Archive for February, 2012

Tangara design testing

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Transport
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An interesting video from the 1980s that shows planning for the design of the Tangara trains, it shows how long it takes for large number of people to board and disembark from a train, based on different carriage designs.

The first is the traditional silver set carriage, which has bottlenecks that prevent people walking up and down the stairs more than one person at a time. The improved Tangara design has wider stairs, which allows people to go 2 abreast, thus increasing the speed at which they can board and disembark.

This is important for dwell times: how long a train has to spend at each station. The longer this is, the fewer trains you can run per hour (the headways, time between trains, is longer) and the more one train’s delay impacts on the trains behind it.

Almost 20 years on, the Cityrail network is on the cusp of retiring almost all silver sets once the new Waratah fleet comes online. Doing so could allow network wide improvements to speed and reliability due to shortened dwell times.

(This video was produced by Comeng, who produced the silver L/R/S Set trains in Sydney and a number of trams in Melbourne. However, Tangaras would eventually be produced by Goninan, the same company that made the OSCARs. I’m unsure as to the reason why the Tangara project was shifted from Comeng to Goninan. If you know, then feel free to post in the comments section below.)

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Cityrail to trial quiet carriages

Posted: February 22, 2012 in Transport
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NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has announced that Cityrail will begin a trial of quiet carriages on portions of the Cityrail network. A successful trial will see it rolled out to the entire network. Quiet carriages have been introduced in other parts of the world, but also in Brisbane in Australia where it has been compared to being in a library.

Quiet carriages are those where passengers are asked to respect the peace and quiet by refraining from loud conversations, using mobile phones or playing loud music, providing a better train journey for everyone.

Quiet carriages are customer regulated. There are no penalties or consequences for not being quiet in a quiet carriage, but we encourage everyone to respect the peace and quiet and not to disturb other passengers. The success of this trial depends on all customers respecting their fellow passengers. (Source: Cityrail)

The quiet carriages are the first and/or last carriages on each train. Generally these are the empty carriages, the ones in the centre are more likely to be full as they are closer to the station exits. Therefore promoting these as quiet carriages has the added benefit of encouraging a more even distribution of passengers throughout the train and reducing crowding.

An expansion to Sydney’s solitary light rail line is looking clearer and more concrete. The existing line to Lilyfield is currently being extended to Dulwich Hill, while 3 additional lines are on the drawing board: (1) through the CBD between Central and Circular Quay down George Street, (2) from the CBD to the University of Sydney down Broadway and (3) from the CBD to the University of NSW down Anzac Parade. Routes for these 3 lines have been shortlisted, and can be seen in the map below.

Sydney Light Rail Shortlisted Routes

Existing and proposed light rail lines. The existing line (green) goes West from Central. The proposed George St line (red) goes North from Central to Circular Quay along George Street before looping around Hickson Road to Barangaroo. The proposed Anzac Parade line (blue) does not have a preferred route finalised yet. The Parramatta Rd line (red) goes Southwest from Central to Sydney University, either along the Northern or Southern edge, before reaching Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: http://www.lightrailtorandwick.com.au)

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Premier Barry O’Farrell stated “I absolutely would expect there to be a start to work on light rail before the next election” and added that he did not see a point in building a line to either the University of NSW or University of Sydney unless a line was also built through the CBD. However, he also does not want to commit to which line will be built first, which suggests that construction could occur in any order so long as eventual construction of the CBD line is confirmed. Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has said that no decision will be made until a feasibility study is completed in mid-2012.

Here is what is known about each line at the moment.

Dulwich Hill

This line is following the alignment of a disused freight line between Lilyfield and Dulwich Hill. The green light was given in late 2010 under the Keneally Labor government and the incoming Liberal government committed to follow through with its completion. Though originally meant to be completed by 2012, it was later announced that the extension would not be up and running until 2014. As of early 2012, the track has all been laid and the project still requires the construction of platforms and overhead wiring plus additional rolling stock.

George Street

This line was also announced by the Keneally government, to be built after the Dulwich Hill extension. Originally the plan was to have a line going from Central to Barangaroo via Sussex Street, then on to Circular Quay via Hickson Road (see map below). However, it was later decided that the preferred route would be via George Street, as shown in the first map above. City of Sydney Lord Mayor is pushing to close down a few blocks of George Street to private motor vehicle traffic – limiting it to trams, bikes and pedestrians. As far as I know, the state government has not commented on this proposal, which suggests they are open to the possibility and want to see details before ruling anything in or out.

Sussex Street CBD extension

An early proposed route for the light rail CBD extension via Sussex Street. (Source: lightrailextension.metrotransport.com.au)

University of NSW

A light rail line down Anzac Parade is probably one of the most logical routes for light rail. It was the last tram line to be shut down in 1961, running from the CBD down to La Perouse along Anzac Parade. Most of this is along a reservation in the centre of Anzac Parade, making it ideal for light rail.

There are a number of potential alignments for this route, both on the approach from the CBD and again when the line arrives at the university. The approach from the CBD will be either (1) from Circular Quay through Oxford Street, (2) from Central through Campbell Street, (3) from Central through Devonshire Street or (4) from Central through an underground tunnel.

The Oxford Street alignment would not include stops on Oxford Street in order to speed up trams travelling along here, but is also opposed by Oxford Street business as it removes a major benefit of having a public transport route along Oxford Street: allowing people to use it to get to and from places on Oxford Street. In addition, it provides limited benefit for people travelling to the university, racecourse or hospital as it does not link to Central, and the primary beneficiaries are residents in the Randwick area travelling to and from the CBD. Therefore, I do not think the Oxford Street option will be selected.

The tunnel option is the most expensive, costing an additional $100 million, but also the one I am warming to the most. (The tunnel option is also favoured by Randwick Council mayor Scott Nash and Eco Transit convenor Gavin Gatenby.) It would see light rail run from Central to Anzac Parade in a tunnel, removing any interference with surface traffic, eliminating most delays due to to traffic and reducing travel time by 7 minutes by allowing faster speeds. The benefits here are not just limited to reduced travel times for passengers, but also reduces operating costs as one vehicle is able to transport more passengers in the same period of time. As such, the additional capital cost will eventually pay itself back in lower operating costs. A tunnel would mean no stops in Surrey Hills unless an expensive underground station is built, but that area is currently well served by buses and so is not a huge problem.

At the Randwick end there are 3 potential alignments for the route. One would go along Alison Road towards Randwick and goes past the Randwick Racecourse. A second continues along Anzac Parade, then goes along High Street (adjacent to the University of NSW) towards Randwick. The third stays on Anzac Parade and continues South towards Maroubra Junction. The most likely outcome is a combination of 2 or all of these alignments, probably the first and second acting as a loop through Randwick, as shown in the map below.

Light Rail to Randwick route

Proposed light rail routes put forward by Randwick Council. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: http://www.lightrailtorandwick.com.au)

Sydney University

This extension would go down George Street from Central, then along Broadway until it reaches Sydney University. It will then continue either West along Parramatta Road or South along City Road and Carillon Avenue. Either route then turns into Missenden Road towards Royal Prince Alfred Hospital before terminating. Presumably, as with the Randwick route, this could also be formed into a loop by building both alignments.

Fitting light rail into the network

This is rarely talked about, but a very important detail. There is little point in building light rail if it’s just going to duplicate existing services. By all means build it if it’s going to increase capacity, but if it’s just going to run alongside buses, then you’re taking away capacity that could be going to other parts of Sydney. What this means is that light rail will need to improve modal change, i.e. people getting off a train/bus and onto light rail or vice versa. The inclusion of light rail into the myMulti system was the first step in this and hopefully Opal will allow for a seamless ticketing system where you pay for the total distance travelled, regardless of the mode used or the number of vehicles taken (as is currently the case, and which discourages an efficient use of the network).

What this is also going to mean is additional interchanges. For example, buses that traditionally went all the way into the city along Parramatta Road, City Road or Anzac Parade will need to stop where they meet with light rail and have people get off the bus and onto light rail to complete their journey. This will not be possible if service frequencies are low or if there is a financial penalty in doing so. If this is done, then it will go a long way to end the conga lines of empty buses congesting up the CBD during rush hour and to provide frequencies high enough to allow for turn up and go transport. If it’s not done then we will have seen another waste of taxpayers dollars to build a white elephant that doesn’t actually add value to the transport network.

The Epping to Chatswood Line began its planning stages as the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link, part of the Carr Government’s 1998 Action for Transport. The line would actually run from Westmead, going to Parramatta, then joining up to a duplicated Carlingford Line, followed by a tunnel to Chatswood via Epping and Macquarie Park. By the year 2000 the project was so certain to happen that we even saw it on the maps in every train station and in every train carriage (see below). For anyone who forgot to turn their sarcasm detectors on, that last sentence is not to be taken seriously.

Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link

The original alignment for the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link, seen as a dotted blue line. This map is from the year 2000, shortly after the opening of the Airport Line. Click on image for link to source website. (Source: Historical NSW Railway Timetables)

Originally to be up and running by 2006, the line was truncated in 2003 to just Epping to Chatswood due to concerns over the cost (a mere 3 months after Carr’s 3rd election victory, I’m sure the timing was purely co-incidental). Even then it was not completed until 2009, longer, more expensive and without one station originally planned for. More on this further down, first I’d like to focus on the Westmead to Epping portion, what is now termed the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL).

A Department of Planning report on the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link from 2002 outlines what the line from Westmead to Epping would have looked like. The line would join up to the existing track at Westmead before going underground, necessitating an additional set of dives which would require space either from the Parramatta Golf Course or Parramatta Park, both of which were adjacent to the line between Westmead and Parramatta. At Parramatta, an additional underground platform would be built just North of the existing station (underneath Darcy Street). This would then continue underground, going East until they reach the Carlingford Line at Rosehill Racecourse, where the tunnel would follow the Carlingford Line alignment North until it reached a new station underneath the Grand Avenue bridge. This new station would be an amalgamation of the nearby Rosehill and Camellia stations and also link up with the Parramatta to Strathfield bus transitway (which was never built either). Between the old Camellia Station and Carlingford, the line would continue mostly unchanged other than with the addition of a second track. At Carlingford a new station would be built underground, with a tunnel connecting Carlingford up to the underground platforms at Epping.

Though this plan was scrapped, a plan was later announced to build a passing loop on the Carlingford Line, which would allow 2 trains an hour, rather than the current limit of 1 train per hour. However, this too would also be scrapped.

One thing that was done right was future-proofing, and both ends of the Epping to Chatswood Line have been left ready for expansion. On the Chatswood end, there is space for an additional track pair between Chatswood Station and St Leonards Station. Both stations either have 4 platforms (Chatswood) or have space to run additional track along them to become a 4 platform station (St Leonards). This leaves open a potential Chatswood to St Leonards quadruplication, which is one step in an eventual new line through the CBD.

St Leonards Station

On the left you can see the space left to run an additional line of rail track to form another platform. The same is the case on the other end of the station. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Epping end of the line has stub tunnels on the Northern end of the underground track at Epping Station. This would allow for a future PERL to be built with minimal disruption when it was connected to the existing network. Almost ironically, it appears that these stub tunnels will instead be used to connect the network to the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL), which will also have a set of stub tunnels for a line to Parramatta.

As a side note: the decision to have the NWRL join up at these stub tunnels, rather than further North above ground, has been seen as a controversial decision as it limits the options for trains from the Northwest (i.e. they must go via Chatswood and do not have the option to go via Strathfield). However the O’Farrell government has defended this decision, pointing out that using the tunnels is cheaper than going above ground as it avoids expensive land acquisition and that to do otherwise would delay the project by requiring new plans, investigations and impact studies to be carried out.

Epping Stub Tunnels

The existing stub tunnels at Epping is the tunnel on the right which goes deeper underground in this cross section, which forms the start of the NWRL. An additional planned stub tunnel can be seen rising up on the left, which will join up to a future PERL. Apologies for the poor image quality, this is what the government put online – and is no longer available as it has been superseded. (Source: http://www.northwestrail.com)

The truncated line, from Epping to Chatswood, was initially meant to have 4 stations – 3 at Macquarie Park and one at UTS Ku-rin-gai. However, protests from the public meant that the line was re-routed underground, rather than crossing over the Lane Cove River. This meant that the line would be too deep underground for the Ku-ring-gai Station, while also increasing the cost of building it and lengthening the journey time. Many of those opposed to the bridge option did so on environmental grounds, an ironic argument seeing as improved public transport would have done far more for the environment than preventing the construction of the rail line on the original alignment.

The changes also meant that the gradient were now too steep for Tangara trains to run on the line. As a result, the line was initially serviced by OSCARS. This was done as a shuttle service at first, running between Epping and Chatswood, but was later integrated into the Northern Line.

OSCARS

Due to steep gradients, Tangaras are unable to run on the Epping to Chatswood Line. Therefore, OSCARS were used instead. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Wikipedia)

The benefits of the new line were not limited just to increased network coverage, it also added capacity to the network by allowing trains from Epping to approach the CBD either via Strathfield or via Chatswood. Up until recently, there was ample spare capacity Southbound over the Harbour Bridge into the city. However this spare capacity has been mostly used up by a combination of new trains from Epping via Chatswood and an increase in trains from the North Shore due to increased population densities in that area. Today the morning peak sees 18 trains cross the Harbour Bridge into the city during its busiest hour, just shy of the maximum capacity of 20 trains per hour. (It should be noted that Northbound trains through the CBD that cross the harbour are already at the maximum of 20 during the morning peak.)

The long term solution to this capacity problem is to build a second harbour crossing. This would join up to a City Relief Line which, as mentioned earlier, would result in a new line running through the city, the first new line through the city since the Eastern Suburbs Line opened in 1979. Doing so would mean a 33% increase in capacity through the CBD. Alternatively, a metro conversion proposal has also been floated as a cheaper alternative to increasing capacity across Sydney Harbour.

Cashless tolls

Posted: February 3, 2012 in Transport
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Sydney’s M2 and Eastern Distributor freeways have just recently gone cash-free on January 31. This leaves the M5 as the only tollway in Sydney that still accepts cash payments, rather than requiring electronic payment via an e-tag. Ironically, the M5 is also the only tollway in Sydney where the government offers a cash back offer, in which it refunds 91% of the toll.

Removing the cash payment option allows a more streamlined movement of cars through toll plazas and also allows for an increase in the speed limit in these areas (which are often 20km/hour lower, even for cars that are using their e-tag).

These M2 and Eastern Distributor, completed in 1997 and 2000 respectively, were the last tollways built in Sydney that accepted cash. All tollways built since then have been completely cashless. The most recent of these, the M7, goes as far as calculating the distance travelled and charging the toll based on the number of kms used. Ideally a fully integrated freeway system in Sydney would be entirely based on distance travelled (with perhaps a premium for going into/through the CBD). However, the mix of private and public ownership of the different freeways, as well as the government’s reluctance to charge tolls for publicly owned freeways means this is unlikely to happen.

As a sidenote, the government does charge a toll on the Harbour Bridge and Harbour Tunnel, but this is because the Harbour Tunnel is part privately owned, and thus requires both for a toll on it and the same toll to exist for the Harbour Bridge.