, interurban trains from the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast use the Main West Line, but terminate at Central Station as they still use V-Set trains, which are longer than suburban trains and do not fit into the shorter underground stations in the CBD. A City Relief Line would be expected to have longer platforms, and also potentially screen doors that are commonly found in Asian metro systems. The Western Express was deferred by the incoming O’Farrell Liberal Government earlier this year, but based on recently released draft plans this appears to have been a genuine deferral, rather than code for cancellation.

Next week: Gymea to Caringbah duplication.

A feasibility study into high speed rail (HSR) by the federal government released earlier this year got a few people talking about the possibility of HSR in Australia. However, the high cost ($70 billion to $110 billion just to build the infrastructure) seems very excessive to me, especially considering all the benefits you could get from investing that money into the suburban rail networks.

What did catch my eye was a piece on medium speed rail on Transport Textbook, which suggested connecting Sydney and/or Melbourne to some of their satellite cities (Newcastle, Wollongong, Bendigo and Ballarat). Rather than aiming for the 250km/hr to 350km/hr required for HSR over long distances, increasing speeds to something around half of that over a much shorter distance and still obtain a significant benefit, but at a much lower cost. For example, increasing the average speed to 112km/hr would allow a Newcastle-Sydney trip to take just 90 minutes (compared to the current 170 minutes).

A very interesting take on the question of is fast enough good enough?

High Street development plan

Most of the development is planned along High Street, which is on the Northern edge of the university and hospital. (Source: Southern Courier.)

Randwick council rejected a plan to increasing housing next to the University of New South Wales and Prince of Wales Hospital on November 8 by a 10-5 vote. The plan, which is contingent on improved transport infrastructure (i.e. light rail), would have seen an additional 1,500 dwellings built mostly along High Street over the next 20 years by increasing height limits from the existing 3-4 storeys to 4-8 storeys.

Councillors appear to have been pressured by 7,500 signatures opposing over-development. The Southern Courier quotes Keiran Bowie, who organised the petition, as saying that it is “vital to get the infrastructure right before considering further development”. However, the plan was contingent on getting transport infrastructure right anyway, which led Green Councilor and light rail advocate Murray Matson to warn that the move could put the future of light rail to Randwick in jeopardy.

I think Murray Matson is exaggerating the claim a little bit. As I’ve pointed out before, there are plenty of reasons why the Randwick light rail line will get built. But he is right to be supportive of the development proposals, and it should go ahead. The Randwick health and education precinct has 13,000 jobs and 46,000 students, many of whom travel into Randwick each day. By providing additional housing right next to this area (literally across the street), you could gets thousands of workers and students out of motorised transport and on their feet, reducing congestion, not increasing it.

Compared to most other parts of Sydney, this is an area with excellent existing transport infrastructure, plentiful in jobs and with a massive variety of pubs, cafes, restaurants and cafes. If you’re going to increase density anywhere, then this is exactly where you want to do it.

Unfortunately, it seems the NIMBYs might have won this round.

Reports yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald and Channel Seven (see below) suggest that the NSW government is seriously considering free train travel in Sydney before 7AM in an attempt to reduce morning congestion. The cost of doing this is the lost revenue, not just of the commuters who switch from after 7AM to before 7AM, but also for all the commuters who currently travel before 7AM. A trial is expected to be held some time next year to see how effective such a move would be.

The rationale behind this move appears to be to get some sort of congestion charging on public transport. Currently, there are discounts for return tickets purchased after 9AM, so free travel before 7AM would effectively make travel between 7AM and 9AM more expensive relative to the shoulder periods which currently enjoy much more free capacity to take on additional passengers.

Melbourne introduced such a scheme in 2008 in which any train trip completed by 7AM would be free. By 2009 just under one quarter (23%) of commuters travelling on trains before 7AM had made the switch to the free service, having previously travelled after 7AM.

The move wasn’t universally supported, with Melbourne’s Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) pointing out that three quarters of  commuters travelling before 7AM were already willing to pay. Why then, they argued, would you forgo revenue that could be used to improve the train network elsewhere when it would not provide a significant benefit?

The PTUA also raised the problem of not including free travel on buses or trams during this period. Under Melbourne’s integrated ticketing system, you buy tickets for 2 hour periods which entitle you to unlimited travel within a certain zone. If you need to catch a connecting bus or tram, then once you pay for you bus/tram ticket the train costs you no extra (unless you are crossing from one zone to another).

The other significant difference is electronic ticketing, which Melbourne currently has, but Sydney is not set to get on its trains until 2013. By requiring you to tag on when you enter a station and then tag off when you exit a station, the system is able to give you a free trip if you tag off before 7AM, or charge you the standard fare if you tag off after 7AM. This gets around the problem of not knowing whether you will need to buy a ticket in the morning or from having to queue up to buy a ticket in the afternoon. (Melbourne does retain paper tickets, and I’m not sure if you can get free travel on these. Perhaps someone could let me know in the comments section below?)

The change in Melbourne was accompanied by a strong push to encourage employers to allow their employees to adopt more flexible work hours. This would definitely help, as would the government taking a lead in offering such options to the public service. I could also see those in the construction industry or shift workers, both of which tend to start work early, making the move from driving to taking the train as a result of this move. This would mean on-road congestion as people make the shift from cars to trains and more revenue from the tickets for the return trip on off-peak trains with spare capacity.

Ultimately, the decision on whether this is worth the costs depends on what you consider the alternatives to be. If the alternative is to effectively do nothing, and allow the train system to hit capacity, then this is a very expensive way to get more people on the trains. If however, the alternative is a costly expansion of rail infrastructure (new tracks, more trains, etc) in order to obtain additional capacity, then this plan to give free travel before 7AM could achieve the same outcomes for a lower cost, and would certainly be a better stop-gap measure than the recently touted metro proposal being tossed around recently.

I remain cautiously optimistic on free travel before 7AM and look forward to seeing the results of any trial.

When the new Eastern Suburbs Line was finally completed in 1979 and connected to the Illawarra Line, the NSW government made the decision to fully electrify the line down to Wollongong. The Illawarra Line itself was fully electrified through to Sutherland, at which point it split in two directions, one towards Cronulla (fully electrified) where it terminated and the other towards Wollongong. The latter diverged, at Loftus, with one line continuing through to Wollongong and the other veering East towards the Royal National Park. Only the line to the Royal National Park was electrified (more on this below).

Electrification of the line occurred in two stages. The first, between Loftus and Waterfall (currently marking the edge of the Cityrail suburban network), was completed in 1980. The second, between Waterfall and Wollongong, would be completed in 1985.

The National Park Line consisted of a single station: Royal National Park, from which the line derived its name. It ran until 1991, when low patronage caused it to be closed. A few years later, in 1993, the track was given to the Sydney Tramway Museum, which today runs vintage trams from Australia and overseas on the track. If you’re from Sydney, it’s worth a visit. Below is a photo of me when I went earlier this year.

Glenelg Tram

Me on an Adelaide Glenelg tram at the Sydney Tramway Museum on 17 July 2011. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

Next week: Blacktown to St Marys Quadruplication.

Alan Davies at the Melbourne Urbanist believes that the answers to the two questions above are “no” and “yes”. You can read why in his posts on Should public transport be free and Should public transport fares be higher.

A leaked email from Railcorp has revealed that the estimated operating costs of the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) will be $30 or $80 per trip (depending on the assumptions used). The $80/trip headline figure is based only on the 9 million new trips from the line and excludes the 19 million other trips on it that are diverted from other lines. Counting all 28 million trips on the NWRL brings this amount down to $30/trip. This is significantly higher than the $11/trip average across the Cityrail network, and represents a significant subsidy by the government to commuters who will be paying around $6/trip (depending on the type of ticket and destination).

The figure you need to focus on is the $30 one, not the $80 one. That is because those commuters who are moving from one line to another are mostly going to be residents in the Northwest who are currently heading South to stations like Blacktown or Seven Hills and catching Western Line trains. These are some of the most crowded trains on the network with an average of 1,236 passengers per train (Public Transport Inquiry, page 243), and additional capacity on these trains will easily be filled. Therefore, the loss of passengers to the NWRL should easily be replaced by new passengers.

The Herald article reporting this story suggests that each new passenger would cost $80 (or $30) to operate. The reality is that the operating costs are mostly fixed (you pay the same for running a train, track maintenance, stations, etc whether 100 people use them or 10 people use them), so increasing the number of passengers has the effect of reducing that cost per trip. This will help with cost recovery.

The main obstacle to getting sufficient patronage is being able to run enough trains on the NWRL. Currently it is restricted by the Harbour crossing, which has space for only 2 additional trains per hour into the CBD during the morning peak without removing trains from the upper North Shore Line. In the short term, a quadruplication of track between Chatswood and St Leonards will allow trains to turn around at St Leonards (currently tricky at Chatswood at higher frequencies) and go back to Rouse Hill while also linking commuters with the job rich areas at Norwest, Macquarie, Chatswood and St Leonards. Commuters wanting to go into the CBD can either change at St Leonards or wait for a direct CBD service (which should run at 15 minute intervals). In the long term, a second Harbour crossing should be built, separating the 2 lines entirely and allowing significant increases to the capacity of trains running through the CBD.

Northwest Rail Link alignment

The Northwest Rail Link will connect residents of Sydney’s Northwest to job centres at Norwest, Macquarie, Chatswood, St Leonards, North Sydney and the CBD.(Source: ABC News)

Also in the news on the NWRL: the NSW O’Farrell government is set to submit costings and a timeline to Infrastructure Australia by the end of the year (possibly as soon as November). This is part of its attempt to have the $2.1 billion promised by the federal Labor government for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link applied instead to the NWRL. Federal Transport and Infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has thus far ruled out requests by the NSW government as no submission had been made to Infrastructure Australia. The O’Farrell government’s submission is an attempt to move one step closer to getting that money from the feds.

I think the federal government has a 50-50 chance of giving NSW the $2.1 billion. On one hand, they don’t want to be seen as holding back money from transport in Sydney and know that there are a lot of marginal electorates in Sydney that they need if the want to win the next election. On the other hand, the NWRL route goes right through safe Liberal seats, and the federal government desperately wants to keep the budget in surplus, so ditching the $2.1 billion pledge could also work in their favour.

An Eastern Suburbs Railway was one of those originally proposed by John Bradfield that was cut short by the Great Depression and World War 2. An initial alignment had been set in 1926, which saw the line go North from underneath Railway Square next to Central Station up to Town Hall, before heading Northeast towards stations at Pitt Street and O’Connell Street, then going South to St James Station until it would head East roughly along Oxford Street towards Bondi Junction. Some initial construction was achieved, and a tunnel was partly built between Taylor Square and St James Station (though not reaching St James itself). If you look at the St James Station platform, you can see that it was actually designed to have 4 lines running through with 2 island platforms. Instead, today what would have been the two central lines form part of the one large platform.

Bradfield's original design

A map of John Bradfield’s original design for the Sydney underground railways. The Eastern Suburbs Line can be seen in purple. The Northern Beaches Line remains a pipe dream that will probably not be built in my lifetime. (Source: Wikipedia)

Plans to build the line surfaced again after World War 2 in 1947, this time on the Kings Cross alignment that it would eventually follow. Future plans for an extension to North Bondi and Rose Bay were also on the table this time. After another brief period of construction, the project was abandoned again in 1952.

A third attempt to build the Eastern Suburbs Line commenced in 1967. This time the line would extend South past Bondi Junction, going to Randwick and then Kingsford. However, the line would only get built as far as Bondi Junction, and a planned station at Woollahra was scrapped after opposition from local residents. A proposal to extend the line from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach was floated by the NSW Carr government in 1999 and would likely have operated like the privately operated Airport Line, with an additional surcharge for users of the Bondi Beach station. This too was abandoned, probably in light of the poor financial performance of the Airport Line.

Eastern Suburbs Line extension proposals

A map of different extensions proposed to the Eastern Suburbs Line. The original 1967 route can be seen going South from Bondi Junction to Kinsford. The 1999 proposal extends East from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach. (Source: Wikipedia)

The new line finally opened in 1979, with 6 stations: Central, Town Hall, Martin Place, Kings Cross, Edgecliff and Bondi Junction. Trains initially operated as a shuttle service between these stations, before the line was connected to the Illawarra Line down to Hurstville and Sutherland. This had the added benefit of removing Illawarra Line trains from the City Circle, improving congestion through the CBD railways. In fact, by adding an additional track pair (up until 1979 there were only 2 track pairs: City Circle and the North Shore/Western Line), the capacity through the CBD was increased by 50%.

However, the decision to truncate the line to Bondi Junction acted as a limit on this new capacity as Bondi Junction had not been designed as a terminus. It was therefore limited to 14 trains per hour, rather than the 20 trains per hour that would have been able to pass through it if it hadn’t been a terminus. This was finally resolved in 2006 when turnbacks were constructed at Bondi Junction Station as part of Cityrail’s Clearways program, finally allowing a full 20 trains per hour to pass through the line.

City Rail Plan 1912

A very early plan for the Sydney city underground railways. This plan pre-dates the CBD railway and the construction of Central Station. Plans can be seen for a line to the SCG (bottom left), Eastern Suburbs (bottom right) and Western Suburbs (top right). The map pretty much resembles the current network we have today, the exceptions being the unbuilt lines, the alignment of Central Station and the Eastern Suburbs Line linking up to the City Circle rather than to the Illawarra Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Proposed electric railways for the city of Sydney, JJ Bradfield.)

Welcome to the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series: Best of the rest, where every Friday I’ll be linking you to another article/story/blog post that I found interesting. These are generally going to be quite short, with a brief description and a link.

Today’s item is about construction costs of transport projects around the world. I’ve spoken about how transport construction costs in NSW are over-inflated, an issue that was raised by Jacob Saulwick in the Sydney Morning Herald last weekend. For some comparisons using 2009 dollars, the Mandurah Line in Perth (a 72km mostly above ground rail line) was built in 2007 for a cost of $15m/km, the Airport Line in Sydney (10km all underground rail line) was built in 2000 for $100m/km and the Northwest Rail Link (23km partly above ground, party below ground rail line) is currently estimated at $348m/km (I don’t think this is in 2009 dollars, so it’s a bit higher than it should be in comparison to the other two). A full list of Australiasian transport projects can be found at Transport Textbook.

It seems, however, that NSW has been outdone by the yanks, who paid $4bn/km for a new line connecting Manhattan to Queens. While this (and the others listed) are extreme cases, building anything in Manhattan is going to cost you, it is an interesting comparative to the cost blowouts here in Sydney. Check out Alon Levy’s post at Pedestrian Observations for the full list.

One of the spill-over effects of the cost blow-out and delay to the light rail extension to Dulwich Hill has been the indefinite deferral of the Greenway that was to run parallel to the new line, allowing people to travel on bike and foot along Sydney’s Inner West. Initially believed to be because of the cost blowout, it now turns out that the deferral (in effect a cancellation) was in order to prevent the construction schedule from blowing out any further, rather than a purely financial decision. While it would have been cheaper to build both at the same time, it’s clear the new Liberal government wants to avoid any further embarrassment from a delay to this project, given they criticised the previous Labor government so much for all the delays to transport projects under their watch.

Greenway map

A map of the Greenway. Click on image for high resolution. (Source:

A community lobby group, the Friends of the Greenway, has been pushing for the government to reverse this decision. The group, which had previously been pushing for changes to the design, has taken on a whole new direction in light of the cancellation of this project.

All this could be solved if construction could be completed to the original schedule. Why a 5.5km extension on a pre-existing right of way, where the tracks have already been laid, and all that is required is to put up some overhead wiring and build a few new stations is going to take over 2 years still astounds me. There is no logical reason in my mind why this new line shouldn’t be up and running in 2012. Solve that, and all this should we/shouldn’t we argument over building the Greenway becomes completely irrelevant.