Sydney’s future railways (Mar 2016)

Posted: March 14, 2016 in Transport
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VIDEO: Metropolitanisationing: Sydney Transport (Jack Walsh)

There are two rail lines in Sydney currently under construction or in the planning phase. The first is the Sydney Metro Northwest, announced in 2010 and set to open in 2019; it consists of 23km of new track between Epping and Cudgegong Rd near Rouse Hill as well as the conversion of the existing 13km Epping to Chatswood Line (opened in 2009) to metro operation. The second is the Sydney Metro City and Southwest, announced in 2014 and set to open in 2024; it consists of 13km of new track between Chatswood and Sydenham as well as the conversion of the existing 17km Bankstown Line between Sydenham and Bankstown to metro operation.

Although no firm plans are currently in place for expansion of the rail network beyond 2024, there are a number of rail lines that have been mentioned by state and federal Transport Ministers, Premiers, and Prime Ministers. In chronological order of their first announcement, these include an extension of the Sydney Metro from Cudgegong Rd to Marsden Park, an extension of the South West Rail Link to Badgerys Creek, an extension of the Sydney Metro from Bankstown to Liverpool, and a new fast train from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD and Badgerys Creek.

(Left out of this list are previously announced rail lines that have been raised in internal government documents or were official government policy but in either case have since been abandoned. These include the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, a metro line to the Northern Beaches, a metro line to Hurstville, and an extension of the Eastern Suburbs Line to UNSW.)

Cudgegong Road to Marsden Park

Work on preserving a corridor to extend what was then known as the North West Rail Link, now Sydney Metro Northwest, began before construction on the line had even begun. Two options were considered: a Northern extension to Riverstone and a Western extension to Marsden Park via Schofields. The latter option was chosen with the potential to extend it further to the Mount Druitt area, although the corridor is to be reserved with mode neutrality. In other words, it could be both as an extension of Sydney Metro, but it could also be built as even bus rapid transit/light rail or even heavy rail with double deck trains from the T1 Western Line at Mount Druitt or St Marys.

NWRL Extension Corridor Options

Two options exist for linking the NWRL to the Richmond Line. One goes North West to Vineyard, the other continues west through Schofields and towards Marsden Park. Click to enlarge. (Source:

Leppington to Badgerys Creek

The South West Rail Link would be extended from the current terminus at Leppington through to Badgerys Creek at the new Western Sydney Airport. This line would also include a potential extension North to St Marys and South to Narellan. By connecting to the existing heavy rail network, this line also provides the greatest potential for a freight rail connection to the new airport. However, it does not provide a fast nor a direct rail connection between the airport and Parramatta, the Sydney CBD, nor the existing Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot.

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.)

This is also the only proposed new rail line that is an extension of the existing heavy rail network. All of the other 3 proposals involve extensions of the Sydney Metro network currently under construction or the creation of a new single deck fast train.

Bankstown to Liverpool

An extension of the Sydney Metro City and Southwest, set to open in 2024 between Chatswood and Bankstown via the Sydney CBD, this would see the line extended further out to Liverpool.

The proposed Southern extension of Sydney Metro would see the line extended from the currently planned terminus at Bankstown out to Liverpool. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The proposed Southern extension of Sydney Metro would see the line extended from the currently planned terminus at Bankstown out to Liverpool. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Such a line could link both Bankstown and Liverpool to Bankstown Airport, allowing for potential redevelopment of the current airport site into a new business park. It would also provide connections between Liverpool and the Sydney CBD via Bankstown that are set to be lost once the Bankstown Line is converted to Metro services at some point in the next 8 years.

VIDEO: Sydney Metro: Future Options – Bankstown to Liverpool (Transport for NSW)

Sydney to Parramatta

Parramatta City Council, in conjunction with the Western Sydney Business Chamber, have proposed a fast train from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta that would complete the journey in as little as 15 minutes. It also includes a Western Link between Parramatta and a future Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

Potential alignments for a fast rail connection from Parramatta to a Western Sydney Airport at Badgeries Creek and the Sydney CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Parramatta City Council, Western Sydney Airport Fast Train - Discussion Paper, page 12.)

Potential alignments for a fast rail connection from Parramatta to a Western Sydney Airport at Badgeries Creek and the Sydney CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Parramatta City Council, Western Sydney Airport Fast Train – Discussion Paper, page 12.)

The Eastern Link has 4 potential alignments to Parramatta Station:

  1. Upgrading the existing surface rail corridor with stations at Central, Strathfield, and Lidcombe. This would not reduce travel times by more than a few minutes below the current 25 minute minimum. It would also do the least to add extra capacity.
  2. A tunnel underneath the existing rail corridor with stations at the future Sydney Metro Station in Pitt St, Croydon, and Lidcombe. This has longer journey times than Options 3 or 4 and has limited scope for value capture. However, it provides the most favourable tunneling conditions.
  3. A tunnel South of the Parramatta River with stations at the future Sydney Metro Station in Pitt St, White Bay, and Olypmic Park. This is the shortest and fastest option. It also has the best scope for value capture and most challenging tunneling conditions.
  4. A tunnel North of the Parramatta River with stations at the future Sydney Metro Station in Barangaroo, White Bay, and Ryde. This is longer than Option 3, but passes through more existing centres. It has less scope for value capture but better patronage in the medium term.

The Western Link has 2 potential alignments between Parramatta Station and Badgerys Creek:

  1. A Southern corridor with an intermediate station in Liverpool.
  2. A Northern corridor with an intermediate station in either Blacktown or near the M4/M7.

The Western Link has fewer details than the Eastern Link. Proponents are split over which section to build first, with Parramatta City Council CEO Greg Dyer supporting an Eastern Link and Parramatta MP Geoff Lee supporting a Western Link. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for a Western Link to be built earlier than 2046, but not necessarily ready to open simultaneously with a Western Sydney Airport. Sydney Morning Herald City Editor Jacob Saulwick argues that an Eastern Link is more pressing given the capacity constraints between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, but that it would be a good stage one for when a future extension to Badgerys Creek becomes needed and built as stage two.

  1. Matthew Gee Kwun Chan says:

    The questions remains relating the post-Liverpool to CBD via Bankstown metro situation of isolating Birrong to Lidcombe section: What do you do with that section beyond running it as an elongated sprint line? How would dd trains go to the maintenance depot? What line do you connect it to in order to maintain the dd network?Personally I prefer revising of the Strathfield to Hurstville to resolve the above.

  2. PeteD says:

    All of these options need to consider the future usage of the corridors.

    Putting the ideas together, there should probably be a Metro extension which broadly runs from Marsden Park to an expanded Macarthur via the Western Sydney Airport and St Marys.

    If the extension from Macarthur to St Marys was built with four track capacity, it could then accommodate the very fast train running Sydney CBD to Parramatta, Blacktown, Airport, Macarthur and then off to Canberra/Melbourne (wherever else a transport planner desires).

    In doing so, they would also cover the majority of Sydney construction costs of a future Sydney-Melbourne VFT in this project.

    The Liverpool to Bankstown alignment could be interesting as it can capture some of (though not all of) Warwick Farm Racecourse, WSU – Milperra, Bankstown Airport, Moorebank, and Bass Hill (perhaps near the Velodrome). Each of which has potential for redevelopment in their own rights, and also potential flow of passengers.

    It does however raise questions about the ongoing use of the lines between Bankstown, Cabramatta and Lidcombe. It seems that there are currently 30 minute frequencies right now between Bankstown and the two other locations. Maybe this will go the way of the Carlingford Line.

  3. Matt says:

    An additional consideration is how they will tie in future expansions. For instance, the northern beaches line (briefly mentioned at the start) is typically shown as continuing through the city. But there may be opportunities to get a better outcome by routing it across North Sydney and down through the inner west. The other links to the city can provide a transfer into the city, and Sydney would gain a valuable rail link that is not completely radial.

    This may then inform the decision of where the mooted Parramatta line would be best routed.

    There are of course a number of assumptions that this strategy relies on, most importantly the design and implementation of a plan that doesn’t suffer from design changes and mission creep due to political influence.

  4. Alex says:

    Thanks Bambul for the summary. I wasn’t aware that the Neutral Bay/Northern Beaches option had been taken off the table completely – I thought it was still a very long-term proposition for a branch off the Sydney Metro line at Victoria Cross station. I’m not holding my breath though – my father joined a committee to get a Northern Beaches railway in 1958…

    The other line which you didn’t mention which may or may not be dead in the water if the recent SMH article is correct ( is the Sydenham to Hurstville branch which formed part of the original metro announcement. I think the original intention of this plan was to increase capacity in the existing system by diverting parts of the current passenger load to the metro line, similar to the logic behind the ECRL and Bankstown Line conversions.

    The SMH article suggests that this has turned out to be too challenging and expensive because of the complexities of integrating this with the existing suburban and freight lines which would have to be maintained, a problem which doesn’t affect the other two conversions. If so then part of the logic of the Liverpool extension may be to provide capacity relief in another way, by diverting passengers from heavy rail to the metro at Liverpool.

  5. @Alex – You’re right about the Hurstville extension of Sydney Metro. I’ll add that to the list of recently abandoned railways as I have not seen it on any official government documents for many years.

    Meanwhile, the Northern Beaches Line has never appeared on anything other than internal state government documents. While I accept that a fast train from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta hasn’t either, it at least has been raised by the Prime Minister. That should not be discounted, given how Tony Abbott began talking up an M4 East before WestConnex became official NSW policy it is quite likely Malcolm Turnbull knows something we do not.

    I would assume that a Hurstville extension is a no go until the Maldon to Dombarton Line provides an alternate approach for freight rail via Campbelltown rather than via Hurstville. This may happen or might not. And even if it does, you might be right in suggesting that a Liverpool extension negates the need for a Hurstville one.

  6. Alex says:

    Even if the Maldon to Dombarton line could provide an alternative freight route the Sydenham to Hurstville conversion to metro could be a bit messy. The cost of converting ECRL and in particular the Bankstown line may also be working out to be a lot more than anticipated, especially with having to straighten platforms on the latter (which incidentally may also take some of the sheen off some of the original cost comparisons favouring the metro over heavy rail, but that’s another story).

    I suspect that in the end they realised that extending the Bankstown line to Liverpool would not cost all that much more than the Sydenham to Hurstville conversion. It would also provide a number of advantages. These include the ability to extend rail network coverage, connect Bankstown airport to the rail network as the basis for potential redevelopment, provide capacity relief to the heavy rail network and also be another option for rail access to the second airport.

  7. Matthew Gee Kwun Chan says:

    So Alex and Bambul Shakibaei, would that provide possibilities for reconnecting double decker lines Birrong to Lidcombe to Penshurst via Strathfield, Campsie and Hurstville, or would that be too complicated? thanks

  8. MrV says:

    The human clown shows that are tfNSW need to get the hell away from the idea of converting exisiting lines to metro. It will be far cheaper both in terms of money, time, reduced inconvenience of closing existing lines for retrofit and quality of the final outcome to build new line fit for purpose.

    That is what every other country in the world is doing. So sick of the ‘Sydney exceptionalism’ that results in projects costing multiples of the costs of overseas projects and delivering half the result.

    Look at the CBD light rail disaster, on a per km basis you could have purchased new metro line.

  9. PeteD says:

    I don’t think the Bankstown Line users (or that matter the Epping-Chatswood ones) are going to complain for long about much more frequent services being available.

    The loop it is running looks convenient and can be easily extended at each end.

    An obvious question asked by those who have travelled overseas where Metros run, is where next?

    I’m not sure that there is an obvious candidate excluding perhaps the Northern Beaches.

    Two other interesting recent developments – It seems the Carlingford-Epping extension of the Parramatta Light Rail is (as expected) too hard to plan for. And they had an article in the Tele on Monday re: Light Rail extending down Anzac Parade all the way to La Perouse.

  10. jh says:

    Thanks for the summary @Bambul.

    With the extension of the NW Metro west to Schofields and the possible extension of the SW Metro to Liverpool and Badgery’s Creek (as reported in the media), do you think TfNSW are considering connecting the two ends of the metro to form a greater Sydney loop?

    This is quite an interesting possibility and would be similar I guess to Tokyo’s Yamanote Line or Seoul’s Line 2. It would connect four of Sydney’s major business districts (Sydney, Macquarie, Liverpool and Penrith (via St Mary’s)) and Western Sydney Airport, allow for better connectivity between existing lines and would circle the geographical centre of Sydney, Parramatta.


  11. Yoghurt says:

    @ Matthew Gee, Hurstville-Strathfield would be a north-south connector between the 4 cbd-radial lines. It’s a good point about the north-south section of the bankstown line though, which could form another north-south corridor to the west of Hurstville – Strathfield, while the east-west length of the carramar – birrong would be turned into an east-west line continuing via Potts Hill and across rookwood to follow the line underneath the Hume Hwy. The western section would continue out west beyond the south line.

    Again, these projects would need to be financed with value capture.

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