Monday: Security the biggest concern for commuters

An NRMA commuter survey found that the most common concerns were cleanliness (50%), clear announcements (47%), air conditioning (46%), overcrowding (43%), safety (38%), parking (37%), and insufficient staff (32%). The survey, ‘Seeing Red on Rail’, had 12,000 respondents and is the second annual survey conducted by the motoring group.

The Shadow Transport Minister Penny Sharpe blamed the concerns on security on government cuts to security staff; arguing that the number of security staff had fallen from 900 staff in 2011 to 551 staff in 2014, a drop of 39%.

When asked what improvements could be made, respondents cited wifi (45%), air conditioning (38%), and mobile apps with real time arrival and departure information (23%). All trains outside of the Olympic Park Line are now air conditioned and real time data has been available on transport apps since April 2013.

Tuesday: Final Waratah train delivered

The last of the 78 Waratah trains has been delivered and has allowed all timetabled train services outside of the Olympic Park Line to be fully air conditioned. During special events air conditioned trains will be provided on the Olympic Park Line, which normally runs as a shuttle service between Lidcombe and Olympic Park.

The government has retained 24 un-air conditioned 8-carriage S-set trains. These are used when a regular air conditioned train is unavailable, and are also likely to be re-introduced for regular timetabled services when the South West Rail Link opens next year as it will require an expansion of train services.

Tuesday: Parramatta light rail receives bipartisan support

The Premier Mike Baird announced $10m for a feasability study into light rail from Parramatta to surrounding areas; including Macquarie Park, Castle Hill, and Bankstown. This follows on from a promise from the opposition for a similar $20m feasibility study if it wins the 2015 state election. Work on the study will begin ‘straight away’ according to Mr Baird, and will build on a pre-feasibility study published by Parramatta City Council.

Map of the proposed Macquarie Park and Castle Hill light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network - Part 2 Feasibility Report, pp. 4-5)

Map of the proposed Macquarie Park and Castle Hill light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Parramatta City Council, Western Sydney Light Rail Network – Part 2 Feasibility Report, pp. 4-5)

Tuesday: Centennial Park bike path for Oxford St

The government will spend $1.6m on an 800m bike path along Centennial Parklands, resulting in a new 3.5 metre wide bi-directional cycle path and separate 1.8 metre wide pedestrian path. The new path will help to link Bondi Junction to the CBD along Oxford St in Paddington and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Wednesday: Planning approval granted for CBD and South East Light Rail

Planning approval has been granted to the $1.6bn light rail line connecting the CBD to Kingsford and Randwick. Work in the line will commence in 2015 and be completed by 2019 or 2020.

Video: CBD and South East Light Rail Flythrough, Transport for NSW (6 June 2014)

Thursday: Government to consider privatisation to fund infrastructure

State Liberal Party and National Party MPs will on Tuesday consider the potential sale of 49% of the state’s poles and wires assets in a bid to raise capital for major infrastructure projects. The sale will be in the form of a 99 year lease and could raise $15bn, which could then be used to fund a Second Harbour Rail Crossing and other road or rail infrastructure projects. Any “asset recycling”, as this practice has come to be known, will also be eligible for additional Commonwealth funding equal to 15% of any money raised from the sale.

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Comments
  1. Tandem Train Rider says:

    $1.6 mill for 800m of bike path? Are they getting Railcorp to build it? NBNCo? $20 000/m !!!

    At those rates my drive way is five times the value of my house.

  2. @Tandem Train Rider –

    $2,000/m, not $20,000/m.

  3. Tandem Train Rider says:

    > $2,000/m, not $20,000/m.
    Doh !!!

  4. MrV says:

    Everything looks good on the CGI video. Any word on the trafficlight priority measures?Tthere are a lot of claims about the timing reliabiltiy but unless this priority is dealt with I can’t see how you can provide such guarantees.
    I also wonder if a metro would be the better option given future population growth?

    Regarding the ‘asset recycling’, can someone explain how we are better off by selling a dividend generating asset to building infrastructure that doesn’t directly generate a return (such as a second harbour crossing).
    Not that I am against building a second crossing, but wonder if simply borrowing the money would be a better option?
    Of course if they build more toll roads this would provide a direct return.

  5. @MrV –

    Selling an income generating asset, rather than taking on more debt, to pay for something else has the same effect in theory. Either way it will cost you, and roughly the same amount when measured in ball park terms.

    Where the benefit comes from is that it is less risky to sell the income generating asset, as there is no guarantee that it will continue to earn income. (Alternatively, it could see a big jump in income over time – so the risk is on the upside as much as on the downside.)

    Ultimately it’s all about how much risk you are going to take on. If you want to take on risk – borrow more money (debt). If you are risk averse – sell down some assets (equity).

  6. OC says:

    Actually Bambul the poles and wires (as opposed to generation assets) are practically riskless assets as they are natural monopolies whose returns are regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator (the regulator adjusts the prices they charge utilities and the capex they spend periodically to keep returns at an acceptable level). The returns allowed by the regulator are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than the State Govts cost of debt so the sale of these assets is pretty much guaranteed to be net present value negative to the NSW tax payer.

  7. @OC –

    Without getting into a detailed argument into the specifics of the electricity distribution market, do keep in mind that it’s actually a very complicated situation. What you outlined may end up being the case, or perhaps unexpected events may happen (like a large scale roll out of solar panels on roofs reducing demand for distribution) and a different outcome will eventuate.

    You may turn out to be right, or you may turn out to be wrong. That is where the risk lies. Nothing in this world is 100% certain! Especially not in the realm of business.

    The specific examples isn’t my point here. The point is that equity is more risky than debt, but debt is cheaper than equity (particularly for governments, as you pointed out).

  8. OC says:

    As to light rail: No. Just no.

    If you are going to spend well over $100m per km at least get grade separation!

    The more you read about the ESLR line the worse it gets. $1.6bn+ for a system that will cause traffic chaos during construction and operation, require forced interchange for thousands and thousands of passengers, likely give no travel time savings and deliver a negligible capacity addition is absurd. It shows the NSW Liberals only care about consolidating political power (it is a sop to Green leaning voters). An extension of the significantly underutilised ESR south to Randwick and Maroubra would make a heck of a lot more sense and allow for a genuinely sustainable increase in density.

    As to the proposed parramatta light rail line these will suffer the same issues as the ESLR line. The Govt should instead deliver the parramatta to epping extension and reserve an underground corridor that would eventually connect Castle Hill to Parramatta. A cursory look at Windsor Rd would lead any sensible person to realise it is completely inadequate to accomodate a light rail corridor without a catastrophic loss of vehicle carrying capacity.

  9. MrV says:

    I agree that the natural monopoly aspects of electricity distribution make it extremely low risk and a good asset for govt to hold. Nobody is going to come along and replicate it. As for distributed distribution (solar etc) you still need a grid to distribute any excess power generated.
    The main risk to running the grid would be govt itself, in that it becomes lazy, fails to maintain the network, wastes money etc etc, stuff that would otherwise drop down to the profit line.

    Yes it is quite complicated, but when you compare it to say a second harbour crossing (SHC) that will be an asset that generates no direct return, is selling the grid a wise thing to do?
    Sure you can argue the returns for the SHC flow to the wider society/business via increased productivity etc but why not just fund it with debt. Or alternatively (dare I say it) increase public transport ticket prices by a nominal amount.

  10. MrV says:

    @OC

    Completely agree, especially when the costs of TBM have reduced significantly.
    Why not buy one and set it in motion, either extend from Bondi Junction or a new line via Oxford St tapping into St James or new city stations altogether. (Obviously you wouldn’t use TBM in the city itself)

    Again the benefit with either a line extension or a new line is it can be opened in stages as new stations are completed with minimal surface disruption. And will have far greater capacity into the future for population growth.

  11. QPP says:

    >>Completely agree, especially when the costs of TBM have reduced significantly.
    Why not buy one and set it in motion, either extend from Bondi Junction or a new line via Oxford St tapping into St James or new city stations altogether. (Obviously you wouldn’t use TBM in the city itself)

    Again the benefit with either a line extension or a new line is it can be opened in stages as new stations are completed with minimal surface disruption. And will have far greater capacity into the future for population growth.<<

    There's a lot more to building or extending an underground railway than just buying a TBM and "setting it in motion"

    TBM capital costs aren't really the issue, and never have been. They haven't got particularly cheaper, they're still pretty good value IMO at around $10m a pop when you see the amount of engineering and manufacturing that goes into them.

    But obviously, the $20m the average $2bn underground railway project spends on the TBMs themselves is a drop in the ocean

    Opening new lines/stations in stages almost never happens because it doesn't make economic sense. The vast percentage of the cost has to be incurred anyway to build the space for the station, fitting it out is fairly small beer in comparison and is always justifiable with the increased patronage it will bring

  12. QPP says:

    >>As to light rail: No. Just no.

    If you are going to spend well over $100m per km at least get grade separation!

    The more you read about the ESLR line the worse it gets. $1.6bn+ for a system that will cause traffic chaos during construction and operation, require forced interchange for thousands and thousands of passengers, likely give no travel time savings and deliver a negligible capacity addition is absurd. It shows the NSW Liberals only care about consolidating political power (it is a sop to Green leaning voters). An extension of the significantly underutilised ESR south to Randwick and Maroubra would make a heck of a lot more sense and allow for a genuinely sustainable increase in density.

    As to the proposed parramatta light rail line these will suffer the same issues as the ESLR line. The Govt should instead deliver the parramatta to epping extension and reserve an underground corridor that would eventually connect Castle Hill to Parramatta. A cursory look at Windsor Rd would lead any sensible person to realise it is completely inadequate to accomodate a light rail corridor without a catastrophic loss of vehicle carrying capacity.<<

    It comes in at around $60m per track km IIRC, which isn't great, but I suspect the tagged cost has a lot of fat in it, as TfNSW's figures have tended to have in recent years. You rarely get to see what the total outturn cost of a programme actually was after the event because Transport's accounting is quite opaque, partly because IMO they are a very overhead heavy organisation.

    International comparators for new light rail needing new right of way in a central urban location would be $20-$50m per track km. I think it's quite conceivable the actual capital cost of the new system will be within this range, albeit at the upper end.

    If you wanted grade separation, you'd have to pay a lot more than that…..light rail *and* grade sep is missing the point really, if the capital cost of the completely separate right of way is justified it ought to be a heavy rail system

    I can't help feeling you're having the arguments of 2-5 years ago though…..CBD & SE Light Rail has planning approval and the PPP bids are being examined now, with announcement shortly and financial close around the end of the year I think. Unless there is another financial shock or change of state government in the next 6 months, I'd say it's a done deal. To can the job now would incur a fair amount of cost (plus of course the abortive costs that have already been spent, which will be in the 10s of $ms by now)

    Even more so, Parramatta-Epping is never going to happen. The stub tunnels are committed for NWRL, no one in TfNSW or councils are interested, move on as 2008 wants its argument back.

    Parramatta Light Rail? Now, *that's* a project that's early enough in its gestation to be worth having a debate about. I like the way the council have pushed it and on the face of it given the numbers projections etc and the connections you could make for large parts of western Sydney, it looks like something that's definitely worthwhile doing a proper feasibility study on, which is what's proposed.

    I would like to see Light Rail projects worldwide do more to innovate, in particular when it comes to the trackform. It can't be beyond the wit of man to come up with something much lower in impact that deal with the bugbear of utility diversions that makes so many urban light rail jobs cost so much and take so long. Similarly although to a lesser extent, traction power solutions could be a lot more innovative than they are

  13. Peter Hines says:

    I find it interesting that the Government is now claiming that all trains except the Olympic sprint services are now all Air Conditioned. This is a lie, they are still operating 4car S-Sets on the Cumberland line mixed one or 2 4car C-Sets. Plus there is a few S-Sets operating still on the Bankstown Line

  14. MrV says:

    @QPP

    Of course it is more complicated than buying a TBM for a metro.
    However my point remains will the light rail truly handle the requirement placed on it given the expansion plans for population in the SE area. Can it easily be extended without making journey times too long? Seems the branch design already means capacity to the city from either branch limits how many trams you can run on each of the branches.
    Building an underground will cause far less disruption to Sydneys overstretched roadways

    Perhaps it is a case of in time both LR and metro will be needed.

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