Archive for May, 2014

Monday: Lifts will make Arncliffe Station accessible

Four new lifts will be installed at Arncliffe Station, making it fully accessible, with construction to begin in 2015. The upgrade of the station will also include disabled parking, extra bike racks, and new bus and taxi, as well as kiss and ride shelters. It has been seen as a win for advocacy group the Sydney Alliance, which has been campaigning to make Arncliffe an accessible station.

Tuesday: 1,200 parking spaces to be added at almost 100 stations

Around 1,200 staff parking spaces will be re-allocated as commuter parking spaces at almost 100 stations over the next 12-18 months. The four stations which will receive the largest number of new parking spaces are Campbelltown (179), Blacktown (138), Penrith (138), and Liverpool (108). The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian explained that “we are listening to customers and we know this is one of the biggest issues they have every day – finding a car space close to their station is important so we can get more cars off the road and have more people using public transport”.

However, the move has been opposed by the union representing rail workers, who argue that this could affect on time running of the rail network. NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union State Secretary Alex Claassens said “we can’t have critical transport workers spending a half hour driving around looking for a car park when they need to be driving the next train”.

Thursday: 250,000 Opal cards now registered 

The 250,000th Opal card has been registered, with 2.2 million free trips taken as part of the 8 paid journey then the rest that week are free feature of Opal.

An adult Opal smartcard. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

An adult Opal smartcard. Click to enlarge.
(Source: Transport for NSW)

Opal cards can currently be used on all trains and ferries, with buses being progressively rolled out over 2014. Buses on which Opal can currently be used are those operating out of the Mt Kuring-gai and Waverly bus depots. However, depending on which route a particular bus is assigned to, Opal enabled buses are not always exclusively found on the routes that have been officially announced. Opal cards have been successfully used on non-officially Opal routes, though it is unclear whether it is considered a valid form of fare payment.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott is often quoted as wishing to be remembered as ‘the infrastructure prime minister’. However, he has also been criticised for redirecting infrastructure funding away from rail and towards roads.

“The Commonwealth government has a long history of funding roads. We have no history of funding urban rail and I think it’s important that we stick to our knitting, and the Commonwealth’s knitting when it comes to funding infrastructure is roads.”Tony Abbott, then Federal Opposition Leader (4 April 2013)

Transport solutions should come after transport problems are identified and the best remedy to that problem is worked out. In many cases, such as for outer suburban areas with dispersed trips, it is indeed better for road based traffic solutions. In other cases, such as in compact inner city areas or into dense urban cores, it makes a lot more sense to use rail based public transport as a solution. It’s also important to remember that good road construction can also lead to bus, pedestrian, and bicycle access which rail cannot provide on its own.

This means that opposing all roads projects on the basis that they are a road project is actually just as bad as opposing all rail or public transport projects on the basis that they aren’t roads. When it comes to road vs rail, ‘it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition’ as former Tourism & Transport Forum head Christopher Brown would say. That puts a big question mark against the government’s desire to fund roads exclusively.

Mr Abbott, would argue that the Federal Government is merely providing certainty on road infrastructure funding, thus allowing the state governments to fund urban rail projects. Though he also claims to want to provide the infrastructure which will provide the greatest economic value to the nation’s cities, and in many cases that is rail.

2014-05-22 Infrastructure Funding in the Budget

Source: Australian Government, Budget Paper 1

But how tilted towards road funding is the budget? The forward estimates over the next 4 years show a total of $26,846m for road projects, with $2,712m for rail projects. This is not quite 100% for roads, though it’s about as close as you can get. Melbourne public transport advocate Daniel Bowen once explained that ‘if you want more people on public transport, provide more public transport. If you want more people on the roads, build more roads’, and the latter is clearly where the Federal Government is heading.

Even with situations where an exception might have been made, the Government has stood firm. For example, the future airport at Badgerys Creek will receive $2.9bn of Federal funding for roads, but not a dollar for a future rail line, despite the fact that the airport is being pushed by the Federal Government.

The one area where the government remains open to rail funding is with its “asset recycling fund”, where it will top up any funding state Governments commit from the sale of existing assets. The Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs recently confirmed that these funds will not be restricted to road projects. The fund will contain about $5bn.

But even if every dollar of this goes towards rail projects, the federal government will still be allocating almost 80% of its infrastructure budget for land transport towards roads. It would seem that this government is one that wants more people on the roads, rather than more people on public transport.

The Government would be wise to reconsider this strategy.

Monday: Monorail re-born as part of NWRL

Parts of Sydney’s monorail, which was taken down late last year, have been used in the construction of the North West Rail Link (NWRL). 60 beams from the monorail have been converted into 29 girders, each 32m long, used to build a bridge at the location of the future NWRL Norwest Station so that cars can continue to travel through the area during the station’s construction.

Tuesday: Budget includes $30bn on land transport, 91% of it on roads

The 2014-15 Federal Budget includes $30bn of spending on land transport over 4 years, of which $26.9bn (91%) is for roads and $2.8bn (9%) is for rail. These form part of a $50bn infrastructure program over the next 6 years, of which $11.6bn is new spending. However, much of this has been achieved by re-allocating funding from rail projects to road projects, with Shadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese disputing the budget figures in what could be classified as the worst game of pictionary in Australian political history.

Budget forward estimates for road and rail spending. Click to enlarge. (Source: Budget 2014-15.)

Budget forward estimates for road and rail spending. Click to enlarge. (Source: Budget 2014-15.)

The budget included:

  • A return to fuel excise indexation, raising an additional $2.2bn over 4 years.
  • The creation of an asset recycling fund for states that privatise state assets to pay for new infrastructure, worth $5bn over 5 years.
  • The previously committed funding for WestConnex, worth $1.5bn, as well as a $2bn low interest loan to the NSW Government.
  • The previously committed funding for NorthConnex, worth $405m.
  • A roads package to support a future airport at Badgerys Creek, worth $2.9bn over 10 years.

Thursday: 3,500 more public transport services for Vivid

More than 3,500 additional public transport services will be provided during the two and a half week long Vivid Festival. 800,000 visitors came to see Vivid last year, and overwhelmed the transport system. The additional services include 3,200 more bus services, 350 more train services, and 132 more ferry services. Together, these will add capacity for over 660,000 passengers over the period of the festival. As a comparison, Sydney’s rail network has a maximum capacity of around 150,000 passengers during the busiest hour of the morning peak.

This follows criticism of last year’s Vivid Festival, where visitor numbers were underestimated and insufficient public transport services were provided. In particular, no additional train services were provided in 2013, nor were any additional services of any kind provided for the Sunday of the long weekend (which was also the final day of the event).

Saturday: Growing CBD bike path network may not be completed in time

Planned bike paths through the CBD may remain uncompleted until the end of the decade if not finished by next year. The final plan for the CBD bike network was only completed in December 2013, with bike path construction put in limbo in the 2 1/2 years since the 2011 NSW election in order for the network to be planned out. However, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the NSW Government is hesitant to have 2 major construction projects in the CBD running at the same time, so any bike path construction will be put on hold while light rail is built through George St in Sydney’s CBD in order to minimise traffic disruption. This could begin as early as April 2015, with the line scheduled to open in 2019 or 2020.

Sydney Strategic Cycle network, much of which is currently being planned or under construction. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney City Access Strategy, p. 45.)

Sydney Strategic Cycle network, much of which is currently being planned or under construction. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney City Access Strategy, p. 45.)

Once completed, a network of separated bike paths will create a loop around the central CBD, linking up the existing Harbour Bridge to Pyrmont Bridge connection to a number of other streets to the South, East, and West of the CBD.

Monday: $100m upgrade of Wynyard Station

Wynyard Station is to receive a $100m upgrade, with improvements including:

  • An upgrade to the CBD station’s concourse and platforms, with a less cluttered concourse wider ticket gate area making it easier for customers to enter, exit and move around the station.
  • New lighting.
  • New tiling.
  • An overhaul of the retail outlets.
  • A fresh coat of paint and new signage to help customers move around the station easier.
An artists impression of an upgraded Wynyard Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

An artists impression of an upgraded Wynyard Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The project comes as work gets underway on an $8 million major refresh to Town Hall Station. Preparations are also underway to install new two new lifts at Circular Quay Station and Museum Station.

Thursday: NSW to get 65 new trains for $2.8bn

The NSW TrainLink electric train fleet is to be replaced by 65 new trains, to be rolled out between 2019 and 2024, at a cost of $2.8bn. This will allow the existing OSCAR trains to replace the non-air conditioned S-Sets on the suburban Sydney Trains fleet, resulting in all passenger trains in NSW being fully air conditioned. S-Sets are currently held in reserve and make up 10% of the Sydney Trains fleet.

Thursday: Additional $2bn support for WestConnex

The Commonwealth Government has approved a $2bn loan for the construction of the WestConnex freeway. It has already committed $1.5bn in funding, with the loan allowing the NSW Government to borrow at the lower interest rate received by the Commonwealth Government. This will allow the M5 East portion of the project to be completed by 2019, the same time as the M4 East portion and 2 years earlier than initially expected.

Do you use public transport near Lilyfield?

UNSW Masters student Robert McKinlay is studying mode choice around the Sydney Light Rail. Part of this project is a commuter survey. If you use public transport in the Lilyfield area, please consider clicking on the link and answering a few questions to help better understand user choice and preferences around transport modes.

A $2.8bn order for 65 new trains will result in all trains on the NSW network being air conditioned. Currently, 90% of all trains on the Sydney Trains network, as well as all trains on both the NSW TrainLink network and T4 Line on the Sydney Trains network, are air conditioned. However, the new trains are not expected to begin taking passengers until 2019, with a complete rollout taking a further 5 years to 2024. This means non-air conditioned trains may still be operating for the next decade.

Old S-Set trains like this one lack air conditioning and are set to be phased out. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Old S-Set trains like this one lack air conditioning and are set to be phased out. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

This new order of 65 trains represents a renewal of about a quarter of all electric passenger trains in NSW, of which there are currently 253 sets of 8 carriage trains, that will operate on the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, and South Coast Lines. The new trains could include features such as luggage compartments and premium carriages. These will replace the existing 52 electric trains used for intercity passenger services (25 V-Set and 27 OSCAR trains). This in turn will allow those 27 OSCAR trains to be reallocated off the intercity network and onto the suburban network to replace the 24 ageing S-Set trains, none of which are air conditioned and the first of which was introduced in 1972.

These new trains will also be off the shelf, rather than designed specifically for the Sydney rail network.  “Previously, NSW has developed unique and often costly train fleets from scratch, which has taken as long as seven years from start to delivery”, the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said, adding that “We are looking at buying off-the-shelf trains with proven technology and then configuring them to meet our customers’ needs, meaning we can ensure the best value, best possible service and also have these new trains on the tracks faster”. Each new train will cost $43m, less than the $46m each Waratah train cost.

Sydney Trains currently operates 6 different types of trains. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

Sydney Trains currently operates 6 different types of trains. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

The government’s decision not to take up the option to order an additional 20 Waratah trains has previously been cited for why 10% of the fleet on Sydney Trains still lacks air conditioning. These non-air conditioned trains had to be retained in order to provide additional services on the South West Rail Link, set to open next year. When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Transport for NSW said “The S-Sets are rarely used but remain in storage for now and are only put in service when required”.

The electric train fleet

NSW has 253 electric passenger trains, split between Sydney Trains (201) and NSW TrainLink (52). There are also an additional 21 diesel trains that operate on the non-electrified Hunter and Southern Highlands Lines, as well as part of the South Coast Line.

NSW TrainLink currently operates 4 different types of trains, 2 electrtic and 2 diesel. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

NSW TrainLink currently operates 4 different types of trains, 2 electrtic and 2 diesel. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

Most of the time the electric trains operate as a set of 8 carriages, although with the exception of the Waratah trains these can be split into twice as many 4 carriage trains. The old “silver set” trains include the S-Set, K-Set, and C-Set trains, depending on whether they are air conditioned or have reversible seats. The oldest of these, the S-Sets, are the only trains to lack air conditioning, and will be kept on for the next decade primarily in reserve. The reasoning here is that if an additional train is needed due to another train not being available, a non-air conditioned train is better than no train at all.

Source: Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW

The 65 new trains will allow the existing 25 trains in the V-Set fleet to be retired, the first of which were introduced in the 1970s (the oldest have since begun to be withdrawn), and also allow the 27 OSCAR trains to replace the 24 S-Set trains. This will mirror what happened when OSCARS were first introduced, replacing the G-Set Tangaras that were originally designed for long distance trips. These G-Set Tangaras included toilets and had reversible seats, but were later refurbished to remove the toilets and add additional seating, then re-designated T-Sets like the remainder to the Tangara fleet but retaining their reversible seats.

Source: Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW

Getting on the news

Posted: May 6, 2014 in Personal, Transport

Video: Vandals graffiti train at Granville, Seven News (5 May 2014)

This blog’s author was quoted on the news yesterday, both on Channel Seven’s 6PM bulletin and the Parramatta Sun newspaper. It came from a 4 minute video of 3 men vandalising a train between Harris Park and Granville Stations, taken and uploaded to YouTube on Saturday. A number of photos were also taken.

One of the three graffiti vandals tagging the side of a train. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

One of the three graffiti vandals tagging the side of a train. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Other than posting a link of this video to social media, this blog’s author did not seek out any further media exposure and was instead contacted by the two aforementioned media organisations.

Video: Graffiti vandals tagging a train near Granville , Author (3 May 2014)

Despite this, it can be useful to know what to do when you see something happening and want to document it for the media. Victorian public transport advocate Daniel Bowen, who has done his fair share of passing on information to the media, wrote some useful tips. The key points are reproduced below.

Show the problem. Show the scale of the issue; some context. A crowded train doorway on its own isn’t a problem. The entire carriage being packed, and people giving up and waiting on the platform is a problem.

Make notes about what it is you’re showing, and post those (even if brief) with the material. Are we looking at a tram that’s packed because the three before it were cancelled (so the problem is service reliability) or it’s packed despite everything running smoothly (so the problem is service frequency and the number of trams)? Why is this significant? Is it part of a wider problem?

Don’t mislead. If you’re aiming to get a problem fixed, your photos and video are only part of the evidence — it may be what sparks further investigation, but fundamentally you’ll be wasting your time (and quite possibly set your cause back) if it turns out you implied something which didn’t really happen.

Don’t be creepy or irritate people — when I’m trying to film packed PT, I’m not trying to film individuals, I’m filming crowds. Occasionally I’ll get stares, and I’d be happy to explain what I was doing if ever asked, but do I think there’s a way to film in a crowd while not lingering on specific people, and not giving the impression of creepiness.

If possible, be prepared. Sometimes things happen spontaneously, and it might be a struggle to whip out your phone camera in time and snap a pic or shoot some video. Other things are regular events. For the summer timetable crowding, I knew it was happening every day, so took along a proper camera and positioned myself at the end of the carriage to be able to get good shots.

Be safe and considerate. Don’t do anything silly to get a good shot, and don’t get in the way.

For videos

Hold that shot. You’re aiming for footage in a news report, not a music video, so don’t wave the camera around too much. Hold it still and steady, and get shots of at least 5 seconds each, preferably a bit longer.

Vary the angles. For television footage, they’ll need to chop up your video so it works well for viewers. Be sure to provide a few different angles. For January’s crowded train footage I included a shot through the end-of-carriage door into the next carriage. It was a bit arty, but worked well — they used it — and helped show context as well — it wasn’t just my carriage that was sardine-like.

Video is, of course, better for TV, but photos also sometimes get a run on TV, and online and in newspapers. A mix may be good, if you can manage it!

Don’t talk over it. If you’re trying to be a reporter, rather than a witness (if you know what I mean) then don’t talk over the vision. The noise from the event itself may be more important than a commentary, which can be added later. That said, spontaneous commentary can work okay.

Finally… but critically…

Shoot video in landscape. It seems to be way too easy to forget that whether it’s on the TV news or Youtube, most video is better viewed landscape, not portrait. Turn your phone 90 degrees before you start shooting – it makes much better use of the camera’s resolution.

Where to take the footage?

All media outlets these days look for contributions, because good photos and video are invaluable. Contact the newsroom at your preferred outlet, explain what you filmed and why you think it’s important.

For a story to get a good run, it may be better to initially give it to only one outlet unless it’s utterly explosive (perhaps literally).

And be prepared to be interviewed/quoted, though depending what it is, they may be prepared to take it anonymously, or at least not identify who had the camera.

Monday: SWRL extension to Badgerys Creek in the planning

Planning has begun to preserve a corridor for a new rail line to the proposed new airport at Badgerys Creek. The new corridor will extend from the currently under construction South West Rail Link at Leppington through to Bagderys Creek Airport and then North to St Marys, with another line branching South at Bringelly to Narellan.

The proposed corridors for an extension of the SWRL through to Badgerys Creek and beyond. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The proposed corridors for an extension of the SWRL through to Badgerys Creek and beyond. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian explained that this was more than just the airport, pointing out that This work isn’t just about servicing an airport, it’s about servicing Western Sydney communities with appropriate transport links, now and into the future”. The new line will pass right through the South West Growth Centre, which is expected to house an additional 300,000 residents in coming decades.

Consultations will run for 6 weeks from 28 April to 6 June on both the alignment and station locations. Currently there are no indicative station locations North of Badgerys Creek, despite one station in this area having been earmarked in a 2013 draft strategy.

Tuesday: NWRL brings 18 storey apartments to Kellyville

Plans for high rise residential buildings up to 18 storeys are being opposed by a local residents group, who want the project restricted to 15 storeys. The project, adjacent to the Kellyville station site that will form part of the North West Rail Link set to open in 2019, was originally proposed to have a maximum height of 25 storeys. Height reductions were achieved by converting the project from a mixed use residential/commercial/retail development into primarily a residential development. The 7,000 to 8,250 square metres of planned office space was removed entirely, the amount of retail space was reduced from 3,000 to 1,900 square metres, and the number of apartment units was cut from 746 to 660 (Source: Hills Shire Council, 29/04/2014 EGM Minutes, pp. 35, 40).

Plans for 18 storey residential apartments next to Kellyville Station on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Hills Shire Council, 29/04/2014 EGM Minutes, p. 40.)

Plans for 18 storey residential apartments next to Kellyville Station on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Hills Shire Council, 29/04/2014 EGM Minutes, p. 40.)

The Hills Shore Council has also designated areas around the proposed Bella Vista and Showground railways stations for high rise developments in order to house the expected 100,000 new residents expected over the next 25 years.

Wednesday: Ride sharing apps restricted to taxis and hire cars

Private drivers cannot use ride sharing apps like Uber to carry paying passengers according to a clarification by Transport for NSW. These apps can allow individuals to book a driver directly, bypassing the taxi booking companies which currently enjoy close to monopoly status in the market. A Transport for NSW spokesperson said that Under the [Passenger Transport] Act, [ride sharing] must be provided in a licensed taxi or hire car, by an appropriately accredited driver, authorised by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)”. Any driver authorised by RMS undergoes a police check.

Thursday: Multiple incidents cause transport chaos

Sydney’s road and rail transport network saw significant disruptions after a number of incidents across the city. These included a fatal collision with a cyclist by a bus on Military Road in Neutral Bay, a car crash on the M1 on the Hawkesbury River Bridge, a 2 car crash in the Harbour Tunnel, and a power outage on the light rail line between Dulwich Hill and Lilyfield.

Thursday: School contest to name tunnel boring machines

School students from Sydney’s North West will have the opportunity to name the tunnel boring machines used to create the tunnels for the North West Rail Link. Given the long-held tradition that tunnel boring machines around the world are named after women, the theme will be “Women who have made a positive contribution to life in Sydney”. Competition entries close on May 25, and will only be accepted via the North West Rail Link project website, where there is also more detail about the competition.

Friday: ARTC listed as potential privatisation target

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has been listed for potential privatisation in the long term, with a predicted sale value of $500m. The ARTC is owned by the Commonwealth Government, which in turn owns and operates much of the interstate freight rail network on the East Coast of Australia. It has made a financial loss in all but one year since 2007, however these have all been primarily due to asset impairment write downs and not due to losses from ongoing operations. The ARTC has earned $200m to $300m per year in the last 3 years when measured from an operating cashflow perspective, a measure which strips out non-cash transactions such as asset impairments and depreciation (Sources: ARTC, Annual Report 2013, p. 58 and Annual Report 2011, p. 48).

Friday: Cyclists may require licenses, bike paths lead to more bike usage

Cyclists would be required to hold licences and avoid major roads under a proposal being considered by the Roads Minister Duncan Gay. Meanwhile, documents obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald show that bike paths in the Sydney CBD led to a doubling in the number of cyclists but a reduction in injuries. The documents also show that more bikes use Kent St, King St, and College St each morning peak hour than cars do. These are the 3 streets in the Sydney CBD with separated bike paths currently installed.

Sydney Strategic Cycle network, much of which is currently being planned or under construction. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney City Access Strategy, p. 45.)

Sydney Strategic Cycle network, much of which is currently being planned or under construction. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Sydney City Access Strategy, p. 45.)

The government announced its preferred bike path network last year as part of the Sydney City Access Strategy (see image above). It involved removing the College St bike path, but adding new bike paths on Castlereagh St, Pitt St, and Liverpool St while also extending the existing bike paths on Kent St and King St.