The finalisation of the new transport master plan for NSW is one step closer, with the release of a discussion paper outlining the current context and key challenges for transport in NSW. The next step is public consultation on the masterplan, which will be considered and incorporated into the actual masterplan that is to be finalised later this year. To make a submission, you can contact Transport for NSW on masterplan@transport.nsw.gov.au by 27 April.

The key points raised in the discussion paper (relating to commuter transport in Sydney – I have skipped over freight and rural transport), along with the page references are covered below. The main points that I thought were missing, and will mention in my submission, are congestion charges for driving in the CBD and bike share, both of which I discuss briefly below.

Introduction

There are a number of corridors in Sydney which will see capacity constraints over the next 20 years. These include (1) CBD to Northern Beaches, (2) CBD to Inner West, (3) CBD to the airport, (4) airport to South-West Sydney, and (5) Macquarie Park to the Northwest Growth Sector (pp. 39-40).

Corridor capacity constraints over next 20 years

Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Discussion Paper, page 40.)

530,000 new jobs will be created in Sydney in the next 2 decades, 50% in Western Sydney and 20% in the global economic arc covering the Macquarie Park -Chatswood-St Leonards-North Sydney-CBD-airport are (p. 34).

When deciding what should be done in order to meet transport needs, the first priority should be small enhancements to existing infrastructure (such as track duplications, platform extensions, creation of bus lanes, improved timetables, better interchanges, etc) to deal with bottlenecks/pinchpoints rather than expensive construction of new infrastructure. Where this cannot be done, new infrastructure should be the solution (p. 41). All current projects across Sydney are also displayed:

Current transport projects 2012

Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Discussion Paper, page 14.)

Integrated transport system

To be successful, the transport system in Sydney needs to be a single integrated network, rather than a patchwork of competing networks that do not allow for an easy and simple trip from point A to point B. To this extent, the NSW government has created a new transport authority: Transport for NSW (seemingly modelled on Transport for London) which puts customers at the centre of planning and decision making (p. 3). It also accepts that an integrated public transport system uses buses and light rail to compliment and support the heavy rail system, rather than compete with it (p. 3).

Roads and driving

The freeway network in Sydney still has a few missing links, including the M4 East between Strathfield and Sydney Airport/Port Botany/Sydney CBD, a connection between the Sydney Orbital on the M2 and the F3 at Hornsby, and the Sydney Orbital on the M5 and the F6 in the South (p. 46).

The discussion paper was noticeably silent on the issue of congestion pricing for the CBD, which has been used in places like London to reduce traffic congestion and act as a source of revenue for public transport.

Heavy rail

The Cityrail network is quite extensive, with half of all residents living within 2km of a train station and half of all jobs being within 1km of a train station (p. 58). But while coverage is quite extensive, the network is fast approaching capacity constraints, and the discussion paper says a few things about how the heavy rail network can be made to run more efficiently:

One way of tailoring services to customer needs is to separate services so that the high frequency all-stop services can operate on different tracks to the express services. This can be achieved through improved timetables linked to the development of new rail infrastructure projects. Timetables need to be customised to the different needs and priorities of customers. Increasing the frequency of trains will reduce crowding and speed up journey times. Increased service frequencies will enable those making short trips within inner Sydney, such as on the Inner West, Illawarra and Bankstown Lines, to ‘turn-up-and-go’ without needing to consult a timetable.

Sydney has a highly complex rail network. Fifteen outer lines feed into eight inner lines, which in turn feed into six lines converging through the Sydney CBD. This results in constraints where rail lines converge. Further consideration about how to separate major lines is required.

Automatic Train Protection and Automatic Train Operation systems can be used to automate acceleration and deceleration of trains as well as manage the distance between them. These systems increase safety and can enable increased capacity on each line. Automatic Train Protection is currently being introduced to the rail system and a trial of Automatic Train Operation [i.e. driverless trains] will be undertaken to test the capacity that could be gained. These systems will support the improvements in timetables to increase frequency and reduce journey times. (p. 43)

Single deck metro style trains and a second harbour crossing are also discussed, almost to the point where it seems like a certainty that these change will be occurring and that the only question is when, not if (p. 45).

Rail infrastructure construction timeline

The SWRL, NWRL and City Relief Lines appear to be the next 3 major expansions to the Cityrail network. After that it’s a question of which order a second harbour crossing or metro conversion will occur, not whether either or both will occur. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Discussion Paper, page 45.)

Light rail

Any new light rail lines constructed in the inner city will be designed to fit in and compliment the bus and train network rather than to compete with it. As a result, it will replace a number of bus routes and see a redesign of the bus network to fit in with light rail (p. 49).

Buses

There is currently a significant amount of congestion in the CBD caused by buses, particularly around Wynyard (from the Harbour Bridge) and Circular Quay (via the CBD). A short term solution of re-routing some lines is provided (p. 48), though nothing is mentioned about long term solutions (though this is likely to involve replacing buses from the Northwest with trains on the Northwest Rail Link and buses from the Eastern Suburbs with light rail). Nor is there any mention of re-organising bus routes to have them travel through the city (as many metrobuses currently do), rather than merely terminating at one end of it, which could potentially eliminate about half the buses travelling through the CBD itself.

Ferries

The ferry system is to be privatised, starting with new private routes that were recently announced, then followed by franchising out the government owned Sydney Ferries to a private operator (p. 51).

There was no mention of any other possibilities of privatisation, such franchising out any potential future metro style rail network or for private operation of the Northwest Rail Link, both of which have been rumoured in the press.

Cycling and walking

Both cycling and walking are also said to need to be promoted, but nothing is mentioned about integrating it with rail as was mentioned with buses and light rail (p. 5). Significant work has been put on constructing large (and expensive) park and ride facilities to allow commuters to drive and park their car to the local train station, but relatively little for cyclists to ride their bike and store it before getting on the train, which could significantly increase the catchment area around train stations for people who live too far to walk, have limited bus connections and/or do not to drive to the station for whatever reason.

Also not mentioned is bike share (p. 52). Such a scheme was implemented in Melbourne (600 bikes) and Paris (20,000 bikes), but to a much lesser extent in Melbourne than in Paris and therefore never quite reached a critical mass for it be as successful as it was in Paris (click on the link to read Alan Davies’ article about it at The Melbourne Urbanist). Obviously, one challenge to bike share in Australia is the mandatory helmet laws. That aside, imagine how much easier it would be if you could ride your bike to the train station, leave it in a locker, catch the train into the city, then hire one of the bike share bicycles to get you to your final destination. (A similar outcome can be achieved by transporting bikes on buses/trains, but this only works if few people do it and is therefore not scalable to being done by large numbers of people.) This leads to an increase in the area which you can get from and to the train station at both ends of your journey, making public transport a much more attractive option. Jarrett Walker over at Human Transit refers to this as the “last mile issue” and has some interesting further reading on the topic.

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