Archive for October, 2013

To explain this, it helps to understand platform numbering.

On all train stations in Sydney, platform 1 is always on the left hand side of the station when facing in the direction of Central Station. In addition, trains always travel on the left track, in the same way cars always drive on the left hand side of the road. As a result, trains on platform 1 always go to Central; while at stations with 2 platforms, trains on platform 2 always come from Central. Tracks with trains going into Central are called up tracks, while tracks with trains coming from Central are called down tracks.

(In some cases it gets a bit complicated. For example, the direction of Central on the City Circle is a bit tricky, and based on starting at Central itself and going counter-clockwise to Town Hall via Museum. Also, when there are multiple pairs of tracks the direction of trains either alternates: up/down/up/down/etc, or get paired up: up/up/down/down.)

Platform 1 at Wynyard Station

Wynyard station has platforms 3 & 4 (North Shore/Northern/Western Line trains) and platforms 5 & 6 (City Circle trains), but is missing platforms 1 & 2. It did use to have platforms 1 & 2 for trams that crossed the Harbour Bridge and then terminated at Wynyard in the CBD. These platforms were reserved for a future rail line to the Northern Beaches, using the Eastern 2 lanes on the Bridge and 2 of the 4 platforms at North Sydney.

Today it has been turned into a car park, but you can see the tram/train style design of the tunnels. The lanes on the Harbour Bridge are now used by cars, though one of the two was converted into a bus lane when the Harbour Tunnel opened about 20 years ago.

Platform 1 at St Leonards Station

The original St Leonards Station was built in 1890 on its current location North of the Pacific Highway. However, in 1989 it was relocated to a temporary station South of the Pacific Highway so that a new station could be constructed. This was completed in the year 2000.

Meanwhile, in 1998, the government announced it would build the Parramatta Rail Link. This would start at Parramatta, connect up to the Carlingford Line, then travel through a tunnel to Chatswood via Epping, before continuing South to St Leonards. Part of this was an amplification of the track between St Leonards and Chatswood, from 2 tracks to 4, in order to allow trains from Parramatta to terminate at St Leonards and turn around to go back to Parramatta without disrupting trains on the North Shore Line.

However, budgetary constraints meant that the Epping to Parramatta portion of the line was cancelled in 2003, as was the quadruplication of the Chatswood to St Leonards portion. But the new St Leonards Station had opened 3 years earlier, to the specification of and with the expectation that it would be a 4 platform station, not just a 2 platform station. Hence, while only the inner 2 platforms (2 and 3) have tracks on them, the 2 outer platforms (1 and 4) have no tracks and a fence to keep people out.

The missing platform 1 at St Leonards can be seen on the left, with the train actually on platform 2. There is a space on the far right for a platform 4. Click to enlarge. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The missing platform 1 at St Leonards can be seen on the left, with the train actually on platform 2. There is a space on the far right for a platform 4. Click to enlarge. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Today the Chatswood to St Leonards quadruplication is set to form the start of the Second Harbour Rail Crossing (and the only part that will be above ground), a new rail line connecting Redfern to Chatswood. It will then connect to the North West Rail Link on the Northern end, and the Bankstown and Illawarra Lines on the Southern end (but only through to Cabramatta/Lidcombe and Hurstville respectively).

The opening of the South West Rail Link (SWRL) connecting Leppington to Glenfield will result in the biggest change to the Sydney Trains timetable since the just implemented 2013 timetable came into effect in October (all figures below are based on this newly introduced timetable). The major question over how it will be integrated into the network revolves around the need for rolling stock.

The government has recently passed up the opportunity to increase its fleet of Waratah trains by an additional 8 to 12 above the currently planned 78 trains. These additional trains would allow the network to operate entirely with air conditioned trains, and without them it will instead have to operate some of the older S-Set trains (which are currently being phased out for lacking air conditioning). The government is retaining about 24 of the S-Set trains for this.

The non-air conditioned trains may not necessarily operate on the SWRL, and which ever line they do end up on will probably only use them during peak hour when the need for trains is at its highest.

Map of the SWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Glenfield Transport Interchange Review of Environmental Factors, page 2)

Map of the SWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Glenfield Transport Interchange Review of Environmental Factors, page 2)

The amount of rolling stock requires will depend on which line the SWRL will be connected to. One option involves running the SWRL via the East Hills and Airport Line. In the morning peak there are currently 2 East Hills Line trains per hour starting from East Hills, running limited stops to the CBD via the Airport, which could be doubled to 4 and then extended to Glenfield to link up to the SWRL. This has the advantage of being fast (42 minutes from Glenfield to Central), being relatively uncrowded (the East Hills and Airport Line could have approximately 109 passengers per 100 seats after the October 2013 timetable is implemented), and having spare capacity for adding 2 more trains per hour – which would reduce this overcrowding. However, this would require additional rolling stock, both through the doubling of existing peak hour services from East Hills from 2 to 4 trains per hour and their extension to Glenfield (where the SWRL begins).

The alternative is for the SWRL to operate as an extension of the South Line. During the morning peak hour there are currently 4 South Line trains per hour starting from Glenfield, running limited stops to the CBD via Granville. This has the advantage of not needing to add additional services or extend them, as 4 trains per hour already start at Glenfield. However, this route would result in a much longer journey (61 minutes from Glenfield to Central), is relatively crowded (the South Line could have approximately 114 passengers per 100 seats after the October 2013 timetable is implemented), and has no spare capacity for running additional trains without altering the way in which South Line and Inner West Line trains operate. This is because South Line trains run express from Strathfield while Inner West Line trains run all stops, but the lack of overtaking tracks reduces the maximum hourly capacity from 20 trains per hour down to 12.

Once the Bankstown Line is linked up to a Second Harbour Crossing and its trains removed from the City Circle, an additional 4 trains per hour can be added to the East Hills Line during the AM peak. However, the South Line will retain the same constraints previously mentioned. Additionally, should an airport ever be built at Badgerys Creek then an extension of the SWRL and East Hills Line could connect the new airport to Kingsford-Smith Airport with a continuous rail line.

Despite this, in both cases it would be possible to run all SWRL trains via the South Line and still maintain a quick and easy cross platform transfer at Glenfield. By sending all South and Cumberland Line trains through the SWRL, it would also allow independent operation of the lines to Leppington and Macarthur from Glenfield. This would prevent delays on one section of the line from immediately flowing on to the other section. This “sectorisation”, as it is known, would be even more pronounced once single deck metro trains run on the Bankstown Line and it is truncated to Cabramatta.

The SWRL currently under construction, passing underneath the Hume Highway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The SWRL currently under construction, passing underneath the Hume Highway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

A similar challenge exists during the off-peak. Here are 3 possible options:

  1. The South Line currently operates at half hour frequencies, and these 2 trains an hour can be re-routed to the SWRL. This removes two services per hour from Campbelltown, albeit trains so slow that passengers can reach the CBD faster by waiting for the next East Hills train and catching that instead.
  2. Two trains an hour on the East Hills Line (one each starting from/terminating at Kingsgrove and Campbelltown) could each be re-routed to the SWRL. This removes one service per hour from Campbelltown, bringing it back down to half hourly services all day. Though some clever timetabling of the Cumberland Line could allow passengers South of Glenfield a quick transfer at Glenfield for a fast SWRL train into the CBD, reducing the 30 minute wait between trains.
  3. The Cumberland Line is re-routed to the SWRL. This removed a direct link to Parramatta for anyone South of Glenfield and a direct link to the CBD for anyone on the SWRL. This makes it an unlikely choice, if passengers are required to make transfers then it should be for those with non-CBD destinations.

The SWRL was recently announced to be running 12 months ahead of schedule and $100m under budget. However, the revised mid-2015 completion date is still 3 years behind the initial 2012 completion date, with the revised $2.0bn budget well above the $688m it was originally expected to cost (Source: Daily Telegraph).

Happy birthday to Penny Sharpe

Posted: October 22, 2013 in Personal

Unlike #ImOnlyTalkingToGladys, I know the Shadow Transport Minister reads this blog. So happy birthday to Penny Sharpe!


The decision to make the North West Rail Link (NWRL) an independently operated single deck line that incorporates the existing Epping to Chatswood Rail Link poses a number of operational challenges.

In the short term, the line will terminate at Chatswood, forcing the 2/3rds of passengers headed further South on the North Shore and into the CBD to change to another train. Some (very rough) estimates by Transport Sydney suggest that this will lead to increased crowding on the North Shore Line, but still less crowded than the Western or Illawarra Lines.

In the longer term, a Second Harbour Rail Crossing will allow both a reduction in crowding levels and for these passengers to continue through into the CBD. However, such a project will not be completed until some time in the next decade or perhaps even later.

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NWRL EIS - Introduction, page 1-3.)

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport for NSW)

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald from a few months ago claimed to have obtained internal Transport for NSW documents detailing how the government plans to deal with these problems. With some additional speculation to fill in the gaps, this is what it’s approach might be.

Having enough trains on the North Shore Line

There are currently 18 trains per hour on the North Shore Line during the busiest hour in the AM peak, carrying 15,494 passengers (measured at St Leonards). 4 of these trains come from Hornsby via Macquarie Park, 14 come from Hornsby via Gordon. 8 of these 18 trains can be rerouted via Strathfield – the 4 via Macquarie Park trains as well as 4 via Gordon trains which come in from the Central Coast. South of Epping, the previously via Macquarie Park trains will become the existing all stations trains that start at Epping and continue through the CBD and across the Harbour Bridge. Meanwhile, the previously via Gordon trains will replace the 2 new trains which start at Epping and run a limited stops service to Sydney Terminal at Central as well as the other 2 other slots available for such trains.

This may require some adjustments to stopping patterns on the Northern Line in order to allow the faster trains to overtake the slower trains on the section of the line which has 2 pairs of tracks, as a large section of the line currently only has 1 pair of tracks. It is also possible due to intercity trains from the South Coast now continuing through to Bondi Junction during the peak rather than running into Sydney Terminal, thus freeing up capacity at Sydney Terminal for additional trains from the Northern Line.

Assuming passenger loadings are evenly spread out, this should result in a reduction in passenger numbers on the North Shore Line equal to 8 train loads, or about 6,886 passengers.

The government expects 19 million passengers to shift over to the NWRL from other lines each year, which with some very rough guessing (see end of post) is equivalent to 6,800 passengers transferring from the NWRL to the North Shore Line at Chatswood.

The government also expects to reduce the number of buses from Sydney’s North West by 160 during the AM peak, changing them to operate as feeder buses for the NWRL. This equates to about 103 buses during the busiest hour of the AM peak, which is approximately 5,000 passengers (assuming 50 passengers per bus).

So adjusting the current patronage by these amounts gives: 15,494 – 6,886 + 6,800 +5,000 = 20,408 passengers per hour.  The government has committed to running 20 trains per hour on the North Shore Line once the NWRL is operational, which means 1,020 passengers per train, or 113% loading (assuming 900 seats per train). This is above the current 99% average loading on the North Shore Line and also the 94% that it could drop to when the number of trains per hour is increased to 19 as part of the 2013 timetable. But it is well below the 135% crush capacity, above which long dwell time begin to result in delays. It is also below the current loading of the 2 most patronised lines on the Sydney Trains network: the Western Line (119%) and the Illawarra Line (123%).

It should be reinforced that these are not official Transport for NSW or Sydney Trains figures, but rough estimates made by Transport Sydney.

Timing the transfers at Chatswood

During the morning peak, the North Shore Line would run at 3 minute intervals, with the NWRL running at 5 minute intervals. Some North Shore trains commence at Hornsby or Berowra, and these tend to be more full than those starting at Gordon given that they have stopped at more stations and picked up more passengers. By scheduling trains that start at Gordon (plus also possibly Lindfield) to arrive at Chatswood shortly after a train from the NWRL does, then this should maximise the amount of space available on the trains NWRL passengers are transferring to, plus minimise waiting time on the platform for a train that can take as many waiting passengers as possible. Network limitations mean it is unlikely that more than 4 trains per hour can be started at Gordon, and another 4 at Linfield. By having these trains arrive at Chatswood at alternating 6 and 9 minute intervals (e.g. arriving at 8:06AM, 8:15AM, 8:21AM, 8:30AM, etc), they approximate the 5 minute intervals of the NWRL (e.g. 8:04AM, 8:09AM, 8:14AM, 8:19AM, 8:24AM, 8:29AM, etc). Thus, passengers on 8 out of every 12 NWRL trains during peak hour could quite easily just board the next train into the CBD after a 1-2 minute wait. The trouble is that 4 of the 12 NWRL trains per hour are unlikely to benefit from these relatively empty Gordon/Linfield starters, and pose the biggest threat of passengers having to wait for multiple trains before being able to board.

The installation of screen doors are likely to increase the total available space on platforms, by making available the space currently beyond the yellow line that passengers are always told not to cross. However, this would not appear to be a significant amount of space.

Northern Line capacity

As mentioned earlier, capacity increases to the North Shore Line involve moving 8 trains per hour onto the Northern Line. The 4 trains per hour that currently travel from Hornsby to Chatswood via Epping can be rerouted via Strathfield, effectively becoming the 4 trains per hour from Epping to the City via Strathfield. This reverts to the pre-2009 operating patterns before the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link opened. The 4 Central Coast trains moved from the North Shore to the Northern Line will have to terminate at Sydney Terminal, given that all slots through Town Hall, Wynyard, and the Harbour Bridge are being used by existing Western Line and Northern Line trains. This will also mean the end of the 2 additional trains planned for the 2013 timetable, which go from Epping to Sydney Terminal each morning peak.

These changes pose problems of their own. First, it replaces existing trains that start empty at either Hornsby or Epping with trains that began their journey earlier (at the Central Coast and Hornsby respectively) and have picked up passengers, thus removing spare capacity from the line. So while it will see Northern Line frequencies raised from the current 8 trains per hour to 12 trains per hour, the additional trains will be more crowded on average. Second, many parts of the Northern Line have only 1 pair of tracks, and thus lack an overtaking track for faster express trains to pass slower all stops trains.

The first problem is somewhat alleviated by passengers choosing to change at either Hornsby or Epping and travelling towards Macquarie Park/the North Shore, thus freeing up space on Northern Line trains.

The second can be alleviated by building additional track between West Ryde and Rhodes. This will result in 2 pairs of tracks between Epping and Rhodes, thus allowing the faster Central Coast trains to overtake all stations trains.

Extending the NWRL to St Leonards

Of all the possible improvements mentioned in the Herald article, it makes special mention of this one. It would allow passengers on the NWRL travelling to St Leonards to avoid having to transfer to a North Shore Line train. In doing so it would also reduce overcrowding, which as mentioned earlier could be very close to crush loads.

Fast tracking this project to be ready by the time the NWRL begins operating in 2019 would be the single best way to ease the stress caused on the network until a Second Harbour Crossing is built.

Improved signalling

Upgrading signalling in order to boost the maximum capacity of the Sydney Trains network from 20 trains per hour to 24 trains per hour would add an additional 20% capacity to the network. Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian had previously talked about train frequencies of 24 per hour on the North Shore, but has since restrained herself to talking about 20 trains per hour. This suggests that such an upgrade is not likely to happen any time soon, probably due to the high cost of doing so.

The cost

The Herald report claims that the cost of these improvements, plus others listed in the internal document (such as new rolling stock), come to $4bn or almost half of the NWRL’s $8.3bn price tag. However, when asked about these costs during budget estimates hearings last year, Transport for NSW head Les Wielinga dismissed them as amounts that were already budgeted for. This suggests that the required track amplifications on the Northern and North Shore Lines will occur, despite no word on the timing. The Chatswood to St Leonards portion in particular would actually form the beginning of the promised Second Harbour Crossing, and therefore represents a bringing forward of future capital spending, rather than new spending.

Implementing all of these would not eliminate all the problems caused by the NWRL as planned. Upper Northern Line Stations would still lose direct access to Macquarie Park, and be forced to choose between longer journey times or making a transfer in order to reach the lower North Shore. NWRL users would still have to wait until some time next decade before getting a direct link into the CBD, and Chatswood (or St Leonards) could be strained to handle the number of passengers transferring there until that happens.

But it would be significantly better than the “do nothing but build the NWRL as currently planned” option.


19,000,000 passengers per year diverted to NWRL from other lines

19,000,000 / 52 = 365,385 passengers per week

365,385 / 6 = 60,897 passengers per day (assuming 50% usage on Saturdays and Sundays compared to weekdays)

60,897 / 3 = 20,299 passengers per morning peak (assuming rule of thumb that patronage is one third AM peak, one third off peak, one third PM peak)

20,299 / 2 = 10,150 passengers per hour in busiest hour of AM peak (assuming half of all passengers during the 6AM-9AM peak travel during 8AM-9AM)

10,150 x 67% = 6,800 passengers per hour past Chatswood (assuming one third of passengers get off by Chatswood)

The Environmental Impact Study for the CBD and South East Light Rail is due to be completed by the end of this year, finalising the project before construction begins. Enough details have been released about the project that a fairly complete picture can be drawn of what it will look like and how it will operate.


Trams will operate along an overhead wire free zone starting from where the pedestrianised zone beings at Bathurst St and continues all the way to Circular Quay. Along this portion of the alignment trams will be powered by onboard batteries which are recharged with overhead wires at each stop. Overseas experience suggests batteries could allow for up to 2km of travel at a time before recharging (Source: George Street Concept Design, 2013, City of Sydney, p. 27). This will also allow limited operation should there be a short term power outage, but will also prevent trams on the Inner West Line from operating on George St (though these trams would still be able to travel to Kingsford and Randwick). This move is supported by the City of Sydney on the basis that “it will ensure that…space is preserved for pedestrians [and respect]…the streetscape of George Street and its heritage buildings”; but opposed by advocacy group Action for Public Transport, commenting that “this system would add unacceptably to initial and running costs, would detract from reliability, and would probably not supply enough power for the air-conditioning”.

Artists impression of Circular Quay with trams. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Artists impression of Circular Quay with trams. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)


The trams on the CSELR will also be longer than the Inner West ones, being 45m long compared to the current 30m long trams, which have a capacity of 300 passengers and 200 passengers respectively. These longer trams mean that the 45m CSELR trams will not be able to operate on the Inner West line at all.

The net effect is an effective segregation of the two lines, forcing them to operate independently.

Tram stops at Central Station (Chalmers St) and Moore Park will be double the regular length, allowing 2 trams to load an unload simultaneously, with turnback sidings allowing shuttle services from Central to the Moore Park sports stadiums to provide a high capacity transport connection for special events like double headers. The Central Station and Circular Quay stops will also have a third platform.  Meanwhile, the UNSW stop (probably the busiest stop outside of the CBD and special events) will be on UNSW property itself, preventing the need for students and university staff to cross the road unless they need to reach the smaller Western campus end of UNSW.

Rawson Place will be closed off to cars and turned into a bus and tram interchange. Buses leaving the CBD will pass through Rawson Place itself, allowing a cross platform transfer, while inbound buses will stop on the Western side of Pitt Street, from which the tram stop will be a short walk away. This avoids the need to cross the road in order to transfer from bus to tram or vice versa.

The Rawson Place tram stop will serve as a bus-tram interchange. Transfers can be made here without having to cross any street. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The Rawson Place tram stop will serve as a bus-tram interchange. Transfers can be made here without having to cross any street. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Outside of the CBD

The route across South Dowling Street, Moore Park, and Anzac Parade has yet to be determined, with a cut and cover tunnel or viaduct being the two options. The advantages of a tunnel are the lower visual impact and maintaining full use of Moore Park. The advantages of a viaduct are a shorter construction time and grade separation over South Dowling Street. The government has a preference for the tunnel option, but has also taken feedback from the public on the two options before making a final decision.

The two options for crossing South Dowling Street are a cut and cover tunnel (top) or a viaduct (bottom). Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The two options for crossing South Dowling Street are a cut and cover tunnel (top) or a viaduct (bottom). Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)


Upgrading the Anzac Parade corridor will increase the passenger capacity in each direction from the current 10,000 passengers/hour to 15,000 passengers/hour. It does this by replacing some buses (the equivalent of 4,000 passengers/hour with trams that carry 9,000 passengers/hour), which will now not continue past Kingsford and Randwick. They will instead be rerouted as orbital routes that do not reach the city, and instead continue towards destination like Bondi Junction or Green Square. Anyone continuing into the CBD will get off their bus and onto a tram, either by crossing the platform at Kingsford or walking across High Cross Park at Randwick.

The Kingsford interchange (left) includes a bus stop in-between the outer tram stops, allowing a cross platform transfer from bus to tram or vice versa. The Randwick interchange (right) includes a tram stop on an existing park, with bus stops on either side of the park, allowing for bus-tram transfers without having to cross the street. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The Kingsford interchange (left) includes a bus stop in-between the outer tram stops, allowing a cross platform transfer from bus to tram or vice versa. The Randwick interchange (right) includes a tram stop on an existing park, with bus stops on either side of the park, allowing for bus-tram transfers without having to cross the street. Click to enlarge. (Sources: Left – Transport for NSW, Right – Transport for NSW)

Buses and fares

Some buses will be kept on. In particular, preliminary details of the bus redesign suggest that all peak hour express buses that travel via the Eastern Distributor will be maintained, largely as they service the Northern end of the CBD rather than the Southern end. In addition, at least one bus lane will be retained on the existing Anzac Parade busway. Some buses that travel via Cleveland and Oxford Streets will also be retained as these corridors are not served by light rail.

One lane will be retained for use by buses on the existing Anzac Parade busway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

One lane will be retained for use by buses on the existing Anzac Parade busway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Transport Sydney understands that fares for light rail will be calculated as though they are buses, meaning that there should not be a fare penalty for passengers changing from bus to tram or vice versa. This would prevent current bus users from having to pay more once light rail begins operating and many passengers are forced to make a transfer from bus to tram.

Development and the construction period

The improvement in transport infrastructure will be followed by higher housing densities, with the NSW Government designating Randwick (and Anzac Parade South, to which the light rail line could easily be extended into) for increased dwelling construction, including 30,000 new dwellings for Kingsford. This issue was prominent enough for the newly elected local MP to campaign about it at the recent September federal election.

The years of construction are also likely to see significant strain on the existing transport network, with George Street closed down and bus lanes removed long before trams begin operating. With construction set to take 4 to 5 years, it could prove to be a protracted period of pain. The government is set to announce a revised bus network for this construction period by the end of the year, around the same time it released the Environmental Impact Study. It then has until the end of the decade to come up with a second bus network redesign for when the light rail finally comes online.


This post will be updated throughout the day to track my progress, and hopefully that of Colin and John who are also taking part. I’ll be Tweeting a bit more frequently on @bambul using the hashtag #AllDayChallenge as the day progresses. Also check the Facebook page and the earlier post.

Here is my plan of attack. If everything goes as planned, I start at 5:37AM and finish at 10:24PM.

There is a contingency plan if I miss the 7:41AM service to Waterfall from Sutherland, with 2 opportunities to catch up if the trains stop operating to the exact timetable and the difference goes my way by a few minutes (Plans 5A and 5B). It’s not essential I catch the 2:37PM Lidcombe service, so as long as I make the Sutherland connection all my other connections will have quite large buffers through to 4:48PM.

The other big opportunity requires me to get ahead of schedule at one of 3 points:

  • I catch the 12:50PM service at Hornsby, which leaves 2 minutes before I’m scheduled to arrive (Plan 3A), OR
  • I catch the 1:56PM service at Epping, which leaves 3 minutes before I’m scheduled to arrive (Plan 3B), OR
  • I catch the 3:04PM service at Lidcombe, which leaves at the same time I’m scheduled to arrive (Plan 3C).

If any of these 3 occur, then it sets up the possibility of getting the 3:41PM serivce from Clyde, which leaves 1 minute before I’m scheduled to arrive (Plan 4A). This would allow a finish time of 9:22PM, or 15 hours and 45 minutes for 176 stations. Otherwise, the finish time should be 10:24PM, or 16 hours and 47 minutes.

But those 5 times in bold are the ones to keep an eye out for. If anything’s going to change, then I reckon it’ll happen at one of those times.

4:53AM – On the bus to Central. Should get there around 10 past 5, ready for the 5:30 start. 26 people on this bus, quite impressed by the strong patronage at this ungodly hour.
5:12AM – Under the clock at Central. Waiting for John and Colin.
5:20AM – Colin arrives. John follows a minute or so later before ducking off to buy his ticket.
5:30AM – We are all starting on platforms 24/25. I’m going to Bondi Junction. John and Colin are heading to Helensburgh. Ten random stations are drawn for bonus points.
5:50AM – I arrive at Bondi Junction on T25. It’s the same train back to Hurstville, leaving Bondi Junction at 5:56AM.
6:12AM – 2 police get on at Redfern. I decide not to take a photo, just in case. Will pass through here later anyway.
6:18AM – Terrible photo at Sydenham, can’t see a station name sign. Am moving down one carriage. Slightly further away from the police too. The worst I could get is a bit of a talking to, but even that could mean missing photos of some stations.
6:21AM – The police get off at Wolli Creek.
6:35AM – John and Colin just reached Helensburgh.
6:38AM – Made a mad dash from platform 2 to platform 4 at Hurstville. Was on the wrong end of the train to get to the stairs, but there’s only one path South of Hurstville and my new train has to wait for my previous train to pass through before the path is clear. So this was always going to be a 2 minute transfer, despite both trains arriving almost simultaneously. Am now on my way to Cronulla where I’ll meet up with John and Colin.
6:52AM – Hit my head on the luggage rack. Ouch.
6:55AM – I got my first “what are you doing?” from another passenger.
7:13AM – Seems I didn’t notice the 7:13AM train to Sutherland, so am catching it instead of the 7:20AM. That means I’m not meeting up with John and Colin as expected. I am off plan now, but running ahead of time, so it’s a problem I’m happy to have.
7:30AM – Didn’t manage to snag the 7:29AM service, but it wouldn’t have sped up my journey because I’d just be waiting longer at Waterfall (nor could I go on to Helensburgh as there was no train that would get me back in time to keep to my schedule). So instead I have a much more relaxing 11 minute wait for the next train to Waterfall.
7:35AM – I’ve missed the target plates on 2 of the trains I’ve been on so far. Luckily I’ve only taken Tangaras, and did get a photo of my first train (which also happened to be my second train when it turned around at Bondi Junction), so I have proof of using a Tangara for points. (NOTE: At this point I thought you only got points the first time you rode one train type, and then got no points for subsequent trains of that type. Instead you got points for each train you take, but more points for rarer trains.)
7:56AM – Made it to Waterfall. Still need to stop at Como at Oatley on the way back, and then I’ll have finished the Eastern Suburbs/Illawarra Line.

8:27AM – Stopped at Como and Oatley to finish the line. Now for a relaxing 25 minute ride into Redfern.
8:37AM – A medical emergency at Lidcombe has caused delays for inbound Inner West Line trains and outbound North Shore Line trains. Luckily, my next train is an outbound Inner West Line train, and these are still running to schedule.
8:48AM – Approaching Redfern. The plan is to take an Inner West Line train to Carramar and then a Bankstown Line train back to the City Cicle. That’s 37 stations in about 2 hours. I’m currently on 33/176 stations, so that would put me on 70/176 or about 40% done.
9:09AM – Train is 1 minute late. Just saw 3 Waratahs go past, but I get an S-Set. Boooo. Good thing the temperature is still reasonable. If it was midday and approaching 30 then I’d prefer something with air con.
10:00AM – I have some slack in the schedule, so I stay on my train throughout Cabramatta to get it out of the way early (and maybe score some additional points). Get checked for my ticket by police while I’m there. My second run in with police so far today, but no issues either time (except for the missed photo at Redfern, which I had to get later).
10:08AM – Millenium Train! The platform is too short to take a photo of the target plate. I’ll have to grab that when I get to Wynyard (I have a 14 minute wait for a train there). I’ve now taken S, T, and M set trains today. There are loads of Waratahs around and there’s a chance I’ll get an Endeavour. So right now it’s OSCARs and V-Sets which I’m missing. Am planning on a short incursion into the Blue Mountains, so that’s my best bet. More train types equals more points!
10:40AM – Just noticed another opportunity to gain some time. If I can catch the 1:13AM North Shore Line service from Wynyard, which is timetables to leave 1 minute before I arrive, then I reach Epping 15 minutes earlier. That puts me in the running for the negative one minute transfer at 3:41PM at Clyde. But if I miss that, then it’s back to schedule.
11:16AM – My train was 2 minutes late, so no chance of getting the other train, which would have had to have been 3 minutes late. Real time data wasn’t working, and I didn’t want to risk not getting a photo of the Millenium Train’s target plate. That gives me a 12 minute wait till my next train. Not enough for a decent toilet break. But it should be enough to do a big enough update on how things are going. Withwynyard (and Cabramatta) I’m up to 71/176. He next key point is at 12:50PM at Hornsby. I need to arrive at least 2 minutes before my scheduled 12:52PM arrival time, and/or for the 12:50PM train to Epping to be at least 2 minutes late.
12:30PM – Finally reach Berowra. Train is running a few minutes late, so my 13 minute layover is more like 9. Not really enough time for a safe toilet break, so that will have to wait. Spent the last 3 hours on 3 trains, over an hour on each. But this next leg involves lots of transfers in quick succession. Am arriving at Hornsby at 12:52PM, but if I can get the 12:50PM train from there then it enables another opportunity later in the afternoon. I’m taking a guess at which carriage will be in front of the stairs for a mad dash from platform 1 to platform 3.
12:52PM – There was no train on platform 3 when I arrived, but there was enough time for a toilet break and the toilets were unlocked. Hurray! The difficulty in making this transfer (or the one at Epping later on at 1:56PM) is that the train I’m transferring to is about to start its run and so is very unlikely to be running late. My best bet is the fourth and final opportunity, the zero minute dash at Lidcombe.


1:34PM – With North Ryde done (102/176) that’s half the Northern Line completed. Now I have to back track and finish the lower Northern Line. If luck is on my side, I might get the earlier train at Epping (I need to be at least 3 minutes ahead of schedule), but for reasons outlined above I highly doubt it.
1:37PM – 6 minute layover at Chatswood and then a train back to Epping. Hopefully this train isn’t late!
1:39PM – Bumped into a friend at Chatswood who was on his way to Macquarie Park, so we traveled along together. In other good news, the train was an OSCAR. That ticks off one of the two intercity train sets I need. Hopefully I’ll get a V-Set when I head out West later today.


2:11PM – There was no way I was going to make the earlier train. But I’m now on my first Waratah. Heading towards Strathfield, where the transfer is 4 minutes. Doable, so long as I’m not running late.
2:38PM – I got to Strathfield 2 minutes early. So that was a really easy connection. On to Lidcombe to meet up with John and also Craig, who is joining John for a portion of today.
2:45PM – A brief scare as the train doors close 5 minutes before the train is scheduled to leave. We all jump on quickly and start moving to the front of the train via the inside doors. (This is an S-Set, yuck!)
2:55PM – The three of us have a chat and discuss the day so far before a few photos at Olympic Park. I realise that the train back at Lidcombe that arrives at the same time as the Olympic Park train does is running about 2 minutes late, so I make a dash for it. John and Craig have to head East to cover a few more stations before going to Carlingford, so we part early.

Olympic Park

3:06PM – I make the early train to Clyde. Having a late running train is good for me making the connection, but if it’s too late then I’ll miss the connection at Clyde for Carlingford. But it’s only 2 minutes late, so I should just make it.
3:13PM – I make the Carlingford train at Clyde quite comfortably. Even better for me is the news that the next train to Clyde is also running late. Ordinarily it arrives 1 minute before I would, but it’s running 5 minutes late. If I make that train then I can finish by 9:22, which is incredibly early! I’m very excited by the prospect.
3:48PM – The 3:42 train was 5 minutes late, so I managed to get it. I am now scheduled to finish 62 minutes early!
4:00PM – Colin discovers that I’m on this train and finds me. We spend the rest of the train trip talking about his previous attempts, this is this fifth, as well as his fourth hour attempt at the suburban and intercity network.
4:32PM – The train terminates early at Penrith. I can still finish at the original time, but can also add some extra Blue Mountains stations without making that finish time any later. The plan is to go out to Blaxland, but Warrimoo is also an option. A quick check on Google maps shows that Warrimoo is an island platform, so a cross platform transfer could be an option. I’ll watch the train times carefully. Colin has decided to cut his losses and try again tomorrow.
4:50PM – On a Blue Mountains train. Heading to Blaxland at least.
5:03PM – I get off one stop early at Glenbrook (133/176 plus 2 extra). It was an accident, but timing was looking pretty tight anyway, so it’s was probably a good move.


5:15PM – On the train heading back to Sydney. It didn’t stop at Lapstone, and I think it might even run express to Parramatta. I get the feeling e trains on this line might no longer be running to timetable. I really don’t want to give up now.
5:18PM – The train now skipped Emu Plains. This may not be too bad. I can still get a connecting train to Richmond at Parramatta. But I’ve now got no idea when I’ll finish. Still aiming for before 10:30PM
5:22PM – The train stopped at Penrith! I do some quick checks on TripView and it looks like the next train from here to Blacktown gets there in time for a connecting train to Richmond. Might even be possible to finish earlier than 10:24PM if my connecting train at Glenfield is 3 minutes late.
5:32PM – There’s a train to Blacktown in 2 minutes. It gets there 6 minutes before the next train to Richmond. Looks like I would have missed that Richmond train if I’d stayed on till Parramatta. It was a quick decision to get off at Penrith, and luck seems to be back on my side.
5:47PM – I’ve got a 6 minute layover and there’s a McDonalds here. I decide to wait till Richmond, which has a longer layover and also has a McDonalds. As Blacktown has 2 sets of platforms, I need to exit the gated section, which means my first use of my ticket since the police checked me for a ticket at Cabramatta earlier this morning. In my original plan I didn’t change at Blacktown, either to or from a Richmond train, so I wouldn’t have needed my ticket again until the end of the day.
5:55PM – I’ve decided to get the Schofields train and then change for the Richmond train. Mainly to spice things up a bit. Still not tired. Have 4 cans of red bull in case I need them, but haven’t needed any yet.
6:03PM – The next train is a Waratah. Woooo!
6:15PM – I’m pretty set on my timetable. I doubt that the East Hills train at Glenfield will be 3 minutes late, but it’s not out of the question. And the platform layout of Glenfield makes it one of the few stations where this could happen.
6:26PM – Reached Richmond. That makes 142 stations out of 176, plus 2 bonus stations. Time for a McDonalds break. Will try to upload a video.
6:44PM – Back on the train for the return journey to Granville didn’t get enough time to upload the video. Will do it when I get home tonight. It’s me running across Clyde to get the train that would put me an hour ahead. Still need to stop at Toongabbie, Pendleton Hill, and Wentworthville, then that’s the Western Line done. John is on track to finish at 10:35PM, shortly after me at 10:24PM. Will see who has the most points, I think he will.
7:35PM – Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, and Wentworthville round off the Western Line. 145/176 +2
8:30PM – My train from Granville has reached Glenfield and terminated. The East Hills train I was hoping would be at least 3 minutes late is running 26 minutes late! This is good, as the Glenfield platform layout is not quite as I expected, and I wouldn’t have been able to do a cross platform transfer. Instead the plan is now to take the next South Line train down to Campbelltown, then an Endeavour from Campbelltown to Macarthur. There I’ll catch the late running East Hills train which I mentioned earlier (it turns around at Macarthur, so it running late means I’ll be able to get on that train instead of the next one).
8:55PM – Arrived at Campbelltown on a C-Set. Just add the Endeavour and that means every train type except for K-Set. Doing well!
9:00PM – How easily fooled I am! I didn’t realise the Endeavours left from a different platform hidden away at the back. So I instead caught the late running East Hills train, which arrived at about the same time. The good news is that I’m currently on track to finish at 10:08PM. Which would give a total time of 16 hours and 21 minutes. I’m quite pleased with that.
9:05PM – Leaving Macarthur. I’m on 160/176 stations, with 2 bonus stations. ETA is still 10:08PM
9:39PM – Did I say 10:08PM? Turns out I need to change to an all stations train. So make that 10:16PM. Though that’s still earlier than the unmodified 10:24PM goal at the start of the day.
12:06AM – We head to the pub across the road to work out how many points we all got. John had most of his day on in an excel spreadsheet on his tablet already, and had inputted some of mine and Colin’s based on our plans. We managed to work out where Colin was based on common trips we each made with him. I manage to come out on top with 193 points, while John gets 158 points. Colin is disqualified for not completing all stations. I then caught the last 372 bus of the day back home, having caught the first one in that morning.


It seems I named this post with the wrong date. It has been corrected from the 2nd to the 3rd of October.

Overall the day ran quite smoothly, John commented that he did not miss any connections due to delays, but did get on the wrong train at one point which ended up adding about 40 minutes to his total time. The early delays actually benefited me, allowing me to catch both the late running Lidcombe to Clyde train and then also the late running Clyde to Emu Plains train. However, that second train was running so late that it terminated early and prevented me from getting to Emu Plains on time. Had it reached Emu Plains then it would have been a very tight connection at Emu Plains and then Blacktown, but I might still have finished half an hour earlier even if I had missed one of those two connections. The other major delay I experienced was on the East Hills Line, which again enabled me to catch an earlier service when that train was running late, enabling me to finish at 10:14PM instead of my then ETA of 10:24PM.

All up, I took the following train types:

A-Set: 7
C-Set: 1
H-Set: 1
M-Set: 1
S-Set: 7
T-Set: 10
V-Set: 3

John also pointed out that since I did the North Shore Line first and the Northern Line second, that it was a waste of time to travel all the way from Epping to Chatswood and back. I could have gone into North Ryde and changed there on the underground island platform, catching the previous train. This would have also enabled the opportunity to make the negative 1 minute transfer at Clyde without having to make the zero minute transfer at Lidcombe that I was successful in achieving.

Speaking of which, here is the video of my mad dash at Clyde from platform 1 to platform 5.

All Day Challenge (October 2013)

Posted: October 1, 2013 in Personal
Tags: ,
Sydney Trains network map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Kypros 1992)

Sydney Trains network map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Kypros 1992)

This Thursday, the writer of Transport Sydney will be joining a few other brave souls in attempting the All Day Challenge (previously known as the Cityrail Challenge) and try to travel to all 176 train stations in the Sydney Trains network in a single day. This is one of the final opportunities to do so under the current timetable before the new timetable comes into effect on 20 October. Under the new timetable, Inner West Line trains will no longer operate past Homebush, but the Cumberland Line will operate all day rather than just during peak hour.

Facebook group has been setup and rules posted. In brief, the rules are:

  • Participants must begin and end at Central Station.
  • All 176 stations in the Sydney Trains network must be passed at least once on a train that stops at that station
  • Travel must be by train only. Leaving a station is allowed for breaks, but travel must recommence from that station
  • Points are awarded for being first to stop at a station, travelling on different train sets, being first back to Central, etc

Anyone wanting to keep track on the day can either follow the action on the Facebook page or on Twitter with the hash tag #AllDayChallenge.