Light rail construction schedule re-opens debate

Posted: May 30, 2015 in Transport
Tags: , , , , , ,

VIDEO: Sydney Light Rail Flythrough – May 2015

The announcement on Thursday of the construction schedule for the CBD and South East Light Rail has seen the debate over the line re-open. Construction of the George St portion, set to occur between October 2015 and May 2017, will last over a year and a half. Closure of streets during this time will hurt businesses operating in the area. Meanwhile, changes to bus routes and timetables, set to change in October to co-incide with the start of construction, remain a secret to the public.

VIDEO: Sydney Light Rail Construction Schedule – May 2015

Earlier in the week, the Opposition Leader Luke Foley had declared his opposition to light rail down George Street, while supporting light rail from Central to Randwick and Kingsford. When the construction schedule was announced, Mr Foley said “the Liberals will deliver a Berlin Wall down the central spine of Sydney, dividing the CBD into east and west…Sydney needs light rail – but not down George Street. The Liberals should listen to the experts and terminate light rail at Central Station”. Mr Foley supported the full light rail project prior to the last election, committing to build it in full if elected Premier.

The Premier Mike Baird defended the decision to go ahead with construction, stating that despite the disruption “if we say we’re going to build it, we’ll build it”. The Transport Minister Andrew Constance reinforced this view, saying that “we’re not in the business of cancelling contracts”.

The former Premier Barry O’Farrell, who was Premier when the current project received approval, also criticised Mr Foley for relying on Nick Greiner’s opposition to George St light rail in order to make his case. Mr O’Farrell has previously distanced himself from Mr Greiner, a previous Chairman of Infrastructure NSW, arguing that Mr Greiner may oppose rail based public transport but Mr O’Farrell and his government support it.

Route of the CBD and South East Light Rail Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Route of the CBD and South East Light Rail Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Commentary: Just build it

Sydney is set to continue to grow and that growth needs an increase in transport capacity. For dense areas like the inner city, that means public transport should be prioritised ahead of private motor vehicles; while for the CBD, that means rail needs to be prioritised. When it comes to high capacity, almost nothing beats rail. Right now, that means light rail down George Street and Sydney Rapid Transit under the CBD. That is current government policy.

But not if Mr Foley had his way. In his world you not only see light rail terminate at the outskirts of the CBD but also no new funding for SRT under the CBD, effectively killing the project. Meanwhile, Mr Foley went to the last election commiting to extend the M4 all the way into the CBD. He would expand road based transport for the CBD, but not rail based transport. He has it the wrong way round.

Compare this to the government’s plans for WestConnex, bypassing the CBD and connecting the M4 and M5; with future plans for a Western Harbour road tunnel to connect Rozelle to North Sydney, further bypassing the CBD. Add this to the previously mentioned 2 major rail projects for the CBD and you get the right solution: cars out, trains and trams in.

  1. David Sanderson says:

    So shameful that a Labor leader is promoting retrograde, car-centric policies. Progressive voters will have no choice but to vote Green at the next election. They may even have to preference the Liberals over Labor, which is an extraordinary indicator of how low NSW State Labor has fallen.

  2. Simon says:

    If the Government was really interested in reducing car dependence in the CBD, they’d be bringing on a congestion charge and (for extra points) removing the tolls on roads like the cross city tunnel which take traffic off CBD roads. But they clearly aren’t, because they haven’t.

  3. Dudley Horscroft says:

    Re the map, I believe that the World Square tram stop has been deleted.

  4. Simon says:

    Between 8AM and 8:59am I make it 35 of the buses from Broadway (6 each M10 & M30, 7 461s, 5 480s, 3 483s & 8 501s) terminating or turning off at Park St leaving 140 continuing along George St.

    That makes it 253 total buses on George St north of Park St. Put that against 236 buses on Elizabeth St northbound at present, as I make it. If you believe the government’s plan, the bus numbers on Elizabeth St will actually drop by 6, however the suggestion that 33 less buses will run along Broadway in the busiest is completely without credibility.

    The light rail has some positive qualities, particularly the bit from Central to the Prince of Wales Hospital end of UNSW but the rest is over hyped by its proponents. But this is all an academic argument now.

  5. QPP says:

    This just goes to show how badly NSW Labor is being advised on Transport. This might have been a stance to take 3 years ago (I don’t agree with him, but then I’ve always thought the pedestrianisation of George St was at least as important as the transport side of it). Now the project is under contract it’s just straight out dumb. Do Labor have an addiction to spending hundreds of millions on cancellations or something? Idiotic

    Meanwhile they went to the election with no coherent real transport policy, and still don’t have one. Massive fail

  6. Simon says:

    I absolutely agree with that. But the 2007 election was the election that they deserved to lose. I think they only won it because they were promising a NWRL and the Libs were promising not to build it.

    I think they’re theory is to expect chaos from the tram and then say “we opposed it”. I think many people will remember them not opposing it until after the election though.

  7. PeteD says:

    I’m not sure that the argument would be the same if Michael Daley was leader.

    It isn’t that hard to see this being extended through to La Parouse (right through Maroubra) and getting stacks of buses off Anzac Parade.

    I’m not sure Labor really should be wanting to fight the next election against a government building a whole series of stage #2 and #3 extensions of infrastructure Labor opposed.

  8. Alex says:

    While I have previously expressed my concerns regarding the specific choices of mode in relation to both NWRL and CESLR the contracts are signed and I don’t see the point in opposing them now, especially as some form of rail transport is needed in both corridors.

    The proposal that you could terminate the light rail at Central is particularly unfortunate – what exactly are the thousands of passengers supposed to do once they get there? And I’m amused by all this opposition now – unlike WestConnex, detailed plans have been out there for some time and have not changed that much. As QPP says, three years ago would have been the time to oppose the project and come up with a credible alternative.

    The government though can’t get off scot-free, however. They have chosen the modes for both projects and will have to manage the consequences, such as the impact of closing the ECRL for six months, and the capacity constraints of the CESLR.

  9. Ray says:

    Yes, I agree that it is disappointing that Labor hasn’t come up with a credible alternative transport plan for Sydney. I expected a lot more from Penny Sharpe as Labor’s former Transport spokesperson. Was she nobbled?

  10. MrV says:

    When you look at that map it is clear it should have been built as an underground Metro line potentially connectint to the NW metro. How will the trams perform with all the traffic lights to be negotiated? Some of the city ones will be a nightmare especially if they also want to have a light cycle for cyclists.

    Also the fancy wireless system they envisage for the pedestrianised George St has not only added unnecessarily to the cost but will be unreliable during a major downpour, right at the very time when the public needs reliability.
    Such incompentance only achieveable in Sydney.

  11. QPP says:

    I don’t buy APS being unreliable in a downpour. It’s not like it’s unused/untried/untested anywhere else, it’s possible to engineer a solution I am sure, and I am equally sure the PPP set up will mean service payments get significantly abated if services don’t run, or run late or unreliably

    For what it’s worth, every time I’ve been to Bordeaux (5 times?) it’s been hammering it down ;-)

  12. QPP says:

    ^NB Doesn’t mean I agree they should have chosen it, nor indeed specified wire free for George St. For most of its length there are really meaty lighting stanchions that could easily have been used to hold up the catenary…….but we are where we are now, it’s a contracted project

  13. Alexsg says:

    @QPP – Although I might agree in principle with MrV that a metro connected to the CBD extension of the NWRL might have made more sense than the CESLR, as you point out the contract has been signed and it’s time to move on. The light rail will be built and while it may not be the optimum solution it is better than doing nothing. I suspect however that it will be a victim of its own success in terms of capacity and in another 10 years or less we will be looking at options to expand or supplement it, whereupon the best short-term and expedient solution of the day will be chosen, in best NSW tradition.

    But I digress. The main reason for my post is to respond to your comment that the APS wireless system is able to operate during heavy rain in Bordeaux. I did a bit of research in this for an article on my own very occasional blog – and came across an Irish report which I quoted as follows:


    “The APS power rail, like any power rail, cannot operate when it is covered by water, because such a situation would lead to current leak when the rail is powered up, and thus tripping of the circuit breaker protecting the traction power circuit…. Flooding of the track bed is an exceptional situation which should be prevented by an appropriate drainage arrangement embedded in the track.” (P20)

    My question is does the rain in Bordeaux cause localised flooding? Although it is a rare occurrence here it does happen occasionally and if the Irish are right would lead to the power being cut when it does happen. Of course we don’t know if the drainage is going to be improved in that part of George Street but you can only hope that it will be substantially upgraded.

  14. Anthony says:

    One question I have about the light rail is the current light rail from Dulwich Hill. Looking at the map it appears that it will continue going to Central and won’t come down George St.
    I would suggest to the government they look a new route for this line. By building a new bridge adjacent to Pyrmont Bridge (or attached to the bridge, if feasible) this light rail could across Daling Harbour, then up Market Street where it would join the new line and go up to Circular Quay. This would make this service much more direct for most commuters who work in the City.
    The new bridge could also have bike paths to move the large number of cyclists from Pyrmont Bridge thereby improving the situation for cyclists and pedestrians. It would also allow the extension of The Goods Line walkway, currently being built, to go where the current light rail goes and join up to the Pyrmont Bridge, where walkers could go across to then walk through Barangaroo. This would become a classic walk and a tourist draw card.

  15. QPP says:

    ^There are two problems with that

    The first one is cost. Light Rail schemes are often pretty marginal at the best of times and if you have to provide big civil or structural works just to support them (bridges, tunnels, flyovers, whatever) they quickly become uneconomic even looked at in a kindly way. This is one of the reasons Ecotransit’s “White Bay Green Link” scheme is a nonsense

    The second one is configuring the network. LR needs frequency, a turn up and go service, to really get decent capacity and to make it attractive to use. A relatively slow surface level system with close(ish) stop spacing needs trams to just turn up every 5 minutes or less or people just don’t bother, may as well walk. Frequency needs reliability of journey time (a challenge with light rail because of pedestrians, loading/unloading variability and traffic lights) and as simple a route as possible for each LRV. In an ideal world you’d have LR lines separated but interconnecting, with looped termini so the LRVs just run down the line, round the loop and back. Introduce bifurcating networks and you’ll stuff that up quite badly

    Like all transport solutions, the first question has to be about numbers of people needing to travel from points A,B,C and D to points W,X,Y and Z

  16. JC says:

    EEK! What is Luke Foley thinking. Getting LR to Central and then changing to buses to finish the journey is 180 degress the wrong way round. We need more LR in the CBD, not less e.g. Castlereagh St and Sussex St/Hickson Road. And a link from Rawson Place to Victoria Park via BROADway (the clue for whether this is doable is in the name) – removing the need for 42x, 43x and 44x buses from going anywhere near the CBD.

    Who is advising (or otherwise influencing) him??? The same dark forces kept the inner west LR out of the CBD (after promising that it would happen once the cross-cirty tunnel was built)? I can’t believe that anyone would still believe that LR is bad for CBD retail? My conspiracy theory rader has been trying to follow the money here – but I can’t come up with anything. It is just 100% bonkers.

    (on the subject of 100% bonkers I do wish Bambul would desist from the misguided view that westconnex about channelling traffic away from the CBD)

    And some interesting points raised about a Pyrmont-CBD link….

    I remember the old (Transfield?) LR alternative to the monorail involved trams across Pyrmont bridge (it’s probably not too late to re-visit the concept of Pyrmont Bridge as a shared route – saving the money on an alternartive or a clip-on), and also included (I think?) a short tunnel under Erskine St to link into Wynyard.

    And there have also been suggestions of a (very) short tunnel from the Fish Markets to Darling Harbour, allowing a for a slow (via the Casino loop) and fast service on the inner west line (possibly linking to a Victoria Road service?) And on the subject of making the inner west LR earn its keep – why not an underground stop where it crosses Glebe Point Road.

  17. Todd says:

    If the Inner West Light Rail was diverted over Pyrmont Bridge would it replace any bus routes?

    I get why it looks good as a line on a map, but I struggle to see how it would do anything to reduce CBD congestion. Not to mention the cost of the project would be extraordinary.

    Assuming CSELR is successful, I assume a future Government would be more likely to consider a second North-South route.

  18. Alexsg says:

    @JC – Yes I’m very disappointed in the ALP’s transport policy – or rather, non-policy. And it’s one thing to oppose CESLR and suggest rational alternatives, and quite another to just say it should stop at Central. Of course it would also be nice if Labor also offered a credible alternative to WestConnex…

    My theory is that Foley has decided to oppose CESLR in the CBD because he knows he will never have to cancel it. By election day in 2019 the project will be complete (or close to complete) that any such promise would be moot, but in the meantime he will be able to capitalise on the inconvenience caused by the build, disruption to bus services etc by saying “I told you so” etc.

    I also felt that there would have been a lot of advantages in running the LR line over Pyrmont Bridge though that would have left the the entertainment and convention centres out of the picture. It would also have been relatively easy to do at the time but would be a lot more challenging now.

  19. JC says:

    Improved travel times and frequencies for light rail via shorter and more direct access to the mid-CBD would encourage people that have a access to LR and buses to choose the tram – you may even see bus-tram transfers at Taverners Hill. As it stands the loop north to the casino, then south to Central, then not even reaching the CBD proper is a real barrier to LR patronage – and certainy to any further extension.

    But it wouldn’t be at the top of my list (which would be a Broadway line and a Maroubra Junction extension – both of which must have better cost-benefit potential than the PoW hospital line).

    “Assuming CSELR is successful, I assume a future Government would be more likely to consider a second North-South route.” One would certaily hope so – but we all thought the same about Dulwich Hill/CBD extensions to the original line – but they didn’t happen for 20+ years/at all.

  20. JC says:

    “I also felt that there would have been a lot of advantages in running the LR line over Pyrmont Bridge though that would have left the the entertainment and convention centres out of the picture”

    Lines on map time… It would be feasible to have a Central to Fish Markets line via entertainment and convention centres and Pyrmont Point, and a CBD to Glebe (and beyond) line via Pyrmont Bridge and short tunnel. Or any combination – LRT is much more flexible that HR or metro. Most LR systems in the world don’t have the route separation being proposed for Sydney.

    “It would also have been relatively easy to do at the time but would be a lot more challenging now.”

    You’re probably right, but giving over 1/2 of Pyrmont Bridge to trams and 1/4 to pedestrians and 1/4 to cyclists could work – and be sold to the punters as the win-win-win that ot would be. Or failing that a multi-level solution – pedestrians on top, trams and cycles on the exiting deck??

  21. JC says:

    PS. Thanks for raising the wire-less nonsense, the only issue that would make it worth re-opening the contract.

  22. QPP says:

    I don’t think too late to re-open the contract, either, in respect of APS

    Sure, there will have been abortive design by now, and Alstom will whinge and say it has cost them (it will have, a bit, but then there’s less to buy in terms of trams and APS gear). There will be increased risk on what’s already looking like a tight schedule.

    But probably not impossible at this stage. The window of opportunity will be closing very very quickly though

    I wouldn’t expect anything to happen. But it is actually feasible I think, whereas much of the energies of campaigners seems to be directed towards things that aren’t, like changing the route

  23. Alex says:

    “I don’t think too late to re-open the contract, either, in respect of APS”.

    While I don’t think APS was particularly necessary I don’t have a problem with it. My research indicates it would add about $20 million to the overall cost, which is not insignificant but not a huge amount either.

    I do however have one objection and once concern. My objection is that if APS is implemented there will be no possibility for the Dulwich Hill trams to go up George St unless they are converted as well.

    My concern as I stated before, is whether APS will work in Sydney’s occasional tropical downpours – the amount of rain itself isn’t the issue, but whether the drainage will be adequate to prevent flooding at all times certainly is.

  24. QPP says:

    I’m almost aligned

    What I don’t see as an issue is the ability of IW vehicles to go up George St. However you engineered the connection, doing this would stuff up the timetable so what’s the point?

    It’s back to that old Sydney obsession with the single seat journey, to me. Single seat journeys are not unimportant or irrelevant, but where they introduce major compromises in more important considerations such as frequency and reliability, they are.

    I’d far rather (light rail or heavy rail) have a journey that involved a change, provided both services were frequent (<5 mins) and reliable, than have a non-change journey that only ran every 15 or 20 minutes (as is the case on so many of Sydney's rail lines)

    To me the biggest convenience is not being able to sit in one place from journey start to end, but being able to turn up and go without finding myself kicking my heels for a third of an hour

    "Flexibility" of rolling stock in terms of it being interchangeable and able to work on any piece of infrastructure is vastly overrated. What matters is quality of service and I rank things like frequency, speed, easy ticketing, easy mode change, reliability way higher than single seat journeys in terms of what "Quality of service" means to me

    I recognise not everyone shares this view.

  25. Alex says:

    While I do see some advantages in being able to provide a through service for the IWLR vehicles to Circular Quay I agree this isn’t critical – with one important proviso, which is that there will be a reasonably good interchange at Haymarket between the Capitol Square IWLR and the Chinatown CESLR stops.

    There are a number of issues around this, however, First is that I suspect the CESLR is going to run into capacity issues a lot earlier than a lot of people think, especially with trying to get additional passengers from Broadway buses onto what are likely to be already full services at Rawson Place and then at Chinatown from the IWLR. One option to alleviate this would be to use the IWLR vehicles to provide additional peak hour capacity on the section from Chinatown to Circular Quay.

  26. Andrew Roydhouse says:

    @Alex – You are spot on. The CSELR is cutting peak hour capacity.

    The claim (still made – see Budget hearings 1 October 2015) is that 220 buses per hour will be removed from between Central and Circular Quay by the CSELR with a MAX capacity/hour of 6,900.

    This max capacity is achieved with 6 people standing per square metre – a loading not permitted/used on any other service in NSW – either planned or existing.

    But what is the capacity of 220 Sydney Buses?

    Well, TfNSW repeatedly state that a ‘standard’ bus can only carry 50 passengers.

    So 50 x 220 = 11,000 bus passenger capacity (65-73% seated) replaced with just 6,900!

    Using the last published figures by Sydney Buses (not under that name then) was median standard bus capacity of 71 passengers per bus.

    So 71 x 220 = 15,620 bus passenger capacity (65-73% seated) replaced with just 6,900!

    Infrastructure NSW used a figure of 75 passengers per bus for a standard bus.

    So 75 x 220 = 16,500 bus passenger capacity (65-73% seated) replaced with just 6,900!

    Perhaps this is where the hundred’s of millions in ‘claimed’ benefits come from – FORCING nearly 10,000 passengers an hour to walk to the city instead.

    WHY? Because there’s no alternative public transport available from Kingsford/Randwick anymore as 20 routes are eliminated.

    So why spend $2.1bn to CUT public transport capacity?

    Anyone googled Alstom bribery fine ?

    The winning consortium member has been charged for bribing Govt officials and MPs in 15 different countries covering every continent but Australia.

    They face being banned from the EU for four years as an outcome from 3 separate cases in the UK.

    Alstom admitted (See FBI media release and court documents) to a world-wide orchestrated system, controlled from France, bribing Govt officials and MPs to win projects. They also admitted to actively working to create false records and other measures to prevent the FBI from finding the truth.

    Shame about the senior exec who transited JFK. Advanced investigative techniques resulted in over 48 hours of ‘wire-worn’ recordings of Alstom at work.

    We need proper transport based on clear & publicised analysis – not Baird & Berejiklian’s projects by media release.

  27. CRAIG COUGHLAN says:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s