2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network

Posted: February 22, 2013 in Transport
Tags: , , , , ,

Note: It might be worth reading part 1 and part 2, which provide some context and outline the problems with the current timetable, if you haven’t yet done so.

Cityrail has been simplifying its network ever since the Clearways project was announced in 2005 around the same time as the major timetable changes were introduced that year. The idea behind Clearways was to increase capacity (via additional “turnback” platforms and/or track amplifications) around the network where pinch points caused bottlenecks and to separate the network into 5 separate sectors (which would then converge into 3 sectors in the CBD). This is known as sectorisation, and involves creating sectors that run as independently from each other as possible. As a result, delays in one sector do not spill over into other sectors.

The Cityrail network currently has 3 sectors:

  • Sector 1 – made up of the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Lines

2013-01-20 Cityrail Map Sector 1

  • Sector 2 – made up of all the lines that use the City Circle, plus the Cumberland Line (Note: the Inner West Line between Strathfield and Homebush shows up faded in error.)

2013-01-20 Cityrail Map Sector 2

  • Sector 3 – made up of all the lines that use the Harbour Bridge

2013-01-20 Cityrail Map Sector 3

(In practice, sectors 2 and 3 are not entirely separate, with trains on the Western Line and South Line sharing some track between Granville and Homebush, as well as the Western Line and Cumberland Line between Blacktown and Harris Park.)

A Herald report from 2012 revealed that one plan would involve fully separating Sectors 2 and 3. Currently the 2 track pairs between Blacktown and Homebush are used to separate local (all stops) services from express services. This allows express trains to overtake slower local ones. Separating trains on these tracks by sector rather than by stopping pattern then means that an express service could get stuck behind a slower local service. The solution to this would be to also harmonise stopping patterns – with sector 3 running only express services and sector 2 running only local services.

If implemented to the fullest extent, the Richmond and Northern Lines would be separated from the Western Line. Richmond Line trains would become part of the Cumberland Line, running all stations to Campbelltown. This would eliminate a conflict that currently exists at Granville where a flat junction is used by Western Line and South Line trains (by sending Richmond Line trains on the Cumberland Line’s flyover at Merrylands and sending Western Line trains on the Northern track pair not used by the South Line, thus avoiding the flat junction). Northern Line trains would use a third track pair that begins just before Strathfield at Homebush Station and then ends at Sydney Terminal at Central Station, effectively creating a fourth sector. Inner West Line trains would be truncated to Homebush, which relieves some pressure on the heavily used Lidcombe to Homebush portion of the network, allowing South and Western Line trains to pass through there more easily.

This would allow Western Line trains to run faster (by permanently skipping many stations)  and more frequently (as they are not sharing any track with Richmond, Northern, or South Lines as is currently the case). Passengers at stations like Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, Wentworthville, and Harris Park would need to catch a Cumberland Line train and change to a Western Line train if they are going into the city. While passengers at stations like Clyde, Auburn, Lidcombe, or Flemington could change to a Western Line train for a faster journey, or stay on a slower all stations South Line train for a direct one. On the network map, this is what it could look like (again, this is purely speculation based on rumour at this point).

What the Cityrail network might look like after the 2013 timetable is implemented. Click on image for higher resolution. (Souce: Cityrail.)

What the Cityrail network might look like after the 2013 timetable is implemented. Due to an error, Auburn should be the blue South Line only, not the yellow Western Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Souce: User created from Cityrail.)

Creating these truly independent sectors would also allow for harmonisation of stopping patterns and rolling stock. With high enough frequencies, this will also mostly do away with the need to worry about delays. After all, if a peak hour train comes every 3 minutes and all the trains on that line have the same stopping patterns, then a 3 minute delay effectively puts everything back to normal.

It also makes many commutes easier – with commuters just taking the next train rather than waiting for their train, which will help to reduce station overcrowding on congested CBD stations (by requiring commuters to transfer to another train once they are out of the CBD). Frequencies will also improve, ensuring that commuter wait times are kept to a minimum and allowing many commuters to travel without having to worry about consulting the timetable first.

Higher off-peak frequencies could also mean shorter trips by way of reduced wait times. Parramatta currently has 5 trains an hour into the CBD during the off-peak, meaning a maximum wait of 15 minutes. Increasing this to 8 trains an hour would mean a maximum 8 minute wait, or 4 minutes on average. Similarly, someone taking the train from Pendle Hill currently has to wait 30 minutes for the next train during the off peak, which often means either arriving much earlier than necessary or taking the risk of missing the train and waiting half an hour for the next one. Either way, this means a longer overall journey time. But having 10-15 minute frequencies, and then transfering to a frequent (and express) Western Line train into the CBD, could result in a faster and more reliable journey, despite the removal of direct services. Someone wishing to make a North/South trip, say from Quakers Hill to Merrylands, will now have easy all day access by rail.

The main downside is that it will force many people to transfer to another train. Many commuters on the Richmond and Northern Lines will need to transfer to another train if travelling into the CBD, as they will no longer have direct access.

There do exist alternatives, Simon blogs at Fixing Sydney Transport about how Parramatta can be made the terminus of the Cumberland Line, thus maintaining the second track pair West of Parramatta free for Richmond Line trains. Doing this would allow Richmond and Epping Line trains to keep their CBD access, while still eliminating a conflicting move (by Western and South Line trains) on the flat junction at Granville that currently exists. It would not allow a complete harmonisation of stopping patterns, but does deliver some benefits of the complete sectorisation without most of the disadvantages it would bring. There are merits to this option, and would be an improvement on the status quo.

Ultimately, the government’s decision to run the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) as a completely independent line (which could become the fifth sector), means that the existing Harbour crossing will need to be run at maximum efficiency during the decade between then NWRL’s completion and when a second Harbour Crossing is built, as this will become one of the biggest bottlenecks on the network. The easiest way to achieve that is to implement the sectorisation outlined above. So if it doesn’t happen in this year’s 2013 timetable, then expect it to happen when the NWRL opens at the end of the decade.

  1. kypros1992 says:

    Love the work with you proposed map bambul, Just a few questions on it:

    First, You have kept Auburn on the Western Line but not Lidcombe? Should this be the other way around because Western Sydney wants to head to Olympic Park and with this change, they have to change at Granville which will piss off a lot of ‘westies’ heading to the NRL, Easter show etc.

    Second, the Northern Line terminating at Central is a really bad move, Central is very congested and changing to packed inner-lines is a nightmare as it is. Its properly better if the line terminating at its old station at North Sydney

    Third, love the work on the Western Line / Cumberland line changes. Pretty much something that I always thought would happen in the 2013 timetable

    Just some other points Newtown should not have any South Line services, and Clyde should have the Western Line services rather than the South Line because most people you use the Carlingford Line head west past Parramatta (past-experience)

  2. The Auburn/Lidcombe thing was a mistake, due to my poor image editing skills. I had meant for Western Line trains to skip both. It’s primarily an exercise in showing the most radical change, based on leaks and rumours, so I wanted to present the most extreme version possible.

    All the points you raise with concerns are valid, and though many have work-arounds (which I’m not going to get into now because that’s not the point I was trying to get across in the above post), it does demonstrate that there will be issues with implementation. You could argue that if they are all implemented fully, then the benefits will make up for the inconveniences (e.g. higher frequencies with their associated shorter wait times plus more express services with their faster speeds make up for the forced transfers and the associated additional time required).

  3. Simon says:

    A major limitation of removing Auburn and Lidcombe from sector 3 is what about people that live in those locations and work in Parramatta? Some of them will drive rather than change.

    Also Harris Park is a real hassle to serve. Would it be served only by the Cumberland line?

    Thirdly, what about stations Westmead through Seven Hills, are they to be removed from sector 3 and only served by the Cumberland line.

    Fourth point is that I doubt that the quad between Blacktown and St Marys is long enough for a passing move by the Blue Mountains trains on its own. There would need to be a quad past Penrith for the plan proposed last year (I think) to work.

  4. The transfer of stations from Sector 3 to Sector 2 (Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, Wentworthville, Harris Park from the Western to Cumberland Line, Clyde, Auburn, Lidcombe, Burwood from the Western to South Line) does have a number of problems, as you’ve highlighted.

    I think it all boils down to a values judgement – does increased speed, frequency, and reliability on the Western Line warrant the loss of direct connections to the CBD (and Parramatta) for people at some stations? As you mentioned, many of them will give up public transport and drive instead. At the same time, I would say the bottleneck (on all transport corridors) right now is for Western Sydney residents who are CBD bound, rather than the example of Auburn or Lidcombe residents who will be driving against the traffic during peak hour.

    For Blue Mountains trains, would terminating a few trains at St Marys allow them to continue express through to Penrith and Emu Plains without getting stuck behind another train? You could do something similar on the North Shore Line at Gordon and Linfield to allow Central Coast trains to run express there during peak hour.

  5. Simon says:

    The extreme viewpoint in that article is definitely going too far. The Fast trains to Penrith previously stopping Redfern, Parramatta then Blacktown will no longer be quite as fast, the Mountains trains will face severe congestion between Blacktown and Penrith, and again it is unclear how they would get between Blacktown and Central (i) or Central (s). All of the additional stopping will require more trains and crews for a less attractive service.

  6. JC says:

    “Inner West Line trains would be truncated to Homebush, which relieves some pressure on the heavily used Lidcombe to Homebush portion of the network…” I don’t understand by why the expensive and under-used turn-around loop at Olympic Park is not used to provide a better service on the inner west line as well as serviing higher density activity at OP. [Future: Revesby to Olympic park via Airport and City becomes Metro Line 1]

  7. Simon says:

    JC, that would be a terrible idea. It would need to cross virtually every train via Homebush’s path to get from Strathfield #8 to Olympic park. And nearly as bad in the opposite direction.

  8. […] some research of past timetables and some reading of Bambul’s 2013 Cityrail Timetable blogs as well as Simon’s on Fixing Sydney’s Transport, here’s my finished take on proposed […]

  9. […] more rail lines are needed for this, but will take years or decades to build. In the short term, sectorisation is the only option available to the government that will result in a significant increase to […]

  10. […] network with additional services. But few details have been officially released, though some proposed changes have been leaked. Once that is implemented, it would be worth revisiting this issue. Service is also still better […]

  11. […] October and further sectorise the Cityrail network when it revamps the timetable. This could mean terminating Northern Line trains at Central and/or sending Richmond Line trains to Liverpool on the Cumberland Line rather than the CBD. This may prove unpopular in the short term, but […]

  12. […] 2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network […]

  13. Frank Warwick says:

    I would like to see a link to the proposed timetable, I was shown a printed copy and its is a total cock up for the Central Coast Commuters, trains terminate in peek hours at Gosford and you have to wait for a connection (on another platform that leaves minutes after your supposed arrival. This will add 30 minutes plus to a commuter coming from north of Gosford because the train is never on time. Its going to be a shit fight.

  14. There’s a link to it in the post. End of the very first sentence: “800 pages of it”.

  15. Frank Warwick says:

    Hi Bambul, I cant see the link, can you post it please

  16. You can’t see the first sentence of the post?

  17. If that doesn’t work, here’s the direct link:

    Click to access timetable.pdf

  18. I see. You’re looking at an older post. This was written before the draft timetable was leaked. I thought you were looking at the new post that was published 2 days ago (link below). Sorry for the confusion, I saw your comment on its own, not in the context of which post it was replying to.


    Also, I had a quick look at the draft timetable and compared it to the current one, and I can’t see which services are being removed. Wyong still has 4 hourly services directly into Central in the AM peak, Morriset still has 2. And in each case the journey length is actually shorter. Arrival/Departure times seem to have changed, but generally only by 5-10 minutes.

    The Gosford terminators look to be new services, rather than cut back existing services.

    Though I’m not hugely familiar with the Central Coast Line, so I’m happy to be corrected!

  19. Frank Warwick says:

    Thanks for the link
    Currently the train from Lisarow goes at 645am, its half full when I get on it. the proposed time is the same, change at Gosford, wait 6 minutes and off to Sydney. The trouble is that train is never on time so it will not make the connection and this is happening for many of the peek hour trains

  20. Frank Warwick says:

    The link to the timetable you provided and the one I saw today from a Cityrail employee are different. The employee is printing me a copy and I will get it tomorrow to compare

  21. Might be worth checking the version number (if they are different then I’d go with the most recent version) and also whether it’s the weekday or weekend timetable.

  22. Frank Warwick says:

    Two Central coast stations, Lisarow and Niagra will have no direct trains to Sydney in the peek commuter hours, this has been reduced from 1 per hour to none.

    Narara only via the North Shore in peek hours.

    The trains that did stop at these stations will still stop up at Epping and Eastwood and will arrive latter that they do currently.

    The alternative for Commuters is to travel to another station (Ourimbah) which has limited parking facilities which are currently full every day or to change at Gosford with a delay in arriving in Sydney and probably no available seats.

    No thought went into this proposed timetable for no direct trains to Sydney in the peek hour or the infrastructure for commuters on the Central Coast.

  23. mich says:

    I think you are not reading the timetable correctly. The number of direct peak services from Wyong and Gosford to Sydney via the north shore line increases from 5 to 6 in both the morning and the afternoon.

  24. Nicholas Brown says:

    Again they have managed to stuff up two trains on the Southern Highlands line.
    The evening ‘commuter special’ leaves Campbelltown 5 mins BEFORE the connecting East Hills train arrives.
    Similarly with an weekend evening up service from Moss Vale that arrives at Campbelltown 5 minutes AFTER the EH train has left!
    It really is about time they recognised that East Hills and the Southern Highlands Line should be considered one continuous line (even if there are far too many changes of trains at C’town.

  25. […] 2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network […]

  26. […] 2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network […]

  27. […] 2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network […]

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