Monday: South West Rail Link to open next year

All stations and track on the South West Rail Link (SWRL) have now been completed, with 95% of signals and 80% of overhead wiring installed. The new line, which connects Glenfield to the South West Growth Centre and can be extended to a future airport at Badgerys Creek, is currently 12 months ahead of schedule and will open some time next year. It is also $100m under its $2.1bn budget. However, both the timetable and budget is still well above the original planned $688m cost with a 2012 completion date.

Tuesday: Bus depot sale rumours confirmed

Bus depots at Neutral Bay and Waverly could be up for sale, either as a land sale or by selling the air rights above them. Then Finance Minister (and now incoming Treasurer) Andrew Constance said that proceeds will be invested back into public transport services and infrastructure” (Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Investors queuing up for sale of prime Neutral Bay bus depot). This follows initial rumours from earlier this month.

Thursday: Opal exands to more buses in Sydney’s East

Five bus routes, 326, 327, 355, 361 and L24, will go-live with Opal over a two-week period from Monday 28 April. Opal enabled buses will have stickers identifying them (see image below). Pensioner Excursion Tickets, which entitle users to unlimited travel for $2.50 will no longer be sold onboard buses from 1 June 2014. However, pensioner Opal cards have not yet been released to the public, nor have concession Opal cards. Pensioner Opal cards will become available at some point in 2014.

Opal enabled buses can be identified by stickers on the front. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Opal enabled buses can be identified by stickers on the front. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Thursday: Transport Minister talks up light rail and harbour rail crossing

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has used the strong increase in demand for the Inner West light rail extension to Dulwich Hill to predict that the CBD and South East Light Rail may struggle to meet demand when it opens in 2019. The light rail line saw a 30% increase in patronage in the week following the opening of the extension. The comments were made in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in which she also noted her intention to begin the 2nd Harbour Rail Crossing project before the North West Rail Link is completed in 2019 and that the main beneficiaries of a Harbour Crossing will be user of existing lines due to the increased CBD capacity that it will provide. Many lines currently run at below their maximum capacity due to constraints in the network once trains reach the CBD.

Saturday: Transport Sydney receives its 2,000th comment

First time commenter AK left the 2,000th comment on this blog when posting in the comments section of the Badgerys Creek infrastructure and noise impacts post. He raised concern about aircraft noise and whether there is enough demand from Western Sydney to warrant an airport at Badgerys Creek.

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Comments
  1. MrV says:

    $184 million per km for SWRL. Something is very wrong with government accountability.

  2. MrV says:

    http://www.railway-technology.com/projects/toursbordeaux-high-speed-rail/

    Even this HSR line comes in at ‘just’ $33 million per km.
    Yes something is very wrong here.

  3. Tom says:

    Congratulations on a well run blog! The 2000 replies are testament to the quality of the posts.

  4. walterarmstrong says:

    $2.1 billion dollars for the SWRL? How long is it? In Perth (the most expensive city in Australia) it cost $1.6 billion to build a 72km rail line, including three kilometres of tunnels and rolling stock. My understanding is that the SWRL is not even half that length.

  5. Ray says:

    Or even a quarter.

  6. QPP says:

    The difficulty with comparisons between infrastructure projects is knowing what was and what wasn’t included in the overall stated cost

    The raw design & construction costs are only one part of the story – govt/transport agency admin costs, land costs, financing costs (even if public sector as there’s usually some internal accounting devices to be taken into account), start-up/training costs, initial operating costs, operating plant……there are a hundred different ways of adding up the “total” for a project.

    These aren’t standard and aren’t transparent. What figures are released are very often slanted one way or the other depending on who is quoting them and what their agenda is. Even for those of us at the pointy end of this type of project, it’s very hard to nail down useful comparators and benchmarks.

    It’s usually in the “other” costs (ie not the d&c) that the disparity lies; after all, we know on the SWRL that the two principal contracts (Glenfield Junction Alliance & Glenfield-Leppington D&C) were IRO $1bn together. That’s a lot of “other” costs which are ill defined and not clearly reported in the public domain

  7. MrV says:

    All very well QPP, but how does an 11.4km std gauge rail line cost $2 billion anywhere sane?. That is $175,000 per metre!. Maybe they are using rails made of gold of silver?
    (I forgot about it coming in $100million ‘under budget’ in my calcs above).

    Look at that HSR comparison, which includes all manner of structures along the 300km length. Even if that project came in 2.5x over budget it would still be half the cost of the SWRL on a per km basis.

  8. @MrV –

    I’m going to have a go at playing devil’s advocate here.

    I don’t have a solid source for this, but my understanding is that the upgrading of Glenfield Junction, which involved the complicated construction of two flyovers and restricted their construction to brief periods during weekend trackwork, accounted for about half the cost of the SWRL. Strip that out, and the 11.6km line costing $1bn is similar to the 12.6km Moreton Rail Link in Brisbane costing $1.15bn.

    Comparisons to the Mandurah Line have been made. Though that was a project that predates the mining boom (and the higher prices that came with it) and was built simultaneously with a freeway, keeping costs down. For better or worse, the Mandurah Line is in a league of its own, and it’s unfair to compare anything else to it.

    As an aside, one downside of building a rail line in the freeway median is that many stations along the line have virtually zero walk up catchment, relying almost entirely on park and ride as well as feeder buses for connectivity. This is probably the one major failing of the line.

  9. iamspam says:

    Bambul’s right, most of the money was spent on upgrading Glenfield station and the flyover. FWIW, the Glenfield-Leppington component was $642m.

    http://www.leighton.com.au/our-business/projects/south-west-rail-link

  10. QPP says:

    >>>All very well QPP, but how does an 11.4km std gauge rail line cost $2 billion anywhere sane?. That is $175,000 per metre!. Maybe they are using rails made of gold of silver?
    (I forgot about it coming in $100million ‘under budget’ in my calcs above).<>>Look at that HSR comparison, which includes all manner of structures along the 300km length. Even if that project came in 2.5x over budget it would still be half the cost of the SWRL on a per km basis.<<<

    Again as per above, what's in that figure? It looks like a figure relating to the PPP contract, but it won't be the full Capex + Opex for the duration of the concession. It looks like it relates to the Capex side of it only in so far as can be worked out from the link. So it's a raw D & C cost effectively. Even though the French are the leaders on HSR that still seems very cheap, given previous French comparators and other Euro HSR projects that are in the pipeline

  11. QPP says:

    >>>All very well QPP, but how does an 11.4km std gauge rail line cost $2 billion anywhere sane?. That is $175,000 per metre!. Maybe they are using rails made of gold of silver?
    (I forgot about it coming in $100million ‘under budget’ in my calcs above).<<

    I don't know

    You're being a bit harsh though. It's twin track, yes? So works out at about $89m per track km as an all-up cost. As per above, the d&C proportion of that comes out around $45-$50m per track km, it's what's in the "other" that is more opaque

    I personally think TfNSWs on-costs in terms of staff/admin are very high (there are a LOT of staff in TPD and NWRL (which acts as a separate entity within TfNSW) and some of their processes add a lot to other costs. Design approvals wastes at least 30% of the design budget of any project in the railway.

    Hard to see it adding up to $1bn though

  12. QPP says:

    >>>Look at that HSR comparison, which includes all manner of structures along the 300km length. Even if that project came in 2.5x over budget it would still be half the cost of the SWRL on a per km basis.<<<

    Again as per above, what's in that figure? It looks like a figure relating to the PPP contract, but it won't be the full Capex + Opex for the duration of the concession. It looks like it relates to the Capex side of it only in so far as can be worked out from the link. So it's a raw D & C cost effectively. Even though the French are the leaders on HSR that still seems very cheap, given previous French comparators and other Euro HSR projects that are in the pipeline

  13. Sam says:

    Good blog Bambul. Thanks.

  14. Tandem Train Rider says:

    > Again as per above, what’s in that figure?

    AFAIK, part of the $2bil budget for the SWRL included 10 new train sets, 8 to operate via East Hills on new paths, and 2 to extend the via Granville services out to Leppington. I understand they have made the operational decision to just do the latter for the time being, and in part this is the reason the option to extend the A-set order was not taken up.

    Like a lot of rail projects in NSW, it’s also hopelessly over-engineered. In the same way the line won’t need train sets for a 5min frequency sdervice for many decades, it won’t need the northern (and probably not the southern) flyovers for an other 15-25 years either. These elements should have been in the initial detailed design, but implemented in phase 2.

  15. michblogs says:

    The way to get a bonus…. Triple the original budget, and then come in slightly under that.

  16. michblogs says:

    “As an aside, one downside of building a rail line in the freeway median is that many stations along the line have virtually zero walk up catchment, relying almost entirely on park and ride as well as feeder buses for connectivity. This is probably the one major failing of the line.”

    Having only 2 stations on an 11 km line pretty much eliminates most of the “walk up” potential, too.

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