Open Drum – The Daily Commute

ABC Open is taking contributions on the topic of “the daily commute”. The deadline for contributions is midday Tuesday 9 June.

“Tell us about your daily commute. What are the joys and challenges? How does it impact your life or your family? Would improved public transport, affordable accommodation near workplaces or better roads help? Whatever happened to telecommuting? Do you have a survival tip or utopian vision for policy makers? Share your story and opinions in 350-700 words.”

1 May: Rail line to Badgerys Creek downplayed

Suggestions for a fast rail service between Badgerys Creek and Sydney CBD in time for the opening of a future Western Sydney Airport were dismissed by the Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss. “A rail line connected to the metropolitan area of Sydney is not essential in that [early] phase” said Mr Truss. The NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance was more open to the idea, stating that he was “putting all things on the table”, including a possible extension of Sydney Rapid Transit out to Badgerys Creek via the existing Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot. Proposals exist to extend the recently opened South West Rail Link to Badgerys Creek, but there are no current plans or funding to do so.

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.)

4 May: Opal-only ticket gates

New ticket gates that accept only Opal cards are to be trialed at Olympic Park Station. Existing ticket barriers that accept both Opal and paper tickets will continue to be in use.

7 May: Mousetrap to catch graffiti vandals

A new technology is being trialed which detects either spray paint or permanent marker on trains, so far leading to the arrest of 30 individuals. Known as “Mousetrap”, it uses an electronic chemical sensor which detects the vapour of both spray paint and marker pens.  Live CCTV records and provides images directly to Sydney Trains staff. Removing graffiti from the Sydney Trains network cost $34 million last financial year, up from $30 million the year before.

10 May: Epping to Chatswood Line will be disconnected for almost a year

The Epping to Chatswood Line, set to be shut down for 7 months during which it will be converted and connected to the North West Rail Link in order to create the first stage of Sydney Rapid Transit, will be disconnected from the T1 Northern and North Shore Lines prior to its shut down. A recently approved government proposal will see the line operate as a shuttle service between Epping and Chatswood for 4 months prior to this conversion, most likely in 2018.

21 May: Light rail predicted to kill someone each year

A report prepared for the government predicts that 1.14 people will be killed by the new CBD and South East Light Rail line every year on average. Between 2010 and 2014, there have been 3 fatalities involving pedestrians and buses in the Sydney CBD. The report also predicts 1 fatality every 5 years for the existing light rail line to Dulwich Hill, although no deaths have occurred on this line since it opened in 1997.

22 May: Opal card user information handed over to government agencies

57 requests for Opal card data, which include the card user’s address and travel patterns, have been granted by Transport for NSW to government agencies since December 2014. A total of 181 requests were made, with no court approval required in order for information to be handed over. By comparison, information from Queensland’s Go Card had been accessed almost 11,000 times between 2006 and 2014.

26 May: NWRL tunneling 40% complete

Tunnel boring machines on the North West Rail Link have reached Showground Station. 12km of the 30km of tunneling, representing over a third of the total length, is now complete.

26 May: Long Bay Prison sale under consideration

The Government is considering the possibility of selling off Long Bay Prison, possibly raising a estimated $400m. The sale, which would see the site redeveloped, has been linked to a possible extension of the light rail line currently under construction. The CBD and South East Light Rail is set to open in 2019, initially reaching Kingsford. However, an extension as far as La Perouse has been raised as a possibility.

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.)

26 May: Congestion will be worse after WestConnex

Internal government reports show that traffic levels on inner city roads around the planned WestConnex tunnels are predicted to be higher in 2026 than in 2011, despite the planned completion of WestConnex by 2023. A spokeswoman for the WestConnex Delivery Authority commented that “[traffic on] the inner south will improve with WestConnex as opposed to a do nothing scenario”.

28 May: Light rail construction schedule announced

VIDEO: Ten Eyewitness News Sydney – Government admits public transport system “broken” (27/5/2015)

A construction schedule for the CBD and South East Light Rail was released to the public. George St is set to see three and a half years of construction, with the new CBD and South East Light Rail set to be built between September 2015 and April 2018. The line is currently scheduled to open in early 2019, following testing of the line.

The Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who recently declared his opposition to light rail on George St, compared the project to the Berlin Wall and declared that it would lead to chaos and confusion.

The Government released video (above) of a bus and pedestrian walking down George Street during the evening peak hour showing the pedestrian being faster than the bus. Pedestrianising George St, resulting in the replacement of cars and buses with trams, has been put forward as a way to reduce congestion for public transport users which currently exists in many parts of the city.

The announcement also included plans to defer construction on the Northern portion of the Castlereagh St bike path until construction on the light rail line is completed. The Roads Minister Duncan Gay had previously proposed including loading zones along portions of Castlereagh St, which would have the effect of making it a “part-time” bike path. Deferring its construction pushes back the need to make a decision on this issue. However, the existing bike path on College St is set to be converted into a bus lane. This will help to handle bus movements once George St becomes closed off to vehicles, but removes a North-South bike path in the CBD for a number of years.

28 May: mX axed

Newscorp is set to discontinue mX, its free commuter newspaper. mX is currently distributed each weekday afternoon in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane; it began in each of these cities in 2001, 2005, and 2007 respectively.

29 May: Electricity privatisation passes lower house

Legislation to allow the 99 year lease of 49% of the NSW electricity distribution network has passed the NSW Legislative Assembly. It now goes to the Legislative Council, where a combination of the Liberal, National, and Christian Democratic Parties that have committed to supporting the legislation have enough votes to ensure its passage through the upper house of Parliament.

  1. Ray says:

    With regard to the Badgerys Creek Airport rail extension, whenever it’s built, I still think it would be better served by an extension of the existing SWRL, NOT SRT, to provide an express service to the Sydney CBD via Sydenham. The SRT, via a converted Airport Line, should only run as far as Revesby

  2. JC says:

    2 points:

    1. I agree with Ray. Building a metro in an outer-suburban low density area would be a waste of money (but that didn’t stop them in the northwest).

    2. BC (whatever niche it takes) needs rail from the start to ensutre its credibility. But that should be affordable if it is – in the first instance – a relatively low cost extension to the SWRL.

  3. Simon says:

    If SRT goes via the airport, an extension to the SWRL and BC makes some sense but would not come cheap. It would require a quad Revesby-Glenfield and 2 more platforms at Glenfield with yet another flyover there. Then a conversion of Glenfield-Leppington.

    It would have the main advantage of getting more people onto the SRT vs double deck with the secondary advantage of connecting the two airports. Those who want an express service to the city could change at Glenfield. I guess the alternate move would be leaving the SWRL as double deck and extending SRT just to Glenfield which may be superior in some respects but particularly bang for buck.

  4. Greg says:

    Has anyone considered that he meant SRT heading to airport from Cudgegong Road via St Marys?

  5. JC says:

    There seems to be an outbreak of NSW gold plate disease here. What is needed (at first) is a few extra km of track, and a station – the latter, and hopefully the former, paid for by the airport developer as a justifiable environmental impact mitigation measure for the airport, and for some or all of the SWRL to go an extra stop – i.e. little or no rolling stock impact.

  6. Alfred says:

    Sydney Trains only just recently revealed Sydney’s most congested lines. The March 2015 data shows us that the T2 Inner West Line is the most congested in the morning peak (due to cuts to train services + increased patronage). The Inner West Line stood at an average 138% loading. This was closely followed by the T1 Western and T2 South Lines which both stood at 137% loading. T1 Northern Line came in at 3rd on 135% loading. However, the most overcrowded single train services were the T3 Bankstown Line and the T2 Inner West Line at 167% loading.

    Meanwhile T4 Eastern Suburbs had the most spare capacity. T1 Northern via Mac Uni and T1 Northern Lines stood at 104% and 118% on average. These 3 lines were the least congested of all city-bound suburban lines.

  7. Simon says:

    Eastern Suburbs is a bit of an outlier. Northern via Macquarie Park is also an outlier but less of one. Ignoring those lines (both of which are underserved by feeder buses), the north shore is far and away the least crowded line but attracting the most investment. Inner West, Western and lower Northern lines are close together for crowding. Interesting that the Inner West is suddenly crowded – it hasn’t been the case in previous surveys so could be an outlier. Or perhaps less South line trains are serving its stations?

  8. Alfred says:

    The Inner West Line had their morning peak hour services cut from 5tph to 4tph. Also it no longer serves the Berala-Carramar section. The cuts in services gave the South Line additional services. The South Line serves Newtown station during peak hours. Simon, the Inner West was the loser in the 2014 timetable changes and it hasn’t suddenly become crowded. If I recall, the 2014 March data showed that the Inner West line was at a 134% loading on average in the morning peak.

    I have noticed quite significant increases in patronage on all lines except for North Shore and Upper Northern Line.

  9. JC says:

    ESR is a bit of an eye-opener. Why is it so under-used in one of the densest parts of Sydney in both population and employment – not to mention traffic congestion and overcrowded buses? There needs to be some serious work here – another example of there being more to getting PT going than building new lines. Are the trains the wrong sort? Is bus/rail transfer too difficult? Are the bus routes wrong? Fare structures? Should we revisit additional stations (Woollahra, Woolloomooloo, Rushcutters Bay)?

  10. Simon says:

    Only 3 stations on the ESR could explain its underutilisation. Fare structures don’t help.

    Alfred, you’re quite correct. In fact, in March 2013 5359 people were on trains from the Inner West while in March 2014 it fell to 4788 rising only slightly to 4939 people in March 2015.

    This is also in a quite dense part of Sydney, particularly around Newtown.

  11. JC says:

    Inner west line has always been a candidate for upgrading to metro frequencies, accessibility and service patterns. This only confirms it.

  12. Ray says:

    I agree JC and Simon. The problem with the ESR is that is too short and has too few stations through one of the most dense parts of Sydney. It could certainly have more stations at Woolloomooloo, Rushcutters Bay and Woollahra, which were eliminated, as was the extension beyond Bondi Junction, to save costs.

    Infrastructure NSW under Greiner’s Chairmanship recommended that the ESR be extended to Maroubra Junction to increase its passenger catchment area, which makes perfect sense, but of course that doesn’t have the same ring to it as a shiny new metro system. I’d go further and construct a branch from Bondi Junction to Vaucluse via Bondi Rd, Bondi Beach and North Bondi, which was Bradfield’s original plan. The line as it stands is a waste of resources. It’s another example of the government big noting itself by focussing on big ticket transport projects worth billions of dollars rather than the nitty gritty of essential upgrades of the existing network. Spending just $1 billion on the Western Line upgrade, let alone upgrades to other lines, is an insult.

    One has to question the relevance of Infrastructure NSW, when its recommendations are largely ignored.

  13. MrV says:

    ESR should go to Bondi as a minimum. Maybe it is ‘underutilised’, but I think this is more to do with the fact that in peak it actually runs at 3min intervals, unlike the rest of the network.
    In any case why does every train have to be at 160% of capacity before they decide to do something about it.

    Trains and stations so much cleaner now that discarded mX’s aren’t everywhere.

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