Posts Tagged ‘Opal’

NSW voters will on Saturday decide who will govern the state for the next 4 years. Both major parties have put forward plans for how they will provide for the transport needs for the residents of Sydney. This blog post will delve into those plans, as well as some recent history.

The NSW Government has spent much of the past 8 years planning and building 3 major transport projects: Sydney Metro, Westconnex, and the CBD and South East Light Rail. Other than a widened M4, none has yet been completed in time for the 2019 election. It has also seen the introduction of the Opal Card and a significant increase in public transport service frequencies.

Sydney Metro

Sydney Metro was born as the North West Rail Link and suffered much initial criticism for the decision to build it as a single deck, driverless system that would terminate at Chatswood with no concrete plans for a CBD extension. That extension was eventually locked in thanks to the privatisation of government electricity businesses, a tough sell to the public that the government received a mandate for in the 2015 election. By 2024 Sydney will have a Metro running from Rouse Hill in the North West to Bankstown in the South West via the Sydney CBD.

Many of the initial criticisms have dried up and today Sydney Metro is the government’s proudest public transport project, set to open in May of this year $1 billion under budget. It is also set to supplement this first line with two additional lines in the second half of the 2020s: an East-West Line from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD and a North-South Line from St Marys to Badgerys Creek.

Sydney Metro. (Source: Transport for NSW)

WestConnex

WestConnex, an amalgamation of the long planned M4 East and M5 East together with an Inner West Bypass to connect the two, has had more consistent controversy. Private car travel is best when it connects disperse origins to disperse destinations, so orbital “ring roads” are the ideal sort of motorways and highways. Travel into dense centres like the Sydney CBD or Parramatta, requiring high capacity transport options, is best left for public transport which does high capacity well rather than roads which do not.

By being a combination of a radial road (the M4 and M5 extensions towards the Sydney CBD) and an orbital road (the Inner West Bypass), WestConnex was an imperfect project from the start. The re-introduction of tolling, public distrust of privatisation, and opposition from inner city residents have led to loud community opposition. Unlike Sydney Metro, opposition to WestConnex has remained strong and was largely responsible for the election of Greens MP Jenny Leong to the inner-city seat of Newtown in 2015 on a commitment to stop WestConnex.

WestConnex. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Light Rail

The CBD and South East Light Rail is the smallest of the three major projects based on its budget, but probably the most high profile one given the disruption from construction along George St. Originally set to open in early 2019, the troubled project will now open in two stages: Randwick in 2019 and Kingsford in 2020. Unlike Sydney Metro, which had very limited surface disruptions during construction, is on time, and is under budget; the light rail project is running a year behind schedule, has had its cost blown out by half a billion dollars, and has fed into a broader narrative of a government that has hampered Sydney’s entertainment and night life by discouraging Sydneysiders from going out into the George St retail and nightclub precinct.

Despite this, the benefits of a pedestrianised zone on George St are already beginning to be felt. And if the Gold Coast light rail project is anything to go by, a project that had similar problems during construction that Sydney has, then soon after opening there will be calls to extend the line out to Maroubra or further.

Sydney Light Rail. (Source: http://www.sydney.com.au)

Opal Card

An electronic ticketing system was first promised for the 2000 Olympic Games. The delayed TCard project was eventually scrapped in 2007. It was eventually replaced with Opal, which began its rollout in 2012, with all non-Opal tickets phased out by 2016.

Considering the difficult history of rolling out electronic ticketing, not just in Sydney but also in Melbourne with Myki, Opal saw a relatively painless introduction. There were concerns, principally privacy and the loss of periodical tickets such as weeklies and monthlies. Though mostly the concerns were surrounding the fare structure rather than the technology and hardware.

It should also be noted that a $2 transfer discount was introduced in 2016 and contactless payment with credit or debit cards is now available on all modes of government transport in Sydney bar buses, which will receive their rollout in the near future.

An adult Opal card. Click to enlarge.
(Source: Transport for NSW)

Timetables

Service levels have seen a significant increase in the last 8 years, particularly in the Sydney Trains network where most stations now enjoy a train every 15 minutes all day. This has been combined with a large expansion of rolling stock, allowing older train sets to be retired, with all trains soon set to be air conditioned.

This has not been without problems. A simplification of stopping patterns that came with the new timetables has been opposed by residents along stations they feel have lost out, particularly on the extremes of the T3 Bankstown Line. Meanwhile, a lack of train drivers led to a “meltdown” of the train network at the start of 2018, with insufficient staff to man the increased service levels. This required some paring back of services later that year.

Despite this, increased service levels to provide frequencies approaching a “turn up and go” service is commendable and should be further encouraged, albeit managed better to avoid previous hiccups.

Stations with a train every 15 minutes or less all day. (Source: Adapted by author from Sydney Trains.)

Government vs Opposition Plans

The common theme running through the Coalition Government’s transport projects is imperfection. All their major transport infrastructure projects have their issues, but transport infrastructure is being built. In some cases, unpopular moves like privatisation had to occur to provide the funds to build that infrastructure. It is in light of this that comparison can be made to the Labor Opposition, which has had fewer issues with imperfect projects but instead consistently promised and delivered less of it.

This can be seen most starkly in the 2015 election, where the Sydney Morning Herald described the ALP’s transport plan as “less of the same”. Now in 2019, the Opposition has promised to abandon Sydney Metro South West, WestConnext Stage 3 (the Inner West Bypass and the only portion of WestConnex that acts as an orbital ring road), the Western Harbour Tunnel, the Beaches Link, and the F6 extension. Were it not already so close to completion, the CBD and South East Light Rail would probably also be on the chopping block.

This parallel’s Labor’s last period in office, during which the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link, Airport Line, and Olympic Park Rail Lines were built. It was also responsible for delivery of the M2, Eastern Distributor, Lane Cove Tunnel, and Cross City Tunnel. However, many more projects, particularly public transport projects were cancelled. A rail line from Parramatta to Epping was announced, cancelled, announced, cancelled, then announced again in what was seen as an attempt to throw money at marginal electorates to try to win re-election. A Northwest Metro was similarly announced, cancelled, re-announced as a CBD Metro, then cancelled after spending half a billion dollars. Most of the planned T-Ways, networks of bus only roads, were never built.

The Opposition would argue that it is better to cancel a bad project and redirect resources to a good project. Specifically, it has committed to spending the billion dollars saved from not converting the Bankstown Line to metro on speeding up construction on Sydney Metro West. Their argument has merit, particularly given poor planning seems to have caused many of the headaches from the CBD and South East Light Rail.

The Government would argue that the choice is between the projects as proposed (i.e. imperfect) or nothing at all. They point to the cancelling of projects between 2005 and 2010, during which half a decade of expansion of public transport infrastructure expansion was lost because the choice there wasn’t between an imperfect project or a better one, but an imperfect project and nothing. This argument also has merit given that it’s not hypothetical, it’s recent history.

What this all means

This blog believes that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Sydney is going through a huge increase in population and infrastructure needs to keep up. We cannot afford to stop building if doing so risks doing nothing. Cancelling projects, even imperfect ones, is not what Sydney needs right now. That means giving the current government a mandate for another four years and spending those four years pressuring them to improve the imperfect rather than electing a government that will merely cancel them.

Transport for a London has recently begun a trial of carriage passenger utilisation at one station on the London Overground. The idea being that if passengers at the station know which carriages are crowded and which aren’t, they will opt to enter the carriages with fewer spaces. The more even distribution of passengers would then reduce dwell times at stations, improving on time running and journey times.

Train enthusiast Geoff Marshall tried it out in the video at the top of this post and Diamond Geezer explains some technical background as to how the system works here.

The results of the trial were mixed, but it raises the question of whether such a system would be possible in Sydney.

It is understood that all Waratah trains, which comprise about half of the Sydney Trains fleet, have weight sensors similar to those used in the London Overground trial. This means it would be technically feasible.

However, when asked about it in 2014 while state’s Transport Minister, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian replied that it was not something the government was planning. She did mention that Opal data could be used to achieve a similar result. The same year, Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins echoed that view; but suggested that train carriage weight, rather than Opal data, could provide passengers with information on which carriages have more available space.

To the Government’s credit, Sydney’s real time transport apps now do provide information on how crowded each bus is, allowing passengers to opt for a less crowded bus.

Real time data showing how full each bus is estimated to be. Click to enlarge. (Source: Next There.)

The difficulties encountered by the London trial suggest that providing this information may not be worth the benefits. For example, it uses a combination of expected loading based on historical data to estimate how full each carriage will be. That is because the weight sensors will not be accurate until the train leaves the station prior to the one where passengers are. This could give passengers as little as 2 minutes to move to the ideal spot along the platform, which in the case of an 8 carriage train is 160m.

So if the estimate is not accurate and passengers aren’t checking for updated information, it could be of limited benefit to its users.

Despite the risks, Sydney Trains and the NSW Government should pay attention to the London Overground trial. The potential to squeeze a little more juice out of a network that is straining under no new CBD capacity until 2024 is well worth investigation.

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.

Note: For the second time this year, this blog has taken an unannounced hiatus for a number of months due to the pressures of real life. This post was written up at the end of June but never properly finished and thus not posted. It will probably be the final monthly round up, at least for the foreseeable future. This blog will not be ending, posts will still continue. But instead, the focus will be on specific issues or events as they occur with no set frequency of posts. For now, please enjoy the breaking news from 3 months ago…

VIDEO: Urban Taskforce Research- Who Lives in Apartments (31 May 2015)

2 June: $50m cost blowout for NWRL

The budget for constructing the skytrain portion of the North West Rail Link, an elevated viaduct between Bella Vista and Rouse Hill, has blown out from $340m to $390m. Despite the cost blowout, a project spokesperson said that there has been no change to the completion date for the skytrain, while the Transport Minister Andrew Constance stated that variations in cost had been factored into the full $8.3bn budget and that the overall budget remained unchanged.

The skytrain portion of Sydney Metro, shown at the proposed Rouse Hill Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The skytrain portion of North West Rail Link, shown at the proposed Rouse Hill Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

 4 June: Sydney Rapid Transit renamed Sydney Metro

Sydney’s single deck train network will be known as Sydney Metro, replacing the previous name Sydney Rapid Transit. This follows the passage of legislation authorising the privatisation of state owned electricity assets, which passed both chambers of Parliament the previous day.

4 June: NSW Opposition dumps support for light rail because of Infrastructure NSW Report

The new Shadow Transport Minister Ryan Park, who together with the Opposition Leader Luke Foley recently withdrew their support for light rail down George Street, announced that the change of heart on light rail came after reading the 2012 Infrastructure NSW Report that opposed George Street light rail. The alternative bus tunnel option suggested by the report was criticised by Transport for NSW, with Infrastructure NSW later supporting George Street light rail.

A very early proposed map for the CBD BRT would see a tunnel between Wynyard and Town Hall, removing many buses from the surface streets. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: First Things First, Infrastructure NSW, page 99.)

A very early proposed map for the CBD BRT would see a tunnel between Wynyard and Town Hall, removing many buses from the surface streets. Click to enlarge. (Source: First Things First, Infrastructure NSW, page 99.)

6 June: Transport corridors in Western Sydney to be reserved

Work to reserve transport corridors in Sydney’s West for an Outer Sydney Orbital motorway, Bells Line of Road to Castlereagh Connection, and South West Rail Link extension is moving into the public consultation phase. The NSW Roads Minister Duncay Gay said that work on the 2 roads was not expected to begin for decades; with the SWRL corridor set to be identified by late 2016.

8 June: Olympic Park becomes preferred light rail option

A light rail line connecting Parramatta to Olympic Park has firmed as the favourite option for a new light rail line in Sydney’s West. The line could extend out to Wesmead in the West and Strathfield in the East. It gained favour after a campaign by businesses and developers who touted the possibility for development of the corridor and the potential for value capture from that development to fund the cost of building the new line. However, local councils have labelled the line a white elephant and are calling for the Government to build a line to Epping instead.

11 June: Opal only gates installed at Wynyard Station

New Opal only gates have been installed as part of the Wynyard Station upgrade. Opal only gates have recently been installed at Olympic Park Station. No date has been set for the full phase out of ticket gates that accept magnetic stripe paper ticket.

12 June: SWRL connection to CBD via Granville?

Transport blogger Nick Stylianou suggests that Leppington trains may be connected up to the T2 South Line, travelling to the CBD via Granville. This may happen as soon as the end of this year, with Campbelltown to city services running exclusively on the T2 Airport Line.

12 June: 65 new transport officers

Sydney’s existing 150 transport officers is set to increase to 215, with an additional 65 transport officers to be hired.

15 June: Trial of backdoor boarding on CBD buses

The Government is set to trial boarding of buses via the back door for 2 weeks. The trial will be restricted to Opal card users between 4PM and 7PM at 7 bus stops in the CBD. Marshals will be present to ensure boarding occurs safely. It is hoped that the trial will see lower dwell times for buses by allowing customers to board more quickly.

VIDEO: Seven News Sydney – Trial of back door loading on buses (15/6/2015)

19 June: Reduction in minimum parking requirements

The NSW Government has announced a watered down version of a minimum parking requirement policy that it announced last year. The new policy allows new apartment blocks in areas well serviced by public transport to have fewer off-street parking spots than is currently mandated by local government regulations. The previously announced policy would have eliminated the requirement for off-street parking entirely and has not been adopted. Supporters of the move argue that it will help to keep construction costs down and help with housing affordability. Opponents of the move claim that it will cause cars to spill over into existing streets where parking is already scarce.

23 June: Barangaroo Station confirmed

A Station at Barangaroo has been confirmed in the Sydney Metro City and Southwest. Stations still to be determined are Artarmon, St Leonards/Crows Nest and either Sydney University or Waterloo.

VIDEO: Sydney Metro Barangaroo Station

Open Drum – The Daily Commute

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

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

1 May: Rail line to Badgerys Creek downplayed

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

The proposed corridors for an extension of the SWRL through to Badgerys Creek and beyond. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The proposed corridors for an extension of the SWRL through to Badgerys Creek and beyond. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

4 May: Opal-only ticket gates

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

7 May: Mousetrap to catch graffiti vandals

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

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

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

21 May: Light rail predicted to kill someone each year

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

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

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

26 May: NWRL tunneling 40% complete

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

26 May: Long Bay Prison sale under consideration

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

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

26 May: Congestion will be worse after WestConnex

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

28 May: Light rail construction schedule announced

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

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

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

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

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

28 May: mX axed

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

29 May: Electricity privatisation passes lower house

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

VIDEO: Be rewarded by travelling with Opal

Monday: New substation for North Shore Line to increased train frequencies

Approval has been given for a new substation South of Lindfield Station to handle increased train frequencies on the Upper North Shore Line. The line currently has 15 trains per hour in the AM peak North of Chatswood, but the government plans to boost this to 20 trains per hour once the North West Rail Link opens in 2019. This will require additional electricity to power the extra trains on that section of the network. Construction is expected to be completed in 2016.

Wednesday: Final Tunnel Boring Machine for NWRL starts digging

The fourth and final Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) has begun digging a tunnel for the North West Rail Link (NWRL) and its twin 15km tunnels. The 3 TBMs already in place have collectively dug almost 2.7km of the 30km of tunneling required, excavating 278,000 tonnes of crushed rock.

  • TBM1 Elizabeth, named after colonial pioneer Elizabeth Rouse, has dug more than 1.8km of tunnel so far from Bella Vista since September 2014;
  • TBM2 Florence, named after Australia’s first female architect and engineer Florence Mary Taylor, has dug more than 710m from Bella Vista since October 2014;
  • TBM3 Isabelle, named after Isabelle Andersen (aged four) to represent all the tunnel builders, has dug more than 150m from Cherrybrook since November 2014;
  • TMB4 Maria, named after 19th century Aboriginal rights advocate Maria Lock, began digging from Cherrybrook in January 2015.
4 tunnel boring machines like these will be used on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

4 tunnel boring machines like these will be used on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Infrastructure NSW released an update to its infrastructure plan in November 2014. Unlike the 2012 report, this one puts a greater emphasis on rail. Here is a (belated) overview of the main recommendations for the rail network.

Sydney Trains/NSW TrainLink (p. 34)

Major upgrades will focus on the T1 Lines, which are expected to see stronger growth in demand than other lines. These include lengthening of platforms, to allow longer trains to stop at certain stations; amplification of track, akin to adding more lanes to a road; and improved signalling, which allows more frequent train services without compromising safety.

The longer platforms will primarily benefit intercity train services, with new intercity trains to be 12 cars in length compared to the current 8 car trains. Meanwhile, the business case for improved signalling is expected to be completed over the next 18 months.

No specific details are given on where track amplifications will occur. A commonly touted corridor is on the Northern Line between Rhodes and West Ryde, which would upgrade the entire Strathfield to Epping corridor up to 4 tracks. This would allow service frequencies to be increased along this corridor while still maintaining a mix of all stops and express services. Such capacity improvements are necessary for Upper Northern Line trains that currently reach the city via Chatswood to instead be diverted via Strathfield when the Epping to Chatswood Line is closed down for upgrades as part of the North West Rail Link project in 2018.

Sydney Rapid Transit (pp.37-38)

Construction on a Second Harbour Rail Crossing is to begin in 2019, with completion in 2024-25. It has a BCR (Benefit to Cost Ratio) of 1.3 to 1.8, meaning that every $1 spent on the project will produce benefits of $1.30 to $1.80. The total cost will be approximately $10.4bn, with $7bn to come from privatisation of state electricity assets and $3.4bn from existing funding already committed. Additional stations will be considered at Artarmon, Barangaroo, and either Waterloo or Sydney University; which the report recommends partly being funded by beneficiaries of the new stations, a concept known as “value capture” (p. 146). The current plan has the line connecting to Sydenham Station via tunnel, rather than utilising the existing corridor between Erskineville and Sydenham which has been reserved for an additional pair of tracks.

Proposed new stations include Artarmon (not shown), Barangaroo, and either Sydney University or Waterloo. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Proposed new stations include Artarmon (not shown), Barangaroo, and either Sydney University or Waterloo. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Improving efficiency (p. 35)

Transport for NSW will further investigate the effectiveness of off-peak pricing and improved shoulder peak services on spreading demand. The report notes that, following the October 2013 timetable changes, improved frequencies during the shoulder peak periods (the time immediately before and after peak hour) saw 5% of peak hour journeys shift from peak hour to the shoulder. Transport for NSW notes that this represents “more than two years of patronage growth”, adding however that “this option is not ‘cost free’: additional rolling stock may be required to provide these services on some lines”. Despite these concerns, it is likely that improved efficiency can at the very least defer the need for more expensive capital expenditure to expand the rail network.

Light rail (p. 40)

Two light rail projects are discussed, the first being and extension to the existing Inner West Line out to White Bay where significant urban development is planned; which the second is an extension of the proposed CBD and South East Line to either Maroubra (1.9km), Malabar (5.1km), or La Perouse (8.2km). Neither of these extensions have funding attached to them.

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

Potential extensions to the CBD and South East Light Rail to Maroubra, Malabar, or La Perouse. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 40.)

Freight (pp. 62-63, 65)

A Western Sydney Freight Line is mentioned, as is a Maldon to Dombarton Railway and associated improvements to the Southern Sydney Freight Line (SSFL). The latter would link up Port Kembla to the SSFL in South West Sydney, thus removing freight trains from the T4 Line in Southern Sydney. Such a move is likely a prerequisite for increase passenger frequencies on the T4 Illawarra Line as well as extending Rapid Transit Services from Sydenham to Hurstville at some point in the future.

The Maldon to Dombarton Railway would allow freight trains to travel between Sydney and Port Kembla without using the T4 Line through Hurstville and Sutherland. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 65.)

The Maldon to Dombarton Railway would allow freight trains to travel between Sydney and Port Kembla without using the T4 Line through Hurstville and Sutherland. Click to enlarge. (Source: Infrastructure NSW, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014, p. 65.)

Commentary: What’s missing and what’s next?

No mention is made of a rail line to the Northern Beaches, the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, an extension to the T4 Eastern Suburbs Line, or a CBD bus tunnel. The last 2 of these projects were proposed by Infrastructure NSW in its original 2012 report, designed to eliminate the need for light rail through the CBD. With the NSW Government opting to go ahead with the surface light rail option, both of these projects appear to have been dropped by Infrastructure NSW.

Infrastructure NSW’s combatative approach also appears to have been dropped replaced with a more cooperative approach to transport planning with Transport for NSW. Whereas in 2012 the Infrastructure NSW report was seen as an alternative to the Transport for NSW Transport Master Plan, and an alternative that focussed more on road based transport rather than rail based transport; this 2014 update reinforces, rather than contradicts Transport for NSW. It’s difficult to look past the departure of Infrastructure NSW’s inaugural Chairman and CEO, Nick Greiner and Paul Broad (both strong advocates for roads and road based transport), when looking for a reason why this may have happened.

Looking towards the future, the $20bn privatisation of 49% of the electricity distribution network in 2016 will provide funding for a decade – in particular to fund the construction of the Second Harbour Crossing, $7bn from privatization money is to be added to the existing $3.4bn allocated to it, with construction to begin in 2019 and the project completed by 2024-25. If the Premier Mike Baird has his way then construction will begin in 2017, potentially fast tracking this project to 2023. This would be 4 years after the opening of the NWRL, a welcome change to delays and deferrals that NSW has become used to.

Additional expansions of the transport network that come after that are currently unfunded and uncommitted. These include any extension to the North West and South West Rail Links, light rail to Maroubra and White Bay, and the Outer Western Orbital Freeway.

One option is that the remaining 51% could be sold off to pay for it. Alternatively, these projects could be funded out of consolidated revenue, built at a slower pace than would otherwise be the case. Following the coming decade of strong additions to Sydney’s stock of infrastructure, this may be an acceptable option. Either way, the 2015 election will not settle the debate over privatisation. This will be an issue that will remain on the table for decades to come.

NOTE: This post was meant to be written for 31 December 2014, but was delayed for numerous reasons.

Reflecting back on 2014

2015-01-05 Stats for 2014

This blog received over 255 thousand views in 2014, a time during which:

Posts with the most views

  1. Paper tickets to be retired and replaced with Opal, 1 June 2014 (7,693 views)
  2. Badgerys Creek infrastructure and noise impacts, 16 April 2014 (6,969 views)
  3. Sydney maps: real and fictional, 12 February 2014 (3,484 view)
  4. Opal’s hidden gems, 31 January 2014 (3,008 views)
  5. Metro plan could cost more and Northern Beaches Rail Line in the planning, 3 February 2014 (2,818 views)

Opal and its rollout garnered a great deal of interest, particularly given the bulk of the rollout occurred during 2014. Most the posts with high traffic were also either original content (Sydney maps: real and fictional or Opal’s hidden gems), or covered specific current issues in greater detail than other media did (Badgerys Creek infrastructure and noise impacts or Metro plan could cost more and Northern Beaches Rail Line in the planning).

11 June was the single day with the highest traffic volumes, with 1,924 views. This was the day after the Asset sales to fund Sydney Rapid Transit post was published. That post was not the most viewed post, but was likely viewed many times on the home page, rather than as a specific post.

Posts with the most comments

  1. This week in transport (7 December 2014)7 December 2014 (128 comments)
  2. This week in transport (30 March 2014)30 March 2014 (121 comments)
  3. Metro plan could cost more and Northern Beaches Rail Line in the planning, 3 February 2014 (92 comments)
  4. Commentary: Why a 2nd Harbour road tunnel is a good thing, 22 November 2014 (63 comments)
  5. Asset sale to fund Sydney Rapid Transit, 10 June 2014 (60 comments)

The 7 December post was in relation to the CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR), while the 30 March post was in relation to the North West Rail Link. All up, Sydney Rapid Transit was responsible for igniting debate in 3 of the top 5 commented on posts, while the other two were in relation to the CSELR and a future Northern extension to WestConnex. All are projects that are still for the most part in the planning stages, with construction either yet to begin or only recently having begun.

The most frequent commenters over the last year were Simon (140 comments), Ray (123 comments), QPP (84 comments), MrV (77 comments), JC (58 comments).

Thank you to all commenters for engaging in discussion. Comments are always welcome.

Posts with the most activity on social media

  1. Paper tickets to be retired and replaced with Opal, 1 June 2014 (42 shares on Facebook and 3 tweets on Twitter)
  2. Opal soon to be available on entire Sydney Trains network19 February 2014 (41 shares on Facebook and 1 tweet on Twitter)
  3. Comparing Opal to Myki and TCard, 29 January 2014 (21 shares on Facebook and 11 tweets on Twitter)
  4. Live Blog – All Stations Challenge (22 December 2014), 22 December 2014 (18 shares on Facebook and 15 tweets on Twitter)
  5. The cost of transport and fare setting10 January 2014 (24 shares on Facebook and 2 tweets on Twitter)

Opal was, again, the issue that got readers to share posts from this blog. All up there were 2,651 referrals to this blog from Twitter and 1,971 from Facebook during the past year. Together they represent about 1.8% of all views on this blog.

Terms with the most searches

  1. Rail map (1,064 searches)
  2. Badgerys Creek airport (966 searches)
  3. WestConnex (238 searches)
  4. Sydney transport blog (191 searches)
  5. Sydney trains (184 searches)

Over 100,000 referrals came from search engines, of which approximately 95% were anonymous searches. The remaining 5% of searches were ll quite different, so similar search terms (e.g. Badgerys Creek airport, Badgerys Creek airport flight path, Badgerys Creek airport noise map, etc) with more than 5 searches were added up. Various combinations of rail maps and Badgerys Creek airport each yielded the greatest number of searches. However, it is difficult to tell if these are a representative sample of all searches.

Looking forward to 2015

The first half of this new year will see the opening of the South West Rail Link (February), the NSW State election (March), and the start of construction on the CBD portion of the CSELR after the Centenary of Anzac Day (April). Changes to the CBD bus network are also set to be announced during this time.

The new year will also see the rollout of Opal Concession cards and ticket machines plus the start of construction on the M4 and M5 portions of WestConnex. Details are also awaited on which alignment is chosen for light rail from Parramatta and specific information on enhancements to be made to Western Sydney’s heavy rail network in order to expand network capacity once the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link is closed in 2018 to be integrated into the Sydney Rapid Transit network.

This week in transport (28 December 2014)

Posted: December 28, 2014 in Transport
Tags:

Monday: All Stations Challenge

7 individuals, forming 5 teams, attempted the All Stations Challenge – to catch trains which stop at each of the 176 stations on the Sydney Trains network at least once in a single day. 3 teams returned to Central at the end of the night, though 1 of these failed to reach Doonside Station. The 2 teams, both individuals (one of which being the author of this blog), who completed all 176 stations did so in 17 hours 0 minutes and 17 hours 20 minutes. A live blog from that day, updated as events unfolded, can be seen here.

Sydney Trains network map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Kypros 1992)

Sydney Trains network map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Kypros 1992)

Sunday: Concession Opal rollout slowed by privacy concerns

The rollout of Concession Opal Cards, currently planned for 5 tertiary institutions in the new year, appear to have been delayed by privacy concerns. These concerns were raised by a Sydney Morning Herald article, which has now been withdrawn.

The Premier Mike Baird had previously stated that Concession Opal Cards would be available by O-Week 2015. This gives Transport for NSW until the end of February to reach a deal with other institutions, including the University of Sydney, UWS, and UTS; none of which have yet agreed to a deal with Transport for NSW to give out Concession Opal Cards to its students.

Monday: Opal rollout complete

Opal Card readers have been installed and activated across all of NSW; trains, buses, ferries, and trams are all now Opal enabled. The Opal rollout began in December 2012 and was set to be completed in early 2015. Over 1.4 million Opal Cards have been ordered or issued.

Concession Opal Cards, the only type still not available, will be available early in 2015 for university students. Opal Cards for children and pensioners became available earlier this year.

Tuesday: Sydney light rail to have 67m long trams, amongst world’s longest

Modifications to the CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) will see two trams coupled to form 67m long vehicles, while 3rd rail technology will be utilised within the CBD to allow for catenary wire free operation. Previous plans had 45m long single vehicle trams utilising batteries to operate within the CBD. “The proposal offers services that from day one carry up to 15 per cent more light rail passengers in peak hours, and 33 per cent more seats across the day” according to the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian.

Example of third rail technology used by the Bordeaux tram system. Click to enlarge. (Source: CBD and South East Light Rail Modification Report 2014, p. 67)

Example of third rail technology used by the Bordeaux tram system. Click to enlarge. (Source: CBD and South East Light Rail Modification Report 2014, p. 67)

Changes will also see the World Square stop scrapped, an underground access tunnel will be introduced for the Moore Park stop rather than a two storey design, while the Randwick Racecourse stop will be shifted to the North of Alison Road. Changes to the Racecourse stop will require customers to cross Alison Road to reach Randwick Racecourse and may interfere with the recently built bike path along Alison Road.

Though longer vehicles will see higher overall capacity added, it will also see a slight reduction to frequencies during peak hour, from a tram every 3 minutes to a tram every 4 minutes in the CBD (trams in each of the Randwick/Kingsford branches will be half as frequent as in the core CBD section). However, frequencies will be improved during the late night and early morning hours, from a tram every 10 minutes to a tram every 6 minutes in the CBD. This will ensure 12 minute frequencies in each of the 2 branches, rather than 20 minute frequencies. The modification report stated that “20 minute headways…were not consistent with Transport for NSW customer service obligations”.

Proposed service frequencies. Click to enlarge. (Source: CBD and South East Light Rail Modification Report 2014, p. 27.)

Proposed service frequencies. Click to enlarge. (Source: CBD and South East Light Rail Modification Report 2014, p. 27.)

UPDATE (9:57PM, 7 December 2014): Tandemtrainrider99 points out in the comments that, though 67m long trams would be amongst the world’s longest, Sydney would not actually have the world’s longest trams. He points to the San Diego Trolley, with its 3 vehicles coupled together at 72m in length. This is slightly longer than Sydney’s proposed 2 vehicles coupled together at 67m in length. A few of these can be seen in the video below and might give an insight into what George St may look like in a few years.

NOTE: Apologies for the lateness of this week’s post. It was written up, but then not posted immediately.

Thursday: Opal card fare hack discovered

Opal users can reach their weekly travel reward for $13.86 in under 30 minutes on Tuesdays if they have made 2 journeys on the previous Monday. The “hack”, as it has been dubbed by the Opal Card App developers who discovered it, comes less than 3 months after the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian encouraged the public to seek ways of cutting their fare costs using their Opal card.

VIDEO: Opal Card Hack

The method requires customers to have already made 2 journeys on a previous day, due to the $15 daily cap. Customers must also travel during off-peak (outside of (7:00AM-9:00AM and 4:00PM-6:30PM) in order to receive the off-peak discount. It also makes use of the fact that Macdonaldtown Station and Erskineville Stations, the two stations that are the closest on the network, are only 350m apart.

An adult Opal card. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

An adult Opal card. Click to enlarge.
(Source: Transport for NSW)

By tapping on at one and tapping off at the other, customers simulate catching a train and making 1 trip. By returning to the original station and tapping on again, a new trip is initiated. However, these 2 trips do not appear to be linked, thus making them independent journeys for the purpose of reaching the weekly travel reward. Normally customers must wait 60 minutes between tapping off and tapping back on in order for trips not to be linked and thus count as 2 separate journeys.

The 2 stations must also be ungated, ruling out any CBD stations as well as major suburban stations.

Thursday: Pedestrian countdown timer trial

The NSW Government is set to trial pedestrian countdown timers at six intersections in Sydney to determine if the timers help improve safety for pedestrians. A yellow countdown timer, displaying the number of seconds left for pedestrians to cross the road, will replace the red flashing “don’t walk” signal.

VIDEO: Putting pedestrian countdown timers to the test

Friday: Real time data comes for ferries and trams

Real time locations for ferries and light rail is being introduced to transport apps, in addition to the existing real time vehicle information previously available for buses and trains. Real time data will be available on six transport apps: NextThere, TripView, TransitTimes+, TripGo, Triptastic, and Arrivo Sydney.

Saturday: Second Harbour road crossing planned

The NSW Government is planning a second Harbour road crossing, linking the Balmain peninsula to the M2 at Lane Cove. The plans, reported by the Sydney Morning Herald and yet to be officially announced, are reportedly contingent on the 99 year lease of the NSW electricity distribution network. It will link up to the Northern extension of WestConnex, which will link up WestConnex to the Anzac Bridge.

Commentary: Why a 2nd Harbour road tunnel is a good thing

WestConnex and its new North-South extension to the Anzac Bridge and Sutherland. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Rebuilding NSW Fact Sheet 4, p. 1.)

A new Harbour crossing would begin at the current end of the proposed Northern extension to WestConnex and end at the M2 in Lane Cove. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Rebuilding NSW Fact Sheet 4, p. 1.)

Sunday: 60,000 apartments for Parramatta Road

Plans for 60,000 new apartments to be built along the Parramatta Road corridor are set to be released by the NSW Government. One quarter of the new homes would be built in Granville, while a third would be built in Homebush. The plan includes improved bus connections between Burwood and the city, set to coincide with the completion of the M4 East portion of WestConnex parallel to Parramatta Road. Though the existing M4 is set to be widened between Parramatta and Concord, no details have been announced about any public transport improvements in this part of Parramatta Road. Over two thirds of the 60,000 apartments are to be built in this Western portion of Parramatta Road.

This follows a push by the opposition for these plans to be made public immediately, rather than in 2015.

Monday: High speed rail costs could be halved

The Australasian Railway Association has released a report showing that, based on international construction costs of $35m/km, a high speed rail line from Brisbane to Melbourne could be built for $63bn. This is significantly less than the $114bn in the Australian Government’s recent high speed rail study.

Tuesday: 4 routes shortlisted for Parramatta light rail

An initial list of 10 possible light rail lines from Parramatta has been cut down to 4, with a final decision to be made in the near future. The government is set to pick a line connecting Parramatta to either Castle Hill, Macquarie Park, Olympic Park, or Bankstown.

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

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

Tuesday: Fuel excise indexation introduced via regulation

The indexation of the fuel excise is to be introduced by the Australian Government despite the Senate having blocked legislation to enable it. Reintroducing indexation will cause the price of petrol to rise by about 1c per year and is expected to raise $2.2bn over 4 years. The move is expected to put pressure on Senators to pass the measure so that the additional revenue raised does not have to be refunded to petrol companies.

Tuesday: Mobile apps to help with accessibility

The Government is calling on app developers to help create a series of apps that will meet the needs of people with a disability using public transport. This is aimed at ensuring compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act to provide better services for people with a disability. “Planning a journey, knowing that our stop is coming up next or even knowing which side of the train to alight from are tasks that most of us take for granted,” a Transport for NSW spokesman said, adding that “for customers with disability or impairment it can be a huge cause of anxiety”. Selected app proposals will receive seed funding, ongoing access to real time transport data as well as promotion of their product by Transport for NSW.

Thursday: Gold Opal card to be released

A Gold Opal card for seniors and pensioners is to be released on Monday 3 November. The card will feature a $2.50 daily cap and also offer free travel after the first 8 journeys each week. Speaking about existing paper tickets for seniors and pensioners, the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said that “the paper Pensioner Excursion Ticket will continue to be available on Monday November 3, and well into the future”. Gold Opal cards can only be obtained online or over the phone.

Thursday: 50,000 new homes for Parramatta Road

An additional 50,000 homes will be built along Parramatta Road over the coming decades, with over two thirds of homes slated for the Western end of these Parramatta Road between Granville and Strathfield. The NSW Government is planning to widen the M4 alongside this portion of Parramatta Road while building the M4 East Tunnel underneath the Eastern portion of Parramatta Road as part of its WestConnex project.

Map of the WestConnex freeway. Click to enlarge. (Source: RMS)

Map of the WestConnex freeway. Click to enlarge. (Source: RMS)

Friday: Whitlam Station proposed for NWRL

The terminus station on the North West Rail Link (NWRL) could be named Whitlam, after Blacktown City Council proposed naming a new suburb after the former Prime Minister. The station is currently known as Cudgegong Road.

VIDEO: Saving Wolli Creek – Part 1: From Mussolini to the County of Cumberland Plan

Thursday: Light rail will carry more people earlier, but cost more

The CBD and South East Light Rail’s maximum capacity will be 50% higher than the originally predicted 9,000 passengers per hour in each direction according to the Connecting Sydney consortium that has been selected to build the line. It also plans to complete the George St construction earlier than was initially planned. “The preferred bidder has responded to this challenge with a proposal that ultimately has the potential to carry over 50 per cent more than the 9,000 passengers per hour in each direction previously announced by the government” said Transport Mininster Gladys Berejiklian. She also said that “the proposal offers services that from day one carry up to 15 per cent more light rail passengers in peak hours, and 33 per cent more seats across the day”.

Route of the CBD and South East Light Rail Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Route of the CBD and South East Light Rail Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

However, it will also see an increase in the cost to build by an as yet undisclosed amount. The line has previously been budgeted to cost $1.6bn and was scheduled to open in 2019 or 2020. Construction is set to begin on the George St section after the centenary of Anzac Day in April 2015.

Friday: Opal bus rollout 86% complete

4,300 buses are now Opal enabled, with 1.1 million Opal cards in circulation. The bus rollout is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, with 5,000 buses in NSW. Opal is operating on all trains and ferried, with Opal to be rolled out to light rail by early 2015. Pensioner Opal cards will be available by the end of the year, however there is no date set for concession Opal cards yet.

Monday: New train station likely for Waterloo or Sydney University

The NSW Government is considering building a rail line via either Waterloo or Sydney University as part of its new Sydney Rapid Transit network according to a Sydney Morning Herald report. The line will connect to the currently under construction North West Rail Link via a Second Harbour Crossing at its Northern end near Central Station and to the Bankstown Line at its Southern end near Sydenham Station. Transport for NSW is believed to prefer a Sydney University alignment, while Urban Growth NSW, a government urban development agency, is believed to prefer a Waterloo alignment to support new developments in the area.

Erskineville Station has space on the Western end (right in this photo) for an additional 2 tracks and 2 platforms. This space may or may not be used as part of a new line between Central and Sydenham. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

Erskineville Station has space on the Western end (right in this photo) for an additional 2 tracks and 2 platforms. This space may or may not be used as part of a new line between Central and Sydenham. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

An alignment also exists between Sydenham and Erskineville at add an extra pair of tracks and new platforms at both Erskineville and St Peters Stations. It is unclear whether this surface alignment will be used or if the new line will run entirely underground through to Sydenham.

Thursday: Credit cards could soon be used instead of Opal cards

The Commonwealth Bank is understood to be in talks with the Government to develop the ability to use credit or debit cards to pay for fares instead of Opal Cards. The Opal system was designed with the technical capability to use any contactless credit or debit card (i.e. anything able to use Paywave or PayPass), as well as Opal cards in order to pay a fare. London’s Oyster Card, which is based on the same technology as the Opal Card, has already introduced such a system; meanwhile the Commonwealth Bank was one member of the consortium involved in the design and rollout of Opal.

VIDEO: TBM1 Elizabeth assembly and start of tunnelling, Transport for NSW

Monday: NWRL tunneling begins 4 months ahead of schedule

The first of 4 tunnel boring machines (TBM) began work on the 15km twin tunnels that will form the core of the 23km North West Rail Link. Tunneling was expected to begin by the end of this year. The current TBM, along with a second when it is ready, are beginning from Bella Vista and will cut a pair of 9km tunnels through to Cherrybrook, where a second pair of TBMs will cut another pair of 6km tunnels to Epping.

Tunneling is likely to take about 2 years, with station and tunnel fit outs to take an additional 2 years, and a final year to bring the line to operational rediness in time for a 2019 opening.

4 tunnel boring machines like these will be used on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

4 tunnel boring machines like these will be used on the NWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Monday: Sydney Trains cancel cleaning contract midway through

An agreement with Transfield to manage cleaning services for Sydney Trains has been cancelled 2 years into the 4 year contract. The cleaning will still be contracted out, but the management of the private contractors has been brought in house within Sydney Trains.

Thursday: Opal bus rollout two thirds done

Opal readers have been enabled on buses in Sydney’s Inner West as well as in the lower Hunter region. This brings the number of Opal enabled buses up to 3,290. There are 5,000 buses in NSW that are on track to be Opal enabled by the end of the year.

850,000 Opal cards have been issued, a large increase on the 500,000 Opal cards that had been issued at the start of August.

Friday: Granville parking and bus interchange upgrade complete

Granville Station’s bus interchange upgrade has been completed, along with an increase in 40 car spaces for commuter parking. Construction on an additional 20 car parking spaces is also planned to commence soon.

Saturday: SWRL completed, will open in early 2015

The South West Rail Link has been completed a year ahead of schedule and $300m under budget. The line was originally announced in 2005, with a $688m budget and an expected opening date of 2012. However, by the time it had been scheduled to be completed in 2012, the budget had blown out to $2.1bn and the opening date pushed back to 2016.

The line will be opened early next year, with January being rumoured as the planned date. The new line’s timetables and operating patterns will be worked out between now and when it is opened.

Map of the SWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Glenfield Transport Interchange Review of Environmental Factors, page 2)

Map of the SWRL. Click to enlarge. (Source: Glenfield Transport Interchange Review of Environmental Factors, page 2)

VIDEO: South West Rail Link complete, Seven News (14 September 2014)

The Pensioner Excursion Ticket dilemma

Posted: September 10, 2014 in Transport
Tags: ,

VIDEO: Anger about pensioner tickets no longer being sold on buses (Seven News)

NSW Government changes to the sale of Pensioner Excursion Tickets (PET) have been described as “very difficult” and “unnecessary” following the discontinuation of their sale on the government operated State Transit buses on 1 June this year. As a result of the changes, pensioners must now pre-purchase a PET prior to boarding a State Transit bus, as the pensioner Opal card has not yet been released.

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has dismissed these descriptions, arguing that the changes will affect only a very small number of pensioners.

“The vast majority of seniors and pensioners already buy their tickets before they board the bus – so the change will only affect a small percentage of customers.”Gladys Berejiklian (24 April 2014)

The issue stems from the consoles used on board buses to both read and sell magnetic stripe tickets. These were removed from State Transit buses once Opal readers were activated, replaced with new consoles that had to simultaneously accept both the new Opal cards and the old magnetic stripe tickets. A side effect of this appears to be that they can no longer sell PETs onboard the bus. Private buses never adopted magnetic stripe ticket readers and continue to sell PETs onboard.

A datafare console (right) with an Opal reader (left) and a green magnetic stripe ticket reader (bottom). Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

A datafarer console (right) with an Opal reader (left) and a green magnetic stripe ticket reader (bottom). Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

The first 2 bus routes to trial Opal, the 594/594H and the 333, were unaffected by this. The former was privately operated and so continues to sell PETs onboard, while the latter was prepay only and never sold PETs in the first place. It was not until the Opal bus trial expanded to other State Transit buses from 28 April that it began to become an issue.

This presented a choice of which technology to roll out first: pensioner Opal cards or Opal readers on State Transit buses.

Rolling out pensioner Opal cards before the entire network is Opal enabled risked having pensioners with an Opal card board a non-Opal enabled bus expecting to be able to use their Opal card. While this was unavoidable for regular Opal card users, it is even more problematic for pensioners who have always been able to travel on a single ticket.

Waiting for the Opal rollout to be complete before releasing pensioner Opal cards risked having pensioners being unable to purchase a PET onboard an Opal enabled bus. This was the option taken by the government, requiring pensioners to pre-purchase their tickets at a train station or retailer. In fact the government went beyond that, ending the sale of PETs on all State Transit buses from 1 June 2014, rather than just the Opal enabled ones, in order to reduce confusion.

Pensioner Opal cards will be made available later in 2014. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Pensioner Opal cards will be made available later in 2014. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

A different perspective is that had the Government gone with the first option, it would now be facing criticism from Opal card holding pensioners boarding non-Opal enabled buses and discovering they have to pay an extra fare. Until all 5,000 buses in NSW have Opal readers installed, an Opal card will not provide the coverage that a PET does.

Yet another perspective is that of the Transport Minister: this has all been blown out of proportion. PETs are still being sold, just not on State Transit buses. Those residing near a retailer will face few problem, as will those in areas serviced by private buses or any non-bus public transport. For those remaining, if they obtained a second PET for the next day they needed to travel, and then used any subsequent trip to purchase an additional PET from a retailer, they would always have a PET ready to go just like many Travel Ten holders do.

Failing that, there’s always the option of going back to just describing it as unnecessary and very difficult.

Monday: Removal of paper tickets goes ahead without a major hitch

14 paper tickets, mostly long term periodicals, were no longer sold from Monday onwards, as the Opal rollout continues. Calls for customers to be patient by the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian turned out to be unnecessary, with the Monday morning commute lacking the feared long queues at the ticket windows or confused customers unaware of how to use their new Opal card. The day was referred to as a “big success” and compared to the Y2K bug which was also much feared in the lead up to it but caused little to no issues.

Any retired tickets obtained prior to 1 September can be continued to be used until they expire. Opal has been rolled out to all trains and ferries, with 2,800 of the states 5,000 buses Opal enabled. Opal is scheduled to be rolled out to trams in early 2015, while pensioner and student/concession Opal cards are slated for late 2014 and early 2015 respectively.

Friday: Government and Sydney Airport get heated over Badgerys Creek

Federal Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs has suggested that the government will find a new partner to build and operate the planned airport at Badgerys Creek. The owners of the current Kingsford-Smith Airport at Mascot has first right of refusal over an airport at Badgerys Creek, meaning that the government must make them an offer and only if that offer is refused can the government make that exact same offer to others. Max Moore Wilton, the Chairman of the Sydney Airports Corporation that owns Kingsford-Smith, subsequently suggested Mr Briggs was a “talented amateur” and that Mr Moore-Wilton would go over Mr Brigg’s head to more senior ministers.

Badgerys Creek Airport relative to Kingsford-Smith and Wilton. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author, with Google Maps)

Badgerys Creek Airport relative to Kingsford-Smith and Wilton. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author, with Google Maps)

Tuesday: Opal Man cost $100,000 to design

The NSW Government paid $100,000 to design Opal Man, according to documents obtained by Shadow Transport Minister Penny Sharpe. This has been followed by a multimillion dollar advertising campaign, including $2.3m to develop TV ads and a further $4.7m in buying spots on the media. In addition, $2.9m is being spent on information and sales staff at stations.

Wednesday: Randwick Council signs agreement with NSW Government over light rail

Hundreds of parking spaces are to be retained or replaced in Kensington and Kingsford along Anzac Parade when light rail is built along that road as part of a Development Agreement between Randwick Council and Transport for NSW. The agreement, which follows a lengthy and politically disputed period of many months, will return 100-120 parking spots on Anzac Parade during off-peak hours. Previous plans were to have turned Anzac Parade into a 24 hour clearway with no parking. The agreement will also see the sale of land near the Kingsford interchange to Randwick Council, which the council plans to turn into a car park to offset the loss of parking spaces from the construction of the Kingsford interchange over the existing parking lot adjacent to South’s Juniors.

The revised Randwick light rail interchange features 3 times as much green space as originally proposed, but this is still half as much as is currently there. Click to enlarge. (Source: CSELR Submissions Report, p. 6-65)

The revised Randwick light rail interchange features 3 times as much green space as originally proposed, but this is still half as much as is currently there. Click to enlarge. (Source: CSELR Submissions Report, p. 6-65)

The agreement also requires Transport for NSW to consider alternative options for the Randwick interchange planned at High Cross Park, though stops short of requiring Transport for NSW to modify it should no alternative be found to be feasible. It also requires an independent arborist to be consulted if the removal of any trees is disputed.

Monday: Real time train and parking capacity information coming soon

Sydney Trains customers will soon be able to work out how full trains and station car parks are on their smart phones if CEO Howard Collins has his way. Mr Collins explained “we know on a Waratah train how many people are in each carriage by how much it weighs” and that this information can be passed on to customers to more evenly spread customers on trains. Waratah trains account for about 40% of the Sydney Trains fleet. Mr Collins also hoped that similar information could be provided for car parks at train stations.

Real time information could soon also include how full each train carriage is based on their weight. Click to enlarge. (Source: TripView)

Real time information could soon also include how full each train carriage is based on their weight. Click to enlarge. (Source: TripView)

Tuesday: Airport access fee deal for regular airport commuters

Regular users of the airport stations will pay no more than $21 a week under a $10m deal when using their Opal cards. Previously those travelling to and from the airport stations on a regular basis, usually airport workers, paid a $12.60 access fee each time they entered or exited one of the two airport stations. However, customers purchasing a weekly ticket would pay an access fee of only $21 for the whole week, on top of the regular fare. This concession did not exist for Opal users, but now their access fee will also be capped at $21 if using Opal. This was seen as necessary given the retirement of weekly train tickets starting from 1 September. The Government will pay the private operator of the airport line a one off $10m payment as part of the deal.

Wednesday: Majority of Opal rollout on buses complete

More than half the NSW fleet of buses will be Opal enabled, with 2,890 buses accepting Opal cards from 26 August. NSW has around 5,000 buses in its public transport fleet.

Wednesday: Maldon to Dombarton Line back on the agenda

A Registration of Interest for the Maldon to Dombarton freight railway line has been approved to see if there is private interest in building the $667m line. The line would complete the missing link that would connect Wollongong and Port Kembla to the Southern Sydney Freight Line running through Southwest Sydney. This could remove or at least reduce the number of freight trains using the T4 Line through Sutherland and Hurstville, reducing their impacts on passengers trains on that line.

Gladys Berejiklian should be called the Minister for Change rather than the Minister for Transport, while her main mission should be to drive change. This is how Ms Berejiklian described her role to the Future Leaders Sounding Board, which was launched on Thursday at the Powerhouse Museum by the Committee for Sydney.

Ms Berejiklian used the forum to outline her quick wins strategy, emphasised how she has made her department more customer focused, explained how Opal is changing the way people travel, hinted about a light rail line from Parramatta to Macquarie Park, described how Sydney Rapid Transit will increase CBD rail capacity, and announced that shorter buses are coming to Sydney.

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian used the Powerhouse Museum's Transport Exhibition as a backdrop to her speech outlining her achievements and future vision. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian used the Powerhouse Museum’s Transport Exhibition as a backdrop to her speech outlining her past wins and future vision. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author.)

She framed her quick wins strategy around her desire to be seen as driving change, as it was designed to demonstrate a willingness to change. It included the introduction of real time transport apps, quiet carriages, and mobile phone reception in CBD rail tunnels.

The Transport Minister described Sydney’s transport system as not being customer focused enough when she became a Minister. Customers were previously referred to as passengers, but Ms Berejiklian said “if you pay for something you are a customer”. Meanwhile, customer service was not one of the key performance indicators that customer facing staff were judged on. Both of these have now been changed.

“Transport access is a lifestyle choice” Ms Berejiklian said, adding that good access to and use of public transport “is now a first choice rather than a last choice” for Sydney residents. She pointed to Opal’s free travel after the first 8 journeys as having led to an increase in public transport usage on weekends. “This will put pressure on me to put on more weekends services and that’s good” she said. Opal could also provide real time information on crowding on transport services, which was not possible under the previous ticketing system that only collected ticket data from point of sale rather than actual customer entries and exits.

Speaking about light rail in Parramatta, she said that it was important that it connect to the health and education precincts in the area. This may have been a hint that the Westmead to Macquarie Park alignment, the only one to pass through both Westmead Hospital and the University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta campus, is the preferred alignment. The NSW Government has committed $400m in funding for a light rail line from Parramatta for an as yet undecided route.

Looking towards the future, she said the proposed Sydney Rapid Transit network set to link Rouse Hill to Bankstown via the CBD will add 3 much needed stations in the city centre, while confirming it would eventually be extended to Hurstville. Meanwhile, Sydney’s new double deck buses will soon be joined by shorter buses that are more manoeuvrable around Sydney’s smaller streets.