4 options for Parramatta light rail

Posted: October 28, 2014 in Transport
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The NSW Government has narrowed down its original 10 potential corridors to just 4 as part of a future light rail line from Parramatta. The 4 options; which would connect Parramatta to one of Castle Hill, Macquarie Park, Olympic Park, or Bankstown; are broadly similar to the 4 options put forward by Parramatta City Council in its feasibility study.

Artists impression of light rail in Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artists impression of light rail in Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

There are a number of differences between the Transport for NSW announcement and the original Parramatta City Council feasibility study.  None of the 4 corridors include Westmead. Meanwhile the Castle Hill and Macquarie Park alignments proposed by Parramatta City Council (which went via Windsor Road and Eastwood respectively) have not made the short list. Instead, the proposed light rail line to Castle Hill will be via the more direct but narrower Old Northern Road, while the light rail line to Macquarie Park will be via Carlingford. The Olympic Park corridor would also continue to either Strathfield or Burwood, with no indication that it would connect to Rhodes.

Parramatta City Council's proposed 4 light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6)

Parramatta City Council’s proposed 4 light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6)

There remains uncertainty over the preciseness of these plans. They may only be referring to broad corridors, with exact alignments yet to be determined. This is supported by NSW Government documents from March showing a number of potential alignments for a light rail line through Parramatta, some of which connect to Westmead even though Westmead is not listed on any of the 4 options.

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has also previously spoken of the importance that the line connect up the health and education precincts in the area. This suggests that the line will not only connect up to Westmead, but also to the University of Western Sydney. This would mean that a line from Westmead to Macquarie Park is the most likely as it is the only line that connects both precincts. Whether this is done via Carlingford or Eastwood, or perhaps ends up connecting only Westmead to Carlingford with a later Macquarie Park extension, is yet to be seen.

Commentary: Why the Westmead to Macquarie Park via Eastwood option should be chosen

If the NSW Government really has discounted the option of a line connecting Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood, then it is a real shame. Of all the options, this one would be the easiest to build – it can utilise the existing rail corridor between Camellia and Dundas, then the road median along Kissingpoint Road, and finally an unused road reservation between Eastwood and Macquarie Park. Parramatta MP Dr Geoff Lee highlights the existing rail corridor as a benefit, and it would be easy to also convert the entire rail corridor through to Carlingford to light rail too. The Carlingford Line usually operates hourly and takes passengers to Clyde, hardly a popular destination. A light rail line, on the other hand, would frequently transport passengers to Parramatta, both a destination in its own right and a major interchange for those continuing their journey elsewhere in Sydney.

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: Western Sydney Light Rail Network – Part 2 Feasibility Report, pp. 4-5)

It will also create rail links that do not currently exist. It would finally provide a rail link between Parramatta to Macquarie Park that has been promised, abandoned, and reannounced so many times that few believe it will ever happen. It will aslo link up Eastwood to Macquarie Park. Epping is already linked to Macquarie Park by rail, and is set to be upgraded to a high frequency metro line. This does not need to be duplicated on the surface. To connect Carlingford and Epping on the surface would be much harder than connecting Dundas to Macquarie Park, given the relative lack of reservations on the former and the abundance of them in the latter.

The Government recently extended the global economic corridor. Originally running from the airport to Macquarie Park via the CBD, North Sydney, St Leonards, and Chatswood; it now branches off towards both Parramatta and Norwest Business Park. Norwest is to be connected via the North West Rail Link. Parramatta still lacks this vital link. A light rail connection via Eastwood remains the best option to do this given the Government’s limited resources. Parramatta City Council’s plan is a sound one, the NSW Government should adopt it.

  1. Does anyone else have a problem with the sequencing of events here?

    Rather than identify a transport problem and compare the various modes for the most appropriate solution, they have selected the mode and are looking for the most appropriate “problem” to apply it to.

  2. @Tandemtrainrider99 –

    I’m of 2 minds here.

    On one hand, i completely agree with you. This is politics getting in the way of good policy. You should find a constrained corridor first, then pick the ideal solution second. You articulated this perfectly.

    On the other hand, virtually all of these corridors appear on some government list of constrained or protected corridors. So you could argue that this first stage has already happened and that this is stage two. In addition, you cant look at individual corridors in isolation if you plan to build on a single mode to turn it into a larger network. A potential light rail network around Parramatta could branch out in many directions, so it makes sense to do a top down review of potential corridors first to help develop a timeline for a more comprehensive future network that builds on what initially will only be a single line.

    Now, you could argue that the T-Ways can always be upgraded to light rail and that this is an example of being mode agnostic, as you proposed. And while that sounds great in theory, I’m not aware of any case of BRT being upgraded to LTR or heavy rail, so I question the practical impact.

    All that said, it does concern me to see a repeat of the situation with different governments offering to fund various projects (PERL, WestConnex, etc) for seemingly political rather than policy reasons. Though personally I do think this is one case where they overlap.

  3. PeteD says:

    My feeling is that they should choose options that can be expanded later, with the primary aim of allowing links crossing across Heavy Rail lines.
    The level of housing development in Carlingford (pushed by the Hornsby and Hills Shires) probably requires something to go to Carlingford rather than sleepy and well serviced Eastwood. That said, depending on timing of construction, the line could then simply link (via North Rocks) to Pennant Hills or Cherrybrook stations, rather than having to deal with the trip to and across Epping.
    That said, I am sure one goal of Parramatta Council would have been for a line that facilitates access from the Northern Suburbs and the Central Coast, the latter of which is best by either an Epping or Eastwood link.
    Given other development It would be great also for a line to link Parramatta, Rosehill, Newington, Olympic Park, Wentworth Point (Ferry) and Rhodes (which is a reasonably possible alignment – whether it continued to Burwood or not). This alignment covers a number of new residential and entertainment precincts, so could make sense too.

    That said, I suspect part of the deal with whatever alignment is chosen will be to reduce the number of bus movements in a particular corridor.

  4. > Though personally I do think this is one case where they overlap.
    Couldn’t agree more Bambul.

    I think there is a word for this: “co-incidence” :-).

  5. I should make a comment on the ECL/PRL project. When it was first conceived (early 1990s), the western lines of Sector 3 were already at capacity, but the NSL was only at half capacity.

    The PRL was not really about connecting the Nth Shore employment sectors with Parra, it was primarily a cheaper version of the second harbour crossing: made cheaper by building it at Rydalmere.

  6. JC says:

    @TTR: Totally agree! …but
    1. Maybe we have to live with that because it is the only stuff will ever get built in NSW; and
    2. (possibly by accident) Parramatta-Castle Hill and Parramatta-Macquarie are corridirs that need looking at anyway.

    @bambul: V. convincing case re the Eastwood route. I had always taken the view that maximum use should be made of the Carlingford rail corridor – adding reservation or tunnel along Carlingford road and a mode change (between high frequency modes) rather than duplicating for Eppjng-Macquarie. But I think your suggestion makes nore sense – esp with an almost zero cost Dundas-Carlingford LR branch (which could be extended to link the NWRL at Epping (or somewhere else) in the future.

    and some other thoughts:

    There is no reason not to convert the existung Carlingord-Clyde line to LR. It cpould be cdone in months, even using 2nd hand trams, and would be cheaper to run than the existing heavy rail and could provide a much improved service (possibly with v.minor investment linking into Granvill rather than Clyde. It would then provide a basis for progressively expanding a Parramatta LR network.

    Why not use a central reservation in Vicroria Road from Rydalmere to Church Street to take the LR line into Parra City Centre? It links lots of key origin-destinations, works with the N. Parramatta redevelopment – and could even link east eventually to Lilyfield.

  7. MR says:

    I fear that the long-suffering commuters of Carlingford are going to be let down again on this occasion. Using the Carlingford line as the spine of a Parramatta to Macquarie link is a cheap solution, that doesn’t deal with the problem of what happens to the route between Carlingford and Macquarie. I can’t see how trams could climb Mobbs Hill from the current site of Carlingford Station. Nor is it clear how an alignment that took in the busy route of Carlingford Rd would negotiate the often congested intersections with Pennant Hills Rd/Marsden Rd at one end and Beecroft Rd at the other, much less cross the northern rail line near Epping. Some form of serious tunnelling would surely be required, particularly at the Mobbs Hill end. Doesn’t this beg the question of whether it would be cheaper in the long run to avoid the stop gap measures and just build the Parramatta to Epping heavy rail line…?

  8. michblogs says:

    To be a useful network, you need more than one line.

  9. Ray says:

    I am somewhat puzzled by the government’s announcement of the Macquarie Park route going via Carlingford. It conspicuously doesn’t mention Epping, which you’d expect to be on that particular route. Do they mean that the line would run to Carlingford in particular or run via the “Carlingford Line” as far as Dundas and then follow the previously recommended route to Macquarie Park via Eastwood? The route to Carlingford with a later extension to Epping along with the route via Eastwood were considered as options in the preliminary feasibility study carried out by Parramatta City Council. The route via Carlingford to Epping was rejected in favour of the route via Eastwood in the final feasibility report for very compelling reasons. It is the cheapest and most direct route utilising a corridor already in place and owned by the government. It also generated the higher patronage and would promote redevelopment of the Eastwood Town Centre which is a significant retail/commercial centre (larger than Epping). I also suspect that it would be preferable to have a direct link from Parramatta to Macquarie Park without the need to interchange to the rapid transit service at Epping. I can’t seriously believe that they would countenance running a duplicate service from Epping to Macquarie Park. Major resumptions would be required to widen Carlingford Rd and running a light rail line through the centre of Epping with all the congestion that it already suffers is unthinkable. The suggestion to run the line underground from Carlingford to Epping is also madness when a far cheaper and superior alternative would be available via Eastwood. The government has ignored the detailed work already done in the previous Council feasibility study.

  10. michblogs says:

    Most commuters out of Carlingford who use public transport, are headed to sydney city. Same as anywhere else. If you don;t believe this go down to Clyde and see what trains they get on and off. Also, try catching a train from Parramatta to Carlingford, and see how terrible the connection timing is. Taking a longer and slower route to Parramatta station instead, isn’t really an improvement.

    If you want to take people actually from Carlingford to Parramatta – it’s about 5 km, the answer is a bus.

    The idea of using the existing train corridor, because it is there, is a mistake. It runs in the wrong direction, for a start. And when the train gets to Carlingford, then what ? A 4 km tunnel to Epping ? Carlingford Road is really quite unsuitable for on-road tram running. And where does the tram go then ? Over that narrow bottleneck bridge at Epping ?

    The light rail should be built out of Parramatta via Dundas and Eastwood to Macquarie Park. The existing branch line should also be converted to light rail. They would use the same tracks for about 900 metres between Rydalmere and Dundas. At the frequency proposed, the will not be an issue. Passengers can change at Dundas. That creates a gamut of user possibilities that a single line cannot. Carlingford to Parramatta. Carlingford to Clyde. Carlingford to Eastwood. There is quite a lot of redevelopable land south of the racecourse which can be serviced by a tram-stop between Clyde and Rosehill stations.

  11. michblogs says:

    Most of that “urban renewal area”, is Parramatta Park, isn’t it ?

  12. MrV says:

    I get the feeling that the success of the Dulwich Hill extension means the pollies think they can give the go ahead to any/all light rail projects and still feel relatively ‘safe’.
    Suggesting extension of the heavy rail or building a metro on the other hand would mean putting their head above the parapet.

  13. Ray says:

    @michblogs – Totally agree with your suggestion. The recommended route from Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood in Parramatta Council’s feasibility report was to run parallel with the existing Carlingford Line within the rail corridor between Camellia and Dundas because at the time it was not known what the government’s future plans were for the Carlingford Line. It makes sense to convert and duplicate the whole Carlingford Line to light rail from Clyde to Carlingford with the connections to Parramatta and Macquarie Park via Eastwood at Camellia and Dundas respectively. I can’t see any justification for extending the light rail from Carlingford to Epping, let alone from Epping to Macquarie Park when the more direct route via Eastwood is far superior.

    Perhaps in the longer term there may be the potential to extend the light rail line from Carlingford Station via a short tunnel surfacing at Pennant Hills Rd in the vicinity of Carlingford Court Shopping Centre and continuing in the median of a widened Pennant Hills Rd to the M2 Motorway and further on to Pennant Hills Station. The NorthConnex Motorway Tunnel will remove a lot of traffic from Pennant Hills Rd north of the M2 Motorway and rather than narrowing the carriageway, as has been suggested, it could be better utilised by incorporating a light rail line in centre median, still leaving 4 traffic lanes.

    It appears that, typically, the Transport for NSW bureaucrats are determined to do it their way, in spite of expert contrary opinion. The feasibility report commissioned by Parramatta Council was prepared by the same reputable transport consultants who have already carried out innumerable studies for the government on other projects. The basic investigation work has already been done and clear priorities established. It is astounding that their recommendations have been largely ignored. Why is there any need to go over old ground and reinvent the wheel?

    I fear that there IS an agenda to use most of the Carlingford Line as a route to Epping/Macquarie Park because “it’s there”, just as the very same mentality was used in the early planning of the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link. The route via Carlingford and Epping (PERL) was selected over the more direct and faster route via Eastwood, although more expensive but never disclosed by how much, because a detailed financial assessment was never carried out. The route via Eastwood was simply dismissed in two sentences in the Environmental Assessment without any further explanation. Another example of politics getting in the way of objective transport planning.

    In the broader scheme of things, the Draft Metropolitan Strategy proposed an investigation of an enhanced transport corridor between Macquarie Park and Parramatta as an extension of the Global Economic Arc. Even a blind man could see that the Eastwood County Road reservation between Epping Rd and Kissing Point Rd/Silverwater Rd was the obvious choice. This is the route proposed in Parramatta Council’s feasibility report for the light rail line. Might I suggest that a combined road and light rail link along this route would be the most desirable outcome. The width of the reserved corridor could certainly accommodate it. It also has the advantage that it skirts the perimeter of the Eastwood Town Centre, without going through the centre, which is the major issue through the congested Epping Town Centre.

  14. Tim says:

    Interesting discussion.

    Would light rail terminating at a single point of Macquarie Centre really be satisfactory? Okay for MU students but on driving through there the commercial developments seem spread over a long strip and are relatively low rise (i.e. lower density). Ridership would be higher with fewer transfers and even if the light rail ran on the surface parallel to the rail line that would make more sense if they could handle the gradients; this could also act as a feeder service to the rail stations. If they are spending 100s of millions on LRT best to spend a “little” more to maximise its trip capture.
    (BTW: I would be interested to see what a BRT alternative would look and cost like in comparison.)

  15. Ray says:

    @Tim – I agree and as I have previously suggested, the light rail should ultimately be extended from Macquarie Centre along Waterloo Rd through the North Ryde Urban Activation Precinct to North Ryde Station. Rather than competing with the existing rail line, it could complement it by providing intermediate stops between the rail stations. Macquarie Park is not a compact business centre in the traditional sense and is spread out over a large area not conducive to public transport usage. The gradient along Waterloo Rd shouldn’t be a problem.

  16. Tim says:

    @ Bambul Shakibaei –
    On the question of BRT upgrades to LRT isn’t that what Seattle did and Ottawa is doing on one line each respectively? Also LA has planned for the Orange Line to be converted, even though it doesn’t seem to need it. Conversions are rare to be sure.

    The argument of the Parra. CC study is that LRT is superior to BRT in achieving the REAL GOAL of TOD, i.e. for future, rather than current, transport patterns. I have my doubts whether this is supportable against quality BRT systems done expressly with TOD in mind. The Nov-13 ITDP study “More Development For Your Transit Dollar” certainly indicates it is contestable (https://www.itdp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/More-Development-For-Your-Transit-Dollar_ITDP.pdf) and the success of LRT is mixed.

  17. Ray says:

    @Tim – Bus Australia proposed a BRT link a few years ago, which basically followed the route of the Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood LRT proposal along the Eastwood County Road corridor with some variations at either end.

  18. Tim says:

    @Ray thanks.
    From what I found the BRT option seems worth considering. I also see Infrastructure NSW is sceptical of the Council’s basic rationale for LRT. http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/media/16982/sis_report_section7.0_print.pdf

  19. QPP says:

    The credibility of that report is seriously damaged IMO by the ludicrously cheap price tag it attaches to the subsurface BRT idea in the CBD. A BRT tunnel between Wynyard and Town Hall with on and off ramps, plus redevelopment of Town Hall and Wynyard stations for $2bn? Get real

  20. Ray says:

    Have to agree with you there QPP. Infrastructure NSW doesn’t have a clue. It is obviously biased towards road based solutions and I can’t see any reason for its existence. The government doesn’t seem to take any notice of its recommendations anyway. What’s the point of it?

  21. QPP says:

    I think it was a political sop put in place by B O’F because of perceived excessive politically driven decision making in transport/infrastructure priorities

    But as you say, its recommendations are pretty flaky and it just gets ignored anyway. Between the federal government (which continues to make totally snap/kneejerk commitments of massive funding packages based on politics or whim – eg Westconnex funding or the empty promise to catch votes of the dying Gillard govt promising to fund PERL when it wasn’t even on the agenda). Infrastructure Australia, and the politicians and civil servants in TfNSW – does the question of Infrastructure in NSW really need another expensive quango just producing pretty reports that serve only to distract and confuse?

    The biggest gap I can see in terms of infrastructure planning in NSW is in the “rest of the state” issues that seem to get ignored by a Sydney-centric state government. We don’t need yet another layer/body producing recommendations for rail and roads in the metro area, there are too many of them as it is

  22. RichardU says:

    It is to be hoped that when assessing which is the preferred route, consideration will be given to the number of schools which would be served by each alternative.

  23. Warren says:

    Totally agree Parramatta to Macquarie Park makes much more sense via Eastwood than Carlingford/Epping. It reaches potentially so many more people rather than duplicating the admittedly patchy network already there. If you are goign to do the Epping route may as well just link Carlingford to Epping with existing heavy rail as was promised years ago.

  24. Anthony says:

    A busway with frequent buses and bus stations (like the SE Queensland busway) would meet the transport needs of the Parramatta CBD and suburbs it is proposed to go to and should increase public transport patronage. Light rail is expensive and it more than the patronage needs of the area.
    Linking Macquarie Park should be done by heavy rail so it would allow
    A busway to Olympic Park would allow quick and frequent services to both Olympic Park and the Wentworth Point/Rhodes precinct which will be home to approx 80k people in a few years. It would link to existing busways and the Homebush Bay Bridge, currently being built.
    Light rail to Castle Hill along Old Northern Rd would be cause massive traffic congestion as it would turn the road from 2 lanes each way to one.

  25. Simon says:

    The major limitation of BRT on County Dr would be the inevitable calls for it to be opened up to general traffic. In the meantime, I want a limited stops two direction 550 on Metrobus frequencies.

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