Posts Tagged ‘History of Cityrail’

Duplication of the Richmond Line began in 2002, when it was duplicated through to Quakers Hills. Plans to extend the duplication were then announced in 2003 as part of the Clearways Project, which sought to increase capacity on the existing network by removing bottlenecks rather than by building new lines. This extension was split into 2 parts: the first between Quakers Hill and Schofields, the second between Schofields and Vineyard. While the second part was deferred, and now appears to have been scrapped entirely, the first was completed in 2011.

This was not without its controversy. The duplication required the demolition of the old station, which had only a single platform, and the construction of a new station located 800 South of the existing one. The long term plan is to develop the area around the new station with shops and housing, however at the time of opening there was little more than a few houses and an empty paddock on each side of the station (see images below).

Schofields houses

View from Schofields Station, looking East. (Source: author)

Schofields padock

View from a citybound train leaving Schofields station, looking West. (Source: author)

This has left the old town centre isolated from the new train station. It has also moved the station a 10 minute walk away from where it used to be, which for many locals would have been literally on their doorstep. Probably because of this, there was little celebration when the new station opened, with the government not even acknowledging the opening of a new piece of transport infrastructure. Keep in mind that this is a government that has made transport infrastructure its number one issue and that there will be no new transport infrastructure projects opened until the Dulwich Hill light rail extension is completed in 2014, not long before the next state election.

Schofields Town Centre

The old Schofields town centre. (Source: author)

Going forward, it is possible that the Northwest Rail Link may also be extended through and past Schofields, making this station an interchange between the Northwest’s 2 major rail lines.

The Cronulla end of the Illawarra Line was one of the last to be electrified, but also one of the first to be electrified through to its terminus. However, despite some duplication of track in the 1980s, it was not until 2010 that the line was fully duplicated all the way between Sutherland and Cronulla Stations. This lifted the cap on the number of trains that could travel along what was previously a single track of rail.

In conjunction with improvements on the city end of the line, including the construction of the Eastern Suburbs Line (which moved Illawarra Line trains from the City Circle and sent them towards Bondi Junction instead) and then the completion of a turnback at the Bondi Junction Station terminus (increasing the capacity at that station from about a dozen trains per hour to 20 trains per hour), this allowed a significant increase in the total peak capacity of the line. As a result, it is now possible to easily run 20 trains per hour on the Eastern Suburbs/Illawarra Line.

The Epping to Chatswood Line began its planning stages as the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link, part of the Carr Government’s 1998 Action for Transport. The line would actually run from Westmead, going to Parramatta, then joining up to a duplicated Carlingford Line, followed by a tunnel to Chatswood via Epping and Macquarie Park. By the year 2000 the project was so certain to happen that we even saw it on the maps in every train station and in every train carriage (see below). For anyone who forgot to turn their sarcasm detectors on, that last sentence is not to be taken seriously.

Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link

The original alignment for the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link, seen as a dotted blue line. This map is from the year 2000, shortly after the opening of the Airport Line. Click on image for link to source website. (Source: Historical NSW Railway Timetables)

Originally to be up and running by 2006, the line was truncated in 2003 to just Epping to Chatswood due to concerns over the cost (a mere 3 months after Carr’s 3rd election victory, I’m sure the timing was purely co-incidental). Even then it was not completed until 2009, longer, more expensive and without one station originally planned for. More on this further down, first I’d like to focus on the Westmead to Epping portion, what is now termed the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL).

A Department of Planning report on the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link from 2002 outlines what the line from Westmead to Epping would have looked like. The line would join up to the existing track at Westmead before going underground, necessitating an additional set of dives which would require space either from the Parramatta Golf Course or Parramatta Park, both of which were adjacent to the line between Westmead and Parramatta. At Parramatta, an additional underground platform would be built just North of the existing station (underneath Darcy Street). This would then continue underground, going East until they reach the Carlingford Line at Rosehill Racecourse, where the tunnel would follow the Carlingford Line alignment North until it reached a new station underneath the Grand Avenue bridge. This new station would be an amalgamation of the nearby Rosehill and Camellia stations and also link up with the Parramatta to Strathfield bus transitway (which was never built either). Between the old Camellia Station and Carlingford, the line would continue mostly unchanged other than with the addition of a second track. At Carlingford a new station would be built underground, with a tunnel connecting Carlingford up to the underground platforms at Epping.

Though this plan was scrapped, a plan was later announced to build a passing loop on the Carlingford Line, which would allow 2 trains an hour, rather than the current limit of 1 train per hour. However, this too would also be scrapped.

One thing that was done right was future-proofing, and both ends of the Epping to Chatswood Line have been left ready for expansion. On the Chatswood end, there is space for an additional track pair between Chatswood Station and St Leonards Station. Both stations either have 4 platforms (Chatswood) or have space to run additional track along them to become a 4 platform station (St Leonards). This leaves open a potential Chatswood to St Leonards quadruplication, which is one step in an eventual new line through the CBD.

St Leonards Station

On the left you can see the space left to run an additional line of rail track to form another platform. The same is the case on the other end of the station. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Epping end of the line has stub tunnels on the Northern end of the underground track at Epping Station. This would allow for a future PERL to be built with minimal disruption when it was connected to the existing network. Almost ironically, it appears that these stub tunnels will instead be used to connect the network to the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL), which will also have a set of stub tunnels for a line to Parramatta.

As a side note: the decision to have the NWRL join up at these stub tunnels, rather than further North above ground, has been seen as a controversial decision as it limits the options for trains from the Northwest (i.e. they must go via Chatswood and do not have the option to go via Strathfield). However the O’Farrell government has defended this decision, pointing out that using the tunnels is cheaper than going above ground as it avoids expensive land acquisition and that to do otherwise would delay the project by requiring new plans, investigations and impact studies to be carried out.

Epping Stub Tunnels

The existing stub tunnels at Epping is the tunnel on the right which goes deeper underground in this cross section, which forms the start of the NWRL. An additional planned stub tunnel can be seen rising up on the left, which will join up to a future PERL. Apologies for the poor image quality, this is what the government put online – and is no longer available as it has been superseded. (Source:

The truncated line, from Epping to Chatswood, was initially meant to have 4 stations – 3 at Macquarie Park and one at UTS Ku-rin-gai. However, protests from the public meant that the line was re-routed underground, rather than crossing over the Lane Cove River. This meant that the line would be too deep underground for the Ku-ring-gai Station, while also increasing the cost of building it and lengthening the journey time. Many of those opposed to the bridge option did so on environmental grounds, an ironic argument seeing as improved public transport would have done far more for the environment than preventing the construction of the rail line on the original alignment.

The changes also meant that the gradient were now too steep for Tangara trains to run on the line. As a result, the line was initially serviced by OSCARS. This was done as a shuttle service at first, running between Epping and Chatswood, but was later integrated into the Northern Line.


Due to steep gradients, Tangaras are unable to run on the Epping to Chatswood Line. Therefore, OSCARS were used instead. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Wikipedia)

The benefits of the new line were not limited just to increased network coverage, it also added capacity to the network by allowing trains from Epping to approach the CBD either via Strathfield or via Chatswood. Up until recently, there was ample spare capacity Southbound over the Harbour Bridge into the city. However this spare capacity has been mostly used up by a combination of new trains from Epping via Chatswood and an increase in trains from the North Shore due to increased population densities in that area. Today the morning peak sees 18 trains cross the Harbour Bridge into the city during its busiest hour, just shy of the maximum capacity of 20 trains per hour. (It should be noted that Northbound trains through the CBD that cross the harbour are already at the maximum of 20 during the morning peak.)

The long term solution to this capacity problem is to build a second harbour crossing. This would join up to a City Relief Line which, as mentioned earlier, would result in a new line running through the city, the first new line through the city since the Eastern Suburbs Line opened in 1979. Doing so would mean a 33% increase in capacity through the CBD. Alternatively, a metro conversion proposal has also been floated as a cheaper alternative to increasing capacity across Sydney Harbour.


The Richmond Line goes North-West through the middle of the North West Growth Centre (the dark green area on the left). The Northwest Rail Link can be seen in blue and purple. Note: There is a more current version of this map with up to date station locations for the NWRL. Click on image for link for higher resolution. (Source:

The NSW government has a history of duplicating the Richmond piece by piece. The first piece was a duplication through to Quakers Hill. This has allowed additional trains to run between Quakers Hill and Blacktown. So whereas the rest of the line through to Richmond is limited to a frequency of 2 trains per hour (TPH), Quakers Hill manages 6TPH during an hour in the morning peak and 4TPH during an hour in the evening peak.

Plans are currently in place to duplicate the line through to Vineyard. This will result in the 4 stations in proximity to the Northwest Growth Centre (NWGC) – Quakers Hill, Schofields, Riverstone and Vineyard – having a complete track pair running through them. There are an additional 70,000 dwellings planned for the NWGC over the next 25-30 years, which will see an additional 200,000 people reside in the area. Duplication of the Richmond Line is one strategy the government has to provide additional transport infrastructure for the area (as clearly a single track of heavy rail will be insufficient).

Interestingly, the Northwest Rail Link as currently planned only barely penetrates the NWGC (see map). However there is significant scope in place to extend it through to Schofields Station, Marsden Park and then the Western Line, probably at Mount Druitt, thus linking it up with both the Richmond and Western Lines. This remains idle speculation at this point, and is little more than a “long term corridor” to be considered post-2040.

Two new lines were constructed in preparation for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The first one to open was the Olympic Park Line to the main Olympics site, and opened many years prior to the games. The second, a line to Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith airport, did not open until the year 2000 itself.  Constructed in conjunction with the private sector, this would be the first rail Private Public Partnership (PPP) in NSW and was considered such a failure that no future rail projects since (other than the Waratah trains) have made use of PPPs.

Green Square Station

The 4 underground stations on the Airport Line all have a modern subway look. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Bambul Shakibaei)

The line consisted of 5 new stations, one South of Tempe (Wolli Creek) and 4 underground stations between Wolli Creek and Central (Domestic and International Airport stations, Mascot and Green Square).

The 4 underground stations have a very modern subway feel to them, much like the Eastern Suburbs Line before it or the Epping to Chatswood Line after it. These 4 stations are also privately owned and operated, with the track and trains publicly owned and operated. What this means is that the private operator charges a station access fee to anyone wanting to get on or off at one of these stations (though not to anyone merely passing through them) and requires Cityrail to run a minimum number of trains each hour through these stations.

This access fee was relatively low ($2.60) for Green Square and Mascot, which are suburban stations, but much higher at ($11.80) at the two airport stations. As this was on top of any regular fare, it meant a single adult fare from Central to Domestic Airport Station cost $15.00 in 2011. Given a large proportion of people using the airport stations are not residents of Sydney (or even Australia) and that the cost of transport from the city to the airport is similar in Melbourne ($16 on the Skybus), I actually think this is an appropriate price and to subsidise it would mean subsidising foreign tourists as well as locals.

This thinking was probably part of the reason why in 2011 the NSW government decided to eliminate the station access fee for the 2 suburban stations, but not the 2 airport station. (It did this by agreeing to pay the access fee directly to the private operator, rather than requiring passengers to do it). This proved to be hugely successful, and 3 months later patronage had surged by 70% (compared to 20% growth that the line has seen in previous years). Talk later emerged of a possibility of extending this to the airport stations, perhaps as a 50% subsidy rather than full elimination of the access fee, but nothing subsequently materialised.

Wolli Creek station is worth mentioning. It was built on the Illawarra Line just South of where the East Hills Line separates from it and goes West toward Campbelltown. The new Airport Line runs perpendicular to the Illawarra Line, connecting up with the East Hills Line in its Westward direction. This new line runs physically underneath Wolli Creek and has an additional 2 platforms along with the 2 platforms for the Illawarra Line trains, allowing passengers to transfer from Airport Line trains to Illawarra/Eastern Suburbs Line trains or vice versa.

Airport Line

Express trains to/from Campbelltown still go via Sydenham, as seen by the dashed line. All other East Hills Line trains now go via the Airport Line. Click on image for full network map. (Source: Cityrail)

The Airport Line had a major benefit of helping to untangle the Cityrail network. Most trains on the East Hills Line (and all during the off-peak) now travel to and from the city via the Airport Line rather than via Sydenham (which is now used almost exclusively for Illawarra and Bankstown trains). This increased the capacity into the city from the South from 2 track pairs to 3 track pairs. However the real benefit comes from untangling the complex web of lines that make up the Cityrail network. What it now means is that any delays between Tempe and Redfern will often not flow on to East Hills Line trains, as (other than a few express trains during peak hour) they do not use that part of the network anymore.

Plans for the Olympic Park Line were begun after Sydney won the rights to host the 2000 Olympic games in 1993. The games were to be held on a former military and industrial site in Homebush Bay, which had an existing freight rail line. This line would be eventually converted into the Olympic Park Line, served by a single station: Olympic Park Station.

Trains to the station today are mainly shuttle services, running every 20 minutes on weekdays and 10 minutes on weekends, stopping at Lidcombe Station (on a dedicated “Sprint Platform”, nominally Platform Zero) and Olympic Park Station. During major events, additional trains will also go to Olympic Park Station from Central. There are also a few interurban trains from the Blue Mountains that go into Central Station which then go to Olympic Park Station before dead running to the Flemington stabling yards to be parked during the off-peak.

Olympic Park Station

A Tangara approaches Olympic Park Station. This train can be services by both platforms 3 and 4, while another train can simultaneously be services by platforms 1 and 2. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source:

Olympic Park Station is unique in that it has 2 platforms for each train, with passengers on the train alighting on one platform and other passengers boarding from the other platform on the other side of the train. This prevents any conflicting movements of passengers getting both on and off at the same time, reducing dwell times and allowing a more efficient movement of passengers. This was particularly useful during the Olympics, during which huge numbers of people had to be moved to and from the Olympic Park all day. However, this function has been rarely used since the Olympics (if all at).

Next week: The Airport Line.

Completed in 1996, with funding from the federal government’s Building Better Cities program, the Cumberland Line was really in effect just a few extra kms of track and a flyover. However, its effect was to allow trains on the Western Line coming from Parramatta to travel directly through to Liverpool on the South Line.

It remains the only true radial line in the Cityrail network (not counting the Carlingford Line), as it never actually passed through the CBD. Instead, it connects a number of centres in Western Sydney, including Blacktown, Parramatta, Liverpool and Campbelltown. As far as train lines go, the Cumberland Line is as small as you get, as it uses existing track for most of its length, and was created through the construction of a Y-link.

The Cumberland Line originally had a total of 70 half hourly services in each direction all day. These were slowly reduced until the 2005 timetable changes, with its need for additional rolling stock to deal with longer journey times, resulted in only 2 services to Parramatta in the morning and 3 services to Campbelltown in the evening. It is more heavily used when trackworks or network disruptions occur, allowing trains to be re-routed to the Cumberland Line rather than terminating.

Today the Cumberland Line is one of the biggest examples of spare capacity on the Cityrail network. In recent years there have been proposals from both major parties to resume half hourly services on the Cumberland Line, but despite this it remains at 5 services per day.

Next week: Olympic Park Line.

The Richmond Line had been partly electrified through to Riverstone in 1975, and was finally electrified all the way to the terminus at Richmond in 1991. This completed the electrification of the suburban Cityrail network that had begun when Bradfield built the underground city subways in the 1920s and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s. The opening of the newly electrified line was covered by Nine News on the day, video ois included below.


Despite being electrified, the line remained single track. Back in 1991 it shared this dubious claim with the Carlingford and Cronulla Lines. Since then the Cronulla Line has been fully duplicated and the Richmond Line partly duplicated (through to Schofields as of 2011). Riverstone, Mulgrave and Richmond Stations have 2 platforms, which act as passing loops to allow trains to travel in both directions despite there being only a single track. However, the large amount of single track remaining on the line means that the Richmond Line remains limited to only 2 trains per hour through to the Richmond Station terminus.

It seems I missed a few events in the East Hills Line between 1932 and 1987, so I’ll start off by covering those.

The East Hills Line was first opened in 1931, consisting of an electrified double track between Tempe and Kingsgrove, then a single non-electrified track between Kingsgrove through to East Hills. The line was fully electrified in 1939 and duplication extended from Kingsgrove through to Riverwood in 1948.

Cityrail network map, prior to the East Hills Line extension. Technically it was called State Rail at the time, not Cityrail. (Source: Historical NSW Railway Timetables)

Cityrail network map, prior to the East Hills Line extension. Technically it was called State Rail at the time, not Cityrail. (Source: Historical NSW Railway Timetables)

The line between Riverwood and East Hills remained single track until 1987, when it would be duplicated as part of the extension of the line to meet up with the South Line at Glenfield. This allowed East Hills Line trains to go all the way between Campbelltown or Macarthur in Sydney’s Southwest through to the Sydney CBD. The new line was opened on December 21, 1987 by then NSW Premier Barrie Unsworth (see video below).


Next week: electrification of the Richmond line.

The Cronulla Line, while electrified since it opened in 1939, remained almost entirely single track. Instead there were crossing loops at Gymea and Caringbah stations, each roughly at one third intervals between Cronulla and Sutherland stations, which allowed trains going in opposite directions to pass each other while at those two stations. The line between these two stations would eventually be duplicated in 1985, allowing trains to pass each other at any point in this middle third of the line.

Next week: the East Hills Line is extended to Glenfield on the South Line.

Up until 1980, the Western Line had 4 tracks as far out as Blacktown. This allowed trains to be separated into express and all stations services, each with its own line, without having to worry about express trains getting stuck behind slower all stations trains and unable to overtake them. From Blacktown, one track pair went Northwest towards Richmond and another track pair continued West to Penrith and the Blue Mountains.

The lack of a second track pair between Blacktown and Penrith made express services difficult, potentially adding 9 minutes to a train trip for Penrith commuters. This problem was solved in 1980, when the track between Blacktown and St Marys was quadruplicated, allowing the separation of trains depending on their stopping patterns.

There was one proposal to extend the quadruplication all the way to Penrith in 2002 when the Fast Rail Link was proposed. This would be a private sector project that would also construct a tunnel from Parramatta to the CBD, allowing a trip from Penrith to the CBD to be cut from 55 to 28 minutes. However, it would do so by gaining exclusive control of a track pair between Penrith and Westmead, before continuing though the underground tunnel. This would prevent the operation of express trains between Penrith and Parramatta on the remaining Cityrail track pair, forcing Penrith commuters that did not pay for the premium express service onto 84 minute all stop services. This, along with concerns that the $2.5 billion price tag was highly optimistic, ultimately led to the government rejecting the proposal.

Western Express

The Western Express is shown highlighted in yellow. The City Relief Line can be seen on the bottom right hand corner, running North through the CBD. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Metropolitan Transport Plan 2010)

A more recent proposal is the Western Express, first announced in February 2010 as part of the Metropolitan Transport Plan (which I wrote about here), it would involve the construction of the $4.5 billion City Relief Line, a new line between Redfern and Wynyard. This would then connect up to the “express” Western Line track pair (officially known as the Main West Line, with all stops trains using the Suburban West Line), allowing express trains to remain separated from all stops trains all the way to the Northern end of the CBD. Currently, interurban trains from the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast use the Main West Line, but terminate at Central Station as they still use V-Set trains, which are longer than suburban trains and do not fit into the shorter underground stations in the CBD. A City Relief Line would be expected to have longer platforms, and also potentially screen doors that are commonly found in Asian metro systems. The Western Express was deferred by the incoming O’Farrell Liberal Government earlier this year, but based on recently released draft plans this appears to have been a genuine deferral, rather than code for cancellation.

Next week: Gymea to Caringbah duplication.

When the new Eastern Suburbs Line was finally completed in 1979 and connected to the Illawarra Line, the NSW government made the decision to fully electrify the line down to Wollongong. The Illawarra Line itself was fully electrified through to Sutherland, at which point it split in two directions, one towards Cronulla (fully electrified) where it terminated and the other towards Wollongong. The latter diverged, at Loftus, with one line continuing through to Wollongong and the other veering East towards the Royal National Park. Only the line to the Royal National Park was electrified (more on this below).

Electrification of the line occurred in two stages. The first, between Loftus and Waterfall (currently marking the edge of the Cityrail suburban network), was completed in 1980. The second, between Waterfall and Wollongong, would be completed in 1985.

The National Park Line consisted of a single station: Royal National Park, from which the line derived its name. It ran until 1991, when low patronage caused it to be closed. A few years later, in 1993, the track was given to the Sydney Tramway Museum, which today runs vintage trams from Australia and overseas on the track. If you’re from Sydney, it’s worth a visit. Below is a photo of me when I went earlier this year.

Glenelg Tram

Me on an Adelaide Glenelg tram at the Sydney Tramway Museum on 17 July 2011. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

Next week: Blacktown to St Marys Quadruplication.

An Eastern Suburbs Railway was one of those originally proposed by John Bradfield that was cut short by the Great Depression and World War 2. An initial alignment had been set in 1926, which saw the line go North from underneath Railway Square next to Central Station up to Town Hall, before heading Northeast towards stations at Pitt Street and O’Connell Street, then going South to St James Station until it would head East roughly along Oxford Street towards Bondi Junction. Some initial construction was achieved, and a tunnel was partly built between Taylor Square and St James Station (though not reaching St James itself). If you look at the St James Station platform, you can see that it was actually designed to have 4 lines running through with 2 island platforms. Instead, today what would have been the two central lines form part of the one large platform.

Bradfield's original design

A map of John Bradfield’s original design for the Sydney underground railways. The Eastern Suburbs Line can be seen in purple. The Northern Beaches Line remains a pipe dream that will probably not be built in my lifetime. (Source: Wikipedia)

Plans to build the line surfaced again after World War 2 in 1947, this time on the Kings Cross alignment that it would eventually follow. Future plans for an extension to North Bondi and Rose Bay were also on the table this time. After another brief period of construction, the project was abandoned again in 1952.

A third attempt to build the Eastern Suburbs Line commenced in 1967. This time the line would extend South past Bondi Junction, going to Randwick and then Kingsford. However, the line would only get built as far as Bondi Junction, and a planned station at Woollahra was scrapped after opposition from local residents. A proposal to extend the line from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach was floated by the NSW Carr government in 1999 and would likely have operated like the privately operated Airport Line, with an additional surcharge for users of the Bondi Beach station. This too was abandoned, probably in light of the poor financial performance of the Airport Line.

Eastern Suburbs Line extension proposals

A map of different extensions proposed to the Eastern Suburbs Line. The original 1967 route can be seen going South from Bondi Junction to Kinsford. The 1999 proposal extends East from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach. (Source: Wikipedia)

The new line finally opened in 1979, with 6 stations: Central, Town Hall, Martin Place, Kings Cross, Edgecliff and Bondi Junction. Trains initially operated as a shuttle service between these stations, before the line was connected to the Illawarra Line down to Hurstville and Sutherland. This had the added benefit of removing Illawarra Line trains from the City Circle, improving congestion through the CBD railways. In fact, by adding an additional track pair (up until 1979 there were only 2 track pairs: City Circle and the North Shore/Western Line), the capacity through the CBD was increased by 50%.

However, the decision to truncate the line to Bondi Junction acted as a limit on this new capacity as Bondi Junction had not been designed as a terminus. It was therefore limited to 14 trains per hour, rather than the 20 trains per hour that would have been able to pass through it if it hadn’t been a terminus. This was finally resolved in 2006 when turnbacks were constructed at Bondi Junction Station as part of Cityrail’s Clearways program, finally allowing a full 20 trains per hour to pass through the line.

City Rail Plan 1912

A very early plan for the Sydney city underground railways. This plan pre-dates the CBD railway and the construction of Central Station. Plans can be seen for a line to the SCG (bottom left), Eastern Suburbs (bottom right) and Western Suburbs (top right). The map pretty much resembles the current network we have today, the exceptions being the unbuilt lines, the alignment of Central Station and the Eastern Suburbs Line linking up to the City Circle rather than to the Illawarra Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Proposed electric railways for the city of Sydney, JJ Bradfield.)

Transport Sydney has a new look. After two and a half months, I thought the old layout was becoming a bit hard to read and so I’ve opted for something a bit better. Hope you like it. Also, from today I’m going to change from one post every 3 days to 3 posts per week: Mondays (History of Cityrail), Wednesdays (news) and Fridays (a new feature called Best of the Rest where I link you to another blog/news post that I found interesting). Being a Monday, let’s get started with some History of Cityrail…

The Richmond Line was built in 1864 and though it has been upgraded multiple times over the years, it remains to be “completed” in the sense that a significant portion of it has yet to be duplicated. The line was actually extended to Kurrajong in the Blue Mountains in 1926 before this extension was closed in 1952.

Following the electrification of the South Line to Campbelltown in 1968, the Richmond Line was one of only two sections of the suburban network to not be electrified (the other, between Loftus and Waterfall, would be electrified in 1980). This was partly remedied in 1975 when the line between Blacktown and Riverstone was electrified. Further electrification and duplication upgrades would be completed in 1991, 2002 and 2011.

Electrification of the South Line was partly completed in the 1920s, with the line through to Liverpool electrified in 1929. This allowed electric trains to run from the City into Liverpool either via Granville, Regents Park or Bankstown. The East Hills Line, which today connects up to the South Line at Glenfield, terminated at East Hills Station until the two were connected in 1987. Therefore everything South of Liverpool was non-electric Southern Highlands trains only.

Electric trains services came to Southwest Sydney in 1968, when the track between Liverpool and Campbelltown was electrified. Macarthur Station (the next station to the South of Campbelltown) which today designates the end of the suburban network on this line and also the extent of electric train services on it, was not constructed until 1985.

Recent discussion to revert to single deck trains on some of Cityrail’s lines as part of a metro proposal (discussed by me here, here and here) are somewhat ironic when you consider that Cityrail spent much of the 70s and 80s upgrading its fleet from single deck trains to double deck ones. The idea behind this was that it would allow Cityrail to increase capacity without increasing the number of carriages per train. The limitation was a number of stations (particularly in the CBD) which were either too short or too difficult to extend. To borrow a saying from urban planning, if you can’t build out, then build up!

The first double deck trains were the Tulloch trailers, introduced in 1964. However, it was not until the roll-out of the L, R and S Sets during the period 1972-80 that a significant portion of the rolling stock was converted to double deck. LRS trains are the steel trains that today form the backbone of the Cityrail network. They were functionally identical, and designated L, R or S based on the number of carriages that they had (3, 6 and 4 respectively). Later in the 1980s came the C and K Sets, which again were the steel trains, with the major difference that they had air conditioning. All LRS Set trains are set to be withdrawn once enough Waratah trains are delivered to replace them (all 78 are currently scheduled to be in operation by 2014), resulting in a fully air-conditioned fleet.

S Set train

An S Set train at Clyde Station. You can see the S49 designation on the target plate on the bottom right hand corner. The blue colour on a suburban train like this one indicates that it operates in Sector 2, which includes all lines passing through the City Circle, as well as the Cumberland, Carlingford and Olympic Park Lines. (Source: Wikipedia)

Despite all this, the Cityrail fleet was not actually fully converted to double deck rolling stock until the introduction of Tangaras, which were rolled out between 1988 and 1996. Towards the end of this period, in 1993, the last of the single deck trains, the Red Rattlers, were pulled from service. I rode on a Red Rattler only once in my life, immediately after arriving in Australia in 1989. Ironically, it broke down, requiring us to change train. I didn’t miss them.

The interurban fleet saw a similar conversion, with single deck U Sets being replaced progressively between 1970 and 1996 by double deck V Sets (and also briefly by Tangaras, before the introduction of the OSCAR allowed all Tangaras to operate exclusively in the suburban network, rather than split between suburban and interurban). Diesel trains, operating in the Hunter, Southern Highlands (both by Cityrail) and further out (by CountryLink) remain single deck.

The Carlingford Line had been partly electrified up to Rosehill in 1936, with the rest of the line through to Carlingford Station being converted to electric in 1959. The line between Rosehill and Carlingford consisted of a single track with no passing loops and also includes a station for the UWS Parramatta campus. As a result of having only one track, services on the line remain extremely limited, with only a single 3 carriage service per hour operating as a shuttle between Clyde and Carlingford.

A number of proposals have been made over the years involving this line:

1. The line would form the bulk of a future Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, with underground portions linking Epping to Carlingford and Parramatta to Camellia. The line would be upgraded to dual track as part of this proposal. This idea has been seriously floated as far back as the Carr Labor government’s 1998 Action for Transport plan and most recently by the Keneally Labor government’s 2010 Metropolitan Transport Plan that would complete the Parramatta to Chatswood connection originally proposed in the 1998 plan. The election of the O’Farrell Liberal government in 2011 put this plan on ice, choosing to focus instead on the Northwest Rail Link.

Cityrail Map 2000

A map of the Cityrail network from the year 2000. The proposed Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link can be seen, and is shown as an extension of the Carlingford Line. (Source: Historical NSW Railway Timetables)

2. The construction of a passing loop was initially included as part of the Cityrail Clearways program to increase capacity on existing lines, before being quietly dropped. Such a passing loop would probably double the capacity of the line to 2 services per hour, but without the expensive exercise of building double track the whole way along the line.

3. UTS academic Garry Glazebrook has suggested converting the line to light rail and for the Southern end to link up to Parramatta rather than Clyde. Given the low capacity nature of this line, it would allow for frequent services along this line that would take commits directly to Parramatta, forming the base of a future Western Sydney light rail network. Doing so would require any Parramatta to Epping Rail Link to go entirely underground, probably following an alignment along Pennant Hills Road.

The Western Line began as the Sydney to Parramatta railway, opened in 1855. This was extended out to Blacktown in 1860, to Penrith in 1863 and through the Blue Mountains by 1869. The line was electrified between Sydney CBD and Parramatta in 1928, at the same time as many other lines in the Cityrail network. The remainder of the line, between Parramatta and Penrith, would not be electrified until 1955. The Richmond Line, which connected to the Western Line at Blacktown, would not be electrified until 1991, though it was partly electrified in 1975.

There’s not a lot for me to say on this, so I’m going to talk a bit about closed lines on the Western Line (between Parramatta and Penrith, to keep on theme). Historically, there were three lines built that connected to the Western Line that would later be closed.

The first was a freight line between Toongabbie and Prospect which opened in 1902 and closed in 1945.

Another was the Ropes Creek Line, which connected up to St Marys, and was opened in the 1940s during World War 2 to service a weapons factory. The Ropes Creek Line was closed in the 1980s.

Finally is the Rogan’s Hill Line, which began as a steam tramway between Parramatta and Baulkham Hills that was opened in 1902 (later extended to Castle Hill in 1910). The tramway went up Church Street in Parramatta towards Northmead, before taking Windsor Road to Baulkham Hills and then Old Northern Road to Castle Hill. The tramway was converted to heavy rail in 1923, with a new section of the line constructed between Westmead and Northmead, then following the tramway route through to Castle Hill. Like the tramway, the rail line was single track. It was extended to Rogan’s Hill in 1924, giving the line it’s name. This line didn’t last long, and competition from buses caused it to close down in 1931, eventually allowing Windsor Road and Old Northern Roads to be widened. Today, the M60 and 600 bus roughly follows the original tramway route between Parramatta and Castle Hill.

Until the Northwest Rail Link is completed, the Rogan’s Hill Line remains the only instance of rail in Sydney’s Northwest. While the Northwest Rail Link follows a completely different alignment to the Rogan’s Hill Line (really they only intersect at Castle Hill, one is East-West and the other is North-South), there does exist a proposal to build a line that roughly follows the Rogan’s Hill alignment. This would be an underground line from Parramatta to Castle Hill via Northmead and Baulkham Hills (with probable stations at North Parramatta and Winston Hills) and last received a voice from the Parramatta Council when it tried to push for an amended Northwest Rail Link that went via Parramatta. This proposal never got off the ground, for reasons which I will cover in the future.

John Bradfield’s plan for Sydney’s underground rail lines through the city included a Harbour Crossing, a City Circle line and an Eastern Suburbs line. The first was completed with the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, but the Great Depression and World War 2 put the others on hold until after Bradfield’s death. The rise of the motor car after World War 2 meant these other two lines were not completed till 1956 and 1979 respectively. The City Circle was actually mostly completed in the early 30s, with Town Hall/Wynyard on the Western end of the CBD and Museum/St James on the Eastern End. Eventually, these were united in 1956 with the construction of Circular Quay Station.

Circular Quay 1908

Circular Quay in 1908. (Source: The Sydney Tram - a pictorial review, Howard R. Clark, 1988)

Circular Quay 1923

Circular Quay in 1923. (Source: The Sydney Tram - a pictorial review, Howard R. Clark, 1988)

Before this, Circular Quay was a significant interchange between ferries (it was and still is the major ferry terminus in Sydney) and trams. This can be seen in the photos above. The state government had been phasing out trams in the 1940s and 50s, replacing them with buses, the final tram running from Circular Quay down Anzac Parade to La Perouse in 1961, only 5 years after Circular Quay Station was completed. You can see footage of this last tram in the video below. The removal of trams from Sydney’s streets is regretted by many today, particularly by those pushing for their return, but it did have one benefit in this case. Bennelong Point, on the Eastern end of Circular Quay, was used as a tram shed up until 1961. Now a vacant lot, it was decided to build a great cultural icon there in place of the old tram sheds. The result was the Sydney Opera House. Should trams ever return to Sydney, I highly doubt that the Opera House will make way for the tram shed that used to be there.

The Cahill Expressway was later built over Circular Quay Station, allowing cars travelling Southbound on the Harbour Bridge to bypass the CBD when travelling to its Eastern end. There have been proposals to move the Cahill Expressway underground in order to reclaim it as public space (such as this proposal) or a bus interchange (to relieve the struggling Wynyard bus interchange).

Today, Circular Quay is the only station on the Cityrail network (to my knowledge) that provide free wifi. Ironically, the ferries (which are located right next to the station, and whose wifi you could probably connect to from within the station) also have free wifi, and from what I hear provide a much better connection.

Rail to Cronulla dates back to 1911, when a steam tram line between Sutherland and Cronulla opened for passenger service. This single track service operated until 1931.

A Sutherland-Cronulla tram

This picture shows one of the Sutherland to Cronulla steam trams, taken in the 1920s in Sutherland. (Source: Wikipedia)

Construction on the current heavy rail line began in 1936 and was completed in 1939. As with all new suburban lines since electrification was begun, this line was electric from day 1. Like the tram line before it, this was also a single track line, with passing loops at Gymea and Caringbah. It would eventually be extended to dual track, first between Gymea and Caringbah in 1985, and then the rest of the line in 2010 as part of Cityrail’s Clearways project.

Interestingly, Cronulla station itself retains only a single platform, but one that has capacity for 2 trains. One half of the platform is designated as platform 1 and the other half designated as platform 2. It is designed so that trains can arrive and depart from each of these two “platforms” independently of each other. This is unique to Cronulla station in the suburban cityrail network.