Posts Tagged ‘Sydney Metro Northwest’

Over 100,000 people used Sydney Metro today on its first day open to the public, with no fare charged for those travelling between Chatswood and Tallawong. It was the first time in Australia that a driverless train line operated with passengers, but was not without teething issues and delays.

The trains, which travel at a maximum speed of 100km per hour, had a noticeably quick acceleration and deceleration, and complete the journey from end to end in 37 minutes. Platform screen doors are in use and the gap between platform and train is minimal. The stations themselves were modern and fully accessible.

Indicators above each train door show where the train is along the line, as well as showing how far the train has progressed towards the next station. Lights above each set of doors flash red when doors are opening or closing, light up solid green when the doors are open, and light up solid white when the doors are closed.

Some problems did occur. Mechanical failures with trains occurred in both the early afternoon and during the evening, leading to delays of roughly 45 minutes and 15 minutes respectively. With Sydney Metro controlling the number of people who could enter stations to reduce overcrowding, this led to a blowout in queues. Chatswood Station saw a conga line emerge starting from 1:30PM. Many of those in the queue had travelled to Chatswood from the Northwest earlier and were now returning home.

Inside the trains, the air conditioning seemed set to maximum and in-train indicators began having problems from early in the day and were soon turned off. As a result, there was little indication that doors were closing, besides the silent flashing lights that went unnoticed by most. This, together with shorter than normal dwell times, led some passengers to get caught by the doors (including some with prams) or unable to enter/exit in time. The dwell times were noticeably longer as the day progressed, with doors remaining open for 30 to 60 seconds at stations. This would no doubt lengthen journey durations if allowed to continue. However, the in-train indicators appeared to be working again by late Sunday evening and dwell times were back down to a reasonable length.

Trains also routinely overshot their platforms early in the day. This blog’s author counted roughly one in every two trains would stop past its platform screen doors in the early afternoon, requiring the train to reverse before opening its doors. However, this problem did not persist into the late afternoon, by when it was no longer occurring.

All in all it was not a perfect first day, but a few inconveniences should not eclipse the significance of the first complete new train line in Sydney in 40 years. Many of these teething issues, such as the overshooting and in-train indicators, appear to have been fixed by the end of the first day. Tomorrow’s morning peak hour will be a big test for the new line. If all goes well, most of today’s problems will be soon forgotten.

VIDEO: Sydney Metro bids thanks and farewell to the Sydney Monorail, Transport for NSW (31 Aug 2017)

This is an updated version of a previous post from March 2016.

Below is a list of all the railways that Sydney might expect in the near future. It only includes heavy rail (i.e. Sydney Trains or Sydney Metro, but not light rail) and includes both new lines or extensions to existing lines. Railways must have been proposed by the state or federal government, so any railways proposed only by local councils or lobby groups are not included nor any railways mentioned exclusively in internal government documents not intended for public release. Also excluded are railways previously announced but since cancelled.

Under construction: Sydney Metro Northwest

The current incarnation of this line was announced in 2010, with construction commencing in 2014. It is scheduled to open in 2019. This line consists of 23km of new track between Epping and Cudgegong Rd near Rouse Hill as well as the conversion of the existing 13km Epping to Chatswood Line (opened in 2009) to metro operation.

A line with a similar alignment was originally announced in 1998 (connecting to the Northern Line at Eastwood rather than Epping), but cancelled in 2008 in favour of a metro line that was itself also cancelled. It has previously been known as the North West Rail Link and Sydney Rapid Transit.

2015-02-20 NWRL

Alignment of the Sydney Metro Northwest from Cudgegong Rd to Chatswood. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Under construction: Sydney Metro City and Southwest

This line was announced in 2014, with construction commencing in 2017. It is scheduled to open in 2024. This line consists of 13km of new track between Chatswood and Sydenham as well as the conversion of the existing 17km Bankstown Line between Sydenham and Bankstown to metro operation.

Sydney Metro City and Southwest Alignment 2016

Sydney Metro City and Southwest alignment. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Announced: Sydney Metro West

This line was announced in 2016, with no date currently set for construction to commence. It is scheduled to open in the second half of the 2020s, though the government is understood to be keen to fast track a 2026 opening date. Stations have been confirmed for Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park, the bays precinct, and the Sydney CBD.

Four options are currently being considered, with a Metro Rapid option firming as the favourite providing the highest benefit-cost ratio. This option involves a 20 minute journey between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, with trains travelling between 10 stations at up to 130km/hour, with a benefit-cost ratio of 2.5.

UPDATE: However, the favoured option appears to be the Metro Local South. This option involves a 25 minute journey between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, with trains travelling between 12 stations at up to 100km/hour, with a benefit-cost ratio of 2.3 when the sale of air rights to development above stations is taken into account.

2016-10-18-west-metro-and-cbd-metro-alignment

Planned route of the 2008 West Metro, which may be indicative of the future Sydney Metro West. Click to enlarge. (Source: Railway Gazette)

Announced: Leppington to St Marys extension

Technically not yet announced, the government is understood to be about to announce an extension of the existing T2 Line from Leppington to the T1 Line at St Marys via a new Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek. Previous investigations into an extension of the South West Rail Link from Leppington also included a Southern extension to Narellan. This extension provides the greatest potential for a freight rail connection to the new airport, whereas a metro connection would be unlikely to provide the opportunity for freight trains to reach the new airport.

2014-05-04 swrl-extension-corridor-map

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

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has indicated her preference is for a rail connection after the airport opens and further commented that “Some major airports around the world take up to 10 years to build a rail line”. With a 2026 scheduled opening date for a Western Sydney Airport, this would suggest a 2026-36 opening date for an airport railway.

Meanwhile, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announced his support in April 2017 for a North-South rail connection, but went further in calling for it to be completed in time for the opening of a Western Sydney Airport in 2026. So although there is a difference in opinion on timing, there is now bipartisanship support for a rail line connecting the airport to Leppington and St Marys.

Proposed: Cudgegong Rd to Marsden Park extension

Work on preserving a corridor to extend the Sydney Metro Northwest began before construction on the line had even begun. Two options were considered: a Northern extension to Riverstone and a Western extension to Marsden Park via Schofields. The latter option was chosen with the potential to extend it further to the Mount Druitt area, although the corridor is to be reserved with mode neutrality. In other words, it could be both as an extension of Sydney Metro, but it could also be built as even bus rapid transit/light rail or even heavy rail with double deck trains from the T1 Western Line at Mount Druitt or St Marys.

NWRL Extension Corridor Options

Two options exist for linking the NWRL to the Richmond Line. One goes North West to Vineyard, the other continues west through Schofields and towards Marsden Park. Click to enlarge. (Source: http://northwestoptions.com.au)

Proposed: Bankstown to Liverpool extension

This proposal would see the Sydney Metro extended from the currently planned terminus at Bankstown out to Liverpool.

Such a line could link both Bankstown and Liverpool to Bankstown Airport, allowing for potential redevelopment of the current airport site. That would be in line with the Government´s pattern of building new transport infrastructure in places that enable new developments, including Waterloo, Sydney Olympic Park, the Bays Precinct, or the proposed redevelopment of Long Bay Prison. It would also provide connections between Liverpool and the Sydney CBD via Bankstown that are set to be lost once the Bankstown Line is converted to Metro services by 2024.

VIDEO: Sydney Metro: Future Options – Bankstown to Liverpool (Transport for NSW)

Proposed: Parramatta to Western Sydney Airport extension

A Western extension to the Sydney Metro West, this line would link up Parramatta with a Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek. With the airport and metro line each scheduled to open in 2026 or later, much of

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for a rail link to the airport to be built by the year 2046, but not necessarily ready to open simultaneously with a Western Sydney Airport. However, this was before the NSW Government opted for a North-South rail link from Leppington to St Marys, which is set to be announced jointly with the federal government.

2016-03-12 Parramatta Fast Rail Route

Potential alignments for a fast rail connection from Parramatta to a Western Sydney Airport at Badgeries Creek and the Sydney CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Parramatta City Council, Western Sydney Airport Fast Train – Discussion Paper, page 12.)

Proposed: City to Long Bay extension

An Eastern extension of the Sydney Metro West, this line would link up the Sydney CBD to the South East along a former tram reservation on Anzac Parade. To this date, there is no official government proposal for this line, only an unsolicited proposal from 2016.

However, Infrastructure NSW has been investigating the Anzac Parade corridor since 2014. The plans would involve the sale of the Long Bay Prison for redevelopment, which itself would help to fund the construction costs of a rail line down that corridor. This is in line with similar plans for Waterloo, the Bays Precinct and Sydney Olympic Park where new metro lines would support redevelopment that would in turn be enabled by the new metro line.

So far, this corridor has been investigated for an extension of the currently under construction light rail line out to Kingsford. Despite this, the close correlation between the unsolicited proposal and line actually being planned at the moment are close enough that an extension to La Perouse via Long Bay appears like a good proxy for official government policy.

VIDEO: Metropolitanisationing: Sydney Transport (Jack Walsh)

There are two rail lines in Sydney currently under construction or in the planning phase. The first is the Sydney Metro Northwest, announced in 2010 and set to open in 2019; it consists of 23km of new track between Epping and Cudgegong Rd near Rouse Hill as well as the conversion of the existing 13km Epping to Chatswood Line (opened in 2009) to metro operation. The second is the Sydney Metro City and Southwest, announced in 2014 and set to open in 2024; it consists of 13km of new track between Chatswood and Sydenham as well as the conversion of the existing 17km Bankstown Line between Sydenham and Bankstown to metro operation.

Although no firm plans are currently in place for expansion of the rail network beyond 2024, there are a number of rail lines that have been mentioned by state and federal Transport Ministers, Premiers, and Prime Ministers. In chronological order of their first announcement, these include an extension of the Sydney Metro from Cudgegong Rd to Marsden Park, an extension of the South West Rail Link to Badgerys Creek, an extension of the Sydney Metro from Bankstown to Liverpool, and a new fast train from Parramatta to the Sydney CBD and Badgerys Creek.

(Left out of this list are previously announced rail lines that have been raised in internal government documents or were official government policy but in either case have since been abandoned. These include the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, a metro line to the Northern Beaches, a metro line to Hurstville, and an extension of the Eastern Suburbs Line to UNSW.)

Cudgegong Road to Marsden Park

Work on preserving a corridor to extend what was then known as the North West Rail Link, now Sydney Metro Northwest, began before construction on the line had even begun. Two options were considered: a Northern extension to Riverstone and a Western extension to Marsden Park via Schofields. The latter option was chosen with the potential to extend it further to the Mount Druitt area, although the corridor is to be reserved with mode neutrality. In other words, it could be both as an extension of Sydney Metro, but it could also be built as even bus rapid transit/light rail or even heavy rail with double deck trains from the T1 Western Line at Mount Druitt or St Marys.

NWRL Extension Corridor Options

Two options exist for linking the NWRL to the Richmond Line. One goes North West to Vineyard, the other continues west through Schofields and towards Marsden Park. Click to enlarge. (Source: http://northwestoptions.com.au)

Leppington to Badgerys Creek

The South West Rail Link would be extended from the current terminus at Leppington through to Badgerys Creek at the new Western Sydney Airport. This line would also include a potential extension North to St Marys and South to Narellan. By connecting to the existing heavy rail network, this line also provides the greatest potential for a freight rail connection to the new airport. However, it does not provide a fast nor a direct rail connection between the airport and Parramatta, the Sydney CBD, nor the existing Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot.

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

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

This is also the only proposed new rail line that is an extension of the existing heavy rail network. All of the other 3 proposals involve extensions of the Sydney Metro network currently under construction or the creation of a new single deck fast train.

Bankstown to Liverpool

An extension of the Sydney Metro City and Southwest, set to open in 2024 between Chatswood and Bankstown via the Sydney CBD, this would see the line extended further out to Liverpool.

The proposed Southern extension of Sydney Metro would see the line extended from the currently planned terminus at Bankstown out to Liverpool. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The proposed Southern extension of Sydney Metro would see the line extended from the currently planned terminus at Bankstown out to Liverpool. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Such a line could link both Bankstown and Liverpool to Bankstown Airport, allowing for potential redevelopment of the current airport site into a new business park. It would also provide connections between Liverpool and the Sydney CBD via Bankstown that are set to be lost once the Bankstown Line is converted to Metro services at some point in the next 8 years.

VIDEO: Sydney Metro: Future Options – Bankstown to Liverpool (Transport for NSW)

Sydney to Parramatta

Parramatta City Council, in conjunction with the Western Sydney Business Chamber, have proposed a fast train from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta that would complete the journey in as little as 15 minutes. It also includes a Western Link between Parramatta and a future Western Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

Potential alignments for a fast rail connection from Parramatta to a Western Sydney Airport at Badgeries Creek and the Sydney CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Parramatta City Council, Western Sydney Airport Fast Train - Discussion Paper, page 12.)

Potential alignments for a fast rail connection from Parramatta to a Western Sydney Airport at Badgeries Creek and the Sydney CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Parramatta City Council, Western Sydney Airport Fast Train – Discussion Paper, page 12.)

The Eastern Link has 4 potential alignments to Parramatta Station:

  1. Upgrading the existing surface rail corridor with stations at Central, Strathfield, and Lidcombe. This would not reduce travel times by more than a few minutes below the current 25 minute minimum. It would also do the least to add extra capacity.
  2. A tunnel underneath the existing rail corridor with stations at the future Sydney Metro Station in Pitt St, Croydon, and Lidcombe. This has longer journey times than Options 3 or 4 and has limited scope for value capture. However, it provides the most favourable tunneling conditions.
  3. A tunnel South of the Parramatta River with stations at the future Sydney Metro Station in Pitt St, White Bay, and Olypmic Park. This is the shortest and fastest option. It also has the best scope for value capture and most challenging tunneling conditions.
  4. A tunnel North of the Parramatta River with stations at the future Sydney Metro Station in Barangaroo, White Bay, and Ryde. This is longer than Option 3, but passes through more existing centres. It has less scope for value capture but better patronage in the medium term.

The Western Link has 2 potential alignments between Parramatta Station and Badgerys Creek:

  1. A Southern corridor with an intermediate station in Liverpool.
  2. A Northern corridor with an intermediate station in either Blacktown or near the M4/M7.

The Western Link has fewer details than the Eastern Link. Proponents are split over which section to build first, with Parramatta City Council CEO Greg Dyer supporting an Eastern Link and Parramatta MP Geoff Lee supporting a Western Link. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for a Western Link to be built earlier than 2046, but not necessarily ready to open simultaneously with a Western Sydney Airport. Sydney Morning Herald City Editor Jacob Saulwick argues that an Eastern Link is more pressing given the capacity constraints between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, but that it would be a good stage one for when a future extension to Badgerys Creek becomes needed and built as stage two.

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

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

2 June: $50m cost blowout for NWRL

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

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

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

 4 June: Sydney Rapid Transit renamed Sydney Metro

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

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

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

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

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

6 June: Transport corridors in Western Sydney to be reserved

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

8 June: Olympic Park becomes preferred light rail option

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

11 June: Opal only gates installed at Wynyard Station

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

12 June: SWRL connection to CBD via Granville?

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

12 June: 65 new transport officers

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

15 June: Trial of backdoor boarding on CBD buses

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

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

19 June: Reduction in minimum parking requirements

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

23 June: Barangaroo Station confirmed

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

VIDEO: Sydney Metro Barangaroo Station

The name Sydney Rapid Transit is no more, with the project to be renamed Sydney Metro. Its two component parts, the North West Rail Link and Second Harbour Rail Crossing are also getting new names; they will now be known as Sydney Metro Northwest and Sydney Metro City & Southwest respectively. The news comes in response to the passage of legislation through the NSW Parliament to allow the partial privatisation of the state’s electricity distribution network via a 99 lease of 49% of the business in order to provide funding for the second stage of the Sydney Metro project.

Sydney Metro Northwest is set to open in early 2019 with construction already underway; while Sydney Metro City & Southwest is set to open in 2024 with construction starting in 2017. The latter has 4 confirmed stations between Chatswood and Sydenham: Victoria Cross (North Sydney), Martin Place, Pitt Street (Town Hall), and Central. It will also include either an underground station at Crows Nest or an above ground station utilising the existing platforms at St Leonards, depending on where tunnels on the Northern end will emerge. The Sydney Metro website states that “options for where the tunnels start include just south of Chatswood or at St Leonards”, with a final decision yet to be made.

Sydney Metro proposed alignment. Click to enlarge. (Source: Project Overview, Sydney Metro.)

Sydney Metro proposed alignment. Click to enlarge. (Source: Project Overview, Sydney Metro.)

Meanwhile, additional stations are also being investigated at the Artarmon Industrial Area, Barangaroo, and either the University of Sydney or Waterloo. It remains unclear whether tunnels on the Southern end will emerge at Sydenham or whether they will emerge further North with the line then travelling along an existing reservation between Erskineville and Sydenham.

Media Coverage

VIDEO: Seven News Sydney – Electicity privatisation bill passed, Sydney Metro renaming (4/6/2015)

VIDEO: Ten Eyewitness News Sydney – Electicity privatisation bill passed, Sydney Metro renaming (4/6/2015)

Open Drum – The Daily Commute

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

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

1 May: Rail line to Badgerys Creek downplayed

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

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

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

4 May: Opal-only ticket gates

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

7 May: Mousetrap to catch graffiti vandals

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

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

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

21 May: Light rail predicted to kill someone each year

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

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

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

26 May: NWRL tunneling 40% complete

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

26 May: Long Bay Prison sale under consideration

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

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

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

26 May: Congestion will be worse after WestConnex

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

28 May: Light rail construction schedule announced

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

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

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

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

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

28 May: mX axed

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

29 May: Electricity privatisation passes lower house

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

VIDEO: Infrastructure (Last Week Tonight with John Oliver)

Sydney Rapid Transit (SRT) could reach a new airport at Badgerys Creek, possibly via the existing Kingsford Smith airport at Mascot, as part of the Southern extension of a Second Harbour Rail Crossing. The idea was floated last week by the Transport Minister Andrew Constance when he said that “I think it is a case of putting all things on the table”, in which he also called on the Australian Government to provide funding for a rail line to Badgerys Creek. The Australian Government has committed $2.9bn in funding for roads to support the airport, but no money for rail.

The proposal is currently little more than a thought bubble. But if it were to happen, what could it look like and how would it build on existing plans that are already locked in?

The current plan

The North West Rail Link (NWRL) from Rouse Hill to Epping is currently under construction. It will be connected to the Epping to Chatswood Line, set to be closed in 2018 so that it can be converted, with the new Rouse Hill to Chatswood Line opening in 2019. Construction of a Second Harbour Rail Crossing from Chatswood to Sydenham will begin in 2017, and is expected to open in 2024. This will also see the Bankstown Line converted to single deck operation between Bankstown and Sydenham, also with a 2024 opening.

SYdney Rapid Transit following the conversion of the T3 Bankstown Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Rebuilding NSW Fact sheet 3, p1.)

SYdney Rapid Transit following the conversion of the T3 Bankstown Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, Rebuilding NSW Fact sheet 3, p1.)

There are further plans to expand the line from Sydenham to Hurstville. Earlier plans showed the line extending from Bankstown to both Lidcombe and Cabramatta, but more recent plans show the line terminating at Bankstown and not continuing further.

Sydney Rapid Transit as currently proposed. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sandy Thomas, 1855 revisisted.)

Sydney Rapid Transit as currently proposed. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sandy Thomas, 1855 revisisted.)

Past plans

A rail line from the North West to the South West via the CBD is not a new concept. This is exactly what was proposed in 2005 as part of the Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program (MREP). This would involve the extension of the Epping to Chatswood Line via the construction of the NWRL and the extension of the then East Hills Line (now T2 Airport Line) via the construction of the South West Rail Link (SWRL). Core capacity would then be increased by building a new under the Harbour and CBD rail line, plus additional tracks from Chatswood to St Leonards; Sydenham to Erskineville; and Kingsgrove to Revesby. The difference is that the MREP proposal would use double deck trains and travel via Sydenham, therefore bypassing the existing Airport Line.

Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sandy Thomas, 1855 revisisted.)

Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sandy Thomas, 1855 revisisted.)

A metro line out towards Sydney’s South West was also part of a leaked 2012 report, which suggested extending SRT from Wolli Creek to Revesby. This would follow the initial conversion of the T3 Bankstown Line and then later also a portion of the T4 Illawarra through to Hurstville to the new SRT system. The latter of these two conversions passes through Wolli Creek, which would allow the portion of the T2 Airport Line to also be converted. SRT could then provide all station services on these lines, with the remaining T2 and T4 trains running express from the outer suburbs.

Previously proposed metro network for Sydney, including a line out to Revesby and the Northern Beaches. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, CBD Rail Capacity Program Rail Futures Investigations - Engineering & Construction, p30.)

Previously proposed metro network for Sydney, including a line out to Revesby and the Northern Beaches. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW, CBD Rail Capacity Program Rail Futures Investigations – Engineering & Construction, p30.)

However, this proposal would not actually reach either airport.

How it could work

If both airports are to be connected then the entire T2 Airport Line would need to be converted to SRT between Glenfield and Central. The resultant shift of patronage from the T2 Airport Line to SRT together with the ability for SRT to reach the T2 Airport Line directly from Central without having to travel between Wolli Creek and Sydenham, eliminates the need to convert the T4 Illawarra Line to SRT. In fact, it would make more sense to maintain all station services from Hurstville within the Sydney Trains network and instead send them into the City Circle, joining the remaining T2 Airport Line trains (which would likely revert to the previous East Hills Line name, given they would no longer travel via the airport). This lifts the current capacity constraint on the T4 Illawarra Line, which along with the T1 Western Line is Sydney’s most congested.

The T2 Airport Line currently has 4 tracks between Wolli Creek through to Revesby in the West, where it drops down to 2 tracks. The line West of Revesby would need to be quadruplicated out to Glenfield, providing 2 tracks for T2 trains and 2 tracks for SRT trains. The Northern end of Glenfield Junction may also require some upgrading to prevent any conflicting moves between T2 and SRT trains, however the Southern end is flexible enough to be able to handle the merger of Sydney Trains and SRT services. From there it is simply a matter of converting the existing SWRL to SRT, while also extending the line out to Badgerys Creek or further.

Journeys from the SWRL would be limited to all stop services on SRT, which would probably take around 60 minutes from Badgerys Creek to Central (perhaps 45 minutes if SRT allowed for shorter dwell times and faster acceleration). Passengers could change at Glenfield with a simple cross platform transfer to a faster express train directly to Central (or elsewhere).

Meanwhile, the shutdown of the T2 Airport Line for SRT conversion could also be used as an opportunity to add an additional station (Doody St) between Mascot and Green Square and/or an additional station (Waterloo) between Green Square and Central. This would allow the Central to Sydenham alignment of SRT to take the Northern approach, via Sydney University; rather than the alternative proposal via Waterloo.

The proposed Doody St Station would be located between the existing Mascot and Green Square Stations on the Airport Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: EcoTransit.)

The proposed Doody St Station would be located between the existing Mascot and Green Square Stations on the Airport Line. Click to enlarge. (Source: EcoTransit.)

The 10km portion of the T2 Airport Line between Wolli Creek and Central is currently privately owned, but reverts to public ownership in 2030. Conversion would probably have to occur after 2030. However, with the initial Rouse Hill to Bankstown portion of SRT set to open in 2024 and an airport at Badgerys Creek set to open in 2026, the timing is not too far off the mark. Rail services would not be running on the day the airport opens, but they could commence a few years afterwards. This is problematic if the aim is rail on day one, but ideal timing if the aim is for a gradual increase in transport connections as airport usage ramps up over time.

A NSW Labor Government will build all transport projects currently under or about to commence construction plus a second Harbour rail crossing as part of its infrastructure policy released yesterday. It would also drop plans for a 99 year lease of the electricity distribution network, obtaining its $10bn funding by not cutting $5bn worth of business taxes and using $5bn of unallocated funding in the government’s Restart NSW infrastructure fund.

Under Labor, projects already under construction, such as the North West Rail Link and CBD and South East Light Rail, would be completed. Projects about to commence construction, such as the M4 East; M5 East duplication; and NorthConnex, would also be completed. In addition, Labor has also committed to the $1bn upgrade to the Western Sydney rail network, which will include improved signalling and longer platforms for trains that are 10 carriages long rather than the existing 8 carriages.

Labor will committ to completing the NWRL and has given qualified support for a second Harbour rail crossing to connect it to the CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Labor will committ to completing the NWRL and has given qualified support for a second Harbour rail crossing to connect it to the CBD. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The plan would see both WestConnex and a second Harbour rail crossing modified. WestConnex’s M4 East would link up directly to the CBD along a yet undefined path, while the M5 East duplication would be redirected to the airport and seaport at Botany. Meanwhile, the Inner West bypass linking the M4 and M5 would be dropped entirely. Any construction on a second Harbour rail crossing would begin 5 years later than currently planned, in 2022 rather than 2017, and also be subject to a “rigorous cost-benefit analysis and business case”. In addition, no committment was made for a Western Sydney Harbour road tunnel or Western Sydney light rail.

Commentary: The wrong priorities

Labor’s refusal to consider privatisation, despite being supported by former Labor Premier Morris Iemma and Prime Minister Paul Keating, has limited its ability to promise an infrastructure plan as large as the Coalition’s. The Sydney Morning Herald’s transport reporter Jacob Saulwick put it best when he described it as “less of the same” in comparing it to the Coalition plan. In fact, other than the changes to WestConnex, this is largely a copy of the Coalition plan with some elements dropped and others deferred.

One positive to come from this report is an M5 East duplication that links up to Botany rather than St Peters. One of the main benefits of WestConnex will come from taking freight trucks off local roads, and having a direct connection will achieve this while also adding capacity to a growing port.

Labor should also be commended on committing to a second Harbour rail crossing. But deferring its construction for 5 years and adding conditions to that construction puts question marks over whether it is serious about building it. Yesterday’s policy document even quotes Nick Greiner, notorious for opposing rail projects and supporting tollroads, to make this case. In doing so, it reveals the real problem with this plan – it shifts priorities away from rail and towards roads.

Most disappointing is that this plan makes a clear committment to building a new freeway right into the CBD, while maybe building a new rail line into the CBD at a later point in the future. These are the wrong way around. Roads, which have their place, should provide travel opportunities from low density origins and/or destinations, acting as a bypass of dense areas like the CBD. Rail, on the other hand, works best at transporting large numbers of people from high density origins and/or destinations. So to build a road into the CBD but not rail is highly perverse.

WestConnex and the proposed Western Harbour road tunnel, both of which are plagued with problems like property acquisitions or of inducing demand for car travel, enjoyed the major advantage that they would remove cars from places like the Sydney CBD or Newtown’s congested King St. In the CBD, it would also see roadspace on the surface taken away from cars on George St and Elizabeth St as part of the CBD light rail line as the former is pedestrianised and the latter is converted to a bus road.

It is here, and not Labor’s inability to accelerate infrastructure construction due to it committment to maintain public ownership of state owned assets, that is most concerning. Labor prioritised roads rather than rail, and those are the wrong priorities.

VIDEO: #Equality – A short film by Neel Kolhatkar

Monday: Future of the Meccano Set uncertain

The structure holding up traffic lights and signs at the intersection of Woodville Road/Henry Lawson Drive and Hume Highway in Lansdowne, commonly known as the “Meccano Set”, could be removed. RMS is taking community and stakeholder feedback, with two possible options for the intersection:

  • repaint and maintain the structure, or
  • remove it completely and replace it with traffic signals and directional signage.

The Meccano Set was errected in 1962 and is not heritage listed, though it is considered a “place of interest” and a Western Sydney icon. Feedback will be accepted until 13 February.

Tuesday: Commuters can save by leaving car at home

Commuters could save $10,000 per year by switching from driving to taking public transport according to a report by the Australian Railway Association. The savings are contingent on not owning a car at all. Smaller savings of $1,700 per year would be possible by maintaining a car, but taking public transport to and from work rather than driving. Alan Davies at Crikey writes more on this topic.

Tuesday: SWRL appears on rail map

The South West Rail Link has appeared on the network map for Sydney Trains, while the timetable for the line has also been released. Trains will run every half hour between Leppington and Liverpool when the line opens on 8 February.

Sydney Trains network with the SWRL on the bottom left of the map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Sydney Trains network with the SWRL on the bottom left of the map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Tuesday: 524 new parking spots at train stations

Over 500 new parking spots at train stations were announced or opened this week. 400 parking spaces will be added at Holsworthy Station and 100 parking spaces will be added at Oatley Station. Meanwhile, 23 additional parking spaces were officially opened at Granville Station.

Wednesday: NWRL running ahead of schedule and under budget

The North West Rail Link is running 2 months ahead of schedule and is currently $300m under budget. The news comes as Elizabeth, the first of the 4 tunnel boring machines, reaches the future site of Norwest Station. Elizabeth began digging from Bella Vista, 2.1km away, in September of 2014.

Sunday: New ticket gates may be on the way

New, skinnier ticket barriers have been spotted at Olympic Park Station, suggesting that the current ticket barriers might be replaced soon. The barriers are currently covered up, but are clearly a more streamlined size and shape. Entry/Exit indicators have also been removed from Town Hall Station, which would also support the possibility that ticket barriers are soon to be updated.

VIDEO: Be rewarded by travelling with Opal

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

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

Wednesday: Final Tunnel Boring Machine for NWRL starts digging

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

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

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

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

Sydney Trains/NSW TrainLink (p. 34)

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

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

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

Sydney Rapid Transit (pp.37-38)

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

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

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

Improving efficiency (p. 35)

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

Light rail (p. 40)

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

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

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

Freight (pp. 62-63, 65)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday: Sydney Trains CEO outlines achievements and future plans

The Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins has outlined his achievements during his year and a half in the job. These include: a shake up of senior management positions, a new timetable, the introduction of the Opal card, 78 new Waratah trains brought into operation, an end to the “no forced redundancies” clause in employment contracts, and consolidating maintenance facilities from 127 to 12. Looking to the future, Mr Collins said he believed Sydney Trains could operate 30 to 35 trains an hour, compared to the current limit of 20, if signalling were upgraded. He also looks forward to the opening of a $100m operations centre due to open in 2017 or 2018.

Monday: Third tunnel boring machine in the ground for NWRL

A third tunnel boring machine (TBM) has begun digging the third of four holes that will form the twin 15km tunnels between Epping and Bella Vista. The Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian used to occasion to point out how the project was running ahead of schedule, saying that “the NSW Liberals & Nationals came to government promising the first of the four massive North West Rail Link tunnel boring machines would be in the ground before the end of 2014 – now we have three machines underground digging, well ahead of schedule”.

Artist's impression of the proposed Cherrybrook Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artist’s impression of the proposed Cherrybrook Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Tuesday: M5 East duplication plans announced

The planning application has been lodged for the New M5 East tunnels as part of WestConnex Stage 2, which will run almost entirely in tunnels between the King George’s Road interchange at Beverly Hills through to St Peters. The tunnels will initially be 2 lanes in each direction, but built to accommodate 3 lanes in each direction at a future date. The new tunnels will also be taller than the existing M5 East tunnels, at 5.3m in height.

The existing tunnels have been criticised for being built too narrow and too short in order to save money on construction costs, but limiting longer term capacity in the process. The new tunnels are set to open in 2019.

Thursday: Trains begin running on SWRL

Train testing and staff training is now underway on the South West Rail Link (SWRL), with services between Leppington and Liverpool to begin early in 2015, possibly as soon as January. Millenium trains will run on the line every half hour between 5AM and midnight.

No decision has yet been made on where SWRL trains will go. Options include Parramatta, City via Granville, City via Bankstown, or City via East Hills (an outline of some of these options can be seen here). The Government will monitor passenger movements in determining how and when it does this. All of this is complicated by the fact that much of the future demand on the SWRL will come not from existing residents, but from the hundreds of thousands of new residents that may not finish moving to the area for decades to come.

Friday: Passenger train disruptions up 60% due to freight breakdowns

An increased focus on transporting freight via rail has been blamed for the blowout in passenger train disruptions in recent years. The ABC reports that 2,191 passenger services were disrupted last year due to freight train breakdowns. This is up 62.5% on the 1,348 figure from 3 years prior. This is despite the number of freight train breakdowns remaining steady during this period.

The Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins has called on the Federal Government to help ease this problem by funding more freight rail upgrades. The Federal Government has ruled out funding urban commuter rail projects, but has been willing to fund freight rail projects. Mr Collins also pointed the finger at the ageing freight train fleet, which at an average age of 36 years is much higher than the UK’s 13 years or the USA’s 8 years.

Monday: High speed rail costs could be halved

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

Tuesday: 4 routes shortlisted for Parramatta light rail

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

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

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

Tuesday: Fuel excise indexation introduced via regulation

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

Tuesday: Mobile apps to help with accessibility

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

Thursday: Gold Opal card to be released

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

Thursday: 50,000 new homes for Parramatta Road

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

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

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

Friday: Whitlam Station proposed for NWRL

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

Monday: New train station likely for Waterloo or Sydney University

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO: Man races a train to the next stop

Tuesday: Parking minimums for new developments scrapped

New developments near transport hubs in and around the inner city will no longer be required to include parking spaces as part of government reforms to planning laws. Including a parking space can add an additional $50,000 or more to the cost of a unit, with the changes designed to allow inner city residents who do not need or want a parking space from being forced to pay for one. Developers can still choose to include parking spaces, should market demand for them exist. Opposition to the plan prevented it from being extended to outer suburban locations, with critics worried that it would result in cars spilling over into streets and using up the limited amount of available on-street parking in the inner city.

Tuesday: Replacement Epping to Chatswood Line bus routes announced

Five indicative bus routes have been identified which will run while the Epping to Chatswood Line is shut down during 2018 and 2019. The line is being upgraded as part of the North West Rail Link and will not operate for 7 months. During this time, additional bus services will operate to connect the T1 Northern Line and T1 North Shore Lines that are currently linked by rail between Epping to Chatswood.

5 bus routes will replace the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link in 2018 and 2019 during the 7 months that it is being upgraded as part of the North West Rail Link. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

5 bus routes will replace the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link in 2018 and 2019 during the 7 months that it is being upgraded as part of the North West Rail Link. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Thursday: Registration of Interest for Maldon to Dombarton Line opens

Update: Northern Line added (10:52PM, 28/09/2014)

The NSW Government has called on private sector investors to show their interest in building and operating the 35km Maldon to Dombarton Rail Line. The freight line would connect Port Kembla in Wollongong to the Southern Sydney Freight Line, potentially removing freight trains from the T4 Illawarra Line that currently travel via Sutherland to reach Sydney from Port Kembla. This could mean a completely segregated freight and passenger rail network in metropolitan Sydney outside of the Western Line and Northern Line, much of which consists of 2 pairs of tracks and can better handle disruptions to passenger services caused by broken down freight trains, while also allowing more freight to operate during the busy commuter peak hour during which curfews are in place for freight trains on much of the passenger network.

Construction on the Maldon to Dombarton freight line began in 1983 but was never completed due to an economic downturn and the forecast growth in coal traffic not eventuating.

Saturday: Rail line building plan to be scrapped

Plans to build high rise buildings close to the CBD by utilising the airspace above the rail line between Central and Redfern Stations looks set to be abandoned. The plan has proven to be too risky and too expensive. This made it unlikely that the private sector would be willing to bear the risk of the project, leaving the Government the risk burden. The plan, which would also contain a redevelopment of industrial areas on either side of the rail line near Redfern, had been compared to Barangaroo in size and scale.

Monday: 40km speed limits for the city

A large part of Sydney’s CBD will become a 40km per hour speed zone for cars by the end of September. The Roads Minister Duncan Gay said that “the new 40km per hour limit zone will operate in the area bound by Castlereagh Street to the east, Kent Street to the west and Hay Street to the south” and was due to be introduced by the Christmas shopping period at the end of the year. Large parts of the central Sydney area already have 40km per hour speed limits, including Millers Point, Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Redfern, Chippendale, Rosebery, Leichhardt, and Erskineville.

Tuesday: NWRL trains announced but will include 6-7 month shut down for Epping to Chatswood Line

Trains on the North West Rail Link (NWRL) will run every 4 minutes in peak and 10 minutes during off peak initially using a fleet of driverless 6 carriage trains. With platforms designed for 8 carriage trains, these can eventually be upgraded to longer trains. The line will initially have a capacity of about 17,280 passengers per hour, which could be doubled (34,560) if the maximum capacity of 30 trains per hour is reached. This maximum capacity of almost 35,000 passengers per hour is higher than the current 24,000 passengers per hour capacity for double deck trains, but will see fewer seated passengers per hour.

Artists impression of the trains to run on the NWRL at Kellyville Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artists impression of the trains to run on the NWRL at Kellyville Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The line will require a 6-7 month shutdown of the Epping to Chatswood Line in order for it to be converted to operate on the new Sydney Rapid Transit system. This will occur in early 2019 and possibly also late 2018.

Friday: Rail workers lost right to not be retrenched

Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink employees have agreed to an enterprise agreement in which they have given up conditions which protected them from job redundancies in exchange for a higher pay in the agreement. Previously rail employees could not be retrenched if their positions were made redundant, a working condition that had become increasingly rare. The agreement was agreed to by two thirds of employees and according to Transport for NSW the state will save $20m per year.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 200 rail employees are currently employed despite having their positions being made redundant. The organisation responsible for managing these employees, INS, spends a reported $8m in administrative costs each year. Employees will be able to be retrenched after 12 months if no job is found for them during that time.

VIDEO: Sydney’s new train unveiled as part of NWRL, Transport for NSW

Trains on the North West Rail Link (NWRL), the first part of a future Sydney Rapid Transit network, will run every 4 minutes during peak hour as part of the $3.7bn operations contract signed by the government. This is more frequent than the originally promised 5 minute frequencies previously committed to by the government, while off peak frequencies will remain at 10 minutes.

Artists impression of the trains to run on the NWRL at Kellyville Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Artists impression of the trains to run on the NWRL at Kellyville Station. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Trains on the $8.3bn railway will initially have 6 cars, though platforms will be built to handle 8 car trains. Maximum capacity on the line is 30 trains per hour, twice the planned 15 trains an hour required for 4 minute frequencies. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 15 trains per hour will allow for 17,280 passengers per hour, with 5,500 to 6,000 of those seated. Assuming that the maximum of 30 trains per hour is reached, this is two thirds the seated capacity of Sydney’s current double deck trains (which are too large to fit through the tunnels being built for the NWRL) but almost one and a half times the total overall capacity of double deck trains. This will partly be achieved by having less seating, with both longitudinal and transverse seating shown on artists impressions. Unlike most of the Sydney Trains rolling stock, the transverse seating shown is not reversible.

Trains will be driverless, the first in Australia to do so. This removes the need to reserve the front and back of the train for drivers and/or guards, allowing passengers to view straight ahead or behind for the first time. They will also benefit from level boarding with no gaps between platform and train, as well as make use of screen doors at platforms. Space will be available on trains for pram, luggage, and bicycle storage.

Trains will run every 4 minutes during peak hour, every 10 minutes off peak. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Tunneling on the new rail line began last week, 4 months ahead of schedule. The line is expected to open in 2019, initially terminating at Chatswood. An under the Harbour rail crossing would form the second phase of the Sydney Rapid Transit network, connecting it to the CBD, while a third phase would convert the Bankstown Line to single deck metro operation and extend the network further to Bankstown. The second phase is conditional on the money raised from the 49% sale of the state’s “poles and wires” electricity distribution network.

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

Monday: NWRL tunneling begins 4 months ahead of schedule

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

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

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

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

Monday: Sydney Trains cancel cleaning contract midway through

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

Thursday: Opal bus rollout two thirds done

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

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

Friday: Granville parking and bus interchange upgrade complete

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

Saturday: SWRL completed, will open in early 2015

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

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

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

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

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

The purpose of this post is to provide some information on the history of the Opal rollout in Sydney since its introduction and to speculate on its future over the coming 12 months. It does not cover anything before Opal was introduced in December of 2012, but for those who are interested then the post Comparing Opal to Myki and TCard is well worth a read. For the purpose of clarity, some things have been simplified, for example only the rollout within Sydney is covered and when Opal was extended to multiple lines/routes in a short period of time they have been lumped together. Rollout information was gathered from Transport for NSW Media releases.

Opal’s Past

Ferries

Opal was introduced on 7 December 2012 on the Neutral Bay Ferry, with 200 people signing up for the initial trial. By 25 March 2013, 550 Opal cards had been registered. It was later expanded to include the Manly Ferry on 8 April 2013, and finally all ferries by the 30 August 2013.

Trains

However, take-up of Opal cards did not begin to gain traction until the rail network begun to be Opal enabled. The City Circle and T4 Line to Bondi Junction were the first to become Opal enabled on 14 June 2013. This was later expanded to Chatswood on 30 September 2013; then along T1 to the Central Coast via Strathfield, Macquarie Park, and Gordon on 31 January 2014; to Emu Plains a month later on 28 February 2014; and finally the entire Sydney Trains network the subsequent month on 28 March 2014. This was the moment that Opal take-up rates began to take off. In its first full year (2013), about 38,000 Opal cards had been registered. By 28 March 2014, just 3 months later, this had risen to 150,000 and by 23 June 2014 it had more than doubled to 340,000.

Opal card take-up and number of trips made - both total trips and free trips after daily/weekly travel cap reached. Logarithmic scale used. Click to enlarge. (Source: Author, data obtained from Transport for NSW media releases.)

Opal card take-up and number of trips made – both total trips and free trips after daily/weekly travel cap reached. Chart goes through to 23 June and does not include 30 June Hillbus rollout. Logarithmic scale used. Click to enlarge. (Sources: Author, data obtained from Transport for NSW media releases.)

However, this was slower than Transport for NSW had projected, with leaked documents showing that it had expected to reach the 150,000 figure by mid-February, at which point the actual figure was only 80,195.

Buses

The first bus route to be Opal enabled was the 594/594H route on 30 September 2013. This is a long route that goes into the Sydney CBD, but is also quite lightly patronised, making it a good first choice to test out Opal. It was soon joined by the more heavily patronised 333 route on 2 December 2013, then by routes serviced by buses from the Kuring-gai depot (14 April 2014), Waverly depot (28 April 2014), Forest Coach Lines (10 June 2014), and Hillsbus (30 June 2014).

Buses are the first mode of transport to have mobile Opal readers installed. Trains and ferries have Opal readers installed at stations and wharves which have fixed line connections, whereas the readers on buses are on the actual vehicles and transmit travel information via the mobile network. This means information is updated quite promptly compared to other smartcards, such as Melbourne’s Myki where Myki readers on trams and buses do not transmit their information until they reach a wifi spot back at the depot.

Fares

In 2011, Sydney had 443,000 bus users, 366,000 train users, and 27,000 ferry users each day (Source: Bureau of Transport Statistics, Public Transport Users in Sydney, p. 1). Opal has now been rolled out to the entire train and ferry network, and only a small part of the bus network, which suggests a captive market of just under 400,000 daily users. As of June 2014, the take-up of Opal cards reached 300,000. Not all holders of Opal cards would be daily users of the transport network, which suggests that there are over 100,000 users that have not yet taken up an Opal card.

This is likely due to a combination of a lack of awareness, concession holders and seniors whose Opal card have yet to be released, and a fare system that makes some users worse off under Opal compared to traditional magnetic stripe tickets. The issue of awareness is likely to take some time to flow through the system while concession and senior Opal cards is discussed at the end of this post.

The stumbling block in terms of fares for the take up of Opal is that there are 3 users who were worse off under Opal: ferry passengers, periodical ticket holders, and multimodal travellers.

Ferry passengers: When myZone was introduced in 2010, the new myMulti tickets gave unlimited ferry travel. This meant that a myMulti1 was actually cheaper for a regular ferry user than a myFerry Travel Ten. Opal fares were cheaper than the Travel Ten, but still more expensive than the myMulti, leading to a very low usage of Opal by ferry users (as low as 5% at one point). The Government responded by removing all ferries from the $46 myMulti1, and removing longer distance ferries such as the Manly ferry from the $54 myMulti2. The backlash from commuters led to a discount being offered, where ferry users were given a $52 weekly cap, rather than the normal $60 weekly cap, until 29 June 2014.

Periodical ticket holders: Shortly after the 2011 NSW election, the Government announced a 9% discounts for periodical tickets: monthlies, quarterlies, and yearlies. The purpose was to encourage pre-payment and reduce waiting times to obtain tickets. However, this also meant that these tickets tend to provide a bigger discount than Opal can, and switching to Opal can mean paying more. Even factoring in days lost to time off for holidays/being sick, it is still generally cheaper to go with a periodical ticket rather than Opal largely due to the 9% discount. This appears to be the thinking behind the retirement of periodical tickets from 1 September 2014 – it will force public transport users (train users in particular) to make the switch to Opal by making it the de facto cheapest option.

Multimodal travellers: Arguably the biggest drawback of Opal is its lack of integrated fares. While it is an integrated ticket – the only ticket a public transport user needs, it lacks fully integrated fares – the same fare from Point A to Point B regardless of which or how many modes of transport are used. To it’s credit, Opal has provided integrated fares within modes for the first time – someone catching two buses sequentially will be charged only a single fare rather than two. But continuing to charge a separate fare for each trip made on a different mode means many users will pay extra on Opal compared to a myMulti ticket. The future of this issue is covered further towards the end of this post, and has been covered in quite some detail by David Caldwell at his blog (well worth reading for some detailed background information).

Opal’s Future

Buses

Having to install Opal readers on each bus, generally progressing depot by depot, means the rollout for buses is much less predictable from a user perspective than the ferry or train rollout was. One bus is not necessarily assigned permanently to one specific route, and a bus route is often serviced by multiple depots. So unlike with trains and ferries, where users of particular stations and wharves began to be able to use their Opal cards, in the case of buses an Opal card can be used if that particular bus is Opal enabled (as shown by the ‘Opal Bus’ sticker on the bottom right of the bus). As a result, the weekly NSW Government Gazette often indicates that Opal can be used on more routes than have been announced by Transport for NSW. This is because the former includes all routes on which any bus may be Opal enabled, while the latter includes all routes on which all buses are Opal enabled.

Opal enabled buses can be identified by stickers on the front. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW)

Opal enabled buses can be identified by stickers on the front. Click to enlarge. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

The bus rollout is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.

Light Rail

The rollout of Opal to light rail is currently scheduled for 2015, with the rest of the transport network set to be completed by the end of 2014. This coincided with announcements that new trams would be delivered during 2014 to cater for the Inner West Light Rail extension to Dulwich Hill and the increased demand that it created. It suggested that Opal readers would be installed on the trams themselves and, with the original Variotrams almost 20 years old, speculation was that readers would only be installed on the new trams. This appeared to explain why Opal would not be available on trams until 2015.

However, poles for Opal readers have been spotted at multiple tram stops, which suggests that Opal readers will be installed at the tram stops themselves. This may not preclude them from being installed on the vehicles too, one possibility would be that only the busy stops have Opal readers installed. But it does raise the probability of having off-vehicle Opal readers.

Seniors and Concession Opal Cards

Opal cards for Seniors will arrive later in 2014. Already buses have stopped selling Pensioner Excursion tickets, requiring pensioners to pre-purchase their tickets. Supporters of the move argue that pensioners could just buy 2 tickets, keeping a spare for getting the bus in cases where no retailer is available nearby, and then purchase a replacement ticket for the next day while they are out; particularly given the change was announced months ago. Critics argue that the move is premature, given that Opal cards will become available for Seniors in a few months, and that this change should be delayed until they are made available.

No specific timetable has been made for Concession Opal cards, though they are most likely going to be issued by the relevant educational institution like current concession cards are. Whether institutions are just given a stack of Opal cards to hand out, if they issue dual student card/Opal card hybrids, or something else is unknown. It appears that they will not be rolled out until the entire network is Opal enabled at the start of the next academic year. High school students between the ages of 16-18 will be able to use the Child Opal card.

Fares

The retirement of yearly tickets on 1 September 2014 means that the earliest date for retiring all paper tickets is 1 September 2015. This is the stated end goal. Changes to ferry, train off peak, and periodical fares mean that Opal fares are now the cheaper option for those who currently use those ticket types; this will be a big incentive in pushing these people to adopting Opal.

But there still remains one type of fare that often remains cheaper with paper tickets than with Opal: multimodal fares. This will prove to be the government’s biggest challenge. Transport advocates in Sydney have called for integrated multimodal fares for a long time, but governments have done little more than take baby steps in that direction. It’s not the Opal technology that is preventing this, but political will and a decision on who will bear any economic cost (the government or the travelling public).

So far the government has announced that trams and buses will enjoy integrated fares, with users charged a single fare based on the origin and destination of their journey. This is to prevent fares from increasing on the CBD and South East Light Rail which will force bus users to interchange to complete their journey. The North West Rail Link too will require users to transfer from a bus to a train, with buses from North West Sydney to the CBD to be converted into feeder services for the new rail line. It would appear logical that a similar fare integration would also be extended to heavy rail too, which would then mean that the 97% of public transport journeys not using ferries would enjoy fare integration. Given the similar per km fare cost for bus and train trips at the moment, this would also be relatively easy to do.

Tuesday: Budget includes $60bn for infrastructure

The NSW Budget included funding for $60bn of planned infrastructure spending over the next 4 years. The spending includes new heavy rail lines (North West Rail Link, South West Rail Link), light rail lines (CBD and South East Light Rail, a yet undetermined light rail line from Parramatta), roads (WestConnex, NorthConnex, roads around Badgerys Creek in Western Sydney, Northern Beaches roads and Bus Rapid Transit), and new public transport vehicles (trains and buses).

Major transport infrastructure projects included in the 2014-15 NSW Budget. Click to enlarge. (Sources: NSW Treasury, Transport for NSW, Open Street Map.)

Major transport infrastructure projects included in the 2014-15 NSW Budget. Click to enlarge. (Sources: NSW Treasury, Transport for NSW, Open Street Map.)

Wednesday: NWRL Skytrain construction begins

Construction has begun on the 4km Skytrain viaduct for the North West Rail Link (NWRL). Two stations, Kellyville and Rouse Hill, will be on this portion of the NWRL, elevated above the ground. It will also include a rail bridge crossing Windsor Road.

Video: NWRL Building Skytrain, Transport for NSW (17 June 2014)

Friday: New Rail Operations Centre for Sydney Trains

$11.4m will be spent this year to create a new Rail Operations Centre, which will consolidate the operations and communications functions that are currently geographically dispersed across Sydney. The concentration of these operations will allow for improved communications in responding to incidents on the network.

However, concentration of operations has been criticised in the past. Last year a fire at one of Sydney’s signal boxes (there are 19 in total, with most equipment concentrated in 2 depots) caused a virtual shut down of all trains for 30 minutes on the Sydney Trains network (other than the T4 line). The lack of contingency was blamed for the shut down, with no back up plan available to take over once the signal box was evacuated.

Friday: Transport Police make 5,000 arrests in 2 years

The Public Transport Command (PTC), police responsible for safety on public transport, was established in May 2012 and since then have issued 92,000 infringements, laid 9,000 charges, and made 5,000 arrests. Along with Transport Officers (responsible for checking that tickets are valid) the PTC replaced the old transit officers. Police and Transport Officers now patrol all forms of public transport (Transit Officers were only found aboard trains) but have been criticised for being fewer in number than the old Transit Officers.