Posts Tagged ‘Sydney Metro City & Southwest’

A merry Christmas to all the readers. Here’s hoping Santa was kind to you this year. This blog’s author, historically a Westie – though residing in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs these days, received a Western Sydney Wanderer’s jersey.


Western Sydney also received some good news right before Christmas in the form of support for an airport at Badgery’s Creek from Liverpool Council, which includes the Badgery’s Creek area. It’s clear that the debate over an airport has moved on from whether one should be built, and is now over how best to build one so that Western Sydney receives the maximum benefit.

Today’s post is about engineering solutions for efficient movement of people in the form of 2 videos.

The first is in Spanish with English subtitles from Santiago, Chile (taken from the great transport blog Human Transit). It explains how a gate in the middle of a platform ensures that passengers enter the train carriage at the right spot, rather than trying to jockey for a good position when leaving the carriage onto the platform. While this gate appears irrational from the perspective of the individual, it makes the movement of people more efficient overall, even to the benefit of those who might appear to be worse off as a result.

In Sydney, the marshal’s trialled at Town Hall appear to mimic this sort of idea. While the North West Rail Link could initially see overcrowding at Chatswood as large numbers of passengers transfer from one train to another until such a time as a second Harbour Crossing is completed. Both scenarios could learn something from this low-tech engineering solution.

The second video looks at how intersections in the Netherlands are designed to allow bikes and cars to cross safely. The simplicity of the solution is breathtaking. Even more impressive is the way it allows right hand turns to be executed safely and easily (in the video they are left hand turns, due to the Dutch driving on the opposite side of the road to Australians).

With the accelerated expansion of bike paths in Sydney, this is also somewhere that city planners in Sydney could learn a thing or two from overseas.

The recent post on how the SWRL might work received a lot of comments, which soon went on a tangent about the North West Rail Link (NWRL) and the now abandoned plans for the North West Metro. The final EIS for the North West Metro is available here (thanks to Ray).

Alignment for the now abandoned North West Metro. Click to enlarge. (Source: North West Metro Preliminary Environmental Assessment, p. 1.5)

Alignment for the now abandoned North West Metro. Click to enlarge. (Source: North West Metro Preliminary Environmental Assessment, p. 1.5)

A few highlights from the comments section of that post:

“[The metro conversion strategy] has been developed by the same Transport planners that worked for the previous Government and the ideas are not new. The Liberals actually came in to Government wanting to expand the Double Decker network but got the same good sell that the previous Labor Government got when they pushed the same kind of single deck plans (the current plans are better though) and so they changed their mind.The conversion of the line to Hurstville was the first of the lines that the planners wanted and that was first touted years ago. They have reviewed a number of lines for conversion to Single Deckers…The Airport line to Revesby makes sense”Rails

“starting with the first iteration of the NW metro via Rozelle, then the CBD metro to Rozelle and now the NWRL, the metro has become a solution in search of a problem. Instead of investigating high-capacity short routes in which a metro might add some value such as Parramatta Road and along the Anzac Road corridor to UNSW, the transport bureaucrats/government are pushing the metro for a long-haul outer-suburban corridor best suited to double-deck trains.”Alex

“The thing is that both the original Anzac Metro, NW Metro and the CBD Metro were much closer to actual “Metro” trains than what we are getting now being not only Single Deck with 3 sets of doors but smaller trains with 4-5 carriages and longitudinal seating. This was in part necessary due to the route via Victoria road and through the CBD but it was what they wanted, a true Metro. The trains we are now getting for as part of the envisaged “Rapid Transit” Network starting with the NWRL are single deck and have 3 sets of doors but differ in only being slightly smaller than the Cityrail stock and 8 carriages with 2 + 2 seating offering much better frequency, faster loading/ unloading and much more standing space. These are really Single Deck Heavy Rail rather than the lighter weight “Metro” trains that the NW were originally going to get.”Rails

“if you were to argue a line that is less suitable for running Single Deckers I actually think it would be the Bankstown line to Cabramatta but for some reason I’ve never heard anyone argue against the conversion of that line.” – Rails

“Although I don’t subscribe to the “metro” conversion strategy, I would have thought that the Inner West Line to Homebush would have been more of a priority than the IIlawarra Local Line to Hurstville, particularly when you consider the ramifications of compromising East Hills Line services from the south west.

The “metro” conversion is ideological, with the ultimate objective to split up the system to more readily make it viable for privatisation. That is totally different to a franchising model such as in Melbourne. I don’t know of many urban transport systems in the world’s major cities which are privatised. But perhaps you can enlighten me.” – Ray

“I was pretty sure that even the NW Metro was 5 carriages with the option of extending to 6 in the future but I am open to correction on that. They were physically smaller than the Cityrail trains and I am pretty sure had longitudinal seating, however that project changed a lot over time so I may be wrong. However, one thing you may not be aware of is that when they actually did the work on the CBD part of the CBD Metro and its extension from Rozelle to Epping and on to the NW, the Barangaroo station due to its location had quite short platforms that I believe limited it to 5 carriage trains. Although near the end of the CBD Metro fiasco they actually removed the NWRL from that plan altogether.”Rails

A few other comments from the recent post on no platform 1 at Wynyard and St Leonards stations relating to a Second Harbour Rail Crossing are also relevant to this discussion, in particular on whether to go over or under the Harbour:

“Why don’t they just commission the private sector to build a new harbour tunnel(allowing the company to charge juicy toll’s) and THEN convert some lanes on the bridge to heavy rail?

Is it because of the Cahill Express-way and its connection to the Eastern Suburbs? Can’t traffic use the cross-city tunnel for the same purpose?”Shiggyshiggy

“Another option suggested by the Fairfax Christie Public Transport Inquiry (disclaimer – I was involved in this) was to sling additional rail lines under the deck of the Harbour Bridge, which apparently is feasible and would be much cheaper than tunnelling.”Alex

“I am pretty sure the cheapest option would be to build the second crossing as Bradfield intended, the eastern lanes of the bridge into Wynyard 1 and 2. However, if you believe the Government that the bridge itself is limited to 26 tph in Single Deck form and 20 tph in Double Deck form then its not going to be able service the potential of the Single Deck NWRL on its own let alone service two lines, you would need three crossings at least and to stop short many services. We are struggling to get a second crossing built so I cant see three being built for a long time so its obviously time to look at either a new line running under the bridge or an under harbour tunnel. A Northern Beaches line would also have much worse grades than the NWRL/ ECRL has, it requires a serious slippery dip to get through the spit area, plus it has a catchment that suits turn up and go services and thus it makes sense to be a Single Deck line.

Now it seems the under harbour tunnel will have no issue running the required tph and should be able to service two lines with one crossing, at least for the foreseeable future. I assume that a new line under the bridge deck would be the same considering the idea of both paths seem to be very similar.The trick for the bridge option would be getting it to meet either of the two reserved rail corridors through the CBD, I think this will not be easy and in particular to connect to the “Metro Pitt” corridor it may require the demolition of a number of skyscrapers, very pricey. I do wonder though if the Single Deck trains make it more viable as you could run a steeper grade to get under these building foundations.”Rails

“Basically all the SMH report does is take MREP between Chatswood and the airport line via the reserved Metro Pitt corridor and instead of using an under harbour tunnel they replaced it with the under bridge deck idea (partly needed because of the issues running Double Deckers under the harbour). You do have to be careful with that proposal as it was a theoretical exercise, even by their own admission. They don’t know if it will work or not and as I mentioned I believe its in no way straight forward connecting to the Metro Pitt corridor at the Wynyard end (partly why MREP was proposed as a tunnel in the first place).”Rails

“Suggest you go to Google Street view (Hickson Road) and look up at the understructure of the bridge (or go there yourself). No way is it possible to hang any rail (or road) tracks under the bridge. You effectively have a dense grid of beams all roughly at the same level, and you have the two gantries which run under the bridge to give access to all of them for maintenance. I am not sure where the rails on which the gantry hangs are located, but I would suggest they are under the long side girder, see (hopefully)”Dudley Horscroft

“the detailed submission the Inquiry received from Australian Infrastructure Solutions Ltd proposing the under-bridge proposal indicated that it would be feasible to install two or even four additional rail lines which would sit within the supporting girder structure with relatively minor modification and that the Bridge with the recent strengthening of the hangars could take the extra weight. In fact I understand an earlier version of this proposal involving road lanes was developed and nearly adopted by the Carr government, but they got cold feet at the last minute, partly because of the incorrect perception that this was going to stretch all the way across the width of the bridge.

I don’t think it would be much more difficult to construct than your earlier suggestion to put road lanes above the current deck – and despite the opposition to the earlier under deck roads proposal it would be a lot less visually intrusive. Either way there is probably an engineering solution, though whether it is financially viable or competitive with other options remains to be seen. That’s why the Inquiry stopped short of endorsing the under-bridge option, instead recommending that the proposal be comprehensively investigated.”Alex

Further comments can be made below.

To explain this, it helps to understand platform numbering.

On all train stations in Sydney, platform 1 is always on the left hand side of the station when facing in the direction of Central Station. In addition, trains always travel on the left track, in the same way cars always drive on the left hand side of the road. As a result, trains on platform 1 always go to Central; while at stations with 2 platforms, trains on platform 2 always come from Central. Tracks with trains going into Central are called up tracks, while tracks with trains coming from Central are called down tracks.

(In some cases it gets a bit complicated. For example, the direction of Central on the City Circle is a bit tricky, and based on starting at Central itself and going counter-clockwise to Town Hall via Museum. Also, when there are multiple pairs of tracks the direction of trains either alternates: up/down/up/down/etc, or get paired up: up/up/down/down.)

Platform 1 at Wynyard Station

Wynyard station has platforms 3 & 4 (North Shore/Northern/Western Line trains) and platforms 5 & 6 (City Circle trains), but is missing platforms 1 & 2. It did use to have platforms 1 & 2 for trams that crossed the Harbour Bridge and then terminated at Wynyard in the CBD. These platforms were reserved for a future rail line to the Northern Beaches, using the Eastern 2 lanes on the Bridge and 2 of the 4 platforms at North Sydney.

Today it has been turned into a car park, but you can see the tram/train style design of the tunnels. The lanes on the Harbour Bridge are now used by cars, though one of the two was converted into a bus lane when the Harbour Tunnel opened about 20 years ago.

Platform 1 at St Leonards Station

The original St Leonards Station was built in 1890 on its current location North of the Pacific Highway. However, in 1989 it was relocated to a temporary station South of the Pacific Highway so that a new station could be constructed. This was completed in the year 2000.

Meanwhile, in 1998, the government announced it would build the Parramatta Rail Link. This would start at Parramatta, connect up to the Carlingford Line, then travel through a tunnel to Chatswood via Epping, before continuing South to St Leonards. Part of this was an amplification of the track between St Leonards and Chatswood, from 2 tracks to 4, in order to allow trains from Parramatta to terminate at St Leonards and turn around to go back to Parramatta without disrupting trains on the North Shore Line.

However, budgetary constraints meant that the Epping to Parramatta portion of the line was cancelled in 2003, as was the quadruplication of the Chatswood to St Leonards portion. But the new St Leonards Station had opened 3 years earlier, to the specification of and with the expectation that it would be a 4 platform station, not just a 2 platform station. Hence, while only the inner 2 platforms (2 and 3) have tracks on them, the 2 outer platforms (1 and 4) have no tracks and a fence to keep people out.

The missing platform 1 at St Leonards can be seen on the left, with the train actually on platform 2. There is a space on the far right for a platform 4. Click to enlarge. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The missing platform 1 at St Leonards can be seen on the left, with the train actually on platform 2. There is a space on the far right for a platform 4. Click to enlarge. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Today the Chatswood to St Leonards quadruplication is set to form the start of the Second Harbour Rail Crossing (and the only part that will be above ground), a new rail line connecting Redfern to Chatswood. It will then connect to the North West Rail Link on the Northern end, and the Bankstown and Illawarra Lines on the Southern end (but only through to Cabramatta/Lidcombe and Hurstville respectively).

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.

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)

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.

The SWRL currently under construction, passing underneath the Hume Highway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

The SWRL currently under construction, passing underneath the Hume Highway. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

A similar challenge exists during the off-peak. Here are 3 possible options:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

The decision to make the North West Rail Link (NWRL) an independently operated single deck line that incorporates the existing Epping to Chatswood Rail Link poses a number of operational challenges.

In the short term, the line will terminate at Chatswood, forcing the 2/3rds of passengers headed further South on the North Shore and into the CBD to change to another train. Some (very rough) estimates by Transport Sydney suggest that this will lead to increased crowding on the North Shore Line, but still less crowded than the Western or Illawarra Lines.

In the longer term, a Second Harbour Rail Crossing will allow both a reduction in crowding levels and for these passengers to continue through into the CBD. However, such a project will not be completed until some time in the next decade or perhaps even later.

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NWRL EIS - Introduction, page 1-3.)

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport for NSW)

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald from a few months ago claimed to have obtained internal Transport for NSW documents detailing how the government plans to deal with these problems. With some additional speculation to fill in the gaps, this is what it’s approach might be.

Having enough trains on the North Shore Line

There are currently 18 trains per hour on the North Shore Line during the busiest hour in the AM peak, carrying 15,494 passengers (measured at St Leonards). 4 of these trains come from Hornsby via Macquarie Park, 14 come from Hornsby via Gordon. 8 of these 18 trains can be rerouted via Strathfield – the 4 via Macquarie Park trains as well as 4 via Gordon trains which come in from the Central Coast. South of Epping, the previously via Macquarie Park trains will become the existing all stations trains that start at Epping and continue through the CBD and across the Harbour Bridge. Meanwhile, the previously via Gordon trains will replace the 2 new trains which start at Epping and run a limited stops service to Sydney Terminal at Central as well as the other 2 other slots available for such trains.

This may require some adjustments to stopping patterns on the Northern Line in order to allow the faster trains to overtake the slower trains on the section of the line which has 2 pairs of tracks, as a large section of the line currently only has 1 pair of tracks. It is also possible due to intercity trains from the South Coast now continuing through to Bondi Junction during the peak rather than running into Sydney Terminal, thus freeing up capacity at Sydney Terminal for additional trains from the Northern Line.

Assuming passenger loadings are evenly spread out, this should result in a reduction in passenger numbers on the North Shore Line equal to 8 train loads, or about 6,886 passengers.

The government expects 19 million passengers to shift over to the NWRL from other lines each year, which with some very rough guessing (see end of post) is equivalent to 6,800 passengers transferring from the NWRL to the North Shore Line at Chatswood.

The government also expects to reduce the number of buses from Sydney’s North West by 160 during the AM peak, changing them to operate as feeder buses for the NWRL. This equates to about 103 buses during the busiest hour of the AM peak, which is approximately 5,000 passengers (assuming 50 passengers per bus).

So adjusting the current patronage by these amounts gives: 15,494 – 6,886 + 6,800 +5,000 = 20,408 passengers per hour.  The government has committed to running 20 trains per hour on the North Shore Line once the NWRL is operational, which means 1,020 passengers per train, or 113% loading (assuming 900 seats per train). This is above the current 99% average loading on the North Shore Line and also the 94% that it could drop to when the number of trains per hour is increased to 19 as part of the 2013 timetable. But it is well below the 135% crush capacity, above which long dwell time begin to result in delays. It is also below the current loading of the 2 most patronised lines on the Sydney Trains network: the Western Line (119%) and the Illawarra Line (123%).

It should be reinforced that these are not official Transport for NSW or Sydney Trains figures, but rough estimates made by Transport Sydney.

Timing the transfers at Chatswood

During the morning peak, the North Shore Line would run at 3 minute intervals, with the NWRL running at 5 minute intervals. Some North Shore trains commence at Hornsby or Berowra, and these tend to be more full than those starting at Gordon given that they have stopped at more stations and picked up more passengers. By scheduling trains that start at Gordon (plus also possibly Lindfield) to arrive at Chatswood shortly after a train from the NWRL does, then this should maximise the amount of space available on the trains NWRL passengers are transferring to, plus minimise waiting time on the platform for a train that can take as many waiting passengers as possible. Network limitations mean it is unlikely that more than 4 trains per hour can be started at Gordon, and another 4 at Linfield. By having these trains arrive at Chatswood at alternating 6 and 9 minute intervals (e.g. arriving at 8:06AM, 8:15AM, 8:21AM, 8:30AM, etc), they approximate the 5 minute intervals of the NWRL (e.g. 8:04AM, 8:09AM, 8:14AM, 8:19AM, 8:24AM, 8:29AM, etc). Thus, passengers on 8 out of every 12 NWRL trains during peak hour could quite easily just board the next train into the CBD after a 1-2 minute wait. The trouble is that 4 of the 12 NWRL trains per hour are unlikely to benefit from these relatively empty Gordon/Linfield starters, and pose the biggest threat of passengers having to wait for multiple trains before being able to board.

The installation of screen doors are likely to increase the total available space on platforms, by making available the space currently beyond the yellow line that passengers are always told not to cross. However, this would not appear to be a significant amount of space.

Northern Line capacity

As mentioned earlier, capacity increases to the North Shore Line involve moving 8 trains per hour onto the Northern Line. The 4 trains per hour that currently travel from Hornsby to Chatswood via Epping can be rerouted via Strathfield, effectively becoming the 4 trains per hour from Epping to the City via Strathfield. This reverts to the pre-2009 operating patterns before the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link opened. The 4 Central Coast trains moved from the North Shore to the Northern Line will have to terminate at Sydney Terminal, given that all slots through Town Hall, Wynyard, and the Harbour Bridge are being used by existing Western Line and Northern Line trains. This will also mean the end of the 2 additional trains planned for the 2013 timetable, which go from Epping to Sydney Terminal each morning peak.

These changes pose problems of their own. First, it replaces existing trains that start empty at either Hornsby or Epping with trains that began their journey earlier (at the Central Coast and Hornsby respectively) and have picked up passengers, thus removing spare capacity from the line. So while it will see Northern Line frequencies raised from the current 8 trains per hour to 12 trains per hour, the additional trains will be more crowded on average. Second, many parts of the Northern Line have only 1 pair of tracks, and thus lack an overtaking track for faster express trains to pass slower all stops trains.

The first problem is somewhat alleviated by passengers choosing to change at either Hornsby or Epping and travelling towards Macquarie Park/the North Shore, thus freeing up space on Northern Line trains.

The second can be alleviated by building additional track between West Ryde and Rhodes. This will result in 2 pairs of tracks between Epping and Rhodes, thus allowing the faster Central Coast trains to overtake all stations trains.

Extending the NWRL to St Leonards

Of all the possible improvements mentioned in the Herald article, it makes special mention of this one. It would allow passengers on the NWRL travelling to St Leonards to avoid having to transfer to a North Shore Line train. In doing so it would also reduce overcrowding, which as mentioned earlier could be very close to crush loads.

Fast tracking this project to be ready by the time the NWRL begins operating in 2019 would be the single best way to ease the stress caused on the network until a Second Harbour Crossing is built.

Improved signalling

Upgrading signalling in order to boost the maximum capacity of the Sydney Trains network from 20 trains per hour to 24 trains per hour would add an additional 20% capacity to the network. Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian had previously talked about train frequencies of 24 per hour on the North Shore, but has since restrained herself to talking about 20 trains per hour. This suggests that such an upgrade is not likely to happen any time soon, probably due to the high cost of doing so.

The cost

The Herald report claims that the cost of these improvements, plus others listed in the internal document (such as new rolling stock), come to $4bn or almost half of the NWRL’s $8.3bn price tag. However, when asked about these costs during budget estimates hearings last year, Transport for NSW head Les Wielinga dismissed them as amounts that were already budgeted for. This suggests that the required track amplifications on the Northern and North Shore Lines will occur, despite no word on the timing. The Chatswood to St Leonards portion in particular would actually form the beginning of the promised Second Harbour Crossing, and therefore represents a bringing forward of future capital spending, rather than new spending.

Implementing all of these would not eliminate all the problems caused by the NWRL as planned. Upper Northern Line Stations would still lose direct access to Macquarie Park, and be forced to choose between longer journey times or making a transfer in order to reach the lower North Shore. NWRL users would still have to wait until some time next decade before getting a direct link into the CBD, and Chatswood (or St Leonards) could be strained to handle the number of passengers transferring there until that happens.

But it would be significantly better than the “do nothing but build the NWRL as currently planned” option.


19,000,000 passengers per year diverted to NWRL from other lines

19,000,000 / 52 = 365,385 passengers per week

365,385 / 6 = 60,897 passengers per day (assuming 50% usage on Saturdays and Sundays compared to weekdays)

60,897 / 3 = 20,299 passengers per morning peak (assuming rule of thumb that patronage is one third AM peak, one third off peak, one third PM peak)

20,299 / 2 = 10,150 passengers per hour in busiest hour of AM peak (assuming half of all passengers during the 6AM-9AM peak travel during 8AM-9AM)

10,150 x 67% = 6,800 passengers per hour past Chatswood (assuming one third of passengers get off by Chatswood)

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read this blog, but happy birthday to the Transport Minister. Now please hurry up and build that Second Harbour Crossing!


If this blog were voting on September 7 purely on transport issues, and had to make a choice between one of the 2 parties that will form government, then it would with reservations cast its vote for the ALP.

There are many other issues to be considered in this election, and many details as far as just transport is considered. But broadly speaking, for the upcoming election the Coalition has promised to the NSW Government more funding for transport infrastructure (albeit only for roads, not public transport) with fewer strings attached than the ALP have, while the ALP is both prepared to fund public transport and has made a slightly more solid commitment to building a much needed airport at Badgerys Creek.

Funding Commitments

Each of the major parties have made large commitments towards 3 transport infrastructure projects, all roads: the Pacific Highway upgrade on the NSW North Coast, the M2 to F3 Link in Northern Sydney, and the WestConnex freeway in Western Sydney.

The ALP has proposed 50:50 funding, shared with the NSW Government, for the Pacific Highway, which works out to $3.5bn. If the NSW Government does not match this amount then the deal is off, and there is some uncertainty over whether the NSW Government will match this amount. The Coalition has offered an 80:20 split, or $5.6bn, with the extra $2.1bn being the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link funding the ALP has previously promised (but since dropped). It is likely that the NSW Government is holding out for a possible Coalition win on September 7 before it tries to find funding for the ALP offer, but there is no guarantee that it will. If it does, then it is likely that some or most of this money will come from other parts of the transport infrastructure budget, including public transport as NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian alluded to in her bizarre comments that she welcomed news of not receiving any funding for public transport.

The M2 to F3 project is set to receive $400m of Commonwealth funding regardless of who wins next month, following a commitment by the ALP in May which was matched by the Coalition.

Map of the proposed WestConnex alignment showing it connecting to the City West Link. (Source: WestConnex – Sydney’s next motorway priority, Infrastructure NSW, p. 17)

Map of the proposed WestConnex alignment showing it connecting to the City West Link. Click to enlarge. (Source: WestConnex – Sydney’s next motorway priority, Infrastructure NSW, p. 17)

For WestConnex, the ALP is offering to match the NSW Government’s current $1.8bn contribution, while the Coalition has promised $1.5bn. Both parties have made their funding conditional on the M4 East being extended to the CBD (a poor decision, as explained here), while Labor has also required a link to Port Botany and for existing portions of freeway to remain toll free. These requirements will result in a higher construction cost and a lower cost recovery, to the point where the total cost to the NSW Government could be lower if it rejected the extra funding. While the Coalition’s offer does have fewer strings attached, both parties are guilty of this.

Overall, a Coalition Government in Canberra would likely provide more funding ($7.5bn vs $5.7bn), and do so with fewer restrictions.

Funding philosophy

Tony Abbott has consistently voiced his view that the Commonwealth Government should not fund any urban rail projects. He has been given many opportunities to elaborate on this view, and each time he has stuck to his guns on it. Often, this has been based on false assumptions. For example, he initially argued that the Commonwealth had no history of funding urban rail (which was incorrect). He then clarified by arguing that no Commonwealth Government before current Labor Government won office in 2007 had a history of funding urban rail (which was also incorrect). Melbourne based transport advocate put it best when he said perhaps the Federal Coalition has no history of funding urban rail, but the Commonwealth most certainly does.

The ALP, on the other hand, both supports the funding of public transport and has a history of doing so. While there are no current pieces of public transport infrastructure that the ALP is offering to provide funding for, such support may be essential for projects currently in the pipeline, such as the South East Light Rail or a Second Harbour Crossing.

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

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

Most importantly, public transport projects are much less able to obtain private sources of funding, whereas roads are able to source all (or atleast most) of their funding from user tolls. Therefore, it is the height of ridiculousness for a Commonwealth Government, the level of government with most access to revenue raising, to rule out funding the sort of infrastructure that most needs government support to go ahead and to instead focus its funding on those projects which least need it. This is particularly the case when it’s considered that rail has a capacity 10 times as large as the equivalent amount of road space used by cars.

On the issue of funding philosophy, the ALP comes out ahead.

Second Sydney airport

Neither party is yet willing to come out and state the obvious: that Western Sydney needs an airport of its own, and that Badgerys Creek is the best site for it. Even Max Moore-Wilton, head of Sydney Airport, agrees that Sydney will need a second airport and that Badgerys is the best location. The only thing he disagrees on is the timing, claiming that Sydney Airport will have sufficient capacity until 2045.

Current and proposed Sydney airports. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps, modified by author)

Current and proposed Sydney airports. Click to enlarge. (Source: Google Maps, modified by author)

But none of this can allow politicians to ignore the fact that an airport in Badgerys Creek is an essential piece of infrastructure that will allow the much needed creation of jobs in Western Sydney, which will soon overtake Sydney’s Eastern half in population. Despite this, 200,000 Western Sydney residents currently commute into Eastern Sydney each day due to a jobs deficit, and this will only increase in coming decades if nothing is done about it. This in turn puts additional stress on transport infrastructure, which in turn has resulted in pressure to build projects such as WestConnex. Improvements to Kingsford-Smith Airport at Mascot will do nothing to ease this strain on jobs and infrastructure.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has now declared that if re-elected, he would like to see Labor Government will begin work on a second airport in its next term, but without nominating a site. Meanwhile, the Coalition has refused to nominate a site or a start date, though at the leader’s debate this past Sunday Opposition Leader Tony Abbott did promise to make a decision in his next term. Neither of these positions is ideal, although privately it looks like both parties plan to begin work soon on an airport and choose Badgerys Creek as the location. Despite this, the ALP’s commitment is slightly more concrete than the Coalition’s and Mr Albanese is a stronger advocate for Badgerys Creek than Warren Truss as Transport Minister is likely to be.

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)

Questions about the decision to build the tunnels for the North West Rail Link (NWRL) too narrow and too steep for existing Cityrail rolling stock have resurfaced as the government signs the tunnel boring contract for them. Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian had already admitted that any savings from narrower tunnels on the NWRL would be outweighed by the costs of retrofitting the existing Epping to Chatswood Line, but it now appears likely that one of the bidders for this contract had offered to bore the tunnels at the larger diametre for the same price.

Rumours of this have been circulating, and were first raised in this blog last month on 29 May in the comments section:

“I heard that one company that tendered offered to bore the tunnels to the regular specification for double deckers at no extra charge to facilitate future integration and they were told to go away.” – Joni (29 May 2013)

It was then put to Ms Berejiklian during question time last week. She was asked whether she had received such advice, a question which she dodged in her response. Her refusal to deny it strongly suggests that she has received such advice. The response did, however, contain one of the best interjections made during questions time, by Labor MP Richard Amery:

Mr MICHAEL DALEY: My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Given the budget appears to confirm that the North West Rail Link will be nothing more than a privatised shuttle service, has the Minister received any advice that the tunnels for the North West Rail Link could be bored to a width that would accommodate double-deck trains at no additional cost to the project?

Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN: Members of the New South Wales Labor Party should hang their heads in shame in relation to the North West Rail Link.

Mr Richard Amery: We’ll have to, to get through the tunnel.

The logical conclusion from this is that the government’s decision to proceed with narrower tunnels is not due to financial considerations. Instead, it is to guarantee that the NWRL remains a segregated, privately operated system that does not interact with the existing Cityrail network.

This is the dominant vision of the transport planners at Transport for NSW, and has been ever since 2008 when they convinced the state government to build a completely segregated metro line from the CBD to Rouse Hill (since abandoned and replaced with a cheaper option that also uses portions of the existing network rather than building completely from scratch). This would prevent the new line from being operated by Railcorp, an organisation that is seen by these planners as slow, inefficient, expensive, and lacking a user (i.e. passengers) focus. Ms Berejiklian often cites that it costs $10m per day to operate, about the same as the London Underground but with about a quarter of the patronage. She is therefore leading a structural reform of Railcorp, with the creation of Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink, but simultaneously also pursuing the option of a completely new line operated by “anyone but Railcorp”.

The decision to make the tunnels narrower and steeper guarantees the independence of this new line, ensuring that the private operator can be held entirely accountable without being able to blame the government rail operator (e.g. because a delay on Sydney Trains prevented the private operator from running on time), while also neutering union opposition to advancements like driverless trains. It is the poison pill that prevents any future government from having a change of heart and integrating the NWRL into the rest of the Cityrail network. Their fear is that a future government could do this in order to, for example, once again scrap the construction of a Second Harbour Rail Crossing, a project announced and subsequently abandoned so many times that transport planners may have found a way of ensuring it gets built – by holding another line hostage in the process.

Nor would wider tunnels necessarily be some silver bullet, the tunnels would still be too steep for existing rolling stock. And it’s worth remembering that any future tunnels under the Harbour (the government is planning its Harbour Rail Crossing to be an under the Harbour tunnel) may also have to be quite steep and the existing tunnels between Epping and Chatswood are already too steep for some existing rolling stock, resulting in new rolling stock like the Waratah trains being built to be compatible with the steeper gradient. Similarly, there are few technical barriers to prevent future double deck rolling stock designed to navigate the narrower and steeper tunnels on the NWRL. But it will prevent that from happening long enough to see whether private operation of heavy rail results in better outcomes, and should be expanded; or is a repeat failure like the privately owned Airport Line, and should not be repeated.

Correction: It’s been pointed out that Tangaras, although not initially used in the Epping to Chatswood tunnels due to their steepness, now are used in them. This is confirmed by the proposed October 2013 timetable. In other words, rolling stock that was not initially able to be used on the Epping to Chatswood tunnels were later able to be used in those tunnels. This is consistent with restrictions on existing rolling stock on the NWRL tunnels, where future changes could also allow double deck trains to still be used on them.

Video: The Not Zach Braff $2mil Global Short Film Project. For more details, check out You’ve Never Heard of Me.

The North West Rail Link (NWRL) as currently planned, will require many passengers to get out and change trains at Chatswood. Based on government estimates, two thirds of passengers from The Hills in Sydney’s North West would have to do this in order to reach their final destination on the Lower North Shore or CBD. This would continue until a Second Harbour Rail Crossing is built, something which currently lacks a start date, end date, or funding.

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NWRL EIS - Introduction, page 1-3.)

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. (Source: Transport for NSW)

One alternative would be to build additional capacity through the CBD first, and then extend that capacity into the outer suburbs second. In other words, build the Second Harbour Rail Crossing now, and the NWRL and South West Rail Links some time next decade. From a purely engineering perspective, this makes perfect sense – there’s no point in building new lines in the outer suburbs, if all they are going to do is dump passengers in the inner city once they reach a bottleneck.

Melbourne is doing exactly this. It’s current proposal is the Melbourne Metro, a new underground line through the CBD. And it is building this despite calls to build lines to places like the airport or to Doncaster (the latter has similar transport challenges to Sydney’s North West). Not only that, but this has put the Melbourne Metro at the top of Infrastructure Australia’s priority list, resulting in the Federal Government committing $3bn in funding to its overall $9bn cost.

A strong case can be made that the Victorian Government has got the policy right, while the NSW Government has not. But what could be argued is that the NSW Government has got the politics right. This is for a number of reasons.

Building a Second Harbour Rail Crossing will not guarantee that the NWRL will be built, but building the NWRL will force a future government to build a Second Harbour Rail Crossing. In a world where political realities make long term planning a dream rather than a reality, and where transport projects are announced, cancelled, changed, re-announced, and then cancelled again, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The narrower and steeper tunnels, which force the new line into being run completely independently from the rest of the network, will also allow the government to trial new methods of service delivery, such as franchising or driverless operations on trains. The former has allowed for Sydneys bus network to see improvements to services, lower fares paid by passengers, and reductions in operating subsidy paid by the government to provide them. The latter would reduce the marginal cost of each train service, allowing the government to increase services without as large an increase in operating costs. Neither of these could work effectively if the NWRL was integrated into the rest of the network.

Vancouver Sky Train

The SkyTrain in Vancouver is a driverless metro with frequencies that mean you never wait more than 8 minutes for a train. (Source: Jeffery Simpson)

These sorts of changes are possible on an existing line, and the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line has often been touted due to it operating virtually independently from the rest of the network. But it is much harder to convert an existing line compared to a new one. Unions are likely to resist change, and existing passengers may have fears of the unknown. Both of these fears would be eased by seeing such changes in operation first, and if they work then they can be rolled out to the rest of the network.

Of course, for those who consider a Second Harbour Rail Crossing an expensive and unecessary expense, then there is little reason to support what the government is doing. The same goes for those who oppose one man or driverless operation. For everyone else, while this may not be smart policy, it certainly looks like smart politics.

This week’s announced dual resignations of Nick Greiner and Paul Broad, the Chairman and CEO of Infrastructure NSW (iNSW), was the eventual result of a battle of ideas within the NSW Government. On one side was those who supported a large scale expansion of Sydney’s roads network via aggressive use of toll roads, a view shared  by Mr Greiner, Mr Broad, iNSW, and the Daily Telegraph. On the other was those who supported a large scale expansion of Sydney’s public transport capacity with a focus on the rail network, a view supported by Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, Transport for NSW (TfNSW), and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Image: Infrastructure NSW)

Nick Greiner, Infrastructure NSW Chairman and former NSW Premier (Source: Infrastructure NSW)

The two government departments each championed their view via separate policy documents. TfNSW published the Transport Masterplan, which called for light rail on George St and a Second Harbour Rail Crossing. iNSW published the State Infrastructure Plan, which called for a CBD Bus Tunnel and extension of the Eastern Suburbs Railway, which rejecting both light rail on George St and the Second Harbour Rail Crossing. TfNSW responded by itself rejecting the Bus Tunnel and not incorporating the extended Eastern Suburbs Line into the final version of its plan. The NSW Government adopted both of the TfNSW proposals, but never of iNSW’s. Given the option, e government sided with TfNSW every single time its department disagreed with iNSW.

Part of the media circus around this revolves around a misunderstanding of the role of iNSW. It is often compared to Infrastructure Australia (IA), which is tasked with evaluating transport projects and determining which will get government funding, a process designed to take the politics out of the decision. But while IA is staffed by former Transport Department bureaucrats and in in charge of distributing funding from the federal government, iNSW is staffed by former Treasury bureaucrats and is in charge of obtaining funding from the private sector.

The role of iNSW is not, and should not be to determine, design, or deliver transport projects. Where it has, it has failed. The CBD Bus Tunnel was discredited and rejected by TfNSW on the basis that it lacked integration, did not provide opportunities for urban renewal, lacked a viable corridor for construction, and cost 4 times as much as the light rail option, amongst other reasons (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, pages 25-26). The WestConnex’s slot idea for Parramatta Road, initially conceived as an innovative way to build the M4 East at a lower cost than a tunnel, turned out to be more expensive than a tunnel and has now been scrapped because iNSW did not do its homework. Even the first project set to be administered by iNSW, the temporary Glebe Island convention centre, will now not happen. It is now clear that iNSW has been ineffective at determining, designing, or delivering transport projects, and should leave this to the experts at TfNSW while it sticks to what it can do – obtain private sector funding for PPP projects.

This might have been fine, had Mr Greiner considered himself a valued contributor to the NSW Government. But as has been demonstrated, the Premier Barry O’Farrell sided with his Transport Minister over his Infrastructure Tsar every time Ms Berejiklian and Mr Greiner had a disagreement. Disappointed by his inability to convince the NSW Government on issues like those mentioned, as well as things like privatising the state owned poles and wires in order to fund additional infrastructure, it was clear that someone had to go. And that meant that Mr Greiner and Mr Broad’s resignations became an inevitability.

They will be missed by some, such as the Daily Telegraph’s state political editor Andrew Clennell, who believes that “it’s ended in tears” and that “the danger is now, with a cautious poll-driven premier, nothing will get built”. But few tears are likely to be shed by those who have advocated for a greater focus on public transport, rather than on roads.

The 2013 October timetable re-write is the O’Farrell Government’s greatest opportunity to fix the trains, as Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian often chants, during its first term. The Cityrail system is currently plagued by poor reliability and rising levels of overcrowding. The latter has been caused by insufficient capacity and has become so much of a problem, that it has led to longer dwell times at stations which in turn further reduces reliability and also the maximum number of trains that can pass through those stations during peak hour. This, ironically, further reduces total capacity, which makes the problem even worse.

I’ve previously looked at how the rail system can be improved via simplifying the network. In this post I’m going to look into how to do it by increasing capacity. In particular, what has been confirmed for the 2013 timetable, and what is rumoured to be likely.


Cityrail measures overcrowding twice a year in terms of passenger loads – the proportion of passengers to seats on each train (each 8 carriage train has about 900 seats). If each seat is taken, then it has a 100% load. If there are 35 standing passengers for every 100 seated passengers, then it has a 135% load. It is once you go above a load of 135% that dwell times begin to become problematic.

Actual overcrowding by line in September 2012. (Source: Cityrail)

Actual overcrowding by line in September 2012. (Source: Cityrail)

Based average loads during the AM peak, the most overcrowded lines are the Bankstown Line (134%) and Northern Line (143%). Also high are the Airport & East Hills Line (127%), Illawarra Line (123%), Western Line (119%), and South Line (119%). These are just average loads, however, and it can be higher or lower for each individual train. So when looking at maximum loads, only 2 of the 9 suburban lines have all their trains below the 135% load – those being the Eastern Suburbs Line (which consists of only 3 stations before reaching the CBD) and the North Shore Line (which at 128% is only just below the 135% cut-off).

Spare capacity

The CBD subway portion of the rail network has 3 lines (Sectors) – the Eastern Suburbs Line (Sector 1), the City Circle (Sector 2), the Harbour Bridge (Sector 3). Each of these can handle 20 trains per hour in each direction. Sydney Terminal at Central Station also provides some capacity, and currently handles 12 trains per hour during the AM peak (4 Blue Mountains, 4 Central Coast, 3 South Coast, 1 Schofields). Each of these has some spare capacity (subject to rolling stock availability).

The Harbour Bridge (Sector 1). 16 Western Line and 4 Northern Line trains enter the CBD from the South, meaning this approach is already at capacity (though the one Schofields train that terminates at Central could be extended to cross the Bridge). 18 trains from the North Shore Line enter the CBD from the North, meaning 2 additional trains can be added here.

The City Circle (Sector 2). 15 trains pass through the City Circle in both the clockwise and anti-clockwise directions. The breakdown is 7 South Line, 5 Inner West Line, and 3 Bankstown trains enter the CBD via Town Hall, while 12 East Hills & Airport Line, and 3 Bankstown Line trains enter the CBD via Museum. Trains from Bankstown can enter from either direction, providing a large amount of flexibility in how the spare capacity of 10 trains per hour is assigned.

The Eastern Suburbs Line (Sector 3). 15 Illawarra Line trains enter the CBD from the South and 15 Eastern Suburbs Line trains enter the CBD from the East. However, there are also 3 South Coast Line trains that terminate at Central which share the same track as the 15 other trains South of Central, and so there is only really an additional capacity of 2 trains per hour in each direction here.

Sydney Terminal. If the 3 South Coast Line trains are extended to Bondi Junction while the Schofields train continues across the Harbour Bridge, as mentioned earlier, then this can create additional capacity at Sydney Terminal for 4 trains an hour.

Changes in the 2013 Timetable

The Eastern Suburbs Line (including the South Coast Line) will see its capacity increased from 18 trains per hour to the maximum 20 trains per hour. Whether this is in both directions, or just from the Illawarra Line side is uncertain. The latter is likely given that trains from Bondi Junction are the least crowded in the network and probably don’t need additional services.

“two additional services [on the Eastern Suburbs Line] to be provided in the peak” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

Additional services will be added to the Bankstown Line, though no figure is mentioned. However, 2 more trains per hour, increasing the current 6 to 8, seems reasonable.

“The Bankstown line will receive new services in peak times from 2013” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 18

On the Airport & East Hills Line’s maximum capacity will be increased to 20 trains per hour, compared to the current 12 (4 express via Sydenham and 8 all stops via the Airport). However, for the 2013 timetable, it appears only an additional 4 services are being added, raising the number of services via the airport from 8 to 12, while maintaining the 4 Sydenham express services

“Sydney’s south west will see an increase in train services with the commencement of the 2013 timetable…Upgrades to the power supply and safety aspects of the Airport line will allow for services from Holsworthy, Glenfield and the South West to be doubled from the current eight to up to 16 services per hour…With the addition of Revesby services, this will allow a total of 20 services per hour through the Airport line” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

“increase peak hour services to the Airport from eight to 12 per hour” – Source: Transport Master Plan, p. 313

This uses up 6 of the available 10 “slots” on the City Circle (discussed above in spare capacity), leaving 4 unused. This leaves enough spare capacity for when the South West Rail Link comes online in 2016 and Sydney Trains has another major timetable re-write.

“new rail timetables planned for 2013 and 2016” – Source: Transport Master Plan, p. 135

This means that no additional capacity is available for the South Line or Inner West Line in the short to medium term. However, on overcrowding, the problem with these lines appears to be less their average loads (109% and 119%) which are on the low end for Cityrail as a whole, but more their maximum loads (153% and 164%) which are near the top of the list for all the lines. Here the solution seems to be to more evenly spread out services, rather than have long waits between successive trains – which causes overcrowding of some trains even if the average load is quite reasonable. This would certainly be an improvement, though is still less than ideal.

“Following the opening of the Homebush turnback and the introduction of new trains, the Inner West line will see the introduction of a reliable timetable offering higher frequency services. These measures will eliminate the 20 minute service gaps that can occur at some stations during peak periods” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

A lot of rumours exist about the Western Line and Northern Line, but few things have been officially confirmed. It initially appeared that the government was considering removing direct services for the Richmond Line, sending its trains to Campbelltown via the Cumberland Line, and also for Northern Line trains from Epping via Strathfield, which would terminate at Central Station. However, a draft copy of the 2013 timetable, circulated to Railcorp employees recently, appears to show no stations on these lines will lose direct services to the CBD. Instead, some Western Line trains will continue through to Hornsby via Macquarie Park rather than along the North Shore Line as they do now. This may provide an increase in capacity to the upper Northern Line at the expense of the upper North Shore Line – though this could also be done by trains that terminate shortly after Chatswood, and so see little change in services for the Upper North Shore.

What is more certain is the addition of 2 more trains per hour on the Northern Line starting at Rhodes, a station that has seen its patronage grow strongly in recent years due to surrounding developments. These trains would probably terminate at Central.

“Two additional trains to service the busy North Strathfield to Rhodes corridor will be introduced in the shorter term” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

The government has also spoken of increasing frequencies on the North Shore Line from 18 to 20 per hour. However, it has not said when it plans to do this, other than it will happen by the time the North West Rail Link (NWRL) opens in 2019. Given the relatively low average loads on the North Shore Line compared to other lines, this makes additional services in 2013 look unlikely.

“Peak period services [on the North Shore Line] will increase from the current 18 trains per hour to 20 trains per hour prior to the new Harbour Crossing” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 17

[tweet 304804527931002880 align=’center’]

Finally, the Cumberland Line, which provides a direct link between Parramatta and Liverpool, will return to all day service. The draft timetable suggests it will be half hourly services from 7AM till 7PM.

“Parramatta will be better connected to Liverpool and the south west, with all-day, frequent and reliable Cumberland services” – Source: Sydney’s Rail Future, p. 19

Improvements and remaining problems

If the new timetable does look like this, then it will provide significant improvements to overcrowding on a number of lines. Assuming similar patronage numbers, overcrowding as measured by average loads could drop on the Illawarra Line (123% down to 109%), the Northern Line (143% down to 95%), and the East Hills & Airport Line (127% down to 95%). Sending Western Line trains to Epping via Chatswood could also further alleviate overcrowding on the Northern Line.

Estimated overcrowding by line for October 2013.

Estimated overcrowding by line for October 2013.

Where it does not directly deal with overcrowding is on the Inner West Line, South Line, and Western Line. This may be partly mitigated by some passengers opting to take trains on other lines that have seen increased services, or perhaps via a more even distribution of crowds on trains on the South and Inner West Lines due to shorter headways between trains (as discussed above in Changes in the 2013 Timetable).

Some additional relief could be provided by running some trains into Sydney Terminal at Central Station, or by improvements in signalling allowing more trains to operate per hour. However, the former provides only limited improvements while the latter is both expensive and may take many years to roll out.

Future developments

The NWRL is currently scheduled to begin operation in either 2019 or 2020. Preliminary estimates show this will divert around 19 million passengers per year to it from other lines, presumably mostly from the Western Line. This translates to around 6,000 passengers per hour during the AM peak (using some quick back of the envelope calculations), compared the the current 16,000 passengers that use the Western Line’s 16 suburban trains during the busiest hour in the AM peak. This will have the effect of providing additional capacity on the Western Line (Sector 3) by shifting passengers away from it, rather than expanding its actual capacity.

Once a Second Harbour Rail Crossing is built around 2030 it will link up the NWRL to the Bankstown Line as well as the Illawarra Line through to Hurstville. This will free up space on the City Circle (Sector 2) previously used by Bankstown Line trains as well as space on the Eastern Suburbs Line (Sector 1) previously used by Hurstville trains that will now use the new Harbour Crossing route instead.


Sydney’s Rail Future, Transport for NSW (June 2012)

Transport Master Plan, Transport for NSW (December 2012)

The recent article by Sandy Thomas made numerous criticisms of the current government’s policy choice on heavy rail in Sydney, but ended by making a plea with the government to build the North West Rail Link’s tunnels at a width and gradient sufficient to allow Cityrail’s existing double deck trains to pass through it. Not doing so, Mr Thomas argues, would be akin to repeating the mistake of 1855 where different rail gauges were set for different states, forever preventing any movement of trains from one network to another. While his other arguments went so far as being wishful thinking or even approaching conspiracy theories, this is the one point which has garnered the most public support and is the most likely element that the government would change, if it changes anything at all.

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NWRL EIS - Introduction, page 1-3.)

The Northwest Rail Link will include a new railway from Epping to Rouse Hill, plus a retrofitted Epping to Chatswood Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NWRL EIS – Introduction, page 1-3.)

I am still undecided as to what I think about this move. It does concern me that this will create 2 separate systems, one of which will eventually go as far as Hurstville, Cabramatta, Lidcombe, and Rouse Hill, running exclusively single deck trains. Will these corridors, or even part of these corridors still be using single deck rolling stock 50 or 100 years from now? The simple answer is we just don’t know, so the safe thing to do it to build them with the ability to convert them in future, just as part of the current network is being converted now.

This plan appears even more absurd when you realise that the savings from the NWRL tunnels will be offset by the cost of converting the line between Epping and Chatswood for single deck trains. In other words, it will cost more than creating a new line with just double deck trains.

Countering these are 2 points in favour that are worth considering. First is that if a Second Harbour Crossing is built under the Harbour, then narrower and steeper tunnels will result in much more significant cost savings than they would on just the NWRL portion. Second, there is nothing to say that double deck trains in the future could be small enough and powerful enough to fit into the narrower tunnels and make it through the steeper gradients. In fact, a cynic could argue that since the tunnels are only barely small enough to prevent existing rolling stock from fitting though them, that this was purposely done to prevent only current rolling stock from using it, rather than any potential future rolling stock. It also deserves remembering that the Epping to Chatswood Line’s tunnels were built too steep for some Cityrail trains. So this is not necessarily as much of a long term line in the sand that the different rail gauges of 1855 were (something which can never really be overcome).

At the heart of all of this is whether an independent single deck metro is the best way to run the NWRL. I think it is, on both cases. An independent line will allow the government to escape the bottomless money pit that Railcorp has turned into, perhaps even result in driverless trains that can achieve very high all day frequencies while allowing the cost savings to be directed at better staffing at stations or more roving security guards/police rather than drivers and train guards (responsible for telling you to stand clear of the doors rather than any tangible security) which are redundant given today’s modern technology. A single deck metro is also appropriate for the global economic corridor that the NWRL will cover and its high turnover passenger nature, preventing dwell times from ballooning out and thus maintaining a high level of on time running.

Making the tunnels narrow and steep guarantees that the NWRL will end up as an independent metro line. It prevents any future government from having second thoughts on the matter. So clearly, if you disagree with how the NWRL should operate, as Mr Thomas does, then the tunnel’s decision is the biggest point of focus for you. Therefore, to justify the tunnels as planned, you need to have no doubt in your mind that this is the best option to take.

And this is why I’m still undecided. I have little doubt that an independent, single deck metro line is the best way forward on the NWRL, but that is not a complete absence of doubt. So while I remain open to the decision to build narrower and steeper tunnels, I am hesitant to endorse it. But I do find myself currently leaning towards it.

The transport bureaucracy underwent a war of ideas last decade between supporters of single deck and double deck trains, according to one of the author’s of the Sydney Morning Herald’s 2010 Independent Public Inquiry into a Long-Term Public Transport Plan for Sydney, Sandy Thomas, in a 13 page article called ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited. The metro advocates would come out victorious, according to Mr Thomas, and their advice has been accepted without question by Transport Ministers since, despite only representing one side of the debate. He further laments that this could lead to a repeat of the year 1855, when different rail gauges in different parts of Australia prevented a unified rail network, but this time with narrower and steeper tunnels preventing double deck trains from ever using big chunks of the current Cityrail network.

Mr Thomas outlines the history that led up to this point, starting with the Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program of 2005, which would see the construction of the North West Rail Link (NWRL), South West Rail Link (SWRL), and a Second Harbour Crossing, as well as track amplifications from Chatswood to St Leonards and Redfern to Campbelltown. Together with some existing lines, these would form an entirely new fast and frequent line in the network comprised of longer ten-carriage trains for long distance trips through to the North West and South West Growth Centres, operating independently from the rest of the network. It would increase CBD capacity by almost a third.

Once built, all future lines would also be entirely separate, running independently, most likely with single deck metro rolling stock.

The 2005 Metropolitan Rail Expansion Plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: 1855.)

The 2005 Metropolitan Rail Expansion Plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited.)

Critics of this plan included some within the Transport Department who saw Railcorp as inefficient, led on by the Rail, Tram, and Bus Union, as well as those who were motivated by what Mr Thomas describes as “playing with new train sets”. These critics found support in the NSW Treasury – from which many staff of Infrastructure NSW would be drawn from later on – who also wanted an independent line that could be operated privately instead of by Railcorp.

“the infighting, largely but not wholly hidden from public view, was by all accounts long and bitter. To this day many of the personalities involved scarcely talk to each other” – Sandy Thomas, ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited, page 3 (February 2013)

Together, these public servants convinced the politicians to dump the MREP and instead immediately build a new series of metro lines. Mr Thomas explains that this was done by the presenting of selective details of each plan, rather than painting the full picture, and that politicians with little to no background in transport planning accepted these half truths as fact.

“the reports of public servants and consultants whose findings turn out to be “inconvenient” can be and have been ruthlessly suppressed” – Sandy Thomas, ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited, page 13 (February 2013)

The first of these would be the North West Metro, which would take the existing NWRL and connect it to the CBD via Victoria Road, rather than the then still under construction Epping to Chatswood Line, in part to avoid an expensive Second Harbour Crossing. Mr Thomas points out that while this new line provided Victoria Road with a rail line, it bypassed the jobs rich corridor of Macquarie Park, Chatswood, St Leonards, and North Sydney.

This was planned to be only the first of a number of new metros, including metros to the Northern Beaches as well as under Parramatta Road and Anzac Parade. However, a lack of funds resulted in it being contracted to “CBD Metro”, going out as far as Rozelle, only to be abandoned altogether in 2009.

2007 Sydney Metros plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Wikipedia.)

The 2007 Sydney Metros plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Wikipedia.)

The government returned to something broadly resembling the MREP: the NWRL and SWRL, but replacing the Second Harbour Crossing with a “Western Express”, which would allow fast trains from Sydney’s West to continue through to Wynyard via a “City Relief Line” under the CBD. A promise of funding from the federal government also added the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL) to that list of projects. A change of government in 2011 saw the incoming O’Farrell government keep and prioritise the NWRL and SWRL, while deferring and eventually dumping the Western Express and PERL.

Meanwhile, inside the Transport for NSW, a new plan was designed to convert part of the existing network to single deck metro trains, including the existing Harbour Crossing in an attempt to avoid building a Second Harbour Crossing. This plan was leaked to the media, and consisted of the NWRL and North Shore Line to the North as well as the Inner West Line, Bankstown Line, and part of the Illawarra Line through to Hurstville (utilising a second pair of tracks between Sydenham and Hurstville).

Mr Thomas explains that this plan was prevented from getting the green light because it would be unable to handle 28 to 30 trains per hour, as previously believed, and therefore not provide the additional cross Harbour capacity that it promised. It too, would be abandoned (though while still in the planning stages), and plans for a Second Harbour Crossing were once again put back on the table.

The 2011 leaked metro conversion plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: 'Fixing' the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited.)

The 2011 leaked metro conversion plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited.)

Uncertainty remained. Mr Thomas points out that while Transport for NSW opposition to a new double deck line integrated into the Cityrail network was shared by Treasury, and now also Infrastructure NSW, that this did not extend to large scale expansion of the rail network. Instead these were “advocates of greater spending on motorways rather than public transport, including Infrastructure NSW supremos Nick Greiner and Paul Broad, [who] were actively ramping up their efforts to kill off any form of the North West Rail Link project” (Sandy Thomas, ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited, page 4).

As it were, Infrastructure NSW did endorse the NWRL, most likely due to pressure from the government, but opposed the construction of a Second Harbour Crossing, instead suggesting the government opt for the previously rejected metro conversion. Transport for NSW instead suggested a Second Harbour Crossing in addition to, rather than in lieu of, a metro conversion. The government sided with Transport for NSW.

The 2012 Sydney Rail Futures plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: 'Fixing' the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited.)

The 2012 Sydney’s Rail Future plan. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited.)

This plan, known as Sydney’s Rail Future, included a modified version of the NWRL with narrower and steeper tunnels, too small to fit existing double deck trains and too steep for them to run through even if they did fit. It is here that Mr Thomas makes not so much his main criticism, but almost a plea to the Transport Minister. His concluding remarks are replicated below in full.

“But there’s one simple step that NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian can and should take immediately: veto the lunatic attempt by her bureaucrats to quietly create a multiple “loading gauge” rail network in Sydney through the specification of unnecessarily small and steep tunnels on the North West Rail Link.

If Ms Berejiklian does this, she’ll be rightly remembered as the politician who took less than a year to unravel the loomingmess ofmultiple gauges in Sydney. In comparison, that first “expert” multiple gauge decision in Sydney, in 1855, is still creating problems around the nation 158 years on.

If she does intervene in this way, even if realpolitiks forces her in the short term to persist with Sydney’s Rail Future’s cobbled together “vision” for second-best services on the North West Rail Link, in the longer term sanity can be restored and everyone wanting to keep open a real possibility of much-needed, cost-effective improvements in all of Sydney’s rail services, instead of the cannibalisation and quiet dismantling that is now proposed, will have cause to thank her forever.” – Sandy Thomas, ‘Fixing’ the trains in Sydney: 1855 revisited, page 13 (February 2013)

Note: It might be worth reading part 1 and part 2, which provide some context and outline the problems with the current timetable, if you haven’t yet done so.

Cityrail has been simplifying its network ever since the Clearways project was announced in 2005 around the same time as the major timetable changes were introduced that year. The idea behind Clearways was to increase capacity (via additional “turnback” platforms and/or track amplifications) around the network where pinch points caused bottlenecks and to separate the network into 5 separate sectors (which would then converge into 3 sectors in the CBD). This is known as sectorisation, and involves creating sectors that run as independently from each other as possible. As a result, delays in one sector do not spill over into other sectors.

The Cityrail network currently has 3 sectors:

  • Sector 1 – made up of the Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Lines

2013-01-20 Cityrail Map Sector 1

  • Sector 2 – made up of all the lines that use the City Circle, plus the Cumberland Line (Note: the Inner West Line between Strathfield and Homebush shows up faded in error.)

2013-01-20 Cityrail Map Sector 2

  • Sector 3 – made up of all the lines that use the Harbour Bridge

2013-01-20 Cityrail Map Sector 3

(In practice, sectors 2 and 3 are not entirely separate, with trains on the Western Line and South Line sharing some track between Granville and Homebush, as well as the Western Line and Cumberland Line between Blacktown and Harris Park.)

A Herald report from 2012 revealed that one plan would involve fully separating Sectors 2 and 3. Currently the 2 track pairs between Blacktown and Homebush are used to separate local (all stops) services from express services. This allows express trains to overtake slower local ones. Separating trains on these tracks by sector rather than by stopping pattern then means that an express service could get stuck behind a slower local service. The solution to this would be to also harmonise stopping patterns – with sector 3 running only express services and sector 2 running only local services.

If implemented to the fullest extent, the Richmond and Northern Lines would be separated from the Western Line. Richmond Line trains would become part of the Cumberland Line, running all stations to Campbelltown. This would eliminate a conflict that currently exists at Granville where a flat junction is used by Western Line and South Line trains (by sending Richmond Line trains on the Cumberland Line’s flyover at Merrylands and sending Western Line trains on the Northern track pair not used by the South Line, thus avoiding the flat junction). Northern Line trains would use a third track pair that begins just before Strathfield at Homebush Station and then ends at Sydney Terminal at Central Station, effectively creating a fourth sector. Inner West Line trains would be truncated to Homebush, which relieves some pressure on the heavily used Lidcombe to Homebush portion of the network, allowing South and Western Line trains to pass through there more easily.

This would allow Western Line trains to run faster (by permanently skipping many stations)  and more frequently (as they are not sharing any track with Richmond, Northern, or South Lines as is currently the case). Passengers at stations like Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, Wentworthville, and Harris Park would need to catch a Cumberland Line train and change to a Western Line train if they are going into the city. While passengers at stations like Clyde, Auburn, Lidcombe, or Flemington could change to a Western Line train for a faster journey, or stay on a slower all stations South Line train for a direct one. On the network map, this is what it could look like (again, this is purely speculation based on rumour at this point).

What the Cityrail network might look like after the 2013 timetable is implemented. Click on image for higher resolution. (Souce: Cityrail.)

What the Cityrail network might look like after the 2013 timetable is implemented. Due to an error, Auburn should be the blue South Line only, not the yellow Western Line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Souce: User created from Cityrail.)

Creating these truly independent sectors would also allow for harmonisation of stopping patterns and rolling stock. With high enough frequencies, this will also mostly do away with the need to worry about delays. After all, if a peak hour train comes every 3 minutes and all the trains on that line have the same stopping patterns, then a 3 minute delay effectively puts everything back to normal.

It also makes many commutes easier – with commuters just taking the next train rather than waiting for their train, which will help to reduce station overcrowding on congested CBD stations (by requiring commuters to transfer to another train once they are out of the CBD). Frequencies will also improve, ensuring that commuter wait times are kept to a minimum and allowing many commuters to travel without having to worry about consulting the timetable first.

Higher off-peak frequencies could also mean shorter trips by way of reduced wait times. Parramatta currently has 5 trains an hour into the CBD during the off-peak, meaning a maximum wait of 15 minutes. Increasing this to 8 trains an hour would mean a maximum 8 minute wait, or 4 minutes on average. Similarly, someone taking the train from Pendle Hill currently has to wait 30 minutes for the next train during the off peak, which often means either arriving much earlier than necessary or taking the risk of missing the train and waiting half an hour for the next one. Either way, this means a longer overall journey time. But having 10-15 minute frequencies, and then transfering to a frequent (and express) Western Line train into the CBD, could result in a faster and more reliable journey, despite the removal of direct services. Someone wishing to make a North/South trip, say from Quakers Hill to Merrylands, will now have easy all day access by rail.

The main downside is that it will force many people to transfer to another train. Many commuters on the Richmond and Northern Lines will need to transfer to another train if travelling into the CBD, as they will no longer have direct access.

There do exist alternatives, Simon blogs at Fixing Sydney Transport about how Parramatta can be made the terminus of the Cumberland Line, thus maintaining the second track pair West of Parramatta free for Richmond Line trains. Doing this would allow Richmond and Epping Line trains to keep their CBD access, while still eliminating a conflicting move (by Western and South Line trains) on the flat junction at Granville that currently exists. It would not allow a complete harmonisation of stopping patterns, but does deliver some benefits of the complete sectorisation without most of the disadvantages it would bring. There are merits to this option, and would be an improvement on the status quo.

Ultimately, the government’s decision to run the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) as a completely independent line (which could become the fifth sector), means that the existing Harbour crossing will need to be run at maximum efficiency during the decade between then NWRL’s completion and when a second Harbour Crossing is built, as this will become one of the biggest bottlenecks on the network. The easiest way to achieve that is to implement the sectorisation outlined above. So if it doesn’t happen in this year’s 2013 timetable, then expect it to happen when the NWRL opens at the end of the decade.

EcoTransit recently produced a video attacking the government’s plans for the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL). It’s a well produced video that provides some good background and makes some good points. But it’s also a bit off the mark in some instances, which are discussed below, following the video itself. The video makes two main arguments about the NWRL: that it should be double deck and that it should be publicly operated.

The video gives some background on how metro systems developed around the world, where typically you have a long distance commuter rail system (often but not always double deck) combined with a short distance metro rail system primarily within a roughly 10km radius of the CBD. Commuters from the suburbs would catch a commuter rail train into a central station, where they would change for a metro train to travel within the CBD itself. Residents of the inner city could catch a metro train directly. Commuter rail is designed around peak hour travel, and off peak will often only have hourly services, while metro rail is all day and frequent.

The NWRL alignment. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The NWRL alignment. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The beauty of Sydney’s system, the video correctly points out, is that rather than having 2 separate systems, it combined the two. And so Cityrail trains from the suburbs arrive at Central Station, but rather than terminating there, they continue through an underground CBD subway. This has many advantages, primarily allowing a seamless journey into the CBD, and avoids the need for large amounts of scarce CBD space that would be required for a commuter rail to metro rail interchange. But it also has its disadvantages, such as infrequent trains outside of peak hour and unreliable services during peak hour, which the video does not address.

The video also criticises the previous Labor government’s various metro proposals, the Northwest Metro (which would travel under Victoria Road) and the CBD Metro (a shortened version of the previous proposal). The problem with these metros is that they seemed to be designed as a way of building metros almost for the sake of building metros. They were the wrong solution for Sydney, not because they were metros but because they were the wrong metros. Luckily, they were eventually dumped, but not before the government spent $500m on the project.

Single deck metro systems are designed for short distances to dense city centers with stations spaced about 1km apart. The Northwest Rail Link does none of these, and is inappropriate for a metro system.

A metro would definitely be inappropriate for making a long distance trip to a single employment center, these are trips where passengers get on at suburban stations and then all get off when they reach the CBD. While most of Sydney is low density suburbia, the NWRL alignment is a dense corridor very similar in nature to the CBD. It is full of employment and residential centers, resulting in a constant turnover of passengers both getting on and getting off at many stations along the way. Single deck trains, which lack the bottlenecks that double deck trains’ stairs have, ensure that dwell times will remain low at these stations. In fact, the proposed NWRL’s 47km alignment from Cudegong Rd to the city, which passes through the “global economic arc” of Macquarie Park, Chatswood, St Leonards, North Sydney, and the CBD, is probably the only possible long distance (significantly over 10km-20km) rail line in the Sydney basin that suits metro style operations.

Cityrail doesn’t need to convert to metro to increase the existing frequency from 20 trains per hour to 30 trains per hour. RER has 2 minute headways with double deck trains, so Sydney could get higher frequencies without shifting to single deck.

Comparing the headways of Parisian double deck trains to those of Sydney single deck trains is comparing apples with oranges. Paris has a far more advanced signalling system that allows trains to safely run closer to each other. The point is that single deck trains will, all else equal, always be able to run more frequently than double deck trains. This is due to single deck trains having shorter dwell times from quicker boarding/exits by passengers. You need no more evidence of this than to see that while Paris’ RER system has 120 second headways, the Paris metro’s headways are even shorter at 85 seconds.

NOTE: Dwell times are important, as long dwell times lead to delays. These delays then limit the number of trains that can pass through a given station each hour. Once you limit the number of trains per hour, you are reducing the overall passenger capacity of that line. It is not uncommon for 17 Northbound trains to cross the Harbour Bridge during the busiest hour in the morning when 19 are actually timetabled. So ensuring low dwell times can actually increase passenger capacity.

Paris is replacing its single deck trains with double deck trains. Having converted all Cityrail trains to double deck, going back to single deck would be a step backwards.

This is true of the RER system, which is their commuter rail network, and something that Sydney did many decades ago. But they are not converting their metro system to double deck. A metro needs to be able to handle high passenger turnover, and this is the achiles heel of the double deck train. They provide lots of seats for a comfortable long distance journey, but they do this at the expense of allowing high numbers of passengers to get on and off quickly.

Double deck trains have 50% more floor space, meaning 50% more capacity.

The former is true, and the latter is also true if the configuration of seating is the same. However, it is not. Single deck trains will have fewer seats, allowing more space for standing passengers. Double deck trains cannot achieve this without a blowout in dwell times as the stairs into the vestibules are only wide enough for one person at a time. Single deck trains have no such constraint and so you are able to remove seats in order to increase capacity without longer dwell times.

A metro’s lack of seating will result in passengers from the Northwest to stand if making a 40 minute journey into the CBD via the NWRL.

Unlike other lines in the Cityrail network, the NWRL is not one where passengers continue to baord the train as it approaches the CBD, then spill out in the city. They will continually board and exit the trains as it passes through job rich areas like Macquarie Park or the North Shore. This constant turnover of passengers means seats will often become available during the journey. Only about half of all commuters predicted to use the NWRL are expected to be travelling to the CBD, with almost half getting off before crossing the Harbour. Additionally, those making the long journeys, say from Rouse Hill to the CBD, will be boarding an almost empty train, thus be almost guaranteed a seat the whole way (a similar mirrored scenario will exist for the return journey in the afternoon, where high passenger turnover will provide many opportunities for a seat if the train is full when it leaves the city).

Large number of passenger will have to change trains at Chatswood, which could lead to many passengers getting stuck on the platforms, particularly if a CBD bound train is cancelled.

This is absolutely true, and one of the biggests risks that the NWRL poses. However, the fault of this is not that the NWRL is being operated as a completely different system to the Cityrail network, but that there is only so much capacity across the Harbour. If NWRL trains were sent directly into the CBD, then it would limit the number of North Shore trains that would be able to do the same. The only real solution here is to build in more capacity. In the short term this means a quadruplication of the track between Chatswood and St Leonards, allowing NWRL trains to continue through to St Leonards, and in the long term it means building a Second Harbour Crossing.

The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, promised the NWRL would be integrated with the Cityrail network and only made these changes to get the support of Infrastructure NSW Chairman, Nick Greiner, given that Mr Greiner is a big proponent of privatisation.

It’s true that Ms Berejiklian broke her promises on the NWRL. She promised it would be operated with double deck trains and that trains from the Northwest would travel directly through to the CBD. Both of these will not be the case. (Incidentally, the government has also promised that the NWRL trains will not be driverless, which hopefully will be another broken promise given the benefits that driverless trains would bring.)

However, it’s not clear that this was done to appease Mr Greiner. It would appear more likely that Infrastructure NSW was told that the NWRL was government policy and not negotiable, given the government’s desire to not be seen to back away from a transport infrastructure project like the previous government had with its metro proposals. Nor did the government seek Mr Greiner’s approval on other projects (other than WestConnex), as every time the Transport Plan and Infrastructure Plans disagreed, the government opted to take the advice of Transport for NSW’s report.

Instead, this raises the questions over whether privatisation is inherently a bad thing. If privatisation is implemented like the Airport Line was, were a private company owns the stations and charges a station access fee, then it will not work as part of an integrated transport system. However, if it is implemented like the Sydney bus network or Sydney ferries, where the government pays private operators to run the vehicles, but the government sets and collects fares from commuters, then it can be a way of reducing costs while ensuring services are maintained at a contractually set level. All indications are that the latter is true in this case, particularly given that the government has seen Cityrail’s costs spiral out of control. So if introducing private operators is one way of cutting costs, then it can allow for more services with the same transport budget.

Building the NWRL with smaller tunnels will forever shut out the rest of the Cityrail network from using those tracks as well as a future Second Harbour Crossing.

This is unfortunate. It does not even seem that the savings from smaller tunnels will result in a significant cost saving either. In fact, the cost savings will be less than the additional costs that will be incurred in converting the Chatswood to Epping Line to be metro compatible. The separation of NWRL services itself will provide an added benefit of improved reliability through additional sectorisation, the line does not have to be built so as to permanently shut out all double deck trains.

A recent piece on Channel Seven’s Today Tonight program discusses transport usage across a number of Australian cities over the last 35 years, and finds that Sydneysiders have the highest public transport use of any Australian city. (This isn’t really new information, given that transport is one of the questions asked in each 5 year census.) The video of the story is included at the end of this post.

Public transport mode share vs population density for various Australian cities. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Charting Transport via The Urbanist.)

Public transport mode share vs population density for various Australian cities. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Charting Transport via The Urbanist.)

The report correctly points out that this fact would probably surprise many Sydney commuters, as would the assertion made by Dr Lucy Groenhart, an RMIT academic and author of the report, that Sydney is “built around a strong heavy rail network” and has buses which “are better co-ordinated than in other cities”. Dr Groenhart appears to be comparing Sydney to Melbourne, where one major flaw in the network design was separate train and tram networks that competed rather than complemented each other (so it’s quite common to see a train and tram line running in parallel). Conversely, in Sydney the network has been designed around the rail network, with feeder buses that link commuters from their home to the nearest station or transport them between stations on different lines. This expands the catchment of the transport network considerably.

Countering this view is Kerryn Wilmot, Research Principal for the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS, who points out that Sydney lacks integrated fares. It’s true that while Sydney has an integrated network, it lacks an integrated fares system. That means that users are penalised if they make a transfer (unless it is train to train), which prevents an integrated network from working most efficiently. Having a myMulti ticket does get around this problem, but these are currently only available as periodicals (there is a daily ticket, though very expensive at $21) and are city-centric, meaning that if you only intend to travel within one of the outer zones then you must also pay for the inner zones even if you aren’t heading into the CBD or inner city. However, Ms Wilmot’s claim that “you can’t get a yearly that just allows you to become a public transport user to do all of the stuff you want to do during the week” would appear to be incorrect, as you can get a yearly myMulti ticket which would allow you to do that (unless you just wanted one for one of the outer zones only, which as mentioned earlier is not currently allowed).

Towards the end of the piece it makes the point that taking the toll roads from Northwest Sydney only saves one minute of travel time, yet costs $12 in tolls. What it does not point out is that most of this trip is along the M2, which is being widened and where the associated road works have virtually eliminated the travel time savings until the construction has finished (which just so happens to be some time early this year). This is just sloppy journalism, but while that’s normally the norm for Today Tonight, this time it appears to be the exception. That, and the bit where the reporter is walking on the bike path, which is just as illegal as bikes on footpaths not designated as shared paths.

Dr Groenhart concludes that “the government’s priorities are not with sustainable transport so they are with roads”. She doesn’t state which government she is referring to, and given that Today Tonight did a Sydney and Melbourne version of this story, it is possible that she was referring to the Victorian government. This would make sense, given the Victorian government has made a road tunnel under the CBD it’s top priority, with a smaller CBD rail tunnel being the next most important transport project. Compare that to NSW, where the top project is the Northwest Rail Link (a public transport project), and the next most important projects are WestConnex (a road) and a Second Harbour Crossing (another public transport project).

The government released the final version of its Transport Masterplan earlier today, along with the light rail feasibility study (Sydney’s Light Rail Future), in which it announced its final decision on some key transport projects. The uncertainty stemmed from differing reports handed down by both Transport for NSW (the Transport Masterplan) and Infrastructure NSW (First Things First), which the government had to reconcile. Where both reports agreed, the recommendations were adopted, and where they conflicted, Transport for NSW got the final say every time. As a result, a 2nd Harbour Crossing will be happening, the CBD bus tunnel has been rejected, light rail will be built all the way from Circular Quay to Randwick (rather than a truncated version from Central to Randwick), and a second Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek was rejected. I think the last one was the wrong call, but it’s more of an issue for the federal government, so it’s not too concerning.

CBD light rail route

The proposed CBD portion of the light rail line. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Sydney Light Rail Futures, page 14.)

The most high profile debate was between light rail on George St or a bus tunnel through the CBD. While I didn’t agree with everything in the Infrastructure NSW Report, one thing I did appreciate about it was how it prioritised the projects with lower cost to the taxpayer, thus ensuring that more of them could be built. It did this through user pays tollways, finding ways to get more out of the existing infrastructure, looking for ways of obtaining the same outcome for a lower cost, etc. It was therefore quite strange to see this report endorsing the bus tunnel option, which cost $2bn, over light rail through the CBD, the George St portion of which cost $500m. The reason for this appears to be that Infrastructure NSW set out with the goal of finding out how to make sure light rail didn’t happen, rather than finding the best way of maximising mobility for the greatest number of people. As a result, it ended up with this bizarre recommendation.

Transport for NSW tears the bus tunnel to shreds:

It would not be feasible to build an underground tunnel between Wynyard and Town Hall due to existing building basements and tunnels. In addition, ventilation, access and safety are significant viability issues.

To provide the necessary bus capacity, the bus tunnel would need to be four lanes wide and provide wide platforms. This is likely to be physically unfeasible and economically unviable.

Infrastructure NSW has estimated it would cost $2 billion to build a tunnel in the CBD. The city component of the CBD and South East Light Rail project is a quarter of the cost – about $500 million – and will deliver significantly greater benefits for Sydney.

Building connections to the Cross City Tunnel and Sydney Harbour Bridge, redeveloping two major train stations and building a new bus tunnel will present a number of untested construction impacts on the CBD. Building new bus stations would have an impact on the operation of Town Hall and Wynyard Stations, affecting the journey of approximately 140,000 passengers every weekday. – Transport for NSW (13 Dec, 2012), Sydney’s Light Rail Future (page 26)

Ultimately the debate within cabinet appeared to boil down to 2 things: cost and disruption. The cost, at $500m, was not insignificant, but much cheaper than the alternative of the bus tunnel, and though doing nothing would have been cheaper, it was probably not seen as a viable option. Cabinet was also concerned about disruption to the CBD right around the next election in 2015, so work will instead begin on the Randwick to Central Station portion, before starting on the George St portion later on.

Randwick light rail

The currently proposed route for light rail from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kingsford. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, page 15.)

All up, the new light rail line will cost $1.6bn in total to build, and will not open until 2019 or 2020 when the entire line is completed. When it does, it will be accompanied by a restructure of many of the bus routes through the city. The current bus routes is a spaghetti map of confusing and cris-crossing lines through the CBD. This will change, with buses to travel along one of 4 major corridors: 3 North-South corridors (Elizabeth St, Clarence St/York St, and Sussex St) plus one East-West corridor (Park St/Druitt St). This will allow for a simpler network that relies on high frequencies and interchanges by commuters. Integrated fares are an essential reform required to make sure that this works, allowing commuters to pay the same to get from A to B, regardless of how they get there, rather than the current situation where they are penalised financially for the inconvenience of having to make an interchange. Word is that cabinet will make a decision on fares in the new year, and this simple decision could possibly be the most important one that it makes in regards to transport.

CBD bus routes

Once light rail is operating in the Sydney CBD, buses will be rerouted to one of 4 corridors. This will simplify the existing network, ensuring high frequencies and an easy to understand network for commuters. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Sydney’s Light Rail Future, page 17.)

The report also talks about considering further light rail in the longer term (10 to 20 years or further into the future). These include Victoria Rd, Parramatta Rd, an extension South to Maroubra or Malabar from Kingsford along Anzac Parade, an extension to Barangaroo from Circular Quay along Walsh Bay, and Parramatta Council’s Western Sydney light rail. The draft Transport Masterplan suggests the highest priority will go to light rail on Victoria Rd (though it might potentially end up as Bus Rapid Transit), though I’d give the Western Sydney light rail proposal a wild card chance of happening, particularly if it utilises the Carlingford Line to connect Parramatta to Macquarie Park.

The idea for a Parramatta to Chatswood rail link dates back to the days of Dr John Bradfield almost 100 years ago when he recommended building a line from St Leonards to Eastwood as part of his rail expansion program. While Dr Bradfield did see the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, completion of the underground CBD subway, and electrification of much of the network, much of the rest of his plans were shelved due to the onset of the Great Depression, followed shortly by the Second World War, and then the car and freeway boom of the post-war era.

It was not until the Carr government’s Action for Transport plan in 1998 when s plan to build a rail line between  Parramatta and Chatswood was seriously raised once more. The line would go from Westmead to St Leonards, using an upgraded Carlingford Line and then a tunnel between Carlingford and Chatswood. One of the major benefits of the new line would be that it would allow residents of Western Sydney to access the Lower North Shore without having to build an expensive second Harbour Crossing. In effect, it was a second Harbour Crossing, but it crossed the Harbour near Parramatta, where deep tunnels or long bridges would not be needed.

Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link

The Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link was originally to go from Westmead to St Leonards. Only the Eastern portion, between Epping and Chatswood, was actually constructed in 2009, leaving the Western portion unbuilt. (Source: Historical NSW Railway Timetables)

Overall, the 1998 plan was, like the more recent metro plan from 2007, to be funded by the sale of NSW’s electricity assets. When this sale was blocked by the ruling Labor Party’s state conference, many of the planned infrastructure projects were shelved with it (though not the road projects, as these were to be funded via private tolls, and were not reliant on government funding).

UPDATE: The M5 East was completed despite being funded by the government, rather than tolls. As construction on this had already started in 1998, it may have been too late to abandon it once the planned privatisations were blocked.

The Parramatta to Chatswood line was not entirely abandoned, but it was truncated to the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link, with the unbuilt portion: the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL) having been deemed to not provide sufficient patronage to justify its construction. Additionally, opposition from local residents and environmental groups meant the alignment was re-routed deeper underground so as to bypass parts of a national park. This resulted in delays, a blowout in construction costs, and the abandonment of a previously planned train station at the UTS Kuringai campus.

Parramatta to Chatswood alignments

The original Southern alignment included a station at UTS Kuringai, which was later abandoned when the deeper Northern alignment was chosen. The Dehli Road Station was retained, but moved closer to Macquarie Park. (Source: Action for Transport, NSW Government, 1998, page 18.)

By the time this new line had been completed in 2009, the state government had announced plans to build a new metro out to Rouse Hill in Northwest Sydney, then truncated it to Rozelle in Sydney’s Inner West (due to the ALP conference again preventing the sale of electricity assets which were to fund it), and would soon abandoning the metro project altogether in favour of the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) and Southwest Rail Link.

Missing from all of these plans was the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, until it was revived in 2010 by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard as part of an election promise to fund its construction. The Commonwealth government would contribute $2.1bn, with the state government required to fund the remainder, which was then estimated at a mere $500m. Problems soon emerged, with the cost estimated blowing out from $2.6bn to $4.4bn, meaning the NSW contribution would now be a far less affordable $2.3bn, and a change in government resulting in NSW prioritizing the NWRL over the PERL, which was quietly dumped entirely soon after.

Ironically, the NWRL vs PERL debate comes back to the question of a second Harbour Crossing. A NWRL will necessitate a second Harbour Crossing in order to meet the increased demand on the North Shore Line, while the PERL provides an alternate approach into the North Shore. However, a decade’s worth of densification of housing on the North Shore and the resulting increase in train frequencies along the North Shore Line to meet the increased demand means that the spare capacity that existed in the late 1990s no longer exists. This means that the dream of the PERL providing that second Harbour Crossing on the cheap has disappeared along with that spare capacity.

Instead the debate has moved on to providing some other sort of public transport improvement for the Parramatta to Macquarie Park corridor. Most recently the Parramatta Council has proposed light rail as a possible solution. Thus far the state government’s response has been that it will investigate the idea, but has not committed to anything further.

When Infrastructure NSW suggested the state government build a rapid bus transit (BRT) tunnel underneath the Sydney CBD, it caught most people following the issue by surprise. The idea, still embryonic, has not been looked at in detail, and lacks any form of substantial feasibility study – unlike the idea of putting light rail along George St which the BRT tunnel is meant to replace. These two projects have now been pitted against each other, with a meeting of cabinet this week expected to determine which one will be funded and built by the government.

But are these two projects mutually exclusive? A recent meeting at the Sydney Town Hall hosted by Lord Mayor Clover Moore suggested that this was an either/or situation. This meeting was almost unanimous in its support for light rail, a view shared by the Sydney Morning Herald, but not Heath Aston, the state political editor of its sister publication the Sun Herald, who decided to back the BRT tunnel.

A map of the proposed George St light rail (green) and the BRT tunnel (red). Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: author.)

The two actually serve different corridors through the CBD: the BRT tunnel will link buses that enter the CBD from the Anzac and Harbour Bridges which run along the Western corridor of York and Clarence Streets, while light rail would replace buses from the Eastern Suburbs that predominantly use the Central and Eastern corridors of George and Elizabeth Streets. (It’s true that the BRT tunnel will also take buses from Broadway, via George St, but this will require them to be re-routed from Circular Quay in the East to Wynyard to the West.) So it can’t be for that reason.

The actual reason appears to have more to do with budgetary constraints. With each project estimated to cost $1bn-$2bn (depending on what assumptions are used), the government is likely to only have the cash to build one of the two, and that is the reason why this is an either/or situation.

And though I have rubbished the current plan for the BRT tunnel as one that “needs to die an unholy death”, it’s a concept that’s not entirely without merit. For example, it would greatly enhance the ability for buses to throughroute, effectively joining 2 bus lines that enter the CBD from opposite ends, halving the number of vehicles required to operate the same number of services and providing passengers with greater cross city connections. It could also provide additional space for bus interchanges, and place them closer to train stations to make multi-modal trips easier. It seems almost a no brainer to use the platforms at Wynyard Station previously used for trams crossing the Harbour Bridge and terminating in the CBD, but converted to handle buses now crossing the Bridge.

Where the BRT tunnel falls short is that Infrastructure NSW has clearly come up with this idea to convince the government to trash George St light rail, rather than because it fits into a bigger picture of transport planning, like the idea that there are multiple North-South transport spines through the CBD.

While the BRT tunnel will primarily ease congestion on the Western spine of Clarence and York (NWRL) and converting long haul M2 buses into feeder buses, followed by a second Harbour crossing to increase capacity. It should come as no surprise that Infrastructure NSW also opposes this second Harbour crossing, but given that the NWRL will be built and therefore make the Harbour crossing the bottleneck on the network, the question over a second Harbour crossing is now when, not if.

Should the BRT tunnel be built instead of light rail, then it will improve transport connections on the Western corridor, but do little for the other corridors. Meanwhile, the tunnel will also use up the metro Pitt corridor, one of two corridors through the CBD which has been preserved for a future heavy rail line, severely limiting any future expansion of Sydney’s rail network. In addition, it will also shut down Town Hall and/or Wynyard Stations while the tunnel is being built. Ironically, Infrastructure NSW seems to show great concern at the disruption that shutting down George St (one of many streets through the CBD) would cause to motor vehicle traffic, yet has few qualms with doing the same to the 2 busiest stations in the Cityrail network (or to avoid a second Harbour crossing).

Light rail is by no means perfect. It will probably be slower than many predict (albeit faster than the slow crawl of buses we currently have at peak hour). But it is the option that has been studied, and it is the option that the transport department believes best fits into the big picture of its citywide transport plan. That is why cabinet should support the light rail option, and commit the BRT tunnel idea to Transport for NSW for further feasibility study.

Three different alignments have been proposed for the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) over the years: via Strathfield, via Chatswood, and via Parramatta.

The Options

The first (via Strathfield) involved the line from Castle Hill linking up with the Northern Line around Cheltenham on the surface, allowing trains to travel into the CBD either via Strathfield or Chatswood. This was abandoned due to the requirement that the line be quadruplicating between Epping and Cheltenham in order to prevent that portion of dual track from becoming a bottleneck. Local opposition and a cost so high that tunnelling was a cheaper option led to this alignment being abandoned in favour of the second option.

NWRL via Strathfield: The alignment goes from Castle Hill to Cheltenham and then Epping via a surface route, allowing it to get to the CBD via both Strathfield and Chatswood. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Wikipedia.)

The second (via Chatswood) is the currently planned alignment. It involves connecting the rail tunnels directly to the underground station at Epping, which means all NWRL trains must continue on to Chatswood and cannot divert to Strathfield. This reduces flexibility, but Cityrail’s Clearways program of sectorising the rail network into independent lines meant that flexibility wasn’t something Cityrail was looking for anyway.

NWRL via Chatswood: The alignment goes from Castle Hill to Epping via an underground tunnel, continuing to Chatswood via Macquarie Park. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The third (via Parramatta) was floated by Parramatta Council as a way of getting the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL) built. It involved building the NWRL through to Castle Hill, then sending it South to Parramatta, before going to Epping and continuing through to Chatswood and then St Leonards (avoiding the need for an expensive Second Harbour Crossing). Passengers heading into the CBD could change at Parramatta for express services. However, it also meant a longer trip for anyone heading to Macquarie Park or the North Shore.

NWRL via Parramatta: The alignment goes from Castle Hill to Parramatta and then Epping. The dotted line shows the via Strathfield alignment. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Channel Ten News.)

All three options see capacity constraints for CBD trips: with the Western, Northern, and North Shore Lines all highly congested and near capacity.

Where do people from The Hills want to go?

The locations that Hills residents desire to travel to is ultimately what should determine which of the 3 options should be taken. For the purpose of determining this, work commutes will be taken into account (as data is most easily available for these, though the most recent data I was able to obtain was from 2001). I’ll be using Bus Contract Region 4 (see map below) as a proxy for The Hills, however this also includes areas further South such as Westmead, Northmead, Carlingford, etc. Calculations are included at the end.

Bus contract regions map. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Most Hills residents (57% [1]) work outside of large centres. The widespread nature of where their work is located means that public transport is unlikely to compete with the private vehicle for their work commutes. Nor should it, as these are the sorts of trips which require the flexibility of a car, rather than the capacity of public transport. The remaining 43% work in large centres [A], primarily in Parramatta/Westmead – 9.9% [A], the Global Economic Arc (Macquarie Park, Chatswood, St Leonards/Crows Nest, and North Sydney) – 7.7% [B], the Sydney CBD – 7.3% [1], Castle Hill – 4.7% [A], and various other centres – 12.6% [1]. These are respectively shown in green, blue, yellow, grey, and brown in the chart below.

Note: The above diagram shows North Sydney as having a 42% jobs share. That is a typo. It should read 2.3%

Given the southern half of Region 4 includes suburbs between Parramatta and The Hills, which are likely to over represent the number of people who work in Parramatta/Westmead, the proportion of Hills residents who work in Parramatta/Westmead is likely to be less than 9.9%. That would make each of the 3 major employment zones (Parramatta/Westmead, the Global Economic Arc, and the Sydney CBD) are roughly equal in size, with Castle Hill close behind them.

How the different alignments stack up

All three options have the same alignment up to Castle Hill, at which point they begin to diverge. So it is the other 3 employment zones which differentiate the alignments.

The via Parramatta alignment is the only one that provides access to Parramatta/Westmead (the latter via a change of train at Parramatta). It also provides access to both the CBD (with a change of train at Parramatta) and the Global Economic Arc (by continuing on via the Parramatta to Epping Line). However, the former is capacity constrained and the latter would be delayed by having to travel to Parramatta before continuing to Epping.

The via Strathfield alignment gives no access to Parramatta/Westmead. By allowing some trains to go to the CBD via Strathfield and some via Chatswood, capacity constraints are limited. However, it also limits access to the Global Economic Arc. Eventually, construction of a Second Harbour Crossing can allow all trains to travel via Chatswood, providing good access to both the CBD and Global Economic Arc.

The via Chatswood alignment gives no access to Parramatta/Westmead. It gives the best access to the Global Economic Arc, initially with direct trains to Macquarie Park and Chatswood, but easily extended to St Leonards by quadruplicating the track between Chatswood and St Leonards. Eventually, construction of a Second Harbour Crossing can allow all trains to travel directly to the CBD, providing good access to both the CBD as well as the Global Economic Arc.

The via Parramatta option provides benefits if a Second Harbour Crossing does not happen, and is partly designed to defer the need for one. It also highlights why the government has committed to a Second Harbour Crossing – it unlocks much of the potential of the NWRL. This makes the via Parramatta option a viable one, but also one that suffers from short sighted vision, as a Second Harbour Crossing will eventually be needed, but will be less useful if there is no NWRL for it to connect to.

The via Strathfield and via Chatswood options seem roughly neck and neck, especially considering either can be upgraded with a Second Harbour Crossing to run trains directly to the CBD via Chatswood, providing good connections to both the Global Economic Arc and CBD. But there are 2 things that make the via Chatswood option superior. First, it avoids the problems of building the surface route between Epping and Cheltenham to avoid capacity constraints on that portion of track – including high cost of land acquisition, delays due to the need to start planning again from scratch on that portion of the line, and strong local opposition. Second, it goes against the concept of sectorisation, mixing different trains on the same lines – in particular this would prevent an effective private sector operation of the new line and the associated cost benefits that could come from it.


Each alignment has advantages and disadvantages, and there is no clear superior option. However, the NWRL via Chatswood alignment does appear to have a slight edge over the other options, on the assumption that a Second Harbour Crossing is built right after the NWRL is completed (as is current government policy).

However, this does not increase capacity on between the Hills to Parramatta, so improvements here should also be considered, particularly on the key Windsor Rd and Old Windsor Rd corridors. The former has a proposal for light rail linking Parramatta to Castle Hill currently undergoing a feasibility study, while the latter already has a T-Way where increased bus frequencies would easily achieve improved mobility.


[1]: Contract Region 4 (page 15)

[2]: Contract Region 7 (page 6)

[3]: Employment and Commuting in Sydney’s Centres, 1996 – 2006 (page 8)


[A]: “Of the workforce living in Region 4 approximately 43% work in major centres. Of those employed in centres, most were employed in…the centres of Parramatta (16%), Castle Hill (11%) and Westmead (7%)” [1]

Castle Hill: 11% x 43% = 4.7%

Parramatta: 16% x 43% = 6.9%

Westmead: 7% x 43% = 3.0%

Parramatta/Westmead: 6.9% + 3.0% = 9.9%

[B] 13.2% of Region 4 workers are employed in Region 7, which includes all 4 centres of the Global Economic Arc [1]

Region 7 employs 206,500 workers in total [2]

Each of the centres in the Global Economic Arc employ the following number of workers: Macquarie Park (26,814), Chatswood (19,842), St Leonards/Crows Nest (36,514), North Sydney (36,597) [3]

Macquarie Park: 13.2% x ( 26,814 / 206,500 ) = 1.7%

Chatswood: 13.2% x (19,842 / 206,500 ) = 1.3%

St Leonards/Crows Nest: 13.2% x (36,514 / 206,500 ) = 2.3%

North Sydney: 13.2% x (36,597 / 206,500 ) = 2.3%

Global Economic Arc = 1.7% + 1.3% + 2.3% + 2.3% = 7.7%