Train capacity set to increase by 20%

Posted: June 11, 2018 in Transport
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Train frequencies will be boosted, with hourly train capacity increasing from the current 20 trains per hour to 24 trains per hour, under a recently announced NSW Government plan to spend $880m on a new digital signalling system. This would mean a train every 2.5 minutes, compared to the current maximum frequency of 3 minutes, and future proof the network to allow a train every 90 seconds in the future.

The new technology will be rolled out on the T4 and T8 Lines first, with additional capacity likely to come online by 2022. The NSW Government points out that these lines require additional capacity due to the surge in demand on them in recent years, with the number of trips on stations on these lines increasing by as much as 94% in the 3 years to 2017. It will then be expanded to the remainder of the network throughout the rest of the 2020s. Capacity at Central Station’s Sydney Terminal will also be boosted to allow more outer suburban and intercity trains to terminate there.

Source: More Trains, More Services, NSW Government (page 5)

South Line trains from Campbelltown and Northern Line trains from Epping and Hornsby could now terminate at Sydney Terminal rather than continuing through the City Circle and Harbour Bridge.

Meanwhile, the T2 Inner West Line looks set to be extended from Parramatta out to Richmond, with the Richmond Line moving from T1 to T2. This would sectorise the T1 and T2/T5 Lines, which run from Sydney’s West into the Harbour Bridge and City Circle respectively.

What this means is that trains on each of these lines would no longer share tracks, as they currently do between Blacktown and Strathfield. Thus, a disruption on one of these lines would not spillover into the other. The T4 Line has been operating on a separate sector for decades, quarantining it from any disruptions on other lines.

Source: More Trains, More Services, NSW Government (page 7)

Additional trains for these additional services are also set to come online in the coming years, with the arrival of the new B-Set Waratah trains and repurposed OSCARS as well as the transfer of the Epping to Chatswood and Bankstown Lines to Sydney Metro coinciding with the installation of the new digital signalling. Although the Waratah trains are likely to simply replace the ageing unairconditioned S-Sets, the OSCARS (which themselves are being freed up due to a new intercity fleet of trains) could provide the additional capacity required.

At the same time, the new signalling system could provide the opportunity to simplify train operation from 2 staff per train to 1 staff per train. Together with the introduction of driverless trains on the new Sydney Metro Line, this could provide a pool of drivers and guards who could be trained to operate the new services. This would be critical if the Government wishes to avoid a similar network meltdown like the one that occurred on the network in early 2018 when insufficient drivers caused an emergency timetable rewrite.

Previous proposals to send all Richmond Line trains to Liverpool on the T5 Cumberland Line look to have been abandoned in favour of maintaining direct Sydney CBD access for all stations, albeit with a much longer journey time for those wanting a one seat journey. Passengers on the Richmond Line wanting a faster journey would have the option of changing to an express train on T1, or to a Sydney Metro service at Parramatta or Schofield if and when metro lines are built to those stations. However, it will have the benefit of extending direct services from Sydney’s Inner West further out than Parramatta as is currently the case.

This plan compares favourably to a 2014 plan presented to the NSW Government that could increase train capacity without waiting for new rail lines come online in the mid 2020s, but do so by terminating more trains at Sydney Terminal. This was a necessary compromise given that multiple line branches merge into a central core with a maximum capacity of 20 trains per hour, which itself is almost exhausted. Instead, by increasing that capacity by 20%, from 20 to 24, those additional services will continue to be able to enter the Sydney CBD. Thus achieving a medium term step up in capacity at the cost of an $880m signalling upgrade while waiting for new lines to be built that will provide long term increases in capacity.

  1. We have too many T1s. When will Sydney introduce a proper line numbering as it is known in Europe where a line number defines only one origin-destination pair. Eg. Hornsby – CBD – Richmond would be T11 and Hornsby – CBD – Emu Plains would be T12. That small detail alone shows that the government has little idea how to organise mass transit.

    I doubt they can make 24 double decker trains per hr. Dwell times of double deckers will be too long, the platforms are too narrow, stairs and escalators too small.

    The Hornsby – Starthfield -CBD passengers, many of them fleeing the standing only metro trains, will be particularly thrilled by their trains ending in Central. Maybe they can take the light rail to continue.

    I can’t wait for the Epping – Chatswood tunnel to close for 7 months. Those who had this brilliant idea should pay compensation for the damage this will cause. When there is an oil crisis during that period Gladys will lose her job.In these troubled, uncertain times you simply don’t remove a vital operational link for such a long time.

    In the meantime, the Parramatta LR is the last nail in the coffin of the Parramatta – Epping rail link which was – together with the Epping – Chatswood tunnel – originally designed to relieve the Strathfield – CBD sector. Even after the so-called North West Metro is operational all office workers North of the Harbour bridge who live in Western Sydney still have to go through the CBD and clog up the system there..

    Given extraordinarily high immigration numbers (Lucy Turnbull’s 8 million Sydney!) I predict that this rail system will become dysfunctional no matter what you do from now on. Too many wrong decisions have been made since Costa cancelled PERL.

    And too many wrong assumptions. The Transport Administration Amendment (Sydney Metro) Bill 2018 suggests the Metro operator will become land developer whereby this privatized metro will only become financially viable if many residential towers are built around all stations to fill the 4 min trains. As these blocks of apartments are unaffordable for local residents I call this an immigration metro.

    It now depends on when the next financial crisis arrives. If it comes soon, this concept will not work. If it comes later but together with an oil crisis and only 10% of motorists are forced to take trains they will find they are full. The disaster will be complete. The government is simply unable to go through some scenarios of system dynamics. For them, there is only one blue eyed future, that of perpetual growth.

    From my website:

    Sydney mismanages transition to driver-less single deck trains (part 2)

    Sydney plans to dismantle rail infrastructure built just 6 years ago (part 1)

    Sydney planning chaos: New Planning Review makes no provision for light rail at Epping station (part 2)

    Sydney planning chaos: New Planning Review makes no provision for light rail at Epping station (part 1)

  2. Ray says:

    I was trying to find the reference to the proposal to connect the T1 Richmond Line to the T2 Inner West Line, but can’t find it. I would have thought that the Richmond Line, like the Western Line beyond Blacktown, warranted an express service to the CBD through the inner suburbs. Similarly, the South Line from Liverpool to Granville should also ultimately be separated from T2 for its express service, leaving T2 as an all stations single operating pattern at greater frequency from Blacktown to the City Circle. The Cumberland Line should run to and from Blacktown, sharing the tracks with the T2 service with the same operating pattern between Blacktown and Harris Park.

    This means that in the longer term, the previously proposed express tunnel from Granville should come back onto the agenda to augment track capacity for outer suburban services through the inner suburbs. Although the original tunnel proposal was from Granville to Croydon to connect with the existing tracks (strangely), it should be extended into the CBD and through to interchange with the metro at Barangaroo via the previously proposed City Relief Line. This creates a completely new train path into the CBD without having to change at Central. Contrary to the Government’s assertion, Metro West doesn’t provide this extra capacity as there would be no incentive to interchange at Westmead or Parramatta when the journey time is going to be roughly the same based on current speeds . In fact the journey time via the express tunnel would probably be faster as it would undoubtedly be on a straighter alignment and have ATO from the start and allow the Waratahs, Millenniums and Oscars to utilise their maximum speed of 130 km/hr.

    I’m not a great fan of terminating more suburban services at Central. This just adds to the congestion on the Central suburban platforms for commuters bound for other city stations. Even interchanging to the new metro won’t necessarily be convenient for everyone, depending on their destination. After all, Bradfield’s original concept for the City Underground was to relieve interchange congestion at Central, then to trams, by having separate paths for all suburban lines through the CBD. That concept is as relevant today as it was a century ago. Based on current planning, we seem to be going backwards by encouraging more interchange.

    The only exception I would make is for dedicated fast limited stop express services from the outer reaches of the suburban network, such as Emu Plains/Penrith, Richmond and Macarthur/Campbelltown, operating in tandem with Intercity services. I would specifically exclude suburban services, express or otherwise, for the Northern and Illawarra Lines. In the longer term when electrification is extended to the Southern Highlands, there will also be a need for direct Intercity services to Sydney Terminal, similar to their cousins on the Blue Mountains, Central Coast/Newcastle and South Coast Lines.

    With regard to the T1 Northern Line, the shutdown of the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link for metro conversion, provides for Upper Northern Line services from Hornsby to Epping to and from the CBD to be diverted to Sydney Terminal via Strathfield with a limited stop service in peak hours. It will most likely mirror the limited stop service from Epping in the peak, stopping at Eastwood, West Ryde, Meadowbank, Rhodes and Strathfield. In the peak hour, the current all stations service from Epping via Strathfield will continue to run through to the North Shore Line. In the off-peak, all Northern Line services to and from Hornsby will run via the CBD through to the North Shore Line, reverting to the previous longstanding pattern before the ECRL opened, albeit at greater frequency. I expect that this pattern will continue permanently after the Metro Northwest begins operation.

    However, in the longer term with a Western express tunnel being constructed and freeing up capacity on the Suburban tracks from Strathfield to the CBD, I would expect all Northern Line services to and from Hornsby, peak and off-peak, to run through the CBD to the North Shore Line.

  3. @Ray –

    A very detailed response. The Richmond Line T2 comment came from the fact that the map shows Richmond Line trains connecting up to T2/T5 rather than T1. That said, I have heard reports that this is not actually the plan. So it’s probably more on the speculation side. At this point there is little actual detail beyond the 24TPH figure and we are left trying to interpret diagrams and read between the lines.

  4. John Bellamy says:

    U still supporting light rail?

    John Bellamy Telephone 0414 755 621 Email


  5. Tandem Train Rider says:

    > The Richmond Line T2 comment came from the fact that the map shows Richmond Line trains connecting up to T2/T5 rather than T1

    That diagram reasonably depicts how the system physically exists: The Richmond branch of T1 is (or could be interpreted as) physically part of Sector 2/T2.

    As @Ray points out, this presser rather shows up some of the costs of addressing the issues created (or at very least) not solved by the Metro, with the “solution” to the biggest problem (insufficient capacity on the western arm of T1) left unresolved, or at least unannounced.

  6. @Tandem Train Rider –

    The diagram shows the Richmond Line going into the City Circle, which it currently does not do. Given the detailed nature of the diagram it strikes me as unlikely (albeit possible) that this was merely an error or oversight.

  7. Tandem Train Rider says:

    > The diagram shows the Richmond Line going into the City Circle, which it currently does not do.
    The trains don’t, but the rails do.

  8. @Tandem Train Rider –

    Correct. My reading of the map suggests that the trains will soon operate from Richmond to the City Circle, rather than the Harbour Bridge. Thus creating fully independent sectors, something that is not currently the case.

    Of course, I’m not the source of all knowledge, so I’m happy to be corrected.

  9. Ray says:

    I wonder if the Richmond Line services will run semi-express, similar to Liverpool via Granville on the Western Local to the City Circle? I believe that maxes out at around 16tph with the mixed stopping pattern. They will probably be extensions of the Parramatta terminators. Still not ideal though. It doesn’t leave much room for future expansion of services and I still maintain that an express tunnel to the CBD will be needed long-term, regardless of what happens with the metro.

  10. Ray says:

    After having examined the line diagram in a little more detail, and I agree it’s probably correct, you could interpret the Richmond Line as possibly becoming exclusively T5 from Richmond to Leppington. This has been foreshadowed previously. T2 would remain as is, with a possible extension of the all stations Parramatta terminators to Blacktown, which would fit in with the Richmond Line flyover to the terminating platform 3 at Blacktown.

    In the absence of any specific proposal, there are some other interesting interpretations.

    The first is that the Campbelltown/Macarthur services via Sydenham appear to terminate at Central. They could possibly be fast express services in the peak, with all other services running via the Airport Line. After removal of the Bankstown Line from the City Circle, this effectively means that with the introduction of the upgraded digital signalling, the Airport Line would feed exclusively into the City Circle via Museum. On the face of it, that would make the Illawarra Main and Local from Erskineville Junction to Central redundant, but that’s pure conjecture on my part. This could possibly fit in with a realignment of the Western Main and Illawarra Dive at Redfern into Sydney Terminal as suggested by a poster on another forum.

    The other point I noticed is that all Illawarra and South Coast Intercity services appear to run through to Bondi Junction as there is no crossover to Sydney Terminal via the Illawarra Dive. However, I could be interpreting this too literally, as there is also no crossover for Western Intercity services to Sydney Terminal on the Western Main, although it’s food for thought.

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