The opening of the South West Rail Link (SWRL) connecting Leppington to Glenfield will result in the biggest change to the Sydney Trains timetable since the just implemented 2013 timetable came into effect in October (all figures below are based on this newly introduced timetable). The major question over how it will be integrated into the network revolves around the need for rolling stock.
The government has recently passed up the opportunity to increase its fleet of Waratah trains by an additional 8 to 12 above the currently planned 78 trains. These additional trains would allow the network to operate entirely with air conditioned trains, and without them it will instead have to operate some of the older S-Set trains (which are currently being phased out for lacking air conditioning). The government is retaining about 24 of the S-Set trains for this.
The non-air conditioned trains may not necessarily operate on the SWRL, and which ever line they do end up on will probably only use them during peak hour when the need for trains is at its highest.
The amount of rolling stock requires will depend on which line the SWRL will be connected to. One option involves running the SWRL via the East Hills and Airport Line. In the morning peak there are currently 2 East Hills Line trains per hour starting from East Hills, running limited stops to the CBD via the Airport, which could be doubled to 4 and then extended to Glenfield to link up to the SWRL. This has the advantage of being fast (42 minutes from Glenfield to Central), being relatively uncrowded (the East Hills and Airport Line could have approximately 109 passengers per 100 seats after the October 2013 timetable is implemented), and having spare capacity for adding 2 more trains per hour – which would reduce this overcrowding. However, this would require additional rolling stock, both through the doubling of existing peak hour services from East Hills from 2 to 4 trains per hour and their extension to Glenfield (where the SWRL begins).
The alternative is for the SWRL to operate as an extension of the South Line. During the morning peak hour there are currently 4 South Line trains per hour starting from Glenfield, running limited stops to the CBD via Granville. This has the advantage of not needing to add additional services or extend them, as 4 trains per hour already start at Glenfield. However, this route would result in a much longer journey (61 minutes from Glenfield to Central), is relatively crowded (the South Line could have approximately 114 passengers per 100 seats after the October 2013 timetable is implemented), and has no spare capacity for running additional trains without altering the way in which South Line and Inner West Line trains operate. This is because South Line trains run express from Strathfield while Inner West Line trains run all stops, but the lack of overtaking tracks reduces the maximum hourly capacity from 20 trains per hour down to 12.
Once the Bankstown Line is linked up to a Second Harbour Crossing and its trains removed from the City Circle, an additional 4 trains per hour can be added to the East Hills Line during the AM peak. However, the South Line will retain the same constraints previously mentioned. Additionally, should an airport ever be built at Badgerys Creek then an extension of the SWRL and East Hills Line could connect the new airport to Kingsford-Smith Airport with a continuous rail line.
Despite this, in both cases it would be possible to run all SWRL trains via the South Line and still maintain a quick and easy cross platform transfer at Glenfield. By sending all South and Cumberland Line trains through the SWRL, it would also allow independent operation of the lines to Leppington and Macarthur from Glenfield. This would prevent delays on one section of the line from immediately flowing on to the other section. This “sectorisation”, as it is known, would be even more pronounced once single deck metro trains run on the Bankstown Line and it is truncated to Cabramatta.
A similar challenge exists during the off-peak. Here are 3 possible options:
- The South Line currently operates at half hour frequencies, and these 2 trains an hour can be re-routed to the SWRL. This removes two services per hour from Campbelltown, albeit trains so slow that passengers can reach the CBD faster by waiting for the next East Hills train and catching that instead.
- Two trains an hour on the East Hills Line (one each starting from/terminating at Kingsgrove and Campbelltown) could each be re-routed to the SWRL. This removes one service per hour from Campbelltown, bringing it back down to half hourly services all day. Though some clever timetabling of the Cumberland Line could allow passengers South of Glenfield a quick transfer at Glenfield for a fast SWRL train into the CBD, reducing the 30 minute wait between trains.
- The Cumberland Line is re-routed to the SWRL. This removed a direct link to Parramatta for anyone South of Glenfield and a direct link to the CBD for anyone on the SWRL. This makes it an unlikely choice, if passengers are required to make transfers then it should be for those with non-CBD destinations.
The SWRL was recently announced to be running 12 months ahead of schedule and $100m under budget. However, the revised mid-2015 completion date is still 3 years behind the initial 2012 completion date, with the revised $2.0bn budget well above the $688m it was originally expected to cost (Source: Daily Telegraph).