How might the SWRL work?

Posted: October 23, 2013 in Transport
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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).

  1. mich says:

    “This makes it an unlikely choice, if passengers are required to make transfers then it should be for those with non-CBD destinations.”

    This seems to be a novel principle. If this is so, why are there even trains on the Cumberland line, at all ?

  2. Mich – because Cumberland Line services are supplementary to, rather than replacements for, direct services to the CBD. All stations on the Cumberland Line have regular direct services to the CBD

  3. Rails says:

    I remember seeing early documentation for the SWRL showing 4 tph via the East Hills/ Airport line and 4 tph via the Cumberland line.

  4. Simon says:

    What I remember is that SWRL services via were to take over serving Panania, East Hills and Holsworthy so a faster service to Campelltown. I thought the South Line trains were to extend to the SWRL also. I don’t remember a change to the Cumberland line being planned, otherwise we didn’t need all those flyovers.

    You’re Cumberland line option seems a pretty good trade, actually, so long as we actually get around to removing the silly Campbelltown via Granville trains for 4tph via East Hills.

  5. Alex says:

    I think rerouting the majority of Cumberland services to the SWRL would be inconsistent with the primary rationale for the Cumberland line, at least in the short term.

    The Cumberland line was originally intended to provide intra-regional links between major Western Sydney centres such as Blacktown, Westmead, Parramatta, Liverpool and Campbelltown and was the first (and still the only) major cross-regional rail service in Sydney when it opened in the 1990s. Rerouting it to run from Leppington would remove Campbelltown as the southern terminus, deleting one of these major centres from the service.

    However in the longer term as Leppington and the SW sector develop, diverting some Cumberland services to the SWRL might make more sense. The real game changer however would be a second Sydney airport, assuming that one is built at Badgerys Creek. The SWRL would almost certainly be extended to the airport site and if one of its objectives is to service Western Sydney then running at least some services direct to Parramatta would be critical.

    The only downside is that this would be a circuitous route which would take longer than express services to the city via the East Hills line. Incidentally in the context of planning for a potential second airport I think the East Hills line is the most likely option for the SWRL, as it could eventually provide both a fast(ish) link from the airport to the CBD as well as easy airport-to-airport transfers.

    Actually the new Cumberland Line timetable is a vast improvement on the pathetic levels its services had been gradually reduced to. Previously I recall there were two or three services in each direction daily; now there are 24 weekday services starting from Campbelltown and 25 from Blacktown or Schofields, all basically on a half-hour frequency (though still none on weekends).

    The increased number of these services starting or terminating in Schofields rather than Blacktown is interesting. In each direction in the off-peak period there is now a half-hour service providing about half the services, contributing to a quarter-hour frequency between Schofields and Parramatta in the off-peak. This is a secondary benefit of the Cumberland line; providing increased frequency for outer suburban stations without contributing to increased congestion closer to the city, particularly from Strathfield in.

  6. MrV says:

    $2b for that pathetic extension. Sydney sure knows how to get worse value for money with every project.
    Retaining S-sets for peak hour is a stroke of genius, when could possibly be a better time to operate trains that are basically falling apart.

  7. Ray says:

    I don’t see any mention of Revesby, which is supposed to be the new East Hills Line terminus with its new turnback, for all stations’ services via the Airport Line.

    I think it is essential that all Macarthur/Campbelltown as well as SWRL services (and you can also include NSW Trainlink services) run via the East Hills Line to the CBD via either Sydenham or the Airport Line for the most direct and fastest travel times. This is particularly relevant if the SWRL is extended to a new Badgerys Creek Airport, which is looking more of a probability, so that the fastest service can be provided to the CBD as well as the option of a direct connection with the existing Sydney Airport. It’s just common sense. South Line services via Granville should start and terminate at Glenfield. I agree that the Cumberland Line should continue to service the major Western Sydney Regional Centres from Campbelltown to Blacktown and it would also make sense if some additional services were connected to a new airport via the SWRL, but the link with Campbelltown should be maintained.

    But the dilemma is that this operating pattern, particularly to the CBD via Sydenham, will be totally compromised if the government’s proposed metro conversion of the Illawarra Local tracks to Hurstville eventuates. The option of running East Hills Line services via Sydenham will be cut off completely and all services, both local and express, will be forced onto the Airport Line. This defeats the whole strategy of quadruplicating the East Hills Line to Revesby as part of the Clearways Program. Whilst the current quad may provide some relief by allowing express services to overtake the slower all stations services between Revesby and Turrella, it will not realise the full potential to separate slow and fast services as was originally intended. It will also permanently deny Southern NSW Trainlink services access via the East Hills Line to and from Sydney Terminal.

    It again demonstrates how the government’s “Fixing the Trains” proposal for a 3 tier system has not been thought through and unless they have a change of heart, future generations will forever be paying the price for their ineptitude.

  8. Simon says:

    Hear here, Ray.

  9. Alex says:

    @Ray, I agree with your critique of the NWRL and its implications for services south and south west of the CBD including the SWRL.

    The Government appears to be using the NWRL to break up Sydney Trains both literally and figuratively for eventual privatisation. If this is their policy goal then it could be achieved with considerably more finesse than the blunt instrument of driving an incompatible rail line through the heart of the existing system.

    The determination to make it so incompatible suggests an ideological pursuit (eg, break up the traditional CityRail culture) rather than a rational objective, but ironically it might make privatisation of the existing system that much harder. A more compatible NWRL would give its owner the opportunity to take over other parts of the system to integrate with the NWRL but with the specifications as they stand there would be little incentive for them to do so. I suppose the government could attempt to franchise the other segments of the system but these would face the sort of constraints that you describe and would be less attractive.

    About the only upside I can see for the government’s current approach to the NWRL is that it has greatly improved the prospect for a second harbour crossing. The operator of the NWRL will demand direct access to the CBD for metro trains and if there is a separate private operator of the North Shore line they will want to preserve the current direct access for double-deckers to the CBD as well.

  10. TandemTrainRider says:

    My understanding – I *think* from the original EIS documents but I;’m not sure because I can’t find them now – was the SWRL was approved on the basis it would be operated with 4tph via Granville as an extension of the Main South route, and 4tph via East Hills on completely new paths. This would require 10-12 new train sets.

    I also understand (not sure why now) that this plan has been ditched and from initiation there will only be the 4 trains per hour extended from the main south with interchanges to express vai East Hills services at Glenfield. I presume this was primarily in response to the lack of development on the corridor and low anticipated patronage. Also to save money buying new trains.

  11. Ray says:

    Yes Alex, it is all about ideology and the government doesn’t give a bugger about the long term consequences of their “metro” conversion strategy. Any transport planner worth half his salt could see how flawed this plan is.

    If they were really being consistent, you would have thought that they would also have considered converting the SWRL and East Hills Line to “metro” operation (not that I’m advocating it) so that it would eventually link up with the NWRL via a new cross harbor tunnel.

    As it now stands, the future extension of the NWRL towards the Richmond Line seems to have slipped under the radar. Whether it is intended to connect directly with the Richmond Line at Riverstone or cross it at Schofields heading towards the Western Line in the vicinity of Mount Druitt, it would have to be a “metro” line to be compatible with the NWRL. A “metro” line some 60 km in length is not exactly typical of traditional “metro” systems.

    With the prospect of the SWRL being extended to a Badgerys Creek airport (as heavy rail), the long term strategy of creating a rail orbital line linking up the SWRL and NWRL through Western Sydney would be placed in jeopardy because of the incompatibility of the different systems.

  12. Rails says:

    Ray, why are you suggesting that this Government is ideologically linked to a “Metro conversion strategy”? Its all been around for many years before the current mob got in. It has been developed by the same Transport planners that worked for the previous Government and the ideas are not new. The Liberals actually came in to Government wanting to expand the Double Decker network but got the same good sell that the previous Labor Government got when they pushed the same kind of single deck plans (the current plans are better though) and so they changed their mind.The conversion of the line to Hurstville was the first of the lines that the planners wanted and that was first touted years ago. They have reviewed a number of lines for conversion to Single Deckers actually but the East Hills and SWRL make no sense at all so why mention it? The Airport line to Revesby makes sense though. The NWRL has specific reasons as to why its best run as a Single Deck line, the East Hills/ SWRL lines have none. If the Government were truly “ideologically” insistent on “Metro” then yeah, they probably would build it as a Single Deck line but they are instead expanding the Double Deckers. Also again, just because it uses Single Deck trains does not make it a Metro. The extension towards the Richmond line also did not slip under the radar: You also are talking as if the second airport at Badgerys creek and a heavy rail line connecting it up are a done deal… News to me! I really don’t understand this obsession in Sydney of having to have all lines connect up as one continuous line (such as a CBD-Airport-East Hills-SWRL-NWRL-ECRL-North Shore-CBD orbital line), that is actually something to avoid IMO.

  13. Alex says:

    @Rails, you’re correct in stating that in this case it was the transport planners – or rather bureaucrats – that have pushed both the metro agenda and the privatisation ideology onto both the Labor and Coalition state governments, though both governments have certainly been complicit.

    In fact, starting with the first iteration of the NW metro via Rozelle, then the CBD metro to Rozelle and now the NWRL, the metro has become a solution in search of a problem. Instead of investigating high-capacity short routes in which a metro might add some value such as Parramatta Road and along the Anzac Road corridor to UNSW, the transport bureaucrats/government are pushing the metro for a long-haul outer-suburban corridor best suited to double-deck trains.

    I think there are a number of possible reasons for the metro obsession:

    1. The government of the day got badly burnt with the cost blow-out in constructing the Epping to Chatswood link, and swore never to let CityRail near another major project (though part of the reason for the cost increases was the decision to run under the Lane Cove River and Park);

    2. Having decided this, the bureaucrats reasoned that a single-deck metro would be cheaper to construct and the services would be quicker and more frequent, thus moving more people (though a number of these claims are inflated at best or spurious at worst);

    3. Being supposedly cheaper to build the metro would be easier to sell to the private sector as a viable proposition – and being single deck it is difficult to integrate with the current system, thus ensuring a future government can’t go back on the deal;

    4. In addition it is claimed that a metro would be cheaper to run and if it could be automated there would be no need for a unionised workforce – or indeed, any sort of workforce at all; and

    5. Above all the metro has been touted as a “new”, sexy transport mode, a way for Sydney to finally join all those other world cities that have them. Never mind that it will be in the wrong place…

  14. Rails says:

    The think is that both the original Anzac Metro, NW Metro and the CBD Metro were much closer to actual “Metro” trains than what we are getting now being not only Single Deck with 3 sets of doors but smaller trains with 4-5 carriages and longitudinal seating. This was in part necessary due to the route via Victoria road and through the CBD but it was what they wanted, a true Metro. The trains we are now getting for as part of the envisaged “Rapid Transit” Network starting with the NWRL are single deck and have 3 sets of doors but differ in only being slightly smaller than the Cityrail stock and 8 carriages with 2 + 2 seating offering much better frequency, faster loading/ unloading and much more standing space. These are really Single Deck Heavy Rail rather than the lighter weight “Metro” trains that the NW were originally going to get.

    These new Single Deck trains are not limited to shorter routes as you suggest, they can run long distance that would not be suitable for a “Metro” train. Part of the reason the original NW Metro was so wrong (there were some other serious issues with that plan too). If talking pure seating, the Single Deck trains with a 2 + 2 seating configuration can match numbers with the Double Deckers by running more trains while still offering the benefits of fast loading, more standing space and faster acceleration. I think what this line has become is a hybrid of the Double Deckers of the original Cityrail NWRL plan and the small Metro trains from the NW Metro plan. For the NWRL, ECRL, LNS and the second harbour crossing through to Redfern I think its the right selection. If you were to look at converting the Western line as was discussed in the early NW/CBD Metro days I would say that is completely the wrong form for that line and I would not support it.

    I have no doubt that what you say about being burnt on the ECRL is true, as is the desire to automate, cut costs and reduce union influence (none of which are bad things to me) but I think the reality is if the choice of Single Deck trains was only about Privatization, they could just get the private sector to run Double Decker trains, in fact I think they still could. Cityrail trains will not ever run down the NWRL but I don’t think saying no Double Decker could would be right. I don’t think the cost would be that different actually. However it would be the wrong form for that line although a completely different design of Double Decker to what we have now might also be a good compromise but that would cost and I am still not convinced it would be worth the effort over what they are building now. I am also not sure theses trains could deal with the grades which has played a big part in the decision I think. I also don’t actually think after what happened with Labor that “Metro” is well though of in Sydney at all. A lot of folks like Double Decker trains so I don’t think the choice is about popularity.

    Although Its funny, if you were to argue a line that is less suitable for running Single Deckers I actually think it would be the Bankstown line to Cabramatta but for some reason I’ve never heard anyone argue against the conversion of that line.The current network is a hybrid and doesn’t completely deliver for anyone, I think they are right to go down the three tier path. My issue is that the timeline for the second harbour crossing is too long and that they haven’t considered all the options for the changes south of the bridge. I think there are ways of integrating the Rapid Transport network to the existing network that enhances what we have and doesn’t disadvantage any existing line e.g. the Northern line. I hope that will be considered in time.

  15. Rails says:

    That should start with the “The thing is”

  16. Ray says:

    Rails, my response is:

    1. Read Alex’s post;

    2. You are correct in stating that when the NSW Liberals came to power, their initial strategy was to integrate the NWRL with the then CityRail double deck network. However, their submission to Infrastructure Australia to transfer funding to the NWRL from the Parramatta to Epping Rail link promised by the Gillard government during the 2010 Federal Election campaign was found wanting. One of the principal criticisms was the lack of an effective strategy to address capacity restraints on the North Shore Line from Chatswood to the CBD. Their financial business case for the proposal was also found to be inadequate and lacking in detail compared with submissions for projects made by other state governments. The fact that they had also ruled out the option of a connection with the Northern Line to allow direct access to the CBD via both Chatswood and Strathfield didn’t help their cause. To their credit, the then Labor government had belatedly proposed this option in their August 2010 submission to Infrastructure Australia.

    Although Infrastructure Australia offered to consult further with the NSW Transport bureaucracy to resolve the impasse, the NSW government instead, like a spoilt brat, picked up their bat and ball and said, stuff you, we’ll do it our own way, no doubt heavily influenced by the self interested transport bureaucracy and consultants. I suggest that the current blow-in transport planning “experts” recruited by Transport for NSW, who are basically unchanged (much to my disbelief) from the previous Labor government administration, don’t have any idea about future long term planning for the rail network compared with the long established planners in the Dept of Railways/State Rail /Railcorp who have a more intimate appreciation of how the NSW rail system has been and can be developed. It is regrettable that their expertise and knowledge has been sidelined.

    Although I don’t subscribe to the “metro” conversion strategy, I would have thought that the Inner West Line to Homebush would have been more of a priority than the IIlawarra Local Line to Hurstville, particularly when you consider the ramifications of compromising East Hills Line services from the south west.

    The “metro” conversion is ideological, with the ultimate objective to split up the system to more readily make it viable for privatisation. That is totally different to a franchising model such as in Melbourne. I don’t know of many urban transport systems in the world’s major cities which are privatised. But perhaps you can enlighten me.

    With regard to the SWRL, as it was already under construction when the Liberals came to power, they probably didn’t want to upset the applecart, but it seems strange that they would adopt a different strategy for the NWRL, despite the possibility that they could ultimately link up (as per the MREP).

    The suggestion that single deck trains have greater capacity than double deck trains because of their greater frequency is a myth. If you like to take the NWRL as an example, running 12 tph either as single or double deck wouldn’t make the slightest difference in dwell times, but would dramatically increased the line capacity with double deck trains. Even increasing the frequency to 30 tph for double deck trains (which would never be warranted) would have no negative impact on dwell times compared with single deck on the NWRL.

    With regard to the future extension of the NWRL, whilst the government has confirmed its long term strategy to preserve a public transport corridor through the Marsden Park area to Mount Druitt, it hasn’t actually identified the mode of operation. On the face of it, you would have to think it would be an extension of the proposed rapid transit system for the NWRL.

    This doesn’t sit well with the Draft Broader Western Sydney Employment Area strategy proposed by the Department of Planning & Infrastructure, which suggests a potential rail corridor via a future Badgerys Creek Airport site between the SWRL and the NWRL, two incompatible systems.

    I’m not saying that the Badgerys Creek Airport is a done deal, but all the recent media comment suggests that it is highly probable. So it is not unreasonable to allow for this contingency.

  17. Alex says:

    @Ray – thanks for expressing the argument much more elequontly than I did!

    @Rails -I have little to add to Ray’s comments except to say that while you are right about the CBD Metro being planned as a “light” metro, I’m fairly certain that the short-lived NW Metro was planned to use larger single-deck vehicles.

    In any case the point you make about these trains having higher capacity relies in part on them having more standing room, which implies that a significant percentage of passengers will be standing most of the way on a long-haul outer suburban line.

  18. Alex says:

    Sorry – that should be “eloquently” in the first line – shows how ineloquent I am!

  19. Simon says:

    Good to see a few people can see where Rails is wrong.

  20. It really didn’t take very long for a post about the SWRL to turn into a debate on the NWRL. I guess this means it’s time to do another post on the NWRL so at least the comments can stay on topic!

    For the record, I’m with Rails on this one – though that’s probably not a big secret.

  21. TandemTrainRider says:

    @Bambul, it’s interesting just how little controversy the SWRL induces. I suspect that’s because pretty much all operating paterns are possible with installed hardware, and any controversy won’t resonate until decisions on how to operate the line are revealed after contruction is complete.

    Yet in many ways the SWRL embodies all that is wrong with rail in NSW: specifically the outragous cost.

    Much of this capex could have and should ahve been deferred, because it won’t be needed for 20+ years, if ever. If it is needed, then the main driver would most likely be Badgery’s Creek airport, in which case NSW would have a reasonable prospect of tapping the feds on the should for the money to complete all the Glenfield flyovers.

    As for supporting @Rails, I find it all but impossible to agree with him on anything – other than blaming the metro ideology on the Libs: that agenda has had bi-partisan support. If anything, those pushing it have adapated the concept to appeal to LNP’s natural privitsation tendancies.

    As I see it, what we are ending up with on the NWRL is a lowest common denominator of all the competing ideologies. We get none of the benefits of any of them, but retain the disadvantages of all of them. As it stands the main productivity benefit of the new format still in the plan will be though reduced labour costs through automation at the expense of the (only) two productivity advantages CityRail has: 2+3 seating and *partial* double deck seating. I suspect the NWRL will end up being crewed by a unionised “driver” anyway (to address safety and operational problems arising from the design specs).

    Like so many other blindingly obvious issues, it seems to stem from a top down rather than bottum up approach to planning. Rather then the public service using empircal evidence to identify real problems and propose a range of possible solutions to the executive, we have the executive acting on anecdotal evidence (complaints from constituents and adverse media reports) influenced by lobyists and vested interests dictating “solutions” from the top down. The inevitable adverse consequences of such decisions are dealt with politically – one way or another.

  22. Alex says:

    One comment I forgot to make that’s relevant to both the NWRL and to some extent the SWRL is that despite our other differences I do agree with Rail’s puzzlement over the choice of the Bankstown line to be the one of the lines south of the CBD to be converted to metro single deck for connection to the NWRL. In fact a few people have commented on this.

    I don’t know what the best option is – and, let’s face it, the final decision is years away – but whatever the choice it will certainly have ramifications directly or indirectly for the SWRL. And if you are going to choose the Banstown line, why stop at Cabramatta, when Liverpool is only a couple of stations further away?

  23. MrV says:

    Assuming a 2nd harbour crossing is built for metro trains, why couldn’t they build an entirely new metro line that heads southward. Run it under Oxford St like say the original bradford plan to Randwick, Kingsford etc. The benefits of this is that you could slowly extend it station by station over a period of years, while keeping it operation.
    Hell the Lord Mayor after campaigning for so long for light rail, wants some key locations in a tunnel anyway – may as well build a metro.

    Also why would we adopt 3-door single deck carriages, when you may as well go for 4 and be done with it.

    These are a pretty nice example.

  24. Alex says:

    @MrV, what you suggest about building a new line south of the city for the metro may be logical, but as we have discussed, very little about the NWRL seems logical from a planning sense.

    From an ideological sense however it is very logical. Clearly the government isn’t that interested in building new railways after the SWRL and the NWRL, both of which it has electoral commitments to complete. The Randwick/Kingsford corridor is to be serviced by light rail and all other transport “solutions” appear to roads-based.

    In this context a long-term strategy to convert an existing rail line south of the CBD to connect to the NWRL makes more sense, as even with a private operator there would have to be additional investment by the government. Ths approach also assists the government in breaking up the existing network for privatisation – though as I indicated earlier this is a pretty blunt instrument to achieve a policy outcome.

  25. Rails says:


    My response was to Alex’s post?

    I am not quite sure of the relevance of your post regarding the submission to IA? However I agree that the submission was not actually good enough, you’re testing my memory on this one but from what I recall it was really just a slight rehash of what the previous NSW Labor Government had already submitted once they had dropped the Metro rail strategy in favour of the WEX/ CBD Relief line. However also to be fair it was pretty soon after the NSW Liberals got into Government and the Gillard Government was pretty clear that they were not going to fund the NWRL in any way or form, they wanted the PERL despite the fact that IA stated that the PERL was a long term proposition at best and even the NSW Labor Government had it in the over 10 year plus category. I’ve seen so many reports that said it did not add up yet it was suddenly our highest transport priority 3 days out from an election? The PERL is a perfect candidate for Single Deck and that is very possible integrated with the NWRL. The existing Double Deck proposal was very limited and really a waste of time in that form.

    The Northern line connection had been ruled out by the previous state Government and then re-added at the last minute for that proposal to IA. In the end let’s be honest, that was a short term option at best, the last corridor that needs extra trains sent to added to it from another region is the main west line… If you’re serious about a long term solution then you want a second harbour crossing to move as much traffic off that corridor as possible and that includes Northern line and Central coast traffic. I think the Government is for once taking a long term view, what so many on forums support is short term views that are often more about what suits them then what’s best for our city long term.

    I actually agree, the inner west is a prime candidate for Single Deck trains but I understand why it was not included in their plans, there are solid reasons it was omitted (although it did appear in earlier Single Deck conversion plans). However I have a solution that I believe would work much better than what has been proposed and it does include the inner west line and doesn’t include the line to Hurstville, as mentioned though that Hurstville connection is something the planners have wanted for a long time and it always appears in any Single Deck conversion plan they come up with. Also as I mentioned there is nothing stopping a private sector running Double Deck trains.

    Why is there a problem with the proposed corridor between the NWRL and the SWRL via Badgerys creek? It wouldn’t be continuous but there would be an interchange between the two systems, nothing wrong with that? As I said, the SWRL is correct to be in Double Decker format and so is the fast link to Badgerys Creek from the CBD and the existing airport, that doesn’t affect the NWRL unless you’re one of those people who think it has to be one continuous line.
    I am not sure what you’re saying about dwell times, what are you comparing? If you’re comparing Cityrail Double Deckers to the proposed Single Deckers for the NWRL (which is all that matters in this context) then I have to say that Cityrail Double Deckers have terrible dwell times with 2 sets of doors per carriage, the stairs and the 2 + 3 seating arrangement restricting them in this area. How are you going to run 30 tph double deckers on the NWRL/ Second Harbour Crossing? You can’t, it would top out at 24 tph at best (more likely 20 tph). I also don’t think they will be able to make the grade of the steep NWRL tunnel from Cherrybrook to Epping, I am open to correction on that but it’s my understanding. I’ve seen plenty of evidence to say the double deckers are definitely not going to be able to run under the harbour due to the grade which is partly the reason that they have gone down this path, it’s not just about the NWRL but it’s also about that under harbour crossing. They will also handle the ECRL grades nicely. The NWRL in Single Deck form has a very nice proposed travel time to the CBD, I don’t think the Double Deckers could match it with the current design.

    So really the only way the NWRL and second harbour crossing could be served by double deckers is if it was run via the bridge or a new line slung under the bridge, the bridge is currently confirmed to be limited to 20tph for Double Deckers although there has been talk of 24 tph briefly I haven’t seen that actually confirmed. The Single Deck under harbour crossing has been talked of as running 30 tph however it really should be capable of 40 tph, now that the line will be automated with the claim of running more trains I can’t see that being an issue. You could run that 40 tph to the NWRL but I don’t think it’s needed or you could actually use that extra 20 tph for a future Northern Beaches line. If you wanted you could run 20 tph for the NWRL to the CBD, 10- 20 tph for the PERL to St Leonards or Victoria Cross (North Sydney) and then have another 20 tph from the Northern Beaches to Victoria Cross and then join the 20 tph from the NWRL into the CBD and beyond.

    The NWRL frequent train configuration, 8 carriage form and 2 + 2 seating layout means that it will be able to seat the passengers from the outer NW suburbs and as far in as Epping, you may be standing if you’re joining from the ECRL stations and the Lower North Shore but that’s fine but then also keep in mind that the line has so many employment centres and major destinations along its route so there are going to be a lot of movement, anywhere up to 60% of passengers may get off before the CBD, no other line is likely to have that sort of turnover, they are more likely just to get on at suburban stops and not get off until the CBD. I see so many just argue that the NWRL is an outer suburban line so it has to be Double Decker without actually considering the details of the line itself. I have no love of Single Deckers or Double Deckers or light rail or buses, they are all just transport modes and it’s a matter of choosing the right mode for the requirements, the political guff means nothing to me either, I only care about the transport result for Sydney and I don’t at all believe we are best served by a one form fits all solution. I also believe that if the Government didn’t get the cost down and the private sector involved then we would have no NWRL, we would just be talking about it for the next 20 years as we have for the last 20…

  26. Rails says:


    I was pretty sure that even the NW Metro was 5 carriages with the option of extending to 6 in the future but I am open to correction on that. They were physically smaller than the Cityrail trains and I am pretty sure had longitudinal seating, however that project changed a lot over time so I may be wrong. However, one thing you may not be aware of is that when they actually did the work on the CBD part of the CBD Metro and its extension from Rozelle to Epping and on to the NW, the Barangaroo station due to its location had quite short platforms that I believe limited it to 5 carriage trains. Although near the end of the CBD Metro fiasco they actually removed the NWRL from that plan altogether.

    Also the Rapid Transit network ends at Cabramatta because the Main South line through Liverpool remains Double Deck and the two are not to be mixed. They would need to add extra track from Cabramatta to Liverpool and that may be considered in the future should that line be built but probably not needed straight up.

    I also do understand why they are building the Bankstown line as Single Deck but if the argument against is purely based on distance then surely people should be upset about the Bankstown line? Unlike the NWRL the vast majority of its passengers would be CBD bound so they certainly get less benefit from the Single Deck form.

    In the end, a future Government could always return to the MREP plan and just connect the NWRL and Second Harbour Crossing to the Airport line terminating at Revesby. It has a nice match with Airport stations and the global economic corridor and would probably remove a lot of the criticism of this plan. However you would miss out on some benefits for the Cityrail network that this plan can deliver.

  27. Alex says:

    @Rails – stand corrected, at least in relation to the number of cars that were proposed for the NW Metro.

    The 2008 NW Metro Demand Definition Report for the project stated:

    “5.2.5 North West Metro service operation

    “Considerable investigation was conducted into the appropriate design of the North West Metro system to match capacity with expected demand. The service assumptions described here are consistent with those reported in the Product Definition Report (PDR).

    “Rolling stock

    “ƒThe North West Metro will operate with 5-car sets from day of opening with capacity increased through service frequency increases

    ƒ”Each 5-car set will have a seated capacity of 360 and total capacity, including standing, of 965 (equivalent to 268 % of seated capacity); this configuration is a major difference between Metro and CityRail trains where seated capacity per train is higher.”

    I can’t find the PDR online and the Demand Definition Report is an incomplete draft, but it’s clear they were considering 5-car sets. In my defence however there is no mention of predominantly longitudinal seating and the photo used in the original glossy Sydney Link brochure was of the interior of an unspecified metro car with mixed conventional 2 + 2 and longitudinal seating. That along with some of the boasts about future capacity led me to conclude that the NW Metro trains were going to be bigger than those planned for the CBD Metro.

    The capacity figures that were proposed for the NW Metro trains are interesting however, with over 60% of the maximum capacity made up of standing passengers. Each car would have had a maximum of 193 passengers, comprising 72 seated and 121 standing. I’m not sure how that compares to the current plans for the NWRL, but it suggests that a significant proportion of passengers would have had to stand for long distances if the NW Metro had been built.

  28. Alex says:

    @Rails – sorry – that first line should start “I stand corrected”.

  29. Simon says:

    MrV, 4 doors/carriage/side does reduce the amount of room for seating. Alright if most people are happy to stand anyway say for an Eastern Suburbs metro but I think it would be a bridge to far for either the NWRL or SWRL.

  30. TandemTrainRider says:

    Haven’t we done all this before over at The page?

    At the very least can we take it back to the NWRL page?

    @bambul, I’d like to know a bit more about what and (more importantly) why you see things in common with Rails. I *think* I know why I disagree with Rails on so many levels: it’s that (IMHO) the premises on which he bases a lot of his ideas are just completely wrong.

    Also @bambul, as someone else who (thinks he) can read a balance sheet, I’d love to see you turn your forensic accounting skills onto some of these transport issues, and give some of this excellent blog a bit of monetary meat!

  31. Rails says:

    Thank you for the research on that information Alex, there had been so many proposals and variations regarding all this stuff back then that its easy to get the details mixed up when you’re relying on memory only.

  32. Alex says:

    @Rails – it’s interesting how much stuff is out there still on the various metro plans for Sydney. However a lot of it has disappeared completely, due no doubt to the efforts of various governments to rewrite or erase entirely some of the more embarrassing moments in their history (shades of 1984).

    There’s some documents floating around on the Planning NSW website but not much as far as I can see on Transport NSW’s site. However it is still possible to resurrect some of the original material using the Wayback service, which is how I found the brochure for the NW Metro. Wayback is very useful for this, though it works best if you can input the exact website url (even if it is now defunct) rather than trying to search keywords through it.

    I would suggest to people that if they do come across this sort of material they should download and archive it in some way to preserve it. You certainly can’t rely on governments to do this.

  33. Rails says:

    Fantastic info Alex! Thank you kindly. I have started to try and download reports for the exact reasons you mention, a lot of the older stuff has disappeared.

  34. Ray says:

    I won’t get any further involved in tit for tat with regard to the pros and cons of the current plan for the NWRL, as it is getting off topic for this post and it’s already been debated ad nauseam on other posts. Just for those interested from an historical perspective in the evolution of the NWRL, I do have a copy of the Final Draft of the Cabinet in Confidence document “North West Metro – Preliminary Environmental Assessment Report” , which was publically released by Transport NSW after the abandonment of the CBD Metro. It’s a pdf file, but I’m not sure how to download it to this post. Could you help me out here Bambul?

  35. TandemTrainRider says:

    Thanks for that @Bamble. I missed your critique of EccoTransit’s “Unfit for Purpose”, and can see where you’re comming from there.

  36. mich says:

    I am surprised that the south line has only 2 trains an hour on the weekday offpeak, when it has 4 trains per hour on the weekend.

  37. mich says:

    ” I also don’t think they will be able to make the grade of the steep NWRL tunnel from Cherrybrook to Epping, ”

    If the double deck trains manage the grade from Epping to Pennant Hills, they can do the same to “Cherrybrook”, which is much further away.

  38. mich says:

    “”Each 5-car set will have a seated capacity of 360 and total capacity, including standing, of 965 (equivalent to 268 % of seated capacity); this configuration is a major difference between Metro and CityRail trains where seated capacity per train is higher.””

    So how does this compare, for example, to trains like Melbourne has ?

    And how does it compare to the number of people standing on current M2 bus services ?

  39. Okay, so I’m not a timetabling genius but this just an idea:

    1. All off-peak service on the South Line would be re-routed onto the new link (2tph).

    2.During peak, this would increase to 4tph, with 1tph on the Cumberland line, resulting in the Cumberland line having a 20 minute service frequency. That way, passengers heading north have a direct connection. The Airport line would run 4tph from MacArthur, but add an additional service, possibly 2, originating at Glenfield. That way, passengers would also have a direct link to the city and an indirect link to the Airport (the additional Airport trains would run via Sydneham)

    Option 2 would see the Cumberland line run as it does now, with additional Airport line services operating on the link in addition to the South Line.

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