VIDEO: Sydney’s New Driverless Train (Sydney Trains Vlog)

12 months ago the NSW Government had already committed to the creation of a light rail network around Parramatta and an extension of the Sydney Metro from Chatswood to Sydenham. But the question remained: which alignments will it choose? At the time, the favourites were a light rail line to Macquarie Park and a metro line via Sydney University.

However, since then the Government opted for a metro line via Waterloo and light rail to Sydney Olympic Park over the previously mentioned alignments. Among the reasons given were the capacity for value capture and the potential for development of new homes.

Parramatta City Council's proposed 4 light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6)

Parramatta City Council’s proposed 4 light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6 – no longer available online)

“The light rail corridor will activate a priority growth area and there is an opportunity for the government to share in the value uplift that will occur along the corridor. A Special Infrastructure Contribution will be implemented, with the levy expected to be set at around $200 per square metre of gross floor area of new residential developments subject to consultation.”Transport for NSW (8 December 2015)

“[Light rail] will be a game changer for Sydney’s second CBD – the preferred route provides the most opportunity for new jobs and urban renewal.”Rob Stokes, Planning Minister (8 December 2015)

“Waterloo metro station will be the catalyst for the delivery of an additional 10,000 homes and thousands of new jobs in the precinct for families who live in the area.”Rob Stokes, Planning Minister (16 December 2015)

The first reason given of value capture, involving the contribution to construction costs of new infrastructure by those who benefit from that new infrastructure when their property values rises, is not a new one; but has been gaining in momentum by bureaucrats and politicians at both the State and Federal levels including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The primary advantage is the ability for new infrastructure to pay for itself, freeing new projects from the constraints of government budgets. The primary limitation is that it tends to be overstated, with Alan Davies arguing that its benefits are modest.

Artists impression of light rail through Sydney Olympic Park. Click to enlarge. (Source: Westline Partnership.)

Artists impression of light rail through Sydney Olympic Park. Click to enlarge. (Source: Westline Partnership.)

The second reason given of potential for new development has arisen due to concerns over housing affordability. Government could address this by either curbing demand (such as reigning in negative gearing/reducing capital gains tax concessions) or increasing supply (often by removing constraints on development due to insufficient infrastructure).

The former policies on demand are almost exclusively in the domain of the Federal Government, while the latter on supply are almost exclusively in the domain of the State Governments. These pressures have shifted Government policy making in recent years, with decisions made based on what will maximise housing construction.

Sydney Metro will include a station at Waterloo, which will also see the Waterloo area undergo significant urban renewal. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Sydney Metro will include a station at Waterloo, which will also see the Waterloo area undergo significant urban renewal. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The net result of all of this is a change in Government priorities. The new priority is all about how to enable the construction of the most housing possible, at the lowest cost to Government possible.

Each of these feeds into the other. Additional housing construction provides additional stamp duty revenue to the Government. Lower net costs allows more infrastructure to be built resulting in more potential housing.

However, it has also meant that transport goals have fallen in priority. In these cases that translates into less connectivity for Sydney and Macquarie Universities as well as Macquarie Business Park.

Chalk it up as a win to the Planning Department and a loss to Transport for NSW.

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: http://northwestoptions.com.au)

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.

A station at either McEvoy St or Green Square could form part of the new Sydney Metro railway currently under construction according to NSW Government plans. These plans show a range of potential alignment options considered for the line between Central Station and Sydenham, ranging from a Western alignment through Sydney University and Newtown through to an Eastern alignment through Waterloo and Green Square. The Government recently decided that the line should pass through Waterloo, rejecting the Sydney University option. However, these plans pre-date that decision.

Sydney Metro station and alignment options. Click to enlarge. (Source: Chatswood to Sydenham State Significant Infrastructure Application Report, page 51)

Maps of the potential alignments show that a line through Waterloo could go directly to Sydenham, but could also potentially continue South to include an additional station either McEvoy St in Alexandria or Green Square where an existing Airport Line station is located. A station at Green Square could allow for easy transfers between the two lines outside of the congested CBD. These stations have not been mentioned previously by the Government when discussing either the Sydney University or Waterloo options.

The Sydney Metro consists of two stages. Stage one comprises the former North West Rail Link from Rouse Hill to Epping together with the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link, which is scheduled to open in 2019. Stage two consists of a new tunnel from Chatswood to Sydenham together with the conversion of the Bankstown Line from Sydenham to Bankstown, which is set to begin construction next year and open in 2024. The line will operate with driverless single deck trains with limited seating on a frequent turn up and go style timetable.

VIDEO: IPART Public Transport Fares – Highlights (IPART)

If IPART’s recommendations are adopted, it will see fare integration added to Opal. Sydney had this briefly with under myZone, where it was cheaper to buy a myMulti ticket than separate tickets for different modes such as train and bus. But it was still more expensive to buy a myMulti ticket than a single mode ticket for any given journey. IPART resolves this somewhat, opting to calculate the fare as though the most expensive mode was taken the whole way. The result therefore is not a return to myZone, but an improvement on it.

Example of an existing multi-modal journey which will be cheaper under the proposed integrated fare system. Click to enlarge. (Source: IPART.)

Example of an existing multi-modal journey which will be cheaper under the proposed integrated fare system. Click to enlarge. (Source: IPART.)

There will no doubt be some temptation to look for winners and losers in these changes. This is a temptation that should be resisted. Passengers base their travel patterns on the fare structures, not the other way around. Back when Opal was first introduced there were fears that users would pay more. Instead what happened in most cases was that travel patterns changed in order to minimise fares, and so fare revenue dropped while public transport usage rose.

The changes to the travel rewards system, free aver after 8 journeys and the $2.50 cap on Sundays, was a framework that lent itself to “gaming the system”. The proposed changes (passengers pay for their 10 most expensive journeys each week with a $7.20 cap on weekends) are not perfect, but they are a much better method of calculating fares. For those not gaming the system, they will enjoy cheaper travel. Those who do will mostly alter their travel patterns to reduce their total cost.

The imperative now is to look for ways to improve the proposals by tweaking them around the edges, rather than seeking to reject it entirely for going too far or reject it for not going far enough. We have waited too long for integrated fares, let’s not delay further.

Video: Parramatta Light Rail, 8 December 2015 (Transport for NSW)

Light rail between Parramatta and Olympic Park, announced today, is the culmination of years of planning and proposals for light rail in Western Sydney. To fully recognise the significance of this announcement, it’s worth going back almost 4 years into the past to see how this ultimately developed from the ashes of the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link.

23 December 2011: Parramatta to Epping Rail Link cancelled

The change of state government earlier in the year saw the dropping of the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link as official government policy, which in turn sparked Parramatta City Council to push for a light rail line instead. It sought to mimic the work of Randwick Council, whose pre-feasibility study into light rail to Randwick resulted in the now CBD and South East Light Rail line from getting the green light from the NSW Government. In both cases, light rail would link a CBD, university, stadium, racecourse, and hospital.

30 August 2013: Parramatta City Council commissions light rail feasibility study

The initial pre-feasibility study recommended a 169km light rail network, with lines linking Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood, Epping via Carlingford, a loop to Olympic Park and Rhodes, Bankstown, Castle Hill, Rouse Hill (on the existing T-Way), and Liverpool (on the existing T-Way). It also included a line from Cabramatta to Rouse Hill via Blacktown and Parklea (on the existing T-Way between these two suburbs).

Parramatta Light Rail

Light rail proposal for Parramatta and its surrounding areas. Stage 1 is in yellow, green and red. Stage two is in black. Click to enlarge. (Source: Parramatta City Council.)

The lines were estimated to cost $9.5bn, based on the cost of the Dulwich Hill light rail extension and Gold Coast light rail.

The final pre-feasibility study by Parramatta City Council concluded that two lines should be built first: one from Westmead to Macquarie Park via Parramatta and Eastwood, the other from Parramatta to Castle Hill via Baulkham Hills and Castle Hill Showground.

Map of the proposed Macquarie Park and Castle Hill light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network - Part 2 Feasibility Report, pp. 4-5)

Map of the proposed Macquarie Park and Castle Hill light rail lines. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network – Part 2 Feasibility Report, pp. 4-5.)

These lines would be 30km in length, cost $1.5bn to build, and require 21 trams in order to provide 10 minute frequencies (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network – Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 5). They would then be followed by two additional lines, one to Bankstown via Chester Hill, the other to Rhodes via Olympic Park.

A potential future network. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6)

A potential future network. Click to enlarge. (Source: Western Sydney Light Rail Network: Part 2 Feasibility Report, p. 6.)

8 March 2014: Berejiklian confirms light rail is “in the mix”

Urban Growth NSW, the Government’s development agency, publishes a report about Parramatta showing a light rail alignment on one of its maps. Though not much more than lines on a map, it is the first time that light rail has appeared in an official government report.

When asked about this by the Daily Telegraph, the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian confirms that light rail is “in the mix”.

31 March 2014: Robertson commits to light rail feasibility study

The Opposition Leader John Robertson announced plans for a $20m full feasibility study into light rail around Parramatta if elected in 2015. This would build on the Parramatta City Council’s pre-feasibility study completed in 2013.

2 June 2014: Baird commits to light rail feasibility study

The NSW Premier Mike Baird announces a $10m full feasibility study into light rail around Parramatta. Though less than the $20m promised by his opposition counterpart 2 months earlier, this study commences immediately.

17 June 2014: 10 routes shortlisted and funding committed

With a feasibility study underway on 10 potential routes, the NSW Government commits $400m in funding to pay for the new line. An additional $600m would later be committed from the sale of the electricity distribution network, bringing the total funds committed to $1bn.

17 July 2014: Berejiklian suggests light rail should link health and education precincts

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejilkian stressed the importance that any light rail line should connect Parramatta up to both Westmead hospital and Western Sydney University (then still named UWS). With Westmead to Macquarie Park being the only one of the 10 potential routes that passes through both the education and health precinct, this suggested that the Westmead-Parramatta-Eastwood-Macquarie Park alignment that Parramatta City Council had previously pushed would be the one chosen.

28 August 2014: 6,000 new apartments announced for North Parramatta

An announcement by the Premier Mike Baird that a $2bn urban renewal project of North Parramatta would bring 6,000 new apartments builds on the earlier report in March that these developments are likely to be supported by additional infrastructure. The area is located around one of the proposed light rail alignments between Parramatta and Westmead, which heads North from Parramatta before passing Parramatta Stadium and then crossing the Parramatta River on the Northern end of Westmead hospital.

Artists impression of the Parramatta North precinct. Click to enlarge. (Source: Urban Growth NSW.)

Artists impression of the Parramatta North precinct. Click to enlarge. (Source: Urban Growth NSW.)

27 October 2014: 4 routes shortlisted

The earlier 10 routes were reduced to a final 4 routes on the shortlist, which would then be investigated in greater detail. The 2 lines proposed by Parramatta City Council, Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood and Parramatta to Castle Hill via Windsor Road, did not make the shortlist. Instead, a line to Macquarie Park via Carlingford would be investigate as would a line to Castle Hill via Old Northern Road. In addition to these 2 routes, a line to Strathfield/Burwood via Olympic Park and a line to Bankstown would also be investigated. These again mirror the routes investigated by Parramatta City Council, though its Olympic Park line would extend out to Rhodes rather than Strathfield.

23 February 2015: Westline Partnership promotes benefits of Olympic Park Line over Macquarie Park

A coalition of businesses, developers, and councils begins to push for a line from Parramatta to Olympic Park. The group; calling itself the Westline Partnership and comprising of the ANZ Stadium, the Australian Turf Club, Accor, Dexus, Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney Business Chamber, Auburn council, and Canada Bay council; claims that doing so could unlock $2.9bn of funding through “value capture” in the form of developer levies. Doing so would allow the Government to build two lines, one to Olympic Park and the other to Carlingford, according to Westline Partnership spokesman Christopher Brown.

Artists impression of light rail through Sydney Olympic Park. Click to enlarge. (Source: Westline Partnership.)

Artists impression of light rail through Sydney Olympic Park. Click to enlarge. (Source: Westline Partnership.)

8 June 2015: Olympic Park firms as preferred option

The NSW Government begins to hint that it is shifting from Macquarie Park to Olympic Park as its preferred option.

26 November 2015: Decision on Olympic Park line accidentally revealed

The Roads Minister Duncan Gay accidentally says that light rail will be coming to Olympic Park while outlining improvements to the nearby WestConnex project. Both Olympic Park and Parramatta had recently been hit by the announcement that the Commonwealth Bank would be moving its operations out of both those suburbs and into Redfern’s Australian Technology Park. The move resulted in criticisms towards the NSW Government for not being quicker in its decision making on a route for any Western Sydney light rail line.

8 December 2015: Light rail lines to Olympic Park and Carlingford announced

The Premier Mike Baird announces that two light rail lines are to be built simultaneously from Parramatta: one to Olympic Park and one to Carlingford. Both lines will travel along the same corridor through to Camellia before branching off.

Artists impression of light rail through Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artists impression of light rail through Parramatta. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The project will raise funds through the use of a Special Infrastructure Contribution (SIC), “expected to be set at around $200 per square metre of gross floor area of new residential developments subject to consultation”. This is in addition to the $1 billion already committed by the NSW Government, with the Government also seeking contributions from the federal and local governments.

VIDEO: Shaun Micallef: Australia’s NBN proposals

A High Speed Rail (HSR) network connecting Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, and Brisbane has been shown to create more benefits than costs while fares would pay the operating costs of trains on such a network. Yet there seems little appetite in the government to build one. Initially, this may appear to be due to the high initial costs of $114bn to build it; but on closer inspection it may be necessary to re-evaluate the way we look at HSR as something for regional Australia rather than just for travel between the capital cities.

Cost benefit analysis suggests that HSR is worth building. The Phase 2 Study found that HSR has a BCR (Benefit Cost Ratio) of 1.1 when a 7% discount rate is used. Thus, the benefits of building HSR are greater than the costs. However, the bulk of these benefits would accrue to the users of HSR in the form of time savings. In 2028 dollars, HSR users would receive $141bn of the total $180bn of benefits that HSR is expected to create. An additional $14bn of benefit go to operator benefits, which help to pay the operating costs and up to $16bn (14%) of infrastructure costs, but this still leaves the government paying for $98bn (86%) of infrastructure spending on HSR. (Sources: HSR Phase 2 Study Executive Summary, pages 42, 9).

This means the government would be subsidising the travel costs of HSR users to the tune of $98bn. This is unlike the NBN, where the initial infrastructure spending is expected to be eventually recouped. The majority of users (65%) would be leisure travellers; however the bulk of the benefits would be realised by business travellers (the remaining 35%), who would receive $93.6bn of the $141bn of benefits. That is because of the higher value attached to their time. This point was raised by Alan Davies in Crikey, who proposed that “if the [time] saving is so valuable to business travellers, they should pay the full cost of constructing the line”. The Phase 2 Study even recognises that these travellers would be willing to pay a higher fare:

“Increasing the cost of fares would increase the financial returns and reduce the funding gap, although doing so would reduce the number of people using the system. Even so, the economic benefits of the program would remain positive.”Source: HSR Phase 2 Study Executive Summary, page 9

Higher fares would have the benefit of reducing the government’s cost below $98bn. However, it would do so by impacting leisure travellers the most, with many choosing not to travel on HSR. Business travellers would mostly still continue to use HSR, but the loss of many leisure travellers would see the total benefit of the project reduced. Although the Phase 2 Study claims the economic benefits in such a situation would still remain positive (i.e. a BCR greater than 1), this may be based on the less conservative 4% discount rate, rather than the more conservative 7% discount rate that is normally applied to transport infrastructure projects. The 1.1 BCR that a 7% discount provides is dangerously close to falling below the 1.0 required for the project to be economically viable. Therefore, as it stands HSR does not appear viable without a $98bn government subsidy, most of which would flow to business travellers who least need government welfare.

An alternative perspective

The Phase 2 Study emphasises that HSR accrues more benefits as time progresses, given the growth in population. If governments work collaboratively and actively to preserve potential HSR corridors then HSR cost increases should be limited. Therefore, HSR becomes more viable as time progresses with benefits growing faster than costs.

Since HSR gains most of its benefits from additional users, one way to increase the viability of HSR is to add additional population to the corridor. This would be much easier to achieve around the regional stations where constraints are much more limited than in the major cities. HSR could act as an enabler, allowing a greater number of people to live and work in regional areas without becoming isolated from those services only available in major cities. The Phase 2 Study’s assumptions of modest population growth in regional towns situated on the HSR route show that this was not considered as part of the feasability for HSR.

In fact, the Phase 2 Study finds that HSR will produce $73.2bn in benefits from intercity travel, more than the $67.5bn in benefits from regional travel (Source: Department of Infrastructure, page 43). This finding that most of the benefits accrue from intercity travel rather than regional travel suggest that not enough is being done to massively develop regional Australia. HSR provides this opportunity which in turn makes HSR more viable.

Proposed East Coast High Speed Rail alignment. Click to enlarge. (Source: Department of Infrastructure, page 17.)

Proposed East Coast High Speed Rail alignment. Click to enlarge. (Source: Department of Infrastructure, page 17.)

 

This idea was floated by the ABC show Catalyst in its 4 December 2014 episode “Future Cities“, in which Dr Julian Bolleter says:

“So, what we think is really important, as the capital cities grow beyond mid-century, is that we begin to think not so much in terms of mega cities, but mega regions. Essentially, it means chains of smaller cities connected with very good public transport infrastructure. So we could conceive of a mega region running from Brisbane to Sydney through Canberra to Melbourne which is bound together by a high-speed rail link, and those cities will have access to affordable land, and they’ll also be able to be designed from the ground up around the principles of 21st-century sustainability. High-speed rail can travel at about 350km/h, so there’s no city along this mega region that is further than two hours commute on a high-speed train from a capital city.”Source: Dr Julian Bolleter, ABC

Achieving this would require us to rethink how HSR would work in AustraliaShadow Transport Minister Anthony Albanese recently wrote on HSR in which he concluded one well thought out and one not so well thought out point. His statement that “people could live in regional Australia and commute to work in the city” was not well thought out; this is true only to the extent that people can currently commute to work in Sydney by flying into Kingsford-Smith Airport, or any other major city airport. However his point that “companies could establish themselves in the regions, taking advantage of lower costs but comfortable in the knowledge the city was a short train ride away” hits the nail on the head.

In order for HSR to be a success in spurring regional development people need to live, work, and spend leisure time in the same place. Employment opportunities as well as services that are needed on a day to day basis such as health and education would be provided locally. But the existence of HSR provides convenient access to services which are not needed day to day, such as medical specialists or major cultural festivals.

If the 1,700km HSR corridor had a station every 100km or so along major regional cities, and these cities were allowed to grow to 800,000 residents each (as Dr Bolleter suggests in the Catalyst video), then it would be roughly equivalent to a doubling of the existing populations of Sydney and Melbourne combined. Once it becomes prohibitively expensive to retrofit the necessary infrastructure into our growing major cities, it will become cheaper to build it in regional cities even after the cost of HSR is factored in. Australian cities have not reached that point yet, but it remains a question of when rather than if they do reach that point.

The last bus on George St

Posted: October 4, 2015 in Transport
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The new CBD bus network removes buses from George Street as of 4 October 2015. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The new CBD bus network removes buses from George Street as of 4 October 2015. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

At around 6AM on Sunday morning of 4 October 2015, the last bus on George Street pulled up at Circular Quay Town Hall. The N50 from Liverpool had 3 passengers (EDIT: Tony in the comments section states that the actual last bus was a late running N70). This blog’s author set out last night in an attempt to catch the last bus on George Street, but without knowing which bus it was going to be. Below is a summary of the events of that night. In the end, the thrill of the chase did not end in glory.