Archive for May, 2013

As before, this is all based on the current draft of the timetable, and may change.

The new timetable adds some additional services outside of peak hour. An extra 2 trains per hour (TPH) have been added to the Northern, Western, Airport, and Cumberland Lines. Meanwhile, stopping patterns have been simplified, resulting in a more even spread of trains. For example, though Croydon retains 4 trains per hour, the gap between trains (known as headways) drops from a maximum of 20 minutes to 15 minutes, while for city-bound trains from Liverpool maximum headways will fall from 27 to 19 minutes.

Most importantly, spacings have been managed well enough so that passengers taking a train within the CBD will now never have to wait longer than 11 minutes for their next train, down from the current 15 minute maximum. This maximum wait figure is as low as 6 minutes for anyone taking the City Circle via Town Hall.

High frequency services will also last longer into the night on both the Bankstown and Eastern Suburbs Lines.

Cityrail stations with a train every 15 minutes or so into Central Station during the middle of the day. Blue stations (82) currently do, green stations (31) will from October, orange stations (63) will not. (Source: Cityrail)

Cityrail stations with a train every 15 minutes or so into Central Station during the middle of the day. Blue stations (82) currently do, green stations (31) will from October, orange stations (63) will not. (Source: Cityrail)

Currently, of the 176 stations on the Cityrail suburban network, only 47%  of them (82 stations) have 15 minute frequencies between the peaks. However, with the previously mentioned improvements, that figures rises to 64% of the network (113 stations). This improvement is biggest on the Western and Northern Lines, though improvements may also occur on the Airport, Bankstown, and Eastern Suburbs Lines.

Note: Headways of 17 minutes have been counted as being the same as 15 minutes, while those of 19 minutes have not.

How to read the tables below

The off peak is (roughly) all trains that arrive at Central Station between 12:00PM and 1:00PM each weekday afternoon.

The exception to the above is Parramatta bound services between Blacktown and Harris Park. In these cases, it’s trains arriving at Parramatta Station between 12:00PM and 1:00PM.

Frequency refers to the number of trains that stop at that station during that hour. It indicates the total capacity of the line, in terms of seats and standing room.

Headways refers to the time between trains at that station (and not the time between them when they arrive at Central). The important figure is the maximum headways, as it shows how long the wait is to the next train can be if you just missed the train. Different stopping patterns can mean headways differ at origin and destination, and commentary has been provided for some of these instances.

Journey time indicates whether journeys are longer, shorter, or the same, and by how long. This can sometimes be subjective, so use it as a rough guide.

Green means better (e.g. shorter journey times, higher frequency, shorter max headways), yellow means unchanged, red means worse.

Sydney CBD

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 CBD OP

Stations within the CBD (as well as out to Bondi Junction and Chatswood), on which passengers sometimes have to wait 12 or 15 minutes for the next train if they just miss one, will now have maximum headways of 11 minutes, and as low as 6 minutes on one line through the city. This will help to allow people to use the rail network for trips within the CBD and parts of the inner city without having to refer to a timetable. Thus allowing more spontaneous trips. This is not as feasible when missing a train can add an extra 15 minutes to your journey.

The changes to the City Circle are a bit technical, so feel free to skip the next 2 paragraphs.

Currently there are 10 trains per hour that enter the City Circle via Town Hall – 2 from the South Line, 4 from the Inner West Line, and 4 from the Macdonaldtown stabling yard. Meanwhile, another 10 trains per hour enter the City Circle via Town Hall – 6 from the Airport Line and 4 from the Bankstown Line. These 10 trains feed back into each other (so a South Line train might come out the other end as an Airport Line train, while a Bankstown Line train might come out the other end into the Macdonaldtown stabling).

Under the proposed changes, 2 extra Airport Line services are being added, but Bankstown Line trains now enter the City Circle via Town Hall and feedback into the Bankstown Line from Museum (i.e. it becomes a self contained loop). That reduces the number of trains entering via Museum from 10 to 8. Meanwhile, the number of Macdonaldtown stabling yard trains is reduced from 4 to 2, which when combined with the increase of 4 trains from the Bankstown Line results in 12 trains per hour entering the City Circle via Town Hall – 2 from the South Line, 2 from the Macdonaldtown Stabling, 4 from the Inner West Line, and 4 from the Bankstown Line.

Trains through the City Circle are then spaced out more evenly, so that the maximum headways on it drops to 6 minutes for anyone travelling clockwise around it, and 9 minutes for anyone travelling anti-clockwise around it. Both are an improvement on the current maximum of 12 minutes.

For the 2 lines that use the Harbour Bridge, an increase in the number of services from 6 to 8 per hour means that the maximum wait between trains drops from the current 15 minutes, to 9 minutes heading South from Chatswood and 11 minutes heading North from Redfern. All of these services now stop at Waverton and Wollstonecraft, meaning these 2 stations see their frequencies double from 4 to 8 trains per hour and maximum headways drop from 15 minutes to 9 or 11 minutes (depending on direction).

Headways for the Eastern Suburbs Line remain unchanged at 10 minutes. However, this 6 trains per hour frequency currently ends at around 9:00PM, after which it reverts to a 4 trains per hour frequency with 15 minute headways. The 10 minute headways will instead continue right up to 11:00PM.

Airport & East Hills Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 East Hills OP

An additional 2 hourly services are added to the Airport Line, one reaches Kingsgrove and the other reaches Campbelltown. Though Kingsgrove gains one new services, it loses 2 existing services, which now skip Kingsgrove in order to reduce travel times for those in outer suburban stations. This makes Kingsgrove the only loser on this line.

Stations between Campbelltown and Holsworthy, other than Macquarie Fields, see a big decrease in travel times and gain an additional hourly service. Maximum headways remain half hourly. The other main winners are stations on the Airport Line, who see maximum headways drop from 15 minutes to 9 minutes thanks to the increase from 6 to 8 trains per hour.

Bankstown Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Bankstown OP

The main change here is an extension of 15 minute frequencies from Central to Bankstown, which currently revert to half hourly frequencies after 8:30PM. The 15 minute frequencies will instead continue until 9:30PM.

Inner West Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Inner West OP

Services on the Inner West Line follow a more regular clockface timetable, meaning a more regular 15 minute gap between services, rather than gaps as long as 20 minutes at Croydon despite it having 4 trains per hour. Homebush sees a doubling in its frequency.

South Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 South OP

Liverpool, Warwick Farm, and Cabramatta are probably the only winners on the South Line, which thanks to more even service spacing and fewer stops made by its trains will see shorter maximum headways and quicker journeys into the CBD.

Most stations are unchanged, and retain their half hourly services during the middle of the day.

The main losers are Granville and Flemington, which both see reduced frequencies and longer maximum headways, while Granville also loses its fast trains to the city. Meanwhile, Auburn and Lidcombe have their maximum headways increased, but only by 1 minute.

Not included in the table above are the new Cumberland Line services. These increase train frequencies to 4 per hour between Campbelltown and Merrylands for anyone going to Liverpool or to Campbelltown. But with maximum headways of 25 minutes, it is not much of an improvement of the current 30 minute headways, and is a lost opportunity for a frequent non-CBD rail service. Compare this to the Cumberland Lines’ impact between Blacktown and Harris Park, where it has reduced maximum headways for Parramatta bound trains from 30 to 17 minutes.

North Shore Line

No major changes. It retains its even 15 minute headways.

Western Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Western OP

The big winners here are stations from Doonside to Penrith, thanks to an additional 2 trains per hour. This provides stations between Doonside and Penrith with 4 trains per hour, which translates to maximum headways of 17 minutes, while also greatly reducing travel times from these stations into Central. Seven Hills, Blacktown, and Parramatta also see a significant drop in travel times. It is now possible to get a train any time of the day at either Parramatta or Central every 15 minutes and be at the other station in 27 minutes.

However, differing stopping patterns for trains to and from Penrith mean that they both arrive and depart from Central with 3 and 27 minute headways. So for off peak return journeys from the CBD, there remains an almost half hour wait for the next train between most services.

Western Line/Cumberland Line (to Parramatta)

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Cumberland OP

The return of the Cumberland Line has boosted frequencies on stations near Parramatta from 2 to 4 trains per hour. In the case of Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, Wentworthville, and Harris Park, this means maximum headways of 17 minutes. Its extension onto the Richmond Line as far as Schofields has reduced headways there down to 21 minutes. In both cases, it also allows passengers to board a Cumberland Line train and then disembark and walk across the platform at somewhere like Seven Hills or Westmead for a fast train into the CBD, which remains a faster alternative than waiting for the next direct train.

Northern Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Northern OP

The addition of 2 extra trains per hour through to the CBD makes the Northern Line the other big winner during the off peak. All stations North of Strathfield see an increase in their frequencies, and a drop in maximum headways – in most cases from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. In addition, a better arrangement of trains at Strathfield and Burwood stations means that passengers are less likely to skip a train because a subsequent train will arrive at Central first. This effectively increases frequencies by 2 trains per hour at Strathfield and Burwood, while Strathfield also benefits from an extra 4 trains per hour added to the timetable (2 from Epping and 2 from Penrith).

Illawarra Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Illawarra OP

Jannali, Oatley, Allawah, and Carlton benefit from shorter journey times, generally 3-4 minutes shorter, while all but Jannali also see a doubling of their frequencies from 2 to 4 trains per hour, reducing maximum headways to 16 minutes. Mortdale is the main loser, dropping from 6 to 4 trains per hour and adding up to 2 minutes to journeys, but with maximum headways only increasing slightly from 15 to 16 minutes.

Kograh and Rockdale, which lost direct access to stations South of Hurstville and express services to Central, retain both during the off peak.

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This week’s announced dual resignations of Nick Greiner and Paul Broad, the Chairman and CEO of Infrastructure NSW (iNSW), was the eventual result of a battle of ideas within the NSW Government. On one side was those who supported a large scale expansion of Sydney’s roads network via aggressive use of toll roads, a view shared  by Mr Greiner, Mr Broad, iNSW, and the Daily Telegraph. On the other was those who supported a large scale expansion of Sydney’s public transport capacity with a focus on the rail network, a view supported by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, Transport for NSW (TfNSW), and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Image: Infrastructure NSW)

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Source: Infrastructure NSW)

The two government departments each championed their view via separate policy documents. TfNSW published the Transport Masterplan, which called for light rail on George St and a Second Harbour Rail Crossing. iNSW published the State Infrastructure Plan, which called for a CBD Bus Tunnel and extension of the Eastern Suburbs Railway, which rejecting both light rail on George St and the Second Harbour Rail Crossing. TfNSW responded by itself rejecting the Bus Tunnel and not incorporating the extended Eastern Suburbs Line into the final version of its plan. The NSW Government adopted both of the TfNSW proposals, but never of iNSW’s. Given the option, e government sided with TfNSW every single time its department disagreed with iNSW.

Part of the media circus around this revolves around a misunderstanding of the role of iNSW. It is often compared to Infrastructure Australia (IA), which is tasked with evaluating transport projects and determining which will get government funding, a process designed to take the politics out of the decision. But while IA is staffed by former Transport Department bureaucrats and in in charge of distributing funding from the federal government, iNSW is staffed by former Treasury bureaucrats and is in charge of obtaining funding from the private sector.

The role of iNSW is not, and should not be to determine, design, or deliver transport projects. Where it has, it has failed. The CBD Bus Tunnel was discredited and rejected by TfNSW on the basis that it lacked integration, did not provide opportunities for urban renewal, lacked a viable corridor for construction, and cost 4 times as much as the light rail option, amongst other reasons (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, pages 25-26). The WestConnex’s slot idea for Parramatta Road, initially conceived as an innovative way to build the M4 East at a lower cost than a tunnel, turned out to be more expensive than a tunnel and has now been scrapped because iNSW did not do its homework. Even the first project set to be administered by iNSW, the temporary Glebe Island convention centre, will now not happen. It is now clear that iNSW has been ineffective at determining, designing, or delivering transport projects, and should leave this to the experts at TfNSW while it sticks to what it can do – obtain private sector funding for PPP projects.

This might have been fine, had Mr Greiner considered himself a valued contributor to the NSW Government. But as has been demonstrated, the Premier Barry O’Farrell sided with his Transport Minister over his Infrastructure Tsar every time Ms Berejiklian and Mr Greiner had a disagreement. Disappointed by his inability to convince the NSW Government on issues like those mentioned, as well as things like privatising the state owned poles and wires in order to fund additional infrastructure, it was clear that someone had to go. And that meant that Mr Greiner and Mr Broad’s resignations became an inevitability.

They will be missed by some, such as the Daily Telegraph’s state political editor Andrew Clennell, who believes that “it’s ended in tears” and that “the danger is now, with a cautious poll-driven premier, nothing will get built”. But few tears are likely to be shed by those who have advocated for a greater focus on public transport, rather than on roads.

Care has been taken to ensure the figures below are accurate, but mistakes are quite possible, particularly for journey times as these are complicated to calculate and are sometimes subjective in how they are calculated.

Overview

The main winners from the changes are passengers from outer suburban stations like Penrith, Campbelltown, Hornsby, or Sutherland, who will enjoy shorter journeys into the CBD. A number of lines – such as the Inner West, South, Western, and Illawarra Lines – will have their stopping patterns significantly simplified, making them easier to understand and less susceptible to delays or disruptions. The new stopping patterns are more likely to be clockface in nature (e.g. stopping every 10 or 15 minutes, rather than some other erratic or uneven stopping pattern). The Cumberland Line is being reinstated in both directions all day, with half hourly services between Campbelltown and Blacktown. There are 2 additional trains per hour on the East Hills, Northern, and Bankstown Lines, plus 1 additional train per hour on the North Shore Line. 4 express services from Parramatta now continue through to Epping via Macquarie Park rather than terminating somewhere on the North Shore Line, providing additional services for the Epping to Macquarie Line.

Sign outside Kograh Station on 21 May 2013. (Source: Loz Maf)

Sign outside Kograh Station on 21 May 2013. (Source: Loz Maf)

Though the timetable was re-written from the ground up, there are very few losers out of it. Those that do lose out tend to be those stations now skipped to speed up other services, but in most cases this is made up for by more even headways or shorter journey times. So much so, that in some cases, even the stations that would be classified as losers come out ahead. The stations that have the most legitimate qualms are Kograh and Rockdale, which lose half their services. More on this at the bottom of this post.

Overcrowding

Estimated overcrowding levels are shown below based on the additional services being added (Source: Our Performance, Cityrail). The maximum loads figure has been removed, as this is difficult to estimate, and is likely to drop due to better spacing between trains. There are 2 additional trains from Bondi Junction (and a third which starts at Martin Place) which were formerly Sydney Terminal starting South Coast Line services. Meanwhile, the additional Northern Line services are both 4 car trains, which is the equivalent of a single 8 car train. As a result, the number of trains for this line has only been increased from 4 to 5.

2013-05-22 Overcrowding Oct 2013

The very overcrowded Northern Line (143%), Bankstown Line (134%), and Airport & East Hills Line (127%) should all see overcrowding drop to a more manageable 114%, 101%, and 109% respectively. Meanwhile, additional services on the North Shore Line (99%) and Eastern Suburbs Line (61%) will bring overcrowding on these down to 94% and 54% respectively. The loads for the Inner West and South Lines have been merged, given the uncertainty of what the changed stopping patterns on these two lines will achieve.

Overcrowding may also be impacted by indirect effects. For example, faster trains from Hornsby to Central via the North Shore could shift passengers away from the Northern Line and towards the North Shore Line. Some passengers at Strathfield or Homebush may opt to take one of the new Northern Line services and passengers on the Bankstown Line may take a train via Bankstown rather than Lidcombe once direct services via Lidcombe end, thus freeing up space on the Inner West Line, South Line, and/or Western Line.

These could provide much needed relief to the Western Line. However, there does not appear to be any immediate relief available for the Illawarra Line, even though the line currently runs a maximum of 18 trains per hour, which is 2 below the current maximum of 20.

How to read the tables below

  • The AM peak is (roughly) all trains that arrive at Central Station between 8:00AM and 9:00AM each weekday morning. This has sometimes been shifted forward or back if the busiest period for that particular line is slightly different.
  • The 2 exceptions to the above are Macquarie Park bound services from the CBD and Parramatta bound services between Blacktown and Harris Park. In these cases, it’s trains arriving at Macquarie Park and Parramatta Stations between 8:00AM and 9:00AM.
  • Frequency refers to the number of trains that stop at that station during that hour. It indicates the total capacity of the line, in terms of seats and standing room.
  • Headways refers to the time between trains at that station (and not the time between them when they arrive at Central). The important figure is the maximum headways, as it shows how long the wait is to the next train can be if you just missed the train.
  • Journey time indicates whether journeys are longer, shorter, or the same, and by how long. This can sometimes be subjective, so use it as a rough guide.
  • Green means better (e.g. shorter journey times, higher frequency, shorter max headways), yellow means unchanged, red means worse.

Airport and East Hills Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 East Hills AM

Two additional services per hour are added in the morning peak, starting from East Hills, which run a limited stops service to Central via the Airport Line. The additional services have reduced headways for many stations. This, along with the completion of the Kingsgrove to Revesby Quadruplication, has allowed express and limited stop services from Campbelltown to skip more stations and reach the CBD more quickly.

Revesby does lose 2 services per hour, but those that it retains are now faster and more evenly spread out. So overall it’s still a small net gain for Revesby Station users.

Bankstown Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Bankstown AM

Two additional services per hour via Bankstown are added in the morning peak, replacing the Inner West Line services, which now start and end at Homebush rather than Liverpool. The two additional services are fast express services, which skip a number of stations. All stations (bar Yagoona) benefit from smaller or more predictable headways between trains, and many see an increase of 2 trains per hour, while Marrickville and St Peters are the big winners with a doubling of their services from 4 to 8 trains per hour. Journeys are now faster, particularly for Carramar to Sefton, whose journeys will be up to 5 minutes faster.

The biggest losers here are Berela and Regents Park, who lose direct services to the CBD via Lidcombe. This means either changing train at Lidcombe or going the long way round via Bankstown, which adds an extra 5-10 or 20 minutes respectively to journeys.

Inner West Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Inner West AM

The Inner West Line goes from 5 to 4 trains per hour, losing one of its peak hour services. The good news is that all Inner West Line services will now start as empty trains from Homebush, rather than Bankstown or Liverpool, which should translate to more available seats for Inner West passengers. The line will enjoy a single stopping pattern (down from the existing 3), which should improve predictability/reliability, simplicity, and results in a more even spread of services. For example, passengers at Lewisham, Petersham, and Macdonaldtown Stations currently wait as long as 20 minutes between some trains, and this will drop to 15 minutes even though fewer trains will now stop at these stations.

With the possible exception of Summer Hill, the combination of extra seats and more evenly spaced services means that all stations on this line are likely to benefit from the new timetable.

South Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 South AM

The South Line gets an additional service, going from 7 to 8 trains per hour. It also sees a reduction in its stopping patterns, falling from 5 to 2 – one all stops and one limited stops. Excluding one fast train, the South Line will also see faster journeys virtually across the board, as well as lower and more even headways thanks to a more harmonised stopping pattern. The biggest improvement on headways is Casula, whose maximum headways drop from 25 minutes to 15 minutes, while Liverpool services will be 2 to 7 minutes faster.

Warwick Farm and Guilford lose out from the new stopping patterns, while Granville also sees fewer trains due to more Western Line services now skipping it. However, while the former 2 also see a deterioration in their maximum headways, Granville will enjoy more evenly spaced out trains.

North Shore Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 North Shore AM

The North Shore Line gains an additional service, starting from Gordon, which brings the number of trains per hour up to 19, just shy of the current maximum of 20. Stopping patterns have been simplified, dropping from 5 to 6, and part of this change means more trains will start from Hornsby. The combination of these two improvements mean drops in maximum headways at almost every station, particularly Asquith, Hornsby, Wollstonecraft (incorrectly spelt above), and Waverton.

Trains on the North Shore Line will now skip more station on the upper North Shore, which will shorten journey lengths for those from the outer suburbs around Hornsby. The biggest winners are passengers from Hornsby, who can now travel to the CBD via Gordon as quickly as they currently can via Strathfield, which should free up capacity on the currently congested Northern Line.

The losers here are the stations that lose some services: Wahroonga, Warawee, Pymble, Turramurra, Roseville, Linfield, Killara. The simplified stopping pattern means that maximum headways remain about the same, but concerns have been raised about whether there remains sufficient capacity given the urban consolidation in the Upper North Shore in recent years.

Northern Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Northern AM

The Northern Line gains 6 additional services, 2 running limited stops between Epping and Sydney Terminal, aswell as 4 from the CBD to Epping via Macquarie Park. The former will help to ease overcrowding on the Northern Line, while the latter has reduced headways between Chatswood and Epping from the current 15 minutes to a maximum of 10 minutes.

Space for the 2 additional Sydney Terminal terminators has been freed up by having the 3 South Coast Line services continue through to Bondi Junction rather than terminating at Sydney Terminal.

There aren’t really any losers on this line. Previous rumours that trains on the Northern Line would all terminate at Sydney Terminal and require passengers to transfer to another train did not eventuate.

Western Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Western AM

The Western Line’s stopping patterns have been massively simplified, down from 14 currently to a proposed 8 (and that includes Cumberland trains, which are not counted above as they do not continue into the CBD). The simpler stopping patterns also mean lower maximum headways, such as at Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, and Wentworthville (almost halved, from 19 to 10 minutes) or Seven Hills (down from 16 minutes to 9 minutes).  Trains on the Western Line will now stop at fewer stations, which should result in shorter journeys, as much as 13 minutes shorter for stations between Penrith and Blacktown.

However, station skipping means that Kingswood, Werrington, and Westmead will lose 2 to 3 trains per hour.  Despite this, the simplified stopping patterns means that maximum headways will remain unchanged, and many remaining services will be faster.

Western Line/Cumberland Line (to Parramatta)

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Parramatta AM

The return of all day Cumberland Line services between Campbelltown and Blacktown in both directions raised the possibility of improved services to Parramatta for those stations nearby. However, despite the increases in service frequency, maximum headways have remained roughly the same, while journey times are unaffected. This is a lost opportunity.

Illawarra Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Illawarra AM

Stopping patterns here have been reduced from 8 to 5, which creates a simpler and more reliable timetable. Maximum headways have fallen for most stations, though increased slightly for Como and stations South of Sutherland. Services South of Hustville will now run express to Central after reaching Hurstville, while the number of services starting at Hurstville will be doubled from 3 to 6 and run all stops to the Central. The result is significantly shorter journeys for passengers at a station South of Hurstville, as well as improved services for passengers at stations North of Hurstville other than Kograh and Rockdale.

Kograh and Rockdale lose all their express services and also see a drop in total services from 11 down to 8. These changes are easily the most controversial ones in this new timetable. These two stations are in the top 20 most heavily used out of the 176 suburban stations in the suburban network, with Kograh in particular being both an origin and destination station. Not only that, but it removes direct services to these stations from anywhere South of Hurstville during peak hour.

The thinking behind the decision seems to be due to crowd distribution, as passengers at Kograh and Rockdale board already full express services rather than relatively empty all stations services. This generally saves passengers around 3 minutes, but increases dwell times at CBD stations, which then leads to delays which affect all trains on that line. If this causes a delay of 3 minutes or more, then it wipes out the time saving for Rockdale and Kograh passengers, while delaying all others on that line.

It would appear that those who drafted the timetable have decided that preventing such delays would lead to a better network, and that means putting the interests of all the passengers who do not use these two stations ahead of those who do.

A draft copy of the October 2013 timetable was leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald last Friday, all 800 pages of it. This is not the final timetable, though any changes are expected to be minor tweaks rather than dramatic overhauls.

Previous expectations that this timetable would see a complete revamp of the network, removing direct CBD access for some stations, have been misplaced. Instead, this timetable would add around 700 new weekly services (which helps to bring Cityrail closer to its pre-2005 service levels, when 1,350 weekly services were cut in order to get the trains to run on time). Not only does it add new services, but it also increases speeds, generally by the creation of additional express services that skip more stations. For certain outer suburban stations, this could mean a one way trip that is 10 minutes shorter.

The other significant change is a simplification of the network and stopping patterns. This has meant taking out some of the flexibility that the current timetable has, so some journeys that can currently be made on a single train will necessitate at least one change of train. (The most elaborate is probably for a trip from Sefton to Homebush, a journey that can currently be accomplished on 1 train but will require up to 4 under the new timetable.) This may help to spread crowds out across different trains during peak hour, reducing the amount of delays caused by increased dwell times in the CBD as passengers take longer to board and disembark packed trains. Despite some minor inconveniences (which affect very few trips), these changes will improve reliability, as complexity makes it more likely for things to go wrong.

One specific improvement is more harmonised stopping patterns, which will be more likely to follow clock face patterns. For example, the Illawarra Line will have only 5 stopping patterns, compared to the 8 stopping patterns it currently has. Meanwhile, trains will arrive at Arncliffe Station at the evenly spaced out times of 7:53AM, 8:03AM, 8:13AM, 8:23AM, etc, whereas they currently do so at the erratic times of 7:51AM, 8:07AM, 8:22AM, 8:35AM. The former (harmonised stopping patterns) makes the latter possible, and together they will make the rail network more of a turn up and go style system, rather than one in which the timetable needs to be checked before making a trip. This will also apply during the off-peak.

What Sydney's rail network could look like once the October 2013 timetable comes into effect. The Inner West Line will terminate at Homebush, rather than Liverpool. The Bankstown Line will terminate at Lidcombe, with trains no longer continuing on along the Inner West Line. Some trains on the Western Line will continue through to Epping via Macquarie Park during the morning peak hour. Campbelltown express trains will be able to travel more quickly starting from Revesby due to the completion of a pair of overtaking tracks. (Source: Cityrail.)

What Sydney’s rail network could look like once the October 2013 timetable comes into effect. The Inner West Line will terminate at Homebush, rather than Liverpool. The Bankstown Line will terminate at Lidcombe, with trains no longer continuing on along the Inner West Line. Some trains on the Western Line will continue through to Epping via Macquarie Park during the morning peak hour, and in the other direction in the evening peak. Campbelltown express trains will be able to travel more quickly starting from Revesby due to the completion of a pair of overtaking tracks. (Source: Cityrail)

Other changes include:

  • An all day Cumberland Line, with trains running every half hour between Campbelltown and Blacktown.
  • The removal of Bankstown and Inner West Line trains between Lidcombe and Homebush now that turnback platforms at these stations are complete. This will ease the strain on the rail corridor between these stations, which is fed by 6 tracks on either side despite only having 4 tracks between Lidcombe and Homebush.
  • Incorporation of the Kingsgrove to Revesby Quadruplication into the timetable, allowing more trains from Southwest Sydney to run express into the CBD and overtake all stop services between Revesby and Wolli Creek.
  • Additional trains from the CBD running to Macquarie Park during the AM peak (and then in the other direction in the PM peak), reducing the gaps between services from the current 15 minutes down to a more reasonable 5-10 minutes.
  • Additional services during the AM peak on the Northern and Bankstown Lines, which suffer from the worst overcrowding problems across the network.
  • Additional services in the off-peak for the Western and Northern Lines, allowing many of the stations on these lines to provide frequencies of 15 minutes, compared to the existing 30 minute frequencies.

The timetable has not separated the Western and South Lines between Granville and Homebush, and these two lines still share track between these stations. In addition, the re-introduction of all day Cumberland Line services means trains between Sector 2 (South/Cumberland Line) and Sector 3 (Western Line) will share even more track than before, albeit on outer suburban portions of the network where this is less likely to cause disruptions to spillover onto other lines. Despite this, the removal of Inner West and Bankstown Line services between Lidcombe and Homebush should see these two sectors run more independently, despite the fact that they continue to share track.

Stay tuned for more specifics over the coming days, split out into AM peak, off-peak, and PM peak.

Both major parties have committed funding towards the NSW Government’s signature road project, WestConnex, ahead of the federal election this year. In doing so it has become a textbook example of all the significant players putting politics ahead of good policy.

The Federal Labor Government, which had previously committed $1bn, recently upped its funding offer to $1.8bn as part of its annual budget, on the condition that it include “direct routes through to the CBD and Port Botany” and that “new tolls should not be imposed on existing un-tolled roads” (Source: Anthony Albanese). The push to link up to Port Botany has merits, and will take freight trucks off local roads around Botany and Masacot. The link to the CBD is more questionable, given that roads do a terrible job at transporting large numbers of people into a compact activity centre like the CBD. While the limitation placed on new tolls is a populist measure that goes against the recommendation of its own advisory body, of Infrastructure Australia, which normally makes the imposition of tolls a requirement for the provision of funding.

When asked whether the City West Link was sufficient to satisfy the requirement for a direct route through to the CBD, a spokesperson for the Infrastructure and Transport Minister told this blog that WestConnex did not connect to the City West Link. When it was pointed out that the current plans for WestConnex do include such a link, he added that “Infrastructure Australia has advised that there is inadequate links to get people to the city and freight to the port”.

Map of the proposed WestConnex alignment showing it connecting to the City West Link. (Source: WestConnex – Sydney’s next motorway priority, Infrastructure NSW, p. 17)

Map of the proposed WestConnex alignment showing it includes a connection to the City West Link, but no connection to Port Botany. (Source: WestConnex – Sydney’s next motorway priority, Infrastructure NSW, p. 17)

On the issue of whether the widened portions of the M4 and M5 constituted an existing un-tolled road, this blog was told that these were considered existing roads, and that new tolls must not be imposed there in order for the NSW Government to be eligible for the $1.8bn in funding. The spokesperson for the Minister argued that a policy of no new tolls being introduced on existing roads was the “NSW govt’s position before the [2011] election”.

What the NSW Liberal Party’s actual commitments prior to the 2011 election are difficult to find, as policy platforms tend to get taken down from party websites soon after an election, but the following document listing the transport policies of the 3 major parties has been archived by UTS. It does not include any mention of a commitment to not impose tolls on existing roads. However, Roads Minister Duncan Gay did say in June 2012 that “we won’t be putting tolls on roads in their current state…We would only consider tolls as part of the package of improvements and provision of new roads” (Source: NineMSN). This may boil down to an issue of semantics, and whether existing roads and improved roads are the same or different.

On the other side of Parliament, the Federal Liberal Party has put forward $1.5bn towards WestConnex, on the condition that it link up with the CBD, but without the Port Botany link or toll-free requirements. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has ruled out matching Labor’s $1.8bn, saying that “We will not be adding one dollar more than the $1.5 billion that we’ve committed and we can account for” (Source: Sky News), even though Opposition Leader Tony Abbott did exactly that with the M2 to F3 tunnel less than a week ago when he matched Labor’s contribution of $400m. Not that it would matter, given that WestConnex would not be eligible for this funding regardless of who is in the Lodge after September based on the current plan.

None of this leaves the NSW Government off the hook. It is now becoming clear that it did not do its homework on WestConnex before announcing its decision to give it the green light. The suggestion from Infrastructure NSW for a slot design along Parramatta Road has now been discredited as more expensive, not less, than the tunnel option, while its recommendation to build an underground CBD bus tunnel through the CBD rather than light rail along George St was rubbished by Transport for NSW. When given the task of recommending one new road project for Sydney out of the M4 East, M5 East, and M2 to F3 tunnel, Infrastructure NSW recommended two of the three (M4 East and M5 East) as well as another road that was not even on the priority list (the Inner West Bypass) in order to link the former 2 up and technically make it a single contiguous road project, a long bow by anyone’s standards.

It should be clear that Infrastructure NSW cannot be trusted to design transport projects and recommend which ones to build, as all of its attempts to date have been littered with problems. It should instead focus on what it can do – act as a middleman between the government and the private sector in order to obtain private funding to build infrastructure.

Given these continued failures to put the politics aside when it comes to building essential infrastructure, it’s no surprise that the electorate remains cynical of governments’ abilities to do the job effectively.

The 2013 October timetable re-write is the O’Farrell Government’s greatest opportunity to fix the trains, as Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian often chants, during its first term. The Cityrail system is currently plagued by poor reliability and rising levels of overcrowding. The latter has been caused by insufficient capacity and has become so much of a problem, that it has led to longer dwell times at stations which in turn further reduces reliability and also the maximum number of trains that can pass through those stations during peak hour. This, ironically, further reduces total capacity, which makes the problem even worse.

I’ve previously looked at how the rail system can be improved via simplifying the network. In this post I’m going to look into how to do it by increasing capacity. In particular, what has been confirmed for the 2013 timetable, and what is rumoured to be likely.

Overcrowding

Cityrail measures overcrowding twice a year in terms of passenger loads – the proportion of passengers to seats on each train (each 8 carriage train has about 900 seats). If each seat is taken, then it has a 100% load. If there are 35 standing passengers for every 100 seated passengers, then it has a 135% load. It is once you go above a load of 135% that dwell times begin to become problematic.

Actual overcrowding by line in September 2012. (Source: Cityrail)

Actual overcrowding by line in September 2012. (Source: Cityrail)

Based average loads during the AM peak, the most overcrowded lines are the Bankstown Line (134%) and Northern Line (143%). Also high are the Airport & East Hills Line (127%), Illawarra Line (123%), Western Line (119%), and South Line (119%). These are just average loads, however, and it can be higher or lower for each individual train. So when looking at maximum loads, only 2 of the 9 suburban lines have all their trains below the 135% load – those being the Eastern Suburbs Line (which consists of only 3 stations before reaching the CBD) and the North Shore Line (which at 128% is only just below the 135% cut-off).

Spare capacity

The CBD subway portion of the rail network has 3 lines (Sectors) – the Eastern Suburbs Line (Sector 1), the City Circle (Sector 2), the Harbour Bridge (Sector 3). Each of these can handle 20 trains per hour in each direction. Sydney Terminal at Central Station also provides some capacity, and currently handles 12 trains per hour during the AM peak (4 Blue Mountains, 4 Central Coast, 3 South Coast, 1 Schofields). Each of these has some spare capacity (subject to rolling stock availability).

The Harbour Bridge (Sector 1). 16 Western Line and 4 Northern Line trains enter the CBD from the South, meaning this approach is already at capacity (though the one Schofields train that terminates at Central could be extended to cross the Bridge). 18 trains from the North Shore Line enter the CBD from the North, meaning 2 additional trains can be added here.

The City Circle (Sector 2). 15 trains pass through the City Circle in both the clockwise and anti-clockwise directions. The breakdown is 7 South Line, 5 Inner West Line, and 3 Bankstown trains enter the CBD via Town Hall, while 12 East Hills & Airport Line, and 3 Bankstown Line trains enter the CBD via Museum. Trains from Bankstown can enter from either direction, providing a large amount of flexibility in how the spare capacity of 10 trains per hour is assigned.

The Eastern Suburbs Line (Sector 3). 15 Illawarra Line trains enter the CBD from the South and 15 Eastern Suburbs Line trains enter the CBD from the East. However, there are also 3 South Coast Line trains that terminate at Central which share the same track as the 15 other trains South of Central, and so there is only really an additional capacity of 2 trains per hour in each direction here.

Sydney Terminal. If the 3 South Coast Line trains are extended to Bondi Junction while the Schofields train continues across the Harbour Bridge, as mentioned earlier, then this can create additional capacity at Sydney Terminal for 4 trains an hour.

Changes in the 2013 Timetable

The Eastern Suburbs Line (including the South Coast Line) will see its capacity increased from 18 trains per hour to the maximum 20 trains per hour. Whether this is in both directions, or just from the Illawarra Line side is uncertain. The latter is likely given that trains from Bondi Junction are the least crowded in the network and probably don’t need additional services.

“two additional services [on the Eastern Suburbs Line] to be provided in the peak” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

Additional services will be added to the Bankstown Line, though no figure is mentioned. However, 2 more trains per hour, increasing the current 6 to 8, seems reasonable.

“The Bankstown line will receive new services in peak times from 2013” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 18

On the Airport & East Hills Line’s maximum capacity will be increased to 20 trains per hour, compared to the current 12 (4 express via Sydenham and 8 all stops via the Airport). However, for the 2013 timetable, it appears only an additional 4 services are being added, raising the number of services via the airport from 8 to 12, while maintaining the 4 Sydenham express services

“Sydney’s south west will see an increase in train services with the commencement of the 2013 timetable…Upgrades to the power supply and safety aspects of the Airport line will allow for services from Holsworthy, Glenfield and the South West to be doubled from the current eight to up to 16 services per hour…With the addition of Revesby services, this will allow a total of 20 services per hour through the Airport line” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

“increase peak hour services to the Airport from eight to 12 per hour” – Source: Transport Master Plan, p. 313

This uses up 6 of the available 10 “slots” on the City Circle (discussed above in spare capacity), leaving 4 unused. This leaves enough spare capacity for when the South West Rail Link comes online in 2016 and Sydney Trains has another major timetable re-write.

“new rail timetables planned for 2013 and 2016” – Source: Transport Master Plan, p. 135

This means that no additional capacity is available for the South Line or Inner West Line in the short to medium term. However, on overcrowding, the problem with these lines appears to be less their average loads (109% and 119%) which are on the low end for Cityrail as a whole, but more their maximum loads (153% and 164%) which are near the top of the list for all the lines. Here the solution seems to be to more evenly spread out services, rather than have long waits between successive trains – which causes overcrowding of some trains even if the average load is quite reasonable. This would certainly be an improvement, though is still less than ideal.

“Following the opening of the Homebush turnback and the introduction of new trains, the Inner West line will see the introduction of a reliable timetable offering higher frequency services. These measures will eliminate the 20 minute service gaps that can occur at some stations during peak periods” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

A lot of rumours exist about the Western Line and Northern Line, but few things have been officially confirmed. It initially appeared that the government was considering removing direct services for the Richmond Line, sending its trains to Campbelltown via the Cumberland Line, and also for Northern Line trains from Epping via Strathfield, which would terminate at Central Station. However, a draft copy of the 2013 timetable, circulated to Railcorp employees recently, appears to show no stations on these lines will lose direct services to the CBD. Instead, some Western Line trains will continue through to Hornsby via Macquarie Park rather than along the North Shore Line as they do now. This may provide an increase in capacity to the upper Northern Line at the expense of the upper North Shore Line – though this could also be done by trains that terminate shortly after Chatswood, and so see little change in services for the Upper North Shore.

What is more certain is the addition of 2 more trains per hour on the Northern Line starting at Rhodes, a station that has seen its patronage grow strongly in recent years due to surrounding developments. These trains would probably terminate at Central.

“Two additional trains to service the busy North Strathfield to Rhodes corridor will be introduced in the shorter term” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

The government has also spoken of increasing frequencies on the North Shore Line from 18 to 20 per hour. However, it has not said when it plans to do this, other than it will happen by the time the North West Rail Link (NWRL) opens in 2019. Given the relatively low average loads on the North Shore Line compared to other lines, this makes additional services in 2013 look unlikely.

“Peak period services [on the North Shore Line] will increase from the current 18 trains per hour to 20 trains per hour prior to the new Harbour Crossing” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 17

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Finally, the Cumberland Line, which provides a direct link between Parramatta and Liverpool, will return to all day service. The draft timetable suggests it will be half hourly services from 7AM till 7PM.

“Parramatta will be better connected to Liverpool and the south west, with all-day, frequent and reliable Cumberland services” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

Improvements and remaining problems

If the new timetable does look like this, then it will provide significant improvements to overcrowding on a number of lines. Assuming similar patronage numbers, overcrowding as measured by average loads could drop on the Illawarra Line (123% down to 109%), the Northern Line (143% down to 95%), and the East Hills & Airport Line (127% down to 95%). Sending Western Line trains to Epping via Chatswood could also further alleviate overcrowding on the Northern Line.

Estimated overcrowding by line for October 2013.

Estimated overcrowding by line for October 2013.

Where it does not directly deal with overcrowding is on the Inner West Line, South Line, and Western Line. This may be partly mitigated by some passengers opting to take trains on other lines that have seen increased services, or perhaps via a more even distribution of crowds on trains on the South and Inner West Lines due to shorter headways between trains (as discussed above in Changes in the 2013 Timetable).

Some additional relief could be provided by running some trains into Sydney Terminal at Central Station, or by improvements in signalling allowing more trains to operate per hour. However, the former provides only limited improvements while the latter is both expensive and may take many years to roll out.

Future developments

The NWRL is currently scheduled to begin operation in either 2019 or 2020. Preliminary estimates show this will divert around 19 million passengers per year to it from other lines, presumably mostly from the Western Line. This translates to around 6,000 passengers per hour during the AM peak (using some quick back of the envelope calculations), compared the the current 16,000 passengers that use the Western Line’s 16 suburban trains during the busiest hour in the AM peak. This will have the effect of providing additional capacity on the Western Line (Sector 3) by shifting passengers away from it, rather than expanding its actual capacity.

Once a Second Harbour Rail Crossing is built around 2030 it will link up the NWRL to the Bankstown Line as well as the Illawarra Line through to Hurstville. This will free up space on the City Circle (Sector 2) previously used by Bankstown Line trains as well as space on the Eastern Suburbs Line (Sector 1) previously used by Hurstville trains that will now use the new Harbour Crossing route instead.

Sources

Sydney’s Rail Future, Transport for NSW (June 2012)

Transport Master Plan, Transport for NSW (December 2012)

Cityrail suffered it’s 12th major disruption since February today, that’s 12 disruptions in roughly 12 weeks. While the current government has performed well in other areas, the reliability of the rail network is by far it’s biggest failure in the transport network.

Causes of major disruptions on the Cityrail network since February 2013. (Sources: Penny Sharpe, Fare Free Day?)

Causes of major disruptions on the Cityrail network since February 2013. (Sources: Penny Sharpe, Fare free day?)

Many of these disruptions might have been prevented via improved maintenance. In fact, 10 of the 12 disruptions were caused at least in part due to problems with overhead wiring, signal breakdowns, or train breakdowns. Opposition Leader John Robertson has blamed this on the government’s decision to cut the state’s 4,700 rail maintenance staff by 450 positions, announced in Novermber of last year.

Mr Robertson is absolutely right to be concerned about insufficient maintenance, particularly if improved maintenance proves to be an effective way of preventing many of the disruptions on the rail network. But he is wrong to put the blame on the cuts, given that as of 22 April the process was only at the consultation phase and no actual staff cuts have yet occurred.

The government has argued that its changes are a result of consolidating the number of maintenance depots from 130 to 8, and that the cuts are only the elimination of any duplication of services and updating of out-dated work practices, rather than a reduction in capacity. If the poor reliability is due to current maintenance practices, then these changes might provide the improvements that are needed, given the current system has not prevented the numerous disruptions. Or they may not. Only time will tell.

Also of concern is the decision to turn efficiencies into cost savings rather than increased maintenance capacity. If reliability is down because of maintenance, then surely one solutions could be to increase resourcing to maintenance.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that not all disruptions are preventable. When prevention isn’t possible, then all which can be done is to minimise the impact. Further sectorisation would achieve this.

Right now, the lines which use the Eastern Suburbs Line (known as Sector 1), those which use the City Circle (known as Sector 2), and those which cross the Harbour Bridge (known as Sector 3) are mostly segregated from each other, which means a delay or disruption on one does not spill over onto the other. But Sectors 2 and 3 share a portion of track between Granville and Homebush, and so are not entirely separated. This has meant that in 4 of the 12 major disruptions listed above, delays on Sector 3 have spilled over onto Sector 2, or vice versa.

Trains from different lines use the same track between Granville and Strathfield, meaning that delays on one line lead to delays on other lines. (Source: Cityrail)

Trains from different lines use the same track between Granville and Homebush, meaning that delays on one line lead to delays on other lines. (Source: Cityrail)

Fixing this would probably require all city bound trains from Parramatta to run express between Granville and Strathfield during peak hour, but would provide tangible improvements to reliability. This could happen as soon as October, when a new timetable that has been written from scratch comes into operation. A draft of this timetable appears to have already been completed, though not yet released or leaked to the public.