Archive for January, 2015

VIDEO: #Equality – A short film by Neel Kolhatkar

Monday: Future of the Meccano Set uncertain

The structure holding up traffic lights and signs at the intersection of Woodville Road/Henry Lawson Drive and Hume Highway in Lansdowne, commonly known as the “Meccano Set”, could be removed. RMS is taking community and stakeholder feedback, with two possible options for the intersection:

  • repaint and maintain the structure, or
  • remove it completely and replace it with traffic signals and directional signage.

The Meccano Set was errected in 1962 and is not heritage listed, though it is considered a “place of interest” and a Western Sydney icon. Feedback will be accepted until 13 February.

Tuesday: Commuters can save by leaving car at home

Commuters could save $10,000 per year by switching from driving to taking public transport according to a report by the Australian Railway Association. The savings are contingent on not owning a car at all. Smaller savings of $1,700 per year would be possible by maintaining a car, but taking public transport to and from work rather than driving. Alan Davies at Crikey writes more on this topic.

Tuesday: SWRL appears on rail map

The South West Rail Link has appeared on the network map for Sydney Trains, while the timetable for the line has also been released. Trains will run every half hour between Leppington and Liverpool when the line opens on 8 February.

Sydney Trains network with the SWRL on the bottom left of the map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Sydney Trains network with the SWRL on the bottom left of the map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Tuesday: 524 new parking spots at train stations

Over 500 new parking spots at train stations were announced or opened this week. 400 parking spaces will be added at Holsworthy Station and 100 parking spaces will be added at Oatley Station. Meanwhile, 23 additional parking spaces were officially opened at Granville Station.

Wednesday: NWRL running ahead of schedule and under budget

The North West Rail Link is running 2 months ahead of schedule and is currently $300m under budget. The news comes as Elizabeth, the first of the 4 tunnel boring machines, reaches the future site of Norwest Station. Elizabeth began digging from Bella Vista, 2.1km away, in September of 2014.

Sunday: New ticket gates may be on the way

New, skinnier ticket barriers have been spotted at Olympic Park Station, suggesting that the current ticket barriers might be replaced soon. The barriers are currently covered up, but are clearly a more streamlined size and shape. Entry/Exit indicators have also been removed from Town Hall Station, which would also support the possibility that ticket barriers are soon to be updated.

Advertisements

VIDEO: Be rewarded by travelling with Opal

Monday: New substation for North Shore Line to increased train frequencies

Approval has been given for a new substation South of Lindfield Station to handle increased train frequencies on the Upper North Shore Line. The line currently has 15 trains per hour in the AM peak North of Chatswood, but the government plans to boost this to 20 trains per hour once the North West Rail Link opens in 2019. This will require additional electricity to power the extra trains on that section of the network. Construction is expected to be completed in 2016.

Wednesday: Final Tunnel Boring Machine for NWRL starts digging

The fourth and final Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) has begun digging a tunnel for the North West Rail Link (NWRL) and its twin 15km tunnels. The 3 TBMs already in place have collectively dug almost 2.7km of the 30km of tunneling required, excavating 278,000 tonnes of crushed rock.

  • TBM1 Elizabeth, named after colonial pioneer Elizabeth Rouse, has dug more than 1.8km of tunnel so far from Bella Vista since September 2014;
  • TBM2 Florence, named after Australia’s first female architect and engineer Florence Mary Taylor, has dug more than 710m from Bella Vista since October 2014;
  • TBM3 Isabelle, named after Isabelle Andersen (aged four) to represent all the tunnel builders, has dug more than 150m from Cherrybrook since November 2014;
  • TMB4 Maria, named after 19th century Aboriginal rights advocate Maria Lock, began digging from Cherrybrook in January 2015.
4 tunnel boring machines like these will be used on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

4 tunnel boring machines like these will be used on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Infrastructure NSW released an update to its infrastructure plan in November 2014. Unlike the 2012 report, this one puts a greater emphasis on rail. Here is a (belated) overview of the main recommendations for the rail network.

Sydney Trains/NSW TrainLink (p. 34)

Major upgrades will focus on the T1 Lines, which are expected to see stronger growth in demand than other lines. These include lengthening of platforms, to allow longer trains to stop at certain stations; amplification of track, akin to adding more lanes to a road; and improved signalling, which allows more frequent train services without compromising safety.

The longer platforms will primarily benefit intercity train services, with new intercity trains to be 12 cars in length compared to the current 8 car trains. Meanwhile, the business case for improved signalling is expected to be completed over the next 18 months.

No specific details are given on where track amplifications will occur. A commonly touted corridor is on the Northern Line between Rhodes and West Ryde, which would upgrade the entire Strathfield to Epping corridor up to 4 tracks. This would allow service frequencies to be increased along this corridor while still maintaining a mix of all stops and express services. Such capacity improvements are necessary for Upper Northern Line trains that currently reach the city via Chatswood to instead be diverted via Strathfield when the Epping to Chatswood Line is closed down for upgrades as part of the North West Rail Link project in 2018.

Sydney Rapid Transit (pp.37-38)

Construction on a Second Harbour Rail Crossing is to begin in 2019, with completion in 2024-25. It has a BCR (Benefit to Cost Ratio) of 1.3 to 1.8, meaning that every $1 spent on the project will produce benefits of $1.30 to $1.80. The total cost will be approximately $10.4bn, with $7bn to come from privatisation of state electricity assets and $3.4bn from existing funding already committed. Additional stations will be considered at Artarmon, Barangaroo, and either Waterloo or Sydney University; which the report recommends partly being funded by beneficiaries of the new stations, a concept known as “value capture” (p. 146). The current plan has the line connecting to Sydenham Station via tunnel, rather than utilising the existing corridor between Erskineville and Sydenham which has been reserved for an additional pair of tracks.

Proposed new stations include Artarmon (not shown), Barangaroo, and either Sydney University or Waterloo. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Proposed new stations include Artarmon (not shown), Barangaroo, and either Sydney University or Waterloo. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Improving efficiency (p. 35)

Transport for NSW will further investigate the effectiveness of off-peak pricing and improved shoulder peak services on spreading demand. The report notes that, following the October 2013 timetable changes, improved frequencies during the shoulder peak periods (the time immediately before and after peak hour) saw 5% of peak hour journeys shift from peak hour to the shoulder. Transport for NSW notes that this represents “more than two years of patronage growth”, adding however that “this option is not ‘cost free’: additional rolling stock may be required to provide these services on some lines”. Despite these concerns, it is likely that improved efficiency can at the very least defer the need for more expensive capital expenditure to expand the rail network.

Light rail (p. 40)

Two light rail projects are discussed, the first being and extension to the existing Inner West Line out to White Bay where significant urban development is planned; which the second is an extension of the proposed CBD and South East Line to either Maroubra (1.9km), Malabar (5.1km), or La Perouse (8.2km). Neither of these extensions have funding attached to them.

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

Freight (pp. 62-63, 65)

A Western Sydney Freight Line is mentioned, as is a Maldon to Dombarton Railway and associated improvements to the Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL). The latter would link up Port Kembla to the SSFL in South West Sydney, thus removing freight trains from the T4 Line in Southern Sydney. Such a move is likely a prerequisite for increase passenger frequencies on the T4 Illawarra Line as well as extending Rapid Transit Services from Sydenham to Hurstville at some point in the future.

The Maldon to Dombarton Railway would allow freight trains to travel between Sydney and Port Kembla without using the T4 Line through Hurstville and Sutherland. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 65.)

The Maldon to Dombarton Railway would allow freight trains to travel between Sydney and Port Kembla without using the T4 Line through Hurstville and Sutherland. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 65.)

Commentary: What’s missing and what’s next?

No mention is made of a rail line to the Northern Beaches, the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, an extension to the T4 Eastern Suburbs Line, or a CBD bus tunnel. The last 2 of these projects were proposed by Infrastructure NSW in its original 2012 report, designed to eliminate the need for light rail through the CBD. With the NSW Government opting to go ahead with the surface light rail option, both of these projects appear to have been dropped by Infrastructure NSW.

Infrastructure NSW’s combatative approach also appears to have been dropped replaced with a more cooperative approach to transport planning with Transport for NSW. Whereas in 2012 the Infrastructure NSW report was seen as an alternative to the Transport for NSW Transport Master Plan, and an alternative that focussed more on road based transport rather than rail based transport; this 2014 update reinforces, rather than contradicts Transport for NSW. It’s difficult to look past the departure of Infrastructure NSW’s inaugural Chairman and CEO, Nick Greiner and Paul Broad (both strong advocates for roads and road based transport), when looking for a reason why this may have happened.

Looking towards the future, the $20bn privatisation of 49% of the electricity distribution network in 2016 will provide funding for a decade – in particular to fund the construction of the Second Harbour Crossing, $7bn from privatization money is to be added to the existing $3.4bn allocated to it, with construction to begin in 2019 and the project completed by 2024-25. If the Premier Mike Baird has his way then construction will begin in 2017, potentially fast tracking this project to 2023. This would be 4 years after the opening of the NWRL, a welcome change to delays and deferrals that NSW has become used to.

Additional expansions of the transport network that come after that are currently unfunded and uncommitted. These include any extension to the North West and South West Rail Links, light rail to Maroubra and White Bay, and the Outer Western Orbital Freeway.

One option is that the remaining 51% could be sold off to pay for it. Alternatively, these projects could be funded out of consolidated revenue, built at a slower pace than would otherwise be the case. Following the coming decade of strong additions to Sydney’s stock of infrastructure, this may be an acceptable option. Either way, the 2015 election will not settle the debate over privatisation. This will be an issue that will remain on the table for decades to come.

Monday: Massive CBD delays caused by road closures and accidents

Long delays were felt by people travelling into and within the CBD on Monday morning, particularly by bus passengers on the Harbour Bridge, following a number of simultaneous incidents. A number of roads were closed during 27 December to 12 January as part of the CBD and South East Light Rail project. A cable that manages traffic signals was hit by work crews at the corner of Bridge and Grosvenor streets, preventing traffic light phasing from being changed and causing further delays. A breakdown during peak hour in the southbound lane of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel diverted more cross-harbour traffic on to the bridge. In addition there was a crash at 8:15AM approaching the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a motorcycle breakdown that blocked the bus lane at 9:00AM for a short period.

Transport for NSW issued a statement apologising for the delays, later announcing changes to prevent similar delays further into the week. These changes included opening one lane in each direction on Grosvenor and Bridge streets every day between 6am to 10am and 3pm to 8pm, while also rerouting buses on the Harbour Bridge via the Cahill Expressway or Western Distributor,

Wednesday: Bus network changes still not finalised

Changes to the CBD bus network, required due to the imminent closure of George St to allow for construction of the CBD and South East Light Rail, have not yet been finalised according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald. Construction is to begin shortly after the Centenary of Anzac Day in April of this year. George St is also set to be pedestrianised, meaning that buses will not be able to travel along George St even after construction is completed.

Thursday: Construction to begin on Castlereagh St and Liverpool St bike paths

Work is to begin this month on separated bike paths on Castlereagh St and Liverpool St in the Sydney CBD. Separated bike paths already exist on Kent St and York St, while a third bike path on College St is set to be removed once the Castlereagh St bike path is complete. Previous plans to make the Castlereagh St bike path a “part-time” bike path by allowing loading zones on them at certain times of the day appear to have been dropped following opposition to the proposed plans.

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.)

Sunday: Salmon for the South West

The South West Rail Link will be represented by the salmon on the rail map. Passenger indicator boards installed at Liverpool Station in preparation for the 8 February opening of the line display the colour salmon, with trains stopping at Glenfield, Edmondson Park, and Leppington. Trains will initially run as a shuttle service between Liverpool and Leppington.

VIDEO: All Stations Challenge (2014) – 176 stations in 1 day

Thursday: Rail network shuts down after New Years Eve

A fire in the Sydney Trains signal control room shortly after midnight of New Years Eve caused all trains to temporarily shut down. Trains began operating soon after, but caused significant delays for the large numbers of people wanting to return home soon after the Sydney Habour fireworks.

Friday: SWRL to open on Feb 8

The South West Rail Link is set to open on Sunday 8 February, with services initially to be every half hour between Leppington and Liverpool. These services will be extended in future, depending on demand, as Sydney’s South West is further developed and more residents move into it. Services could be extended to Parramatta via the T5 Cumberland Line or to the CBD via either the T2 South Line, T2 Airport Line, or T3 Bankstown Line.

The line itself may also be extended to a future airport at Badgerys Creek and then further to St Marys and/or Narelllan.

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.)

NOTE: This post was meant to be written for 31 December 2014, but was delayed for numerous reasons.

Reflecting back on 2014

2015-01-05 Stats for 2014

This blog received over 255 thousand views in 2014, a time during which:

Posts with the most views

  1. Paper tickets to be retired and replaced with Opal, 1 June 2014 (7,693 views)
  2. Badgerys Creek infrastructure and noise impacts, 16 April 2014 (6,969 views)
  3. Sydney maps: real and fictional, 12 February 2014 (3,484 view)
  4. Opal’s hidden gems, 31 January 2014 (3,008 views)
  5. Metro plan could cost more and Northern Beaches Rail Line in the planning, 3 February 2014 (2,818 views)

Opal and its rollout garnered a great deal of interest, particularly given the bulk of the rollout occurred during 2014. Most the posts with high traffic were also either original content (Sydney maps: real and fictional or Opal’s hidden gems), or covered specific current issues in greater detail than other media did (Badgerys Creek infrastructure and noise impacts or Metro plan could cost more and Northern Beaches Rail Line in the planning).

11 June was the single day with the highest traffic volumes, with 1,924 views. This was the day after the Asset sales to fund Sydney Rapid Transit post was published. That post was not the most viewed post, but was likely viewed many times on the home page, rather than as a specific post.

Posts with the most comments

  1. This week in transport (7 December 2014)7 December 2014 (128 comments)
  2. This week in transport (30 March 2014)30 March 2014 (121 comments)
  3. Metro plan could cost more and Northern Beaches Rail Line in the planning, 3 February 2014 (92 comments)
  4. Commentary: Why a 2nd Harbour road tunnel is a good thing, 22 November 2014 (63 comments)
  5. Asset sale to fund Sydney Rapid Transit, 10 June 2014 (60 comments)

The 7 December post was in relation to the CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR), while the 30 March post was in relation to the North West Rail Link. All up, Sydney Rapid Transit was responsible for igniting debate in 3 of the top 5 commented on posts, while the other two were in relation to the CSELR and a future Northern extension to WestConnex. All are projects that are still for the most part in the planning stages, with construction either yet to begin or only recently having begun.

The most frequent commenters over the last year were Simon (140 comments), Ray (123 comments), QPP (84 comments), MrV (77 comments), JC (58 comments).

Thank you to all commenters for engaging in discussion. Comments are always welcome.

Posts with the most activity on social media

  1. Paper tickets to be retired and replaced with Opal, 1 June 2014 (42 shares on Facebook and 3 tweets on Twitter)
  2. Opal soon to be available on entire Sydney Trains network19 February 2014 (41 shares on Facebook and 1 tweet on Twitter)
  3. Comparing Opal to Myki and TCard, 29 January 2014 (21 shares on Facebook and 11 tweets on Twitter)
  4. Live Blog – All Stations Challenge (22 December 2014), 22 December 2014 (18 shares on Facebook and 15 tweets on Twitter)
  5. The cost of transport and fare setting10 January 2014 (24 shares on Facebook and 2 tweets on Twitter)

Opal was, again, the issue that got readers to share posts from this blog. All up there were 2,651 referrals to this blog from Twitter and 1,971 from Facebook during the past year. Together they represent about 1.8% of all views on this blog.

Terms with the most searches

  1. Rail map (1,064 searches)
  2. Badgerys Creek airport (966 searches)
  3. WestConnex (238 searches)
  4. Sydney transport blog (191 searches)
  5. Sydney trains (184 searches)

Over 100,000 referrals came from search engines, of which approximately 95% were anonymous searches. The remaining 5% of searches were ll quite different, so similar search terms (e.g. Badgerys Creek airport, Badgerys Creek airport flight path, Badgerys Creek airport noise map, etc) with more than 5 searches were added up. Various combinations of rail maps and Badgerys Creek airport each yielded the greatest number of searches. However, it is difficult to tell if these are a representative sample of all searches.

Looking forward to 2015

The first half of this new year will see the opening of the South West Rail Link (February), the NSW State election (March), and the start of construction on the CBD portion of the CSELR after the Centenary of Anzac Day (April). Changes to the CBD bus network are also set to be announced during this time.

The new year will also see the rollout of Opal Concession cards and ticket machines plus the start of construction on the M4 and M5 portions of WestConnex. Details are also awaited on which alignment is chosen for light rail from Parramatta and specific information on enhancements to be made to Western Sydney’s heavy rail network in order to expand network capacity once the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link is closed in 2018 to be integrated into the Sydney Rapid Transit network.