Posts Tagged ‘Timetable’

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

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

Sydney Metro

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

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

Sydney Metro. (Source: Transport for NSW)

WestConnex

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

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

WestConnex. (Source: Transport for NSW.)

Light Rail

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

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

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

Opal Card

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

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

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

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

Timetables

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

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

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

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

Government vs Opposition Plans

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

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

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

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

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

What this all means

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

2017 timetable (part 2): Off peak

Posted: September 4, 2017 in Transport
Tags: ,

VIDEO: More than 1,500 extra weekly services for train customers, Transport for NSW (28 August 2017)

See also: 2017 timetable (part 1): Morning peak

The number of stations with a train service every 15 minutes is set to rise from 88 to 126 (representing 71% of the networks 178 stations), an increase of 43%, thanks to the addition of 1,500 additional weekly services as part of a timetable revamp set to be introduced in November. This has been achieved by adding additional services in some parts of the network and by re-scheduling services to be evenly spaced where there are already 4TPH (Trains Per Hour) on that part of the network. These 15 minute frequencies will last most of the day, 7 days a week. The government has touted the benefits of this as allowing users to ignore the timetable and instead just turn up and go.

To visualise what this means, compare the Sydney Trains map shown above to the one shown below. The map above is the normal network map, showing all the stations. The map below (the regular map, modified by this blog´s author) only shows the stations that currently receive 15 minute frequencies all day. Lines with turn up and go frequencies can be seen in Inner Sydney as well and Nothern Sydney: the T1 North Shore Line, T1 Northern Line, T1 Epping Line, T2 Inner West Line, T3 Bankstown Line, T4 Eastern Suburbs Line, and T8 Airport Line.

The map shown below also includes the stations that are set to get 15 minute frequencies in November. These new stations are mostly in Sydney´s West: the T1 Western Line, T2 Leppington Line, and T8 South Line. The main lines still missing a regular all day 15 minute frequency are the T1 Richmond Line, T4 Cronulla Line, and the T4 Illawarra Line. The T1 Richmond and T4 Illawarra Line are hampered by being branch lines that service sparsely populated areas, meanwhile the T4 Cronulla Line does have 4 trains per hour, but enter the city on 10/20 minute frequencies due to varied stopping patterns.

Additionally, where branch lines with 15 minute frequencies merge in the inner portions of the network it results in even higher frequencies. Most of these stations thus provide all day frequencies of a train every 10 minutes or less, with a few providing frequency levels of a train every 11 minutes or less (often in one direction rather than both directions). The highest frequencies are seen on the City Circle, where trains travelling through in a clockwise direction pass through stations every 6 minutes or less all day.

There are 3 areas in particular, accounting for 27 stations, where this occurs:

  1. The T4 Cronulla Line and T4 Illawarra Line merge at Sydenham to provide 6TPH, resulting in even 10 minute frequencies between Sydenham and Bondi Junction.
  2. The T8 Airport Line and T8 South Line merge at Wolli Creek to provide 8TPH, resulting in 6/9 minute frequencies between Wolli Creek and Central via the airport stations in both directions. Services through the City Circle, entering via Museum and travelling counter-clockwise, continue this 6/9 minute frequency.
  3. The T2 Leppington Line, T2 Inner West Line, and T3 Bankstown Line merge at Redfern to provide 12TPH, resulting in 3/6 minute frequencies through the City Circle, entering via Town Hall and travelling clockwise, though to Central.
  4. The T2 Leppington Line and T2 Inner West Line merge at Ashfield to provide 8TPH, resulting in either 7/8 minute or 4/11 minute frequencies into the City Circle for Ashfield and Newtown Stations. Frequency levels depend on direction of travel and whether it is a weekday or weekend. However, Newtown´s 15 minute frequencies remain on weekends.
  5. The T1 Western Line and T1 Epping Line merge at Strathfield to provide 8TPH, resulting in 6/9 minute or 4/11 minute frequencies into the City and through to Chatswood for Strathfield Station. Frequency levels depend on direction of travel.

The stations affected can be seen in the map below.

Commentary: Why frequency matters

This blog has argued the merits of high frequency networks before (see: here, here, here). A network of high frequency public transport services, buses as well as trains, with easy interchanges between them, allow for a much greater level of mobility for its users.

The big increase in the 15 minute turn up and go network is to be commended. This will go a long way to improving access to the Sydney CBD. But for users wanting to make a transfer at an interchange, be it catching a bus to their local station or changing trains at an outer suburban station, a 15 minute frequency is just too long.

That´s why identifying where services are more frequent than a train every 15 minute is so important. As it turns out, 27 stations in and near the city currently do; reaching Chatswood, Bondi Junction, Wolli Creek, and Strathfield. Most of these have gaps between train services of no more than 10 minutes, with the best service levels seen on the City Circle for anyone travelling through it on a clockwise direction of a train every 6 minutes or less all day.

But there is still scope for improvement that requires little to no additional spending on operating costs. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Re-schedule trains on T1 between Strathfield and Chatswood to eliminate the 11 minute gaps between some services. This would allow for a train every 9 minutes or less all day without having to add more trains.
  2. Look into making express trains on T2 stop at Newtown during weekends to give that station 8TPH across the full week. Both these changes may be possible without having to add more trains.
  3. Re-route trains on T3 to run through the City Circle via Museum and then terminate at Redfern where they can turn around at the Macdonaldtown turnback and return to Bankstown through the City Circle. This would increase frequencies through the City Circle up to 12TPH in both directions, providing a train every 6 minutes or less all day with only a small increase in cost.
  4. Re-schedule trains through the City Circle to have even spacings. Where there are 12TPH, this would mean a train every 5 minutes rather than 3/6/6 minute gaps in the frequency as is currently the case. It would result in 5/10 minute frequencies in other parts of the network, rather than 6/9 minute frequencies, such as the Airport Line.

In the longer term, the two new Sydney Metro Lines should result in a large increase to the all day high frequency network out to Rouse Hill, Parramatta, and Bankstown. Sydney Metro Northwest is currently slated to run at 10 minute frequencies all day. When it gets extended through to Bankstown increasing its frequencies up to a train every 5 minutes all day would be a big improvement that would achieve the earlier stated goal of providing a true turn up and go network that makes interchanges easy and seamless.

Two thirds of stations on the Sydney Trains network will enjoy a train to the city every 15 minutes during most hours of the day on both weekdays and weekends under a revamp of the train timetable set to be implemented in late November. The plans will also see a boost to peak hour services, with the number of trains entering Sydney´s CBD stations increasing to 114 during the busiest hour of the morning; a 3.6% increase on the existing 110 trains per hour, while Liverpool will see the addition of fast express trains into the city during the morning peak.

The new timetable is accompanied by a new network map (shown above), which was reviewed by the Transit Maps website.

All up, an additional 1,500 services are being added per week. Half of these during the weekend. For comparison, the 2013 timetable changes saw an increase of 700 services per week, with no change to the weekend timetable. The increase in service levels will be supported by a $1.5bn capital investment, the largest part of which will be the purchase of an additional 24 Waratah trains. This will increase the existing fleet of Waratahs trains from 78 to 102.

This post will look at how the changes affect the morning peak hour. A future post will focus at the off-peak.

The Good

The number of trains into the city from Parramatta is set to increase from 20TPH (Trains Per Hour) to 24TPH. If the 4TPH on the Blue Mountains Line which stop at Parramatta but terminate at Central´s Sydney Terminal are included, Parramatta will soon see 28TPH into Central Station during the busiest hour of the morning peak.

It achieves this by extending the T2 Inner West Line to Parramatta, with 4TPH on that line now starting at Parramatta rather than Homebush. This was one of the few ways to increase capacity into the city from Parramatta, as the Western Line is currently at maximum capacity of 20TPH.

The new timetable then resolves the issue of overcrowding on the T2 Line from additional passengers boarding at Parramatta by adding an adding additional capacity on the T2 Leppington Line and T3 Bankstown Line. It is able to do this as these both run into the City Circle, which is the only line with significant spare capacity. The City Circle currently uses 34 out of the 40 paths (that being 20TPH in each direction) available during the busiest hour of the morning peak. The new timetable adds an additional 4TPH into the city, meaning that 38 paths out of a potential 40 will now be used. As a result, the T3 Bankstown Line will see an increase from 8TPH to 10TPH, and the T2 Leppington And Inner West Line will see an increase from 12TPH to 14TPH. This should, in theory, offset the loss of 4TPH to Parramatta.

The Bad

The increase in services through the City Circle now mean that Sydney’s city stations are one step away from being full during peak hour, with 114 of the available 120 paths on the 3 CBD lines being used up. This is 95% of maximum capacity.

With demand on the rail network currently growing at a rate of 10% per year, there is a risk that the network will reach capacity well before additional rail capacity comes online in 7 years when the Sydney Metro is extended through under the CBD in 2024.

The only other viable stop gap would appear to be an increase in services into Sydney Terminal. Internal government plans prepared in 2014 show this could increase capacity into Central Station by 16% during the busy morning peak, but it would cut many direct services between the city and Sydney´s outer suburbs. The current timetable goes part of the way in doing this by rerouting some T1 Richmond Line services through to the T5 Cumberland Line, but for now Richmond retains direct services into the city.

The Ugly

The T2 and T3 lines will now have some very unusual stopping patterns during the morning peak. Some stations on theT3 Bankstown Line will now have a 19 minute gap between services during the morning peak. This seems designed to cater for the new Liverpool express services.

It is unusual because this undoes part of what the 2013 timetable changes aimed to do: simplify the timetable to create regular clockface timetable. Strangely, those same stations still enjoy regular 15-minute clock face frequencies during the off peak hours of the day.

To complicate things even further, there is a possibility that these unusual stopping patterns will not survive past 2024, when the Sydney Metro City and Southwest absorbs the Bankstown Line.

The Sydney Trains network contains 178 stations. 25 of these stations have all day 10 minute frequencies. This is mostly in the CBD, Eastern Suburbs, Airport Line, and Lower North Shore Line.

The Sydney Trains network map showing all stations and also just the stations with a train every 10 minutes all day. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

The Sydney Trains network map showing all stations and also just the stations with a train every 10 minutes all day. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

Prior to 2013 this high frequency network was even smaller, consisting only of the 9 stations on the T4 Line between Wolli Creek and Bondi Junction. This remains the case on weekends, with the 2013 timetable improvements only applying to weekdays and not weekends.

In addition, the T1 Line between Strathfield and Chatswood does have some 11 minute gaps which have been counted as 10 minute frequencies even though the technically do not meet the strict 10 minute criteria. But stations like Hurstville in the South and Parramatta in the West, serviced by 7 and 9 trains per hour respectively, do have 10 minute frequencies if measured at Central Station; however different stopping patterns prevent them from having evenly spread out 10 minute frequencies outside of the CBD.

This distinction is important; as a rule of thumb passengers generally value waiting time twice as much as their travel time. The result of this is that a passenger would rather spend 25 minutes travelling on a train than 10 minutes waiting for a train followed by 10 minutes on the train. The 10 minute waiting time is worth the same as 20 minutes of actual travel time, therefore the second option feels like a 30 minute journey and so passengers would often opt for the first option of 25 minutes. This is even though the first option involves a longer total journey time.

Hypothetical high frequency network achievable by changing stopping patterns rather than adding extra services. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

Hypothetical high frequency network achievable by changing stopping patterns rather than adding extra services. Click to enlarge. (Source: Sydney Trains.)

This high frequency network could hypothetically be expanded by changing the stopping patterns of some trains. This eliminates the need to provide additional services, though may sometimes necessitate additional train revenue service hours. This is not an exhaustive list. For example it leaves out stations like Newtown which could achieve 10 minute frequencies by having all T2 Line trains stop there, rather than just the current 15 minute frequencies resulting from half the T2 Line trains that do stop there.

  1. T1 trains that stop at Strathfield to also stop at Burwood. There are technically trains every 10 minutes at Burwood, but the T2 trains are so slow that they arrive in the CBD after the T1 trains. So what is needed here is for some more of the 13 T1 Line trains that stop at Strathfield every hour to also stop at Burwood.
  2. T4 trains that stop at Sydenham/Wolli Creek to also stop at Tempe. The trains that skip Tempe are not timetabled to run any faster than those that stop there, so this could be done without slowing down the timetable.
  3. T1 and T5 trains between Blacktown and Harris Park to add stops at intermediate stations spaced evenly apart. While the T1 Line has 7 trains per hour passing through this section of the network, there are also 2 trains per hour on the T5 Line, resulting in 9 trains per hour in total. This would not provide 10 minute frequencies into the CBD, but would provide 10 minute frequencies for those getting a train to/from Parramatta or Blacktown.

The Sydney Trains network actually looks a lot better when all day 15 minute frequencies are the benchmark. 113 stations out of 178 (63%) have 15 minute frequencies. This is high enough for turn up and go journeys when only 1 train is required. However, if a transfer is required; such as to another train or between bus and train; then 10 minute frequencies are a much better benchmark for turn up and go services.

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, the 10 minute frequency network is set to expand dramatically in 2019 and then 2024 when the 2 stages of the Sydney Metro project are scheduled to begin operation. This new line will also run at 10 minute all day frequencies, and extend these frequencies further out into the outer suburbs of Sydney than is currently the case.

Hits

Happy New Year. 2013 has been an eventful one. This blog received almost 138 thousand hits during a year in which:

In the coming year, we can look forward to the opening of the Inner West Light Rail extension to Dulwich Hill and the completion of the Opal rollout (currently scheduled for the end of 2014). Meanwhile, expect the major parties to begin to announce their transport plans ahead of the next state election in early 2015, with things like a Second Harbour rail crossing, a Western Sydney light rail network, Bus Rapid Transit for the Northern Beaches, and potentially plans to privatise the state owned electricity transmission network as a means to pay for all the much needed infrastructure all likely to feature prominently.

But until then, here are some of the major events and stories from the past year, as posted, shared and commented about on this blog —

Posts with the most hits

  1. Draft 2013 timetable (part 1): Introduction 20 May 2013 (7,959 hits)
  2. 2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network 22 February 2013 (4,844 hits)
  3. What the 2013 timetable might look like 13 May 2013 (3,908 hits)
  4. Draft 2013 timetable (part 2): AM Peak 22 May 2013 (1,430 hits)
  5. WestConnex plan finalised 19 September 2013 (1,296)

The new timetable drove a lot of traffic to this blog over the previous year, particularly when a draft of the timetable was leaked in May.

Posts with the most comments

  1. 17km Macquarie Park light rail proposed by Parramatta Council 30 August 2013 (50 comments)
  2. How might the NWRL work? 16 October 2013 (49 comments)
  3. Should the North West Rail Link be a metro? 8 February 2013 (47 comments)
  4. How might the CBD and SE Light Rail work? 9 October 2013 (46 comments)
  5. North West Rail Link – policy or politics? 11 June 2013 (43 comments)

The clear thing in common here is the North West Rail Link (NWRL), which tends to generate a lot of discussion back and forth in the comments section. The post on the Macquarie Park light rail was the most commented on post and not actually about the NWRL, but the comments soon shifted towards discussing the NWRL.

Posts with the most activity on social media

  1. All Day Challenge (October 2013), 1 October 2013 (89 shares on Facebook and 3 tweets on Twitter)
  2. Draft 2013 timetable (part 2): AM Peak 22 May 2013 (43 shares on Facebook and 8 tweets on Twitter)
  3. The worst sort of NIMBY 25 September 2013 (27 shares on Facebook and 6 tweets on Twitter)
  4. Opal running 4 months ahead of schedule 28 August 2013 (31 shares on Facebook 2 tweets on Twitter)
  5. Western Sydney makes its case for an airport of its own 15 February 2013 (11 shares on Facebook and 9 tweets on Twitter)

This probably understates the level of sharing over Twitter as tweets are only counted once, regardless of how many times that one tweet may be re-tweeted, whereas Facebook shares are each counted uniquely. That said, the most shared posts have tended to be driven by shares on Facebook rather than tweets on Twitter.

Most searched terms

  1. westconnex (635 searches)
  2. cityrail map (323 searches)
  3. westconnex map (257 searches)
  4. transport sydney (170 searches)
  5. sydney train map (170 searches)

WestConnex was by far the biggest generator of hits from web searches, with the home page being the destination rather than the post itself (preventing those posts about WestConnex from ranking higher) and reflects the fact that the car remains the primary mode of transport for Sydney residents. This is in contrast to activity in the comments section and social media, both of which are more likely to be transport enthusiasts, neither of which had WestConnex in their respective top 5 for the year.

This does perhaps provide a reminder to some advocates of public transport (the writer of this blog included) that there remains some disconnect between them and the regular person on the street when it comes to enthusiasm for public transport and dislike of cars or roads.

The opening of the South West Rail Link (SWRL) connecting Leppington to Glenfield will result in the biggest change to the Sydney Trains timetable since the just implemented 2013 timetable came into effect in October (all figures below are based on this newly introduced timetable). The major question over how it will be integrated into the network revolves around the need for rolling stock.

The government has recently passed up the opportunity to increase its fleet of Waratah trains by an additional 8 to 12 above the currently planned 78 trains. These additional trains would allow the network to operate entirely with air conditioned trains, and without them it will instead have to operate some of the older S-Set trains (which are currently being phased out for lacking air conditioning). The government is retaining about 24 of the S-Set trains for this.

The non-air conditioned trains may not necessarily operate on the SWRL, and which ever line they do end up on will probably only use them during peak hour when the need for trains is at its highest.

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

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

The amount of rolling stock requires will depend on which line the SWRL will be connected to. One option involves running the SWRL via the East Hills and Airport Line. In the morning peak there are currently 2 East Hills Line trains per hour starting from East Hills, running limited stops to the CBD via the Airport, which could be doubled to 4 and then extended to Glenfield to link up to the SWRL. This has the advantage of being fast (42 minutes from Glenfield to Central), being relatively uncrowded (the East Hills and Airport Line could have approximately 109 passengers per 100 seats after the October 2013 timetable is implemented), and having spare capacity for adding 2 more trains per hour – which would reduce this overcrowding. However, this would require additional rolling stock, both through the doubling of existing peak hour services from East Hills from 2 to 4 trains per hour and their extension to Glenfield (where the SWRL begins).

The alternative is for the SWRL to operate as an extension of the South Line. During the morning peak hour there are currently 4 South Line trains per hour starting from Glenfield, running limited stops to the CBD via Granville. This has the advantage of not needing to add additional services or extend them, as 4 trains per hour already start at Glenfield. However, this route would result in a much longer journey (61 minutes from Glenfield to Central), is relatively crowded (the South Line could have approximately 114 passengers per 100 seats after the October 2013 timetable is implemented), and has no spare capacity for running additional trains without altering the way in which South Line and Inner West Line trains operate. This is because South Line trains run express from Strathfield while Inner West Line trains run all stops, but the lack of overtaking tracks reduces the maximum hourly capacity from 20 trains per hour down to 12.

Once the Bankstown Line is linked up to a Second Harbour Crossing and its trains removed from the City Circle, an additional 4 trains per hour can be added to the East Hills Line during the AM peak. However, the South Line will retain the same constraints previously mentioned. Additionally, should an airport ever be built at Badgerys Creek then an extension of the SWRL and East Hills Line could connect the new airport to Kingsford-Smith Airport with a continuous rail line.

Despite this, in both cases it would be possible to run all SWRL trains via the South Line and still maintain a quick and easy cross platform transfer at Glenfield. By sending all South and Cumberland Line trains through the SWRL, it would also allow independent operation of the lines to Leppington and Macarthur from Glenfield. This would prevent delays on one section of the line from immediately flowing on to the other section. This “sectorisation”, as it is known, would be even more pronounced once single deck metro trains run on the Bankstown Line and it is truncated to Cabramatta.

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

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

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

  1. The South Line currently operates at half hour frequencies, and these 2 trains an hour can be re-routed to the SWRL. This removes two services per hour from Campbelltown, albeit trains so slow that passengers can reach the CBD faster by waiting for the next East Hills train and catching that instead.
  2. Two trains an hour on the East Hills Line (one each starting from/terminating at Kingsgrove and Campbelltown) could each be re-routed to the SWRL. This removes one service per hour from Campbelltown, bringing it back down to half hourly services all day. Though some clever timetabling of the Cumberland Line could allow passengers South of Glenfield a quick transfer at Glenfield for a fast SWRL train into the CBD, reducing the 30 minute wait between trains.
  3. The Cumberland Line is re-routed to the SWRL. This removed a direct link to Parramatta for anyone South of Glenfield and a direct link to the CBD for anyone on the SWRL. This makes it an unlikely choice, if passengers are required to make transfers then it should be for those with non-CBD destinations.

The SWRL was recently announced to be running 12 months ahead of schedule and $100m under budget. However, the revised mid-2015 completion date is still 3 years behind the initial 2012 completion date, with the revised $2.0bn budget well above the $688m it was originally expected to cost (Source: Daily Telegraph).

All Day Challenge (October 2013)

Posted: October 1, 2013 in Personal
Tags: ,
Sydney Trains network map. Click to enlarge. (Source: Kypros 1992)

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

This Thursday, the writer of Transport Sydney will be joining a few other brave souls in attempting the All Day Challenge (previously known as the Cityrail Challenge) and try to travel to all 176 train stations in the Sydney Trains network in a single day. This is one of the final opportunities to do so under the current timetable before the new timetable comes into effect on 20 October. Under the new timetable, Inner West Line trains will no longer operate past Homebush, but the Cumberland Line will operate all day rather than just during peak hour.

Facebook group has been setup and rules posted. In brief, the rules are:

  • Participants must begin and end at Central Station.
  • All 176 stations in the Sydney Trains network must be passed at least once on a train that stops at that station
  • Travel must be by train only. Leaving a station is allowed for breaks, but travel must recommence from that station
  • Points are awarded for being first to stop at a station, travelling on different train sets, being first back to Central, etc

Anyone wanting to keep track on the day can either follow the action on the Facebook page or on Twitter with the hash tag #AllDayChallenge.

2013 timetable finalised

Posted: September 17, 2013 in Transport
Tags: ,

The government announced today the final version of the October 2013 timetable. Much has been written on this topic in this blog so far this year, so links to that have been included below rather than just repeating it all over again.

Draft 2013 timetable (part 1): Introduction

Draft 2013 timetable (part 2): AM Peak

Draft 2013 timetable (part 3): Off Peak

Draft 2013 timetable (part 4): PM Peak

What the 2013 timetable might look like

2013 timetable re-write (part 1): The context

2013 timetable re-write (part 2): The problems

2013 timetable re-write (part 3): Untangling the network

When the October 2013 timetable comes online, a significant portion of the inner Sydney rail network will have 10 minute frequencies all day during the week. Click to enlarge. (Source: Cityrail, modified by author)

When the October 2013 timetable comes online, a significant portion of the inner Sydney rail network will have 10 minute frequencies all day during the week. Click to enlarge. (Source: Cityrail, modified by author)

One of the less publicised improvements is the extension of the 10 minute frequency network. Currently, trains on the Eastern Suburbs Line between Bondi Junction and Sydenham run every 10 minutes between 5AM and 9PM on weekdays. This will now be extended through to midnight. Meanwhile, trains on the North Shore Line between Central and Chatswood will run every 9 minutes (Southbound trains) and 11 minutes (Northbound trains) between 5AM and 9PM, while trains on the Airport Line between the City Circle and Wolli Creek will also run every 9 minutes between 6AM and 10PM.

The evening peak is very similar to the morning peak. Frequencies are slightly lower, as patronage is more spread out in the evening than it is in the morning. However, this also means there is more scope to increase frequencies in the evening, whereas in the morning there are some lines which are already at the maximum 20 trains per hour limit.

As with the morning peak, the main winners are stations further out (particularly those further out from Hurstville, Gordon, and Revesby), while services are now more harmonised, simpler and more evenly spread out. More services follow clockface stopping patterns, with a particular stopping pattern generally occurring once every 15 minutes. Extra services have also been added, increasing the number of trains passing through Central in the busiest hour of the evening peak from 96 to 109. This is a much larger increase than in the morning, where the equivalent figures are 109 to 117 (or 118 if you count the two 4 carriage trains as two trains, rather than the equivalent of a single 8 carriage train). This should significantly reduce overcrowding issues.

Some stations lose out from fewer services (though generally those remaining services will have extra available seats), and a very minor few will see longer journeys, but these are kept to a minimum. Standouts here are Kograh, Rockdale, Beverly Hills, and Kingsgrove.

Overcrowding

A net 13 additional services have been added during the busiest hour of the evening peak. This includes an extra 15 services: 5 on the Eastern Suburbs Line, 2 on the Illawarra Line, 1 on the Airport & East Hills Line, 2 on the Bankstown Line, 2 on the South Line, 2 on the North Shore Line, and 1 on the Western Line, while 2 services have been removed: 1 from the South Coast Line and 1 on the Inner West Line. As a result, 3 of the 4 busiest lines will see their average load drop under 100%. This means that, assuming passengers loads are evenly spread between and within trains, every passenger will be able to sit down in these cases where loadings are under 100%.

The one line that remains over 100% is the Western Line, which has no spare capacity to increase services any more than is currently the case. Additional demand here must be satisfied from passengers going to other lines or taking the train at times other than peak hour.

2013-06-05 PM Overcrowding Oct 2013

More harmonised stopping patterns on many lines should also result in a more even spread of crowds between trains, which should reduce the spiking of loads on some trains.

This is important, as overcrowding is one cause of delays and disruptions that have so negatively affected Cityrail in recent months. So this will be an interesting measure to look at once the new timetable is introduced in October.

How to read the tables below

  • The PM peak is (roughly) all trains that depart from Central Station between 5:00PM and 6:00PM each weekday evening. This has sometimes been shifted forward or back if the busiest period for that particular line is slightly different.
  • The 2 exceptions to the above are Macquarie Park bound services from the CBD and Parramatta bound services between Blacktown and Harris Park. In these cases, it’s trains departing from Macquarie Park and Parramatta Stations between 5:00PM and 6:00PM.
  • Frequency refers to the number of trains that stop at that station during that hour. It indicates the total capacity of the line, in terms of seats and standing room.
  • Headways refers to the time between trains at Central Station (and not the time between them when they arrive at their destination station). The important figure is the maximum headways, as it shows how long the wait is to the next train can be if you just missed the train.
  • Journey time indicates whether journeys are longer, shorter, or the same, and by how long. This can sometimes be subjective, so use it as a rough guide.
  • Green means better (e.g. shorter journey times, higher frequency, shorter max headways), yellow means unchanged, red means worse.

Airport & East Hills Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 East Hills PM

An extra express service is added during the evening peak hour, raising the total number from 11 to 12. This allows for 3 different stopping patterns, each with 4 trains per hour at 15 minute intervals, down from a far more complex 7 stopping patterns that currently exist. More trains run express, skipping stations East of Revesby, resulting in significantly shorter journeys for outer suburban stations but fewer services for stations such as Kingsgrove and Beverly Hills, which lose their express services.

Bankstown Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 Bankstown PM

An extra 2 services are being added during the evening peak hour, raising the total number from 6 to 8. Many outer suburban stations will see significantly shorter travel times, particularly to Cabramatta, Warwick Farm, and Liverpool. In particular, Bankstown Line trains will arrive at Liverpool only 5 minutes after the trains on the South Line do. This may encourage some passengers going to Liverpool to travel via Bankstown instead of via Lidcombe (particularly those on the Eastern part of the CBD who travel from Museum or St James stations), thus taking some pressure off the congested trains on the Inner West and South Lines. This is more evident during the PM peak, when South and Bankstown Line trains depart from different stations, whereas in the AM peak they would all depart from Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the truncation of Inner West Line services to Homebush means all trains to stations on the extremities of the Bankstown Line will now be serviced exclusively by the Bankstown Line. The loss of Inner West Line services will require passengers seeking a direct service onto the lower frequencies and longer journey times for Bankstown Line services to Wiley Park, Yagoona, Berala, or Regents Park. For those willing to make a transfer at Lidcombe, the higher frequencies and faster journeys on other lines could actually translate into a shorter overall journey.

Stopping patterns have been simplified, falling from 4 types of stopping patterns down to 2.

Inner West Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 Inner West PM

One fast service (stopping at Newtown, Petersham, Summer Hill, Ashfield, Croydon, Homebush) has been removed. This alone accounts for the majority of longer journey lengths in the table above.

Despite the loss of some services, maximum headways have not increased, and have actually dropped in some cases, eliminating the sometimes 18 minute long waits for the next service. This is due to the harmonisation of stopping patterns, with 1 stopping pattern for the 4 Inner West Line trains per hour, running at 15 minute frequencies, and 2 stopping patterns for the 8 South Line trains per hour, also running at 15 minute frequencies each.

The main winner here is Newtown, which will now have 8 services in the evening peak hour, up from 5, also reducing maximum headways down to 9 minutes.

South Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 South PM

Many stations on the South Line will have the number of services to them cut, but more harmonised stopping patterns have cut the maximum headways, which is a net benefit for most stations. Where maximum headways are up, it is generally by only 1 minute, whereas the majority will see them fall by 2 to 3 minutes. The big winners are the outer suburban stations South of Granville, which have a significant drop in travel times, as well as Flemington, where the maximum headways from from 22 minutes to 15 minutes. The main loser is Auburn, which loses its fast services from Central.

North Shore Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 North Shore PM

Two additional services has been added, increasing the total number from 13 to 15 in the busiest hour of the evening peak. Stopping patterns are now predominantly skip stop rather than express and all stops, making direct travel from one suburban station to another not possible. This has reduced the number of stopping patterns from 5 to 4, allowed a more even and harmonised spread of services, and reduced travel times to outer suburban stations North of Gordon. Maximum headways are down for most stations, even for those with no additional services.

The main losers are Pymble, Asquith, and Berowra, which see their maximum headways increase. Although it is only 3 minutes in the case of the first, and up to 4 of the 5 minutes in the latter 2 are made up for in shorter journey lengths.

Northern Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 Northern PM

This section of the network is mostly unchanged. Better timing of slots used by trains appears to have allowed services headed North of Epping via Chatswood to do so more quickly, presumably because the current timetable requires them to wait for a fast train from Strathfield to first pass before it can proceed. The other main change is the addition of additional CBD bound services from Epping via Macquarie Park. These run every 15 minutes between 3:30PM and 5:45PM, which increases the frequency between 5PM and 6PM, up from the current 4 services to 7. Maximum headways during this period drop to 9 minutes, but as the extra services end before the evening peak hour is over, the maximum headway remains 15 minutes.

Western Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 Western PM

Note: Cityrail claims that there are 19 trains per hour to Parramatta during the busiest hour in the evening peak, but I’ve only been able to find 18. The figures in the table above assume 18 trains, whereas the table at the beginning of this post assume 19 trains.

The Western Line has a number of long distance services where a fast train will leave Central after a slow train, then overtake the slow train and arrive at its destination earlier. These slow trains have been excluded in the above figures. In the case of Penrith, 4 services have been added due to them being slower services that still arrive at their destination before a faster service due to better timetabling.

The main improvement on the Western Line comes from more harmonised stopping patterns, leading to lower maximum headways. Some outer suburban stations, Schofields, Quakers Hill, Marayong, and Penrith in particular, have a significant decrease in journey times.

Some stations will see a slight deterioration in service, but only very minor.

Western Line/Cumberland Line (from Parramatta)

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 Cumberland PM

The addition of all day half hourly Cumberland Line services had the potential to improve access between Parramatta and nearby stations (rather than direct services from the CBD). However, as with the AM Peak, this does not appear to have occurred. Some stations will see a slight improvement, but some will see a slight deterioration.

Illawarra Line

2013-06-04 Draft SWTT 2013 Illawarra PM

As with the AM Peak, the main winners here are stations South of Hurstville, which will see journey times cut significantly. Most stations will see big decreased in maximum headways, in many cases down from 17 minutes to 10 minutes. The more simplified stopping patterns should also decrease the number of disruptions and delays.

Meanwhile, services to Rockdale and Kograh have been cut, and journey times increased by a few minutes. Those services that these 2 stations do keep will terminate at Hurstville, which should mean passengers heading to these stations will have more seats.

As before, this is all based on the current draft of the timetable, and may change.

The new timetable adds some additional services outside of peak hour. An extra 2 trains per hour (TPH) have been added to the Northern, Western, Airport, and Cumberland Lines. Meanwhile, stopping patterns have been simplified, resulting in a more even spread of trains. For example, though Croydon retains 4 trains per hour, the gap between trains (known as headways) drops from a maximum of 20 minutes to 15 minutes, while for city-bound trains from Liverpool maximum headways will fall from 27 to 19 minutes.

Most importantly, spacings have been managed well enough so that passengers taking a train within the CBD will now never have to wait longer than 11 minutes for their next train, down from the current 15 minute maximum. This maximum wait figure is as low as 6 minutes for anyone taking the City Circle via Town Hall.

High frequency services will also last longer into the night on both the Bankstown and Eastern Suburbs Lines.

Cityrail stations with a train every 15 minutes or so into Central Station during the middle of the day. Blue stations (82) currently do, green stations (31) will from October, orange stations (63) will not. (Source: Cityrail)

Cityrail stations with a train every 15 minutes or so into Central Station during the middle of the day. Blue stations (82) currently do, green stations (31) will from October, orange stations (63) will not. (Source: Cityrail)

Currently, of the 176 stations on the Cityrail suburban network, only 47%  of them (82 stations) have 15 minute frequencies between the peaks. However, with the previously mentioned improvements, that figures rises to 64% of the network (113 stations). This improvement is biggest on the Western and Northern Lines, though improvements may also occur on the Airport, Bankstown, and Eastern Suburbs Lines.

Note: Headways of 17 minutes have been counted as being the same as 15 minutes, while those of 19 minutes have not.

How to read the tables below

The off peak is (roughly) all trains that arrive at Central Station between 12:00PM and 1:00PM each weekday afternoon.

The exception to the above is Parramatta bound services between Blacktown and Harris Park. In these cases, it’s trains arriving at Parramatta Station between 12:00PM and 1:00PM.

Frequency refers to the number of trains that stop at that station during that hour. It indicates the total capacity of the line, in terms of seats and standing room.

Headways refers to the time between trains at that station (and not the time between them when they arrive at Central). The important figure is the maximum headways, as it shows how long the wait is to the next train can be if you just missed the train. Different stopping patterns can mean headways differ at origin and destination, and commentary has been provided for some of these instances.

Journey time indicates whether journeys are longer, shorter, or the same, and by how long. This can sometimes be subjective, so use it as a rough guide.

Green means better (e.g. shorter journey times, higher frequency, shorter max headways), yellow means unchanged, red means worse.

Sydney CBD

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 CBD OP

Stations within the CBD (as well as out to Bondi Junction and Chatswood), on which passengers sometimes have to wait 12 or 15 minutes for the next train if they just miss one, will now have maximum headways of 11 minutes, and as low as 6 minutes on one line through the city. This will help to allow people to use the rail network for trips within the CBD and parts of the inner city without having to refer to a timetable. Thus allowing more spontaneous trips. This is not as feasible when missing a train can add an extra 15 minutes to your journey.

The changes to the City Circle are a bit technical, so feel free to skip the next 2 paragraphs.

Currently there are 10 trains per hour that enter the City Circle via Town Hall – 2 from the South Line, 4 from the Inner West Line, and 4 from the Macdonaldtown stabling yard. Meanwhile, another 10 trains per hour enter the City Circle via Town Hall – 6 from the Airport Line and 4 from the Bankstown Line. These 10 trains feed back into each other (so a South Line train might come out the other end as an Airport Line train, while a Bankstown Line train might come out the other end into the Macdonaldtown stabling).

Under the proposed changes, 2 extra Airport Line services are being added, but Bankstown Line trains now enter the City Circle via Town Hall and feedback into the Bankstown Line from Museum (i.e. it becomes a self contained loop). That reduces the number of trains entering via Museum from 10 to 8. Meanwhile, the number of Macdonaldtown stabling yard trains is reduced from 4 to 2, which when combined with the increase of 4 trains from the Bankstown Line results in 12 trains per hour entering the City Circle via Town Hall – 2 from the South Line, 2 from the Macdonaldtown Stabling, 4 from the Inner West Line, and 4 from the Bankstown Line.

Trains through the City Circle are then spaced out more evenly, so that the maximum headways on it drops to 6 minutes for anyone travelling clockwise around it, and 9 minutes for anyone travelling anti-clockwise around it. Both are an improvement on the current maximum of 12 minutes.

For the 2 lines that use the Harbour Bridge, an increase in the number of services from 6 to 8 per hour means that the maximum wait between trains drops from the current 15 minutes, to 9 minutes heading South from Chatswood and 11 minutes heading North from Redfern. All of these services now stop at Waverton and Wollstonecraft, meaning these 2 stations see their frequencies double from 4 to 8 trains per hour and maximum headways drop from 15 minutes to 9 or 11 minutes (depending on direction).

Headways for the Eastern Suburbs Line remain unchanged at 10 minutes. However, this 6 trains per hour frequency currently ends at around 9:00PM, after which it reverts to a 4 trains per hour frequency with 15 minute headways. The 10 minute headways will instead continue right up to 11:00PM.

Airport & East Hills Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 East Hills OP

An additional 2 hourly services are added to the Airport Line, one reaches Kingsgrove and the other reaches Campbelltown. Though Kingsgrove gains one new services, it loses 2 existing services, which now skip Kingsgrove in order to reduce travel times for those in outer suburban stations. This makes Kingsgrove the only loser on this line.

Stations between Campbelltown and Holsworthy, other than Macquarie Fields, see a big decrease in travel times and gain an additional hourly service. Maximum headways remain half hourly. The other main winners are stations on the Airport Line, who see maximum headways drop from 15 minutes to 9 minutes thanks to the increase from 6 to 8 trains per hour.

Bankstown Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Bankstown OP

The main change here is an extension of 15 minute frequencies from Central to Bankstown, which currently revert to half hourly frequencies after 8:30PM. The 15 minute frequencies will instead continue until 9:30PM.

Inner West Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Inner West OP

Services on the Inner West Line follow a more regular clockface timetable, meaning a more regular 15 minute gap between services, rather than gaps as long as 20 minutes at Croydon despite it having 4 trains per hour. Homebush sees a doubling in its frequency.

South Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 South OP

Liverpool, Warwick Farm, and Cabramatta are probably the only winners on the South Line, which thanks to more even service spacing and fewer stops made by its trains will see shorter maximum headways and quicker journeys into the CBD.

Most stations are unchanged, and retain their half hourly services during the middle of the day.

The main losers are Granville and Flemington, which both see reduced frequencies and longer maximum headways, while Granville also loses its fast trains to the city. Meanwhile, Auburn and Lidcombe have their maximum headways increased, but only by 1 minute.

Not included in the table above are the new Cumberland Line services. These increase train frequencies to 4 per hour between Campbelltown and Merrylands for anyone going to Liverpool or to Campbelltown. But with maximum headways of 25 minutes, it is not much of an improvement of the current 30 minute headways, and is a lost opportunity for a frequent non-CBD rail service. Compare this to the Cumberland Lines’ impact between Blacktown and Harris Park, where it has reduced maximum headways for Parramatta bound trains from 30 to 17 minutes.

North Shore Line

No major changes. It retains its even 15 minute headways.

Western Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Western OP

The big winners here are stations from Doonside to Penrith, thanks to an additional 2 trains per hour. This provides stations between Doonside and Penrith with 4 trains per hour, which translates to maximum headways of 17 minutes, while also greatly reducing travel times from these stations into Central. Seven Hills, Blacktown, and Parramatta also see a significant drop in travel times. It is now possible to get a train any time of the day at either Parramatta or Central every 15 minutes and be at the other station in 27 minutes.

However, differing stopping patterns for trains to and from Penrith mean that they both arrive and depart from Central with 3 and 27 minute headways. So for off peak return journeys from the CBD, there remains an almost half hour wait for the next train between most services.

Western Line/Cumberland Line (to Parramatta)

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Cumberland OP

The return of the Cumberland Line has boosted frequencies on stations near Parramatta from 2 to 4 trains per hour. In the case of Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, Wentworthville, and Harris Park, this means maximum headways of 17 minutes. Its extension onto the Richmond Line as far as Schofields has reduced headways there down to 21 minutes. In both cases, it also allows passengers to board a Cumberland Line train and then disembark and walk across the platform at somewhere like Seven Hills or Westmead for a fast train into the CBD, which remains a faster alternative than waiting for the next direct train.

Northern Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Northern OP

The addition of 2 extra trains per hour through to the CBD makes the Northern Line the other big winner during the off peak. All stations North of Strathfield see an increase in their frequencies, and a drop in maximum headways – in most cases from 30 minutes to 15 minutes. In addition, a better arrangement of trains at Strathfield and Burwood stations means that passengers are less likely to skip a train because a subsequent train will arrive at Central first. This effectively increases frequencies by 2 trains per hour at Strathfield and Burwood, while Strathfield also benefits from an extra 4 trains per hour added to the timetable (2 from Epping and 2 from Penrith).

Illawarra Line

2013-05-28 Draft SWTT 2013 Illawarra OP

Jannali, Oatley, Allawah, and Carlton benefit from shorter journey times, generally 3-4 minutes shorter, while all but Jannali also see a doubling of their frequencies from 2 to 4 trains per hour, reducing maximum headways to 16 minutes. Mortdale is the main loser, dropping from 6 to 4 trains per hour and adding up to 2 minutes to journeys, but with maximum headways only increasing slightly from 15 to 16 minutes.

Kograh and Rockdale, which lost direct access to stations South of Hurstville and express services to Central, retain both during the off peak.

Care has been taken to ensure the figures below are accurate, but mistakes are quite possible, particularly for journey times as these are complicated to calculate and are sometimes subjective in how they are calculated.

Overview

The main winners from the changes are passengers from outer suburban stations like Penrith, Campbelltown, Hornsby, or Sutherland, who will enjoy shorter journeys into the CBD. A number of lines – such as the Inner West, South, Western, and Illawarra Lines – will have their stopping patterns significantly simplified, making them easier to understand and less susceptible to delays or disruptions. The new stopping patterns are more likely to be clockface in nature (e.g. stopping every 10 or 15 minutes, rather than some other erratic or uneven stopping pattern). The Cumberland Line is being reinstated in both directions all day, with half hourly services between Campbelltown and Blacktown. There are 2 additional trains per hour on the East Hills, Northern, and Bankstown Lines, plus 1 additional train per hour on the North Shore Line. 4 express services from Parramatta now continue through to Epping via Macquarie Park rather than terminating somewhere on the North Shore Line, providing additional services for the Epping to Macquarie Line.

Sign outside Kograh Station on 21 May 2013. (Source: Loz Maf)

Sign outside Kograh Station on 21 May 2013. (Source: Loz Maf)

Though the timetable was re-written from the ground up, there are very few losers out of it. Those that do lose out tend to be those stations now skipped to speed up other services, but in most cases this is made up for by more even headways or shorter journey times. So much so, that in some cases, even the stations that would be classified as losers come out ahead. The stations that have the most legitimate qualms are Kograh and Rockdale, which lose half their services. More on this at the bottom of this post.

Overcrowding

Estimated overcrowding levels are shown below based on the additional services being added (Source: Our Performance, Cityrail). The maximum loads figure has been removed, as this is difficult to estimate, and is likely to drop due to better spacing between trains. There are 2 additional trains from Bondi Junction (and a third which starts at Martin Place) which were formerly Sydney Terminal starting South Coast Line services. Meanwhile, the additional Northern Line services are both 4 car trains, which is the equivalent of a single 8 car train. As a result, the number of trains for this line has only been increased from 4 to 5.

2013-05-22 Overcrowding Oct 2013

The very overcrowded Northern Line (143%), Bankstown Line (134%), and Airport & East Hills Line (127%) should all see overcrowding drop to a more manageable 114%, 101%, and 109% respectively. Meanwhile, additional services on the North Shore Line (99%) and Eastern Suburbs Line (61%) will bring overcrowding on these down to 94% and 54% respectively. The loads for the Inner West and South Lines have been merged, given the uncertainty of what the changed stopping patterns on these two lines will achieve.

Overcrowding may also be impacted by indirect effects. For example, faster trains from Hornsby to Central via the North Shore could shift passengers away from the Northern Line and towards the North Shore Line. Some passengers at Strathfield or Homebush may opt to take one of the new Northern Line services and passengers on the Bankstown Line may take a train via Bankstown rather than Lidcombe once direct services via Lidcombe end, thus freeing up space on the Inner West Line, South Line, and/or Western Line.

These could provide much needed relief to the Western Line. However, there does not appear to be any immediate relief available for the Illawarra Line, even though the line currently runs a maximum of 18 trains per hour, which is 2 below the current maximum of 20.

How to read the tables below

  • The AM peak is (roughly) all trains that arrive at Central Station between 8:00AM and 9:00AM each weekday morning. This has sometimes been shifted forward or back if the busiest period for that particular line is slightly different.
  • The 2 exceptions to the above are Macquarie Park bound services from the CBD and Parramatta bound services between Blacktown and Harris Park. In these cases, it’s trains arriving at Macquarie Park and Parramatta Stations between 8:00AM and 9:00AM.
  • Frequency refers to the number of trains that stop at that station during that hour. It indicates the total capacity of the line, in terms of seats and standing room.
  • Headways refers to the time between trains at that station (and not the time between them when they arrive at Central). The important figure is the maximum headways, as it shows how long the wait is to the next train can be if you just missed the train.
  • Journey time indicates whether journeys are longer, shorter, or the same, and by how long. This can sometimes be subjective, so use it as a rough guide.
  • Green means better (e.g. shorter journey times, higher frequency, shorter max headways), yellow means unchanged, red means worse.

Airport and East Hills Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 East Hills AM

Two additional services per hour are added in the morning peak, starting from East Hills, which run a limited stops service to Central via the Airport Line. The additional services have reduced headways for many stations. This, along with the completion of the Kingsgrove to Revesby Quadruplication, has allowed express and limited stop services from Campbelltown to skip more stations and reach the CBD more quickly.

Revesby does lose 2 services per hour, but those that it retains are now faster and more evenly spread out. So overall it’s still a small net gain for Revesby Station users.

Bankstown Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Bankstown AM

Two additional services per hour via Bankstown are added in the morning peak, replacing the Inner West Line services, which now start and end at Homebush rather than Liverpool. The two additional services are fast express services, which skip a number of stations. All stations (bar Yagoona) benefit from smaller or more predictable headways between trains, and many see an increase of 2 trains per hour, while Marrickville and St Peters are the big winners with a doubling of their services from 4 to 8 trains per hour. Journeys are now faster, particularly for Carramar to Sefton, whose journeys will be up to 5 minutes faster.

The biggest losers here are Berela and Regents Park, who lose direct services to the CBD via Lidcombe. This means either changing train at Lidcombe or going the long way round via Bankstown, which adds an extra 5-10 or 20 minutes respectively to journeys.

Inner West Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Inner West AM

The Inner West Line goes from 5 to 4 trains per hour, losing one of its peak hour services. The good news is that all Inner West Line services will now start as empty trains from Homebush, rather than Bankstown or Liverpool, which should translate to more available seats for Inner West passengers. The line will enjoy a single stopping pattern (down from the existing 3), which should improve predictability/reliability, simplicity, and results in a more even spread of services. For example, passengers at Lewisham, Petersham, and Macdonaldtown Stations currently wait as long as 20 minutes between some trains, and this will drop to 15 minutes even though fewer trains will now stop at these stations.

With the possible exception of Summer Hill, the combination of extra seats and more evenly spaced services means that all stations on this line are likely to benefit from the new timetable.

South Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 South AM

The South Line gets an additional service, going from 7 to 8 trains per hour. It also sees a reduction in its stopping patterns, falling from 5 to 2 – one all stops and one limited stops. Excluding one fast train, the South Line will also see faster journeys virtually across the board, as well as lower and more even headways thanks to a more harmonised stopping pattern. The biggest improvement on headways is Casula, whose maximum headways drop from 25 minutes to 15 minutes, while Liverpool services will be 2 to 7 minutes faster.

Warwick Farm and Guilford lose out from the new stopping patterns, while Granville also sees fewer trains due to more Western Line services now skipping it. However, while the former 2 also see a deterioration in their maximum headways, Granville will enjoy more evenly spaced out trains.

North Shore Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 North Shore AM

The North Shore Line gains an additional service, starting from Gordon, which brings the number of trains per hour up to 19, just shy of the current maximum of 20. Stopping patterns have been simplified, dropping from 5 to 6, and part of this change means more trains will start from Hornsby. The combination of these two improvements mean drops in maximum headways at almost every station, particularly Asquith, Hornsby, Wollstonecraft (incorrectly spelt above), and Waverton.

Trains on the North Shore Line will now skip more station on the upper North Shore, which will shorten journey lengths for those from the outer suburbs around Hornsby. The biggest winners are passengers from Hornsby, who can now travel to the CBD via Gordon as quickly as they currently can via Strathfield, which should free up capacity on the currently congested Northern Line.

The losers here are the stations that lose some services: Wahroonga, Warawee, Pymble, Turramurra, Roseville, Linfield, Killara. The simplified stopping pattern means that maximum headways remain about the same, but concerns have been raised about whether there remains sufficient capacity given the urban consolidation in the Upper North Shore in recent years.

Northern Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Northern AM

The Northern Line gains 6 additional services, 2 running limited stops between Epping and Sydney Terminal, aswell as 4 from the CBD to Epping via Macquarie Park. The former will help to ease overcrowding on the Northern Line, while the latter has reduced headways between Chatswood and Epping from the current 15 minutes to a maximum of 10 minutes.

Space for the 2 additional Sydney Terminal terminators has been freed up by having the 3 South Coast Line services continue through to Bondi Junction rather than terminating at Sydney Terminal.

There aren’t really any losers on this line. Previous rumours that trains on the Northern Line would all terminate at Sydney Terminal and require passengers to transfer to another train did not eventuate.

Western Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Western AM

The Western Line’s stopping patterns have been massively simplified, down from 14 currently to a proposed 8 (and that includes Cumberland trains, which are not counted above as they do not continue into the CBD). The simpler stopping patterns also mean lower maximum headways, such as at Toongabbie, Pendle Hill, and Wentworthville (almost halved, from 19 to 10 minutes) or Seven Hills (down from 16 minutes to 9 minutes).  Trains on the Western Line will now stop at fewer stations, which should result in shorter journeys, as much as 13 minutes shorter for stations between Penrith and Blacktown.

However, station skipping means that Kingswood, Werrington, and Westmead will lose 2 to 3 trains per hour.  Despite this, the simplified stopping patterns means that maximum headways will remain unchanged, and many remaining services will be faster.

Western Line/Cumberland Line (to Parramatta)

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Parramatta AM

The return of all day Cumberland Line services between Campbelltown and Blacktown in both directions raised the possibility of improved services to Parramatta for those stations nearby. However, despite the increases in service frequency, maximum headways have remained roughly the same, while journey times are unaffected. This is a lost opportunity.

Illawarra Line

2013-05-22 Draft SWTT 2013 Illawarra AM

Stopping patterns here have been reduced from 8 to 5, which creates a simpler and more reliable timetable. Maximum headways have fallen for most stations, though increased slightly for Como and stations South of Sutherland. Services South of Hustville will now run express to Central after reaching Hurstville, while the number of services starting at Hurstville will be doubled from 3 to 6 and run all stops to the Central. The result is significantly shorter journeys for passengers at a station South of Hurstville, as well as improved services for passengers at stations North of Hurstville other than Kograh and Rockdale.

Kograh and Rockdale lose all their express services and also see a drop in total services from 11 down to 8. These changes are easily the most controversial ones in this new timetable. These two stations are in the top 20 most heavily used out of the 176 suburban stations in the suburban network, with Kograh in particular being both an origin and destination station. Not only that, but it removes direct services to these stations from anywhere South of Hurstville during peak hour.

The thinking behind the decision seems to be due to crowd distribution, as passengers at Kograh and Rockdale board already full express services rather than relatively empty all stations services. This generally saves passengers around 3 minutes, but increases dwell times at CBD stations, which then leads to delays which affect all trains on that line. If this causes a delay of 3 minutes or more, then it wipes out the time saving for Rockdale and Kograh passengers, while delaying all others on that line.

It would appear that those who drafted the timetable have decided that preventing such delays would lead to a better network, and that means putting the interests of all the passengers who do not use these two stations ahead of those who do.

A draft copy of the October 2013 timetable was leaked to the Sydney Morning Herald last Friday, all 800 pages of it. This is not the final timetable, though any changes are expected to be minor tweaks rather than dramatic overhauls.

Previous expectations that this timetable would see a complete revamp of the network, removing direct CBD access for some stations, have been misplaced. Instead, this timetable would add around 700 new weekly services (which helps to bring Cityrail closer to its pre-2005 service levels, when 1,350 weekly services were cut in order to get the trains to run on time). Not only does it add new services, but it also increases speeds, generally by the creation of additional express services that skip more stations. For certain outer suburban stations, this could mean a one way trip that is 10 minutes shorter.

The other significant change is a simplification of the network and stopping patterns. This has meant taking out some of the flexibility that the current timetable has, so some journeys that can currently be made on a single train will necessitate at least one change of train. (The most elaborate is probably for a trip from Sefton to Homebush, a journey that can currently be accomplished on 1 train but will require up to 4 under the new timetable.) This may help to spread crowds out across different trains during peak hour, reducing the amount of delays caused by increased dwell times in the CBD as passengers take longer to board and disembark packed trains. Despite some minor inconveniences (which affect very few trips), these changes will improve reliability, as complexity makes it more likely for things to go wrong.

One specific improvement is more harmonised stopping patterns, which will be more likely to follow clock face patterns. For example, the Illawarra Line will have only 5 stopping patterns, compared to the 8 stopping patterns it currently has. Meanwhile, trains will arrive at Arncliffe Station at the evenly spaced out times of 7:53AM, 8:03AM, 8:13AM, 8:23AM, etc, whereas they currently do so at the erratic times of 7:51AM, 8:07AM, 8:22AM, 8:35AM. The former (harmonised stopping patterns) makes the latter possible, and together they will make the rail network more of a turn up and go style system, rather than one in which the timetable needs to be checked before making a trip. This will also apply during the off-peak.

What Sydney's rail network could look like once the October 2013 timetable comes into effect. The Inner West Line will terminate at Homebush, rather than Liverpool. The Bankstown Line will terminate at Lidcombe, with trains no longer continuing on along the Inner West Line. Some trains on the Western Line will continue through to Epping via Macquarie Park during the morning peak hour. Campbelltown express trains will be able to travel more quickly starting from Revesby due to the completion of a pair of overtaking tracks. (Source: Cityrail.)

What Sydney’s rail network could look like once the October 2013 timetable comes into effect. The Inner West Line will terminate at Homebush, rather than Liverpool. The Bankstown Line will terminate at Lidcombe, with trains no longer continuing on along the Inner West Line. Some trains on the Western Line will continue through to Epping via Macquarie Park during the morning peak hour, and in the other direction in the evening peak. Campbelltown express trains will be able to travel more quickly starting from Revesby due to the completion of a pair of overtaking tracks. (Source: Cityrail)

Other changes include:

  • An all day Cumberland Line, with trains running every half hour between Campbelltown and Blacktown.
  • The removal of Bankstown and Inner West Line trains between Lidcombe and Homebush now that turnback platforms at these stations are complete. This will ease the strain on the rail corridor between these stations, which is fed by 6 tracks on either side despite only having 4 tracks between Lidcombe and Homebush.
  • Incorporation of the Kingsgrove to Revesby Quadruplication into the timetable, allowing more trains from Southwest Sydney to run express into the CBD and overtake all stop services between Revesby and Wolli Creek.
  • Additional trains from the CBD running to Macquarie Park during the AM peak (and then in the other direction in the PM peak), reducing the gaps between services from the current 15 minutes down to a more reasonable 5-10 minutes.
  • Additional services during the AM peak on the Northern and Bankstown Lines, which suffer from the worst overcrowding problems across the network.
  • Additional services in the off-peak for the Western and Northern Lines, allowing many of the stations on these lines to provide frequencies of 15 minutes, compared to the existing 30 minute frequencies.

The timetable has not separated the Western and South Lines between Granville and Homebush, and these two lines still share track between these stations. In addition, the re-introduction of all day Cumberland Line services means trains between Sector 2 (South/Cumberland Line) and Sector 3 (Western Line) will share even more track than before, albeit on outer suburban portions of the network where this is less likely to cause disruptions to spillover onto other lines. Despite this, the removal of Inner West and Bankstown Line services between Lidcombe and Homebush should see these two sectors run more independently, despite the fact that they continue to share track.

Stay tuned for more specifics over the coming days, split out into AM peak, off-peak, and PM peak.

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

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

Overcrowding

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

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

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

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

Spare capacity

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

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

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

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

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

Changes in the 2013 Timetable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improvements and remaining problems

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

Estimated overcrowding by line for October 2013.

Estimated overcrowding by line for October 2013.

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

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

Future developments

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

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

Sources

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

Transport Master Plan, Transport for NSW (December 2012)

Cityrail suffered it’s 12th major disruption since February today, that’s 12 disruptions in roughly 12 weeks. While the current government has performed well in other areas, the reliability of the rail network is by far it’s biggest failure in the transport network.

Causes of major disruptions on the Cityrail network since February 2013. (Sources: Penny Sharpe, Fare Free Day?)

Causes of major disruptions on the Cityrail network since February 2013. (Sources: Penny Sharpe, Fare free day?)

Many of these disruptions might have been prevented via improved maintenance. In fact, 10 of the 12 disruptions were caused at least in part due to problems with overhead wiring, signal breakdowns, or train breakdowns. Opposition Leader John Robertson has blamed this on the government’s decision to cut the state’s 4,700 rail maintenance staff by 450 positions, announced in Novermber of last year.

Mr Robertson is absolutely right to be concerned about insufficient maintenance, particularly if improved maintenance proves to be an effective way of preventing many of the disruptions on the rail network. But he is wrong to put the blame on the cuts, given that as of 22 April the process was only at the consultation phase and no actual staff cuts have yet occurred.

The government has argued that its changes are a result of consolidating the number of maintenance depots from 130 to 8, and that the cuts are only the elimination of any duplication of services and updating of out-dated work practices, rather than a reduction in capacity. If the poor reliability is due to current maintenance practices, then these changes might provide the improvements that are needed, given the current system has not prevented the numerous disruptions. Or they may not. Only time will tell.

Also of concern is the decision to turn efficiencies into cost savings rather than increased maintenance capacity. If reliability is down because of maintenance, then surely one solutions could be to increase resourcing to maintenance.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that not all disruptions are preventable. When prevention isn’t possible, then all which can be done is to minimise the impact. Further sectorisation would achieve this.

Right now, the lines which use the Eastern Suburbs Line (known as Sector 1), those which use the City Circle (known as Sector 2), and those which cross the Harbour Bridge (known as Sector 3) are mostly segregated from each other, which means a delay or disruption on one does not spill over onto the other. But Sectors 2 and 3 share a portion of track between Granville and Homebush, and so are not entirely separated. This has meant that in 4 of the 12 major disruptions listed above, delays on Sector 3 have spilled over onto Sector 2, or vice versa.

Trains from different lines use the same track between Granville and Strathfield, meaning that delays on one line lead to delays on other lines. (Source: Cityrail)

Trains from different lines use the same track between Granville and Homebush, meaning that delays on one line lead to delays on other lines. (Source: Cityrail)

Fixing this would probably require all city bound trains from Parramatta to run express between Granville and Strathfield during peak hour, but would provide tangible improvements to reliability. This could happen as soon as October, when a new timetable that has been written from scratch comes into operation. A draft of this timetable appears to have already been completed, though not yet released or leaked to the public.

If there ever was an annus horribilis for Cityrail, then 2013 is certainly how it would start. The network has seen an average of one major incident each week in the last 2 months, each involving a temporary suspension of services on a portion of the service.

The most recent occurred yesterday on the Northern Line due to a pantograph (train equipment used to draw power from the overhead wires) ripping up a 5km stretch of overhead wiring. But unlike previous suspensions so far this year, it took so long to fix that it was the only one to impact both the morning and evening commutes that day.

Opposition Leader John Robertson has blamed the incidents on insufficient maintenance staff to carry out essential work on the network, further citing the sacking of 450 maintenance staff. The government has countered that these maintenance positions have yet to be cut, and that since all trains were checked in recent weeks, pantographs included, and that this part of the network was reviewed following a previous incident earlier this year that it believes that sabotage is at fault, citing a missing set of keys used to access that part of the track.

Whether the delays yesterday and others over the last 2 months were due to mismanagement, sabotage, or just accidents, it remains a reality that the network is currently set up in a way that encourages the spread of such delays across the network. In yesterday’s case, though the incident occurred on the Northern Line, delays soon spread to virtually all other lines.

I’ve written about the reasons for this before: it’s due to lines sharing sections of track, the most troublesome part being the track between Granville and Homebush Stations. Even if Cityrail cannot prevent such incidents from occurring  they most certainly can stop them from spreading by changing line operations to be more independent of each other. This process, known as sectorisation, may require some commuters to make an additional transfer from one train to another, but it will result in a big increase in reliability on the network, as well as simplify it from both a planning and commuter perspective.

Trains from different lines use the same track between Granville and Strathfield, meaning that delays on one line lead to delays on other lines. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Cityrail)

Trains from different lines use the same track between Granville and Strathfield, meaning that delays on one line lead to delays on other lines. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Cityrail)

Recent opposition to such changes on the North West Rail Link (which will require many commuters to change at Chatswood) is something that would have to be overcome. But if it means limiting network wide delays like those which occurred on Friday, then I think most commuters will support such a move.

But so long as such changes are not introduced, commuters will be afraid of the unknown. Therefore, the government should make a brave move in October and further sectorise the Cityrail network when it revamps the timetable. This could mean terminating Northern Line trains at Central and/or sending Richmond Line trains to Liverpool on the Cumberland Line rather than the CBD. This may prove unpopular in the short term, but commuters will support the changes if they see improvements.

Two years since the last state election and two years until the next one, it’s time to evaluate how the O’Farrell government has performed on the issue of transport. Given the scale of time it takes to implement changes and additions to such a large system (a new rail line take almost a decade from inception to opening), it would not be fair to judge the government on things it has not yet had a chance to reform. At the same time, 2 years is enough to take advantage of low hanging fruit, make operational improvements, and begin the process of changing the direction of the heavy ship that is Sydney’s transport system.

This is a long post, so here is the summarised version:

  • The good: The government has committed to a Second Harbour Crossing, Gladys Berejikliian is a good Transport Minister, the rollout of integrated ticketing (Opal) is on track, there will be a big increase in train services later this year, the South West Rail Link is running 6 months ahead of schedule, the creation of an integrated transport authority (Transport for NSW) will allow an integrated transport network, the government has prioritised public transport ahead of roads, the government learned from the PPP mistakes of the past, and new transport apps are making getting around easier.
  • The bad: Overcrowding on Cityrail is up, on time running on Cityrail is down, no congestion charging, and no committment to a second Sydney airport.
  • The uncertain: Integrated fares, sectorisation of the rail network to untangle it, and driverless trains??

The most important parts at this point in time, in my opinion, are a Second Harbour Crossing (good), integrated fares (uncertain), sectorisation (uncertain), creation of Transport for NSW (good), Opal (good), overcrowding (bad), on time running (bad), Transport Minister (good). our good, two uncertain, two bad. The two bad points could be improved with the October 2013 timetable changes, if some hard decisions are made, whereas the two uncertain points will require a decision some time this year. It will be worth revisiting this in 12 months time to see if the government delivers on those four points, but until then I would rate the government as a B overall (on a scale of A to F). This is giving them some benefit of the doubt, based on a good overall performance in other areas. Without the benefit of the doubt, bump that down to a C.

This is obviously quite subjective, so I welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.

Capacity improvements

The best way to improve capacity into dense employment centres, like the CBD, Parramatta, or Macquarie Park, is with rail, preferably heavy rail. It is pleasing to see, therefore, that the government has committed to a Second Harbour Crossing, a new light rail line down the CBD through to Randwick, and the North West Rail Link (NWRL), in addition to the South West Rail Link (SWRL) and Inner West Light Rail extension, both commenced under the previous government. The Second Harbour Crossing in particular, expensive and opposed by some as necessary given the cost, will result in a 33% increase in capacity across the network by adding a fourth path through the CBD.

The decision to dump the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL) is unfortunate, but was the right call as the priority right now is with the projects listed above. Similarly, the decision to build the NWRL with smaller and steeper tunnels, thus preventing existing double deck trains from using them, could be seen as short sighted. However, it also guarantees that the line will remain separate from the Cityrail network, opening up the possible benefits of a new operating model that has a lower cost to operate and therefore can provide more frequent services (see: Private sector involvement). It also has the benefit of lower construction costs, which would be very beneficial should the Second Harbour Crossing go under the Harbour, as seems likely.

  • Conclusion: A committment to expand the rail network, a Second Harbour Crossing in particular, will improve capacity by 33%. The decision  to make the NWRL tunnels narrower and steeper remains controversial.
  • Grade: B

Service quality

The Cityrail network, which forms the backbone of transport in Sydney, is under a lot of pressure at the moment. Overcrowing is up, while on time running is down. February was one of the worst months in Cityrail’s history, with 5 major disruptions during peak hour causing a suspension of services, which often spilled over onto other lines in the network. You have to go back 4 years to find operational figures this bad. It urgently needs additional train services to ease overcrowding and a more simplified network to improve reliability.

Interior of a Sydney tram. Overcrowding is up on the Cityrail network. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

Interior of a Sydney tram. Overcrowding is up on the Cityrail network. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

Part of the cause of these problems is the network that the government inherited. But 2 years in, it is now incumbent on the government to fix it. So far, this has meant 63 new services per week in 2011, and then 44 new services per week in 2012, for a total of 107 new services per week. This is a good start, but baby steps at best. What is really needed is an increase on the scale of the 2005 timetable, which cut 1,350 weekly services. Previously there have not been enough train drivers or rolling stock to do this, and it remains uncertain whether it’s possible now. Older, non-airconditioned trains may need to be used if the government does not order more Waratah trains to increase capacity.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian has continually pointed to October of this year as the moment that a new timetable, re-written from the ground up, will be introduced that features a streamlined network with additional services. But few details have been officially released, though some proposed changes have been leaked. Once that is implemented, it would be worth revisiting this issue. Service is also still better than the horror years of 2003-05. These two factors give the government a slightly more favourable rating than would have otherwise been the case.

There have been some minor improvements that are worth mentioning in passing. Quiet carriages have been introduced and phone reception is now available in the CBD’s underground rail tunnels.

  • Conclusion: Overcrowding and reliability are at 4 year lows in the rail network, though there have been minor improvements such as quiet carriages and phone reception. Overall, it’s a poor result.
  • Grade: D

Ticketing and fares

The major issues here are the Opal rollout and integrated fares.

The implementation of Opal appears to be on track, with the new smartcard set to expand to the Manly Ferry on April 8, and then to the Eastern Suburbs and City Circle stations in the second half of 2013. Up to now it appears to have proceeded without any major hiccups, and has gotten further in the rollout than the T-Card did.

There remains little detail on integrated fares other than that cabinet will consider fares at some point in early 2013. This is a potential game changer, and it seems likely that it could be implemented once Opal is fully rolled out.

The government has made a committment to not increase fares beyond CPI unless service levels improve, and has also incorporated the light rail into myZone. Both are positive, though the former is problematic in that it will erode the ability of fares to recover operating costs, as fares only account for about a quarter of the cost to operate Sydney’s transport network.

  • Conclusion: Good progress on Opal, but not on integrated fares. Limiting fare increases and putting the light rail on myZone are also some good minor improvements.
  • Grade: C

Transport Minister

Gladys Berejiklian has been a good Transport Minister for 2 reasons: she supports public transport and she is a strong advocate of it.

She strikes the right balance between public transport (trains, buses, ferries, trams) and private transport (cars, roads). It’s worth pointing out that, despite numerous claims that this government is pro-car and anti-rail, the current government spends more than half of its transport capital works budget on public transport. It’s also worth remembering that private motor vehicle trips will continue to play a key role in providing mobility to Sydney residents, and therefore the road network should still be expanded. But the focus should be on public transport, as it currently is.

As an aside, this support for public transport is unusual for a politician from the conservative side of politics. But both Ms Berejiklian and the Premier Barry O’Farrell are not your traditional hard conservatives, both more accurately described as moderate pragmatists. They both seem to recognise that congestion is costing the NSW economy money and the best way to improve the situation is to focus on public transport.

The Victorian Liberal Government’s top transport project is a road tunnel under the CBD, while the recently elected WA Liberal Government rejected the opposition’s 75km expansion of the rail network in favour of a short airport rail link and light rail for the inner city with a greater focus on improving the road network. Across the Tasman, the Auckland Transport Blog speaks favourably of conservatives in Australia (though really it’s more a comment on NSW, because as seen this is not a view necessarily shared by Liberal Parties in other states):

“I guess this is what happens when you have a centre-right government that isn’t completely insane in its ideological dislike of public transport…I do wonder why centre-right politicians in Australia don’t seem to have the same ideological dislike of public transport as seems to be the case in New Zealand.”Mr Anderson, Auckland Transport Blog (23 December 2012)

The other, and arguably more important, reason why Ms Berejiklian is a good Transport Minister is her strong advocacy. It’s not enough to support something if the cabinet or Premier overrule you. And Ms Berejiklian has demonstrated an ability to get her agenda through the cabinet where it’s been needed. She got cabinet to support an expensive Second Harbour Crossing, despite opposition from Infrastructure NSW Chairman Nick Greiner and took the light rail issue to cabinet 3 times until it accepted her preferred option of George St light rail over the CBD bus tunnel. These two major items, along with numerous other minor ones, were not a fait accompli, and are a testament to Ms Berejiklian’s influence.

  • Conclusion: Gladys Berejiklian is supporter of and effective advocate for public transport
  • Grade: A

Funding, costs and scheduling

Public transport projects in NSW seem to come in over budget and behind schedule all too often. That appears to have been partly continued. The Inner West Light Rail extension has been delayed by 18 months and its cost blown out by $56m, while the cost of the South West Rail Link (SWRL) went from $688m to $2.1bn. However, the SWRL is running ahead of schedule: the new Glenfield Station was completed 4 months ahead of schedule, while the new line is on track to open 6 months early. While this project was started by the previous Labor government, it’s delivery has been overseen by the current Liberal government and that’s what matters. The North West Rail Link has seen some blow outs in costs, but these are tens of millions of dollars in a multi-billion dollar project, so here it’s too early to make any judgement.

On the revenue side, the government has spoken about value capture as a way of funding infrastructure improvement, where property owners whose land values increase because of government built infrastructure contribute to the cost of building it. This is welcome, but no action has yet been taken. It has also openly committed to making users of any new or improved freeways pay tolls to contribute to their construction. This move to a user pays system, where the users of motorways pay for them rather than all taxpayers whether they use them or not, is a welcome one. What is unfortunate, is that the government has refused to introduce congestion charging, as pricing roadspace would allow a more efficient use of it, reducing congestion and the need to build more roads.

  • Conclusion: Cost blowouts and delays remain, though a possible early finish to the SWRL is a welcome surprise. Tolling and funding is a mixed bag, but mostly positive.
  • Grade: C

Governance

The two big reforms made by the government in the area of governance are the creation of Transport for NSW, which brought all transport related departments and agencies under the one umbrella, and the splitting of Railcorp into Sydney Trains and NSW Trains.

Transport for NSW’s creation is a game changer. By centralising planning into one department, rather than independent “silos” in separate departments that rarely communicate with each other, it will allow transport in Sydney to be fully integrated as one network, rather than a collection of separate networks. This extends to things like timetables and fares, but also adds roads to the mix – changing a transit department into a true transport department. All of this which will allow commuters to get from A to B much more easily than is currently the case. It will make examples like the following a thing of the past:

“For example, a customer could travel from St Ives to Sydney, via a private bus to Turramurra, a Cityrail train and walking along the city streets… The journey requires 2 separate tickets and therefore revenue streams, which never meet. The two vehicles are owned, maintained and driven by vastly different staff working for different silos.

The station facility is provided by Cityrail. If they’ve thought to accommdate the bus in the design of the facility, it would be the exception rather than the norm. The timetabling, if it is done at all, would be by a third silo in a distant building, remote from the reality of what’s happening.” – Riccardo, Integrated transport planning – what is it really? (11 June, 2011)

The Transport Master Plan put a great deal of emphasis on moving towards an integrated network, one where it would be much more common practice to take a feeder bus to a transport interchange and then take train, tram, or another bus to your final destination, with all coming frequently and all day, in order to maximise mobility. This would be a big improvement on the current network design, which is designed more around a single seat trip to the CBD than on connections to get you from anywhere to everywhere. However, this will be difficult to implement without integrated fares (discussed above), as currently commuters are penalised for making a transfer as though it is a premium service, when really it’s an inconvenience.

Evidence of the benefits of centralised planning can be seen in the recent decision to house metrobuses in separate depots in order to minimise dead running. This was not previously possible, as planning was done at the depot level, and so shifting buses from one depot to another was not feasible.

A Metrobus on George St in the Sydney CBD. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

A Metrobus on George St in the Sydney CBD. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Author)

The changes to Railcorp are not set to occur until July 1 of this year, so the jury is still out on that.

  • Conclusion: The creation of Transport for NSW, centralising the planning function and creating a true transport department.
  • Grade: A

Planning

NSW has had no lack of plans in recent years, if anything it’s had the problem of too many plans but not enough action. When it comes to just planning, the government had 2 competing visions: the Transport Master Plan from Transport for NSW and the State Infrastructure Strategy from Infrastructure NSW.

To its credit, every time the two plans disagreed, the state government sided with the Transport Master Plan every time. That means it has committed to building a Second Harbour Crossing for the rail network and light rail down George Street rather than the ill-fated bus tunnel idea.

It also dogmatically refused to commit to a light rail line to Randwick until a feasibility study was completed, but then got totally behind the project once it was completed and put before cabinet.

That is not to say that there aren’t concerns about the planning process. For example, the government has committed to the Second Harbour Crossing before having done enough work into it to name a cost or set a timetable for its completion. It was this sort of behaviour that contributed to the $500m spent on the aborted Rozelle Metro by the previous government.

  • Conclusion: The government has sided with Transport for NSW, rather than Infrastructure NSW, leading to a greater focus on public transport, rather than private transport. However, it has a mixed history of committing to projects before having done its homework.
  • Grade: B

Private sector involvement

The failure of PPPs like the Airport Line as well as the Cross City and Lane Cove Tunnels mean that government’s should approach private sector involvement with caution. But that does not mean that it should avoid it entirely.

In NSW, the government has opted to adopt the WA model, rather than the Victorian model. In WA, the government plans and owns the network, but puts the operation of various lines or regions out to tender, allowing competitive practice to drive down costs while maintaining a minimum contractual level of service. The government then pays the operator, but keeps all fares, ensuring that the operator can increase profits only by operating more efficiently, rather than by cutting service. The Victorian model sees the operators keep farebox revenue, which is then topped up by a government subsidy. The disadvantage of the Victorian model is that the operator can increase profits by cutting services with low patronage, even if these services are part of an overall network such as feeder buses.

The chosen model has proven successful in NSW, having been used on the bus network for almost a decade. It allowed the government to put some bus contracts out to tender, resulting in $18m of annual savings for the tax payer. It has also recently been expanded, when Sydney Ferries being franchised last year. The NWRL is also planned to be privately operated, while the Sydney light rail line was recently re-purchased by the government but will remain operated by a private company.

Sydney Ferries were franchised in 2012. (Source: Author)

Sydney Ferries were franchised in 2012. (Source: Author)

The decision to turn the NWRL into a completely separate and privately operated line, but one where commuters still pay the same fare as if they were on a Cityrail train, has the potential to finally stem the bleeding in Cityrail’s costs, perhaps through the use of driverless trains that would allow very high all day frequencies.

The recently introduced unsolicited proposal process has also allowed a proposal for an M2-F3 link to be constructed by the private sector at no cost to the taxpayer. While the outcome is uncertain, the process has been shown to work, and is a great way to increase the stock of infrastructure in Sydney. (Setting aside the involvement of this process for another Sydney Casino, which has raised some controversy.)

  • Conclusion: The government has learned from the bad PPPs of the past and appears to be using private sector involvement as a means, rather than as an ends.
  • Grade: A

Second Sydney airport

The current government has not only ruled out the preferred site of Badgerys Creek for a second airport, it has ruled out a second airport altogether, suggesting that a high speed rail line to Canberra airport could be used as a substitute. Not only is this unlikely to happen, given the high costs involved, but it means passing up on the opportunity to bring jobs to Western Sydney and revitalise its economy, which currently has a huge jobs shortfall that is only predicted to increase.

Current and proposed Sydney airports. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Google Maps)

Current and proposed Sydney airports. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Google Maps)

Given the lack of support for a second airport, it is then disappointing that the government has not sought to reduce or elimiate the access fee for users of the airport train stations in order to ease the ground transport congestion around the airport, cited as the biggest constraint on Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport at the moment.

  • Conclusion: The government does not support a second airport, and has not done enough to improve the capacity of the existing airport.
  • Grade: F

Transport apps

The makers of transport apps have seen an increase in the amount of transport data available to them. This has allowed for Google Transit to expand to all forms of public transport (previously it was just light rail and the monorail), and has also now included bike paths (though it seems Google did this on its own, rather than with help from the state government). More recently real time bus data was provided for STA buses, and will hopefully later be extended to all buses and also trains.

  • Conclusion: The government has been proactive in improving transport information to commuters by involving third party developers.
  • Grade: A

Reliability on the Cityrail network, as measured by on time running, last year reached its worst point since 2008. The state opposition has criticised the current government’s failure to get the trains to run on time, this being one area that has deteriorated since the change of government from Labor to Liberal.

Late trains press release

This was then followed by a large number of disruptions to the network in February 2013, which also reduced reliability on the network.

[tweet 307369371121106944 align=’center’]

But these disruptions happened after reliability began to fall, so are not the cause of it. Instead, the reduction in reliability is more likely to have been caused by increased overcrowding issues, which have also deteriorated since the O’Farrell government took over in 2011.

Overcrowding press release

This is because overcrowding on trains means it takes longer for commuters to get on or off their train, which can increase dwell times at stations and thus lead to delays on the network. A quick look at the overcrowding (Source: IPART, Review of fares for CityRail’s services from January 2013, page 91) and on time running (Source: Cityrail, Our Performance) data for the 5 years from July 2007 to June 2012 shows a clear relationship.

Overcrowding, measured twice yearly in March and September as the percentage of trains between 7AM and 10AM with over 135% as many passengers as there are seats, hit 13%-16% during 2007-08, before falling progressively from 2009 onwards until it reached 5% in late 2011. Then in March 2012 it rose again to 11%, the highest since 2008.

On time running, measured monthly as the proportion of trains arriving in the CBD between 6AM-9AM and departing the CBD between 4PM-6PM more than 5 minutes after the timetabled time, is almost the inverse of overcrowding. On time running was low during 2007-08, usually running at 92%-95%. Following this, on time running improved, generally ranging between 94%-97%, during 2009-11. Then in 2012 it once again dropped to 92%.

Click on image for higher resolution. (Sources: XXX.)

Click on image for higher resolution. (Sources: IPART, Cityrail.)

The overcrowding is itself caused by a failure to keep up with demand for rail travel. The monthly patronage data (Source: Bureau of Transport Statistics, Rail Patronage Data – July 2000 to September 2012) shows that patronage saw a constant growth during 2007-08 and 2011-12, but flat lined during 2009-10. This in turn was likely due to job losses associated with the Global Financial Crisis, which hit industries that tend to employ workers in the CBD, which is the primary destination for most train users in Sydney.

Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Bureau of Transport Statistics.)

Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Bureau of Transport Statistics.)

Therefore, had it not been for the GFC, the poor on time running of 2012 would likely have occurred earlier. How much earlier is open to debate, as the opening of the Epping to Chatswood Line in 2009 resulted in an increase in capacity that would have pushed back the moment that overcrowding would again become a problem.

However, this does not represent a get out of jail free card for the government. Though it had no control over the transport system it inherited, it does have full control over where it takes it. Therefore, it needs to find a way to increase capacity in order to reduce overcrowding and improve on time running. Building more rail lines are needed for this, but will take years or decades to build. In the short term, sectorisation is the only option available to the government that will result in a significant increase to capacity. It should further implement this as part of the 2013 timetable.

Ask Gladys

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Transport
Tags: , , , ,

MX ran a feature yesterday called #AskGladys in which readers could tweet in questions to the Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian. Those that were forwarded to her were all answered an then posted to Twitter.

The responses give October as the date that the new 2013 timetable will be introduced, which means the date it is made public will be some time before that. They describe the new timetable as having more consistent patterns, which appears to mean a more harmonized stopping pattern. They also state that frequencies on the North Shore Line will be increased to the maximum 20 trains an hour currently possible, up from the current 18 during the morning peak.

Some highlights are included below, with the rest available by searching the hash tag #AskGladys on Twitter.

Three things came up in the news in the previous week which are worth touching on just quickly – a new Cityrail timetable, the report by Canberra Airport recommending the construction of high speed rail between Sydney and Canberra rather than building a second airport in the Sydney basin, and the NSW Budget Estimates hearings.

New Timetable

A few extra train services are being added to the timetable. (The associated Transport for NSW press release says it is 44 services per week, while the Telegraph reports 36 new services per week, but I count only 34.) It includes 4 new services each day (weekdays only) to the Illawarra/Eastern Suburbs Line as well as 2 new services each day (weekdays and weekends) to the Blue Mountains Line (all the way to Bathurst, which until recently was served by buses rather than trains). This is on top of the 63 new services per week introduced last year, bringing it up to about an extra 100 train services per week since the Coalition won the 2011 election.

However, word is that it is the next timetable change, coming at the end of 2013, that will deliver real changes to service levels on the Cityrail network and will also involve a complete re-write of the timetable from the ground up. This is when the Liverpool turnback platform and Kingsgrove to Revesby track quadruplication are set to be completed, allowing for a significant increase in the number of trains operated. This is particularly the case for trains that use the City Circle, which currently is not being used to its full capacity during either the morning or afternoon peak.

Canberra High Speed Rail

A report released by Canberra Airport suggests that High Speed Rail (HSR) could enable Canberra Airport to function as Sydney’s second airport, eliminating the need to build a second airport in the Sydney Basin. Given the $11bn price tag of HSR, compared to $9bn for a second airport, and a total travel time of 57 minutes into the Sydney CBD, the plan appears to be quite reasonable. However, Alan Davies points out that the $11bn figure comes from the federal government’s HSR feasibility study, which found that:

“the report says there’s only a 10% chance that estimate wouldn’t be exceeded. No one uses that figure – the preferred estimate is $19 billion because at least there’s a 90% chance it won’t be exceeded” – Alan Davies (10 Oct, 2012), The Urbanist

A HSR link was also quickly rejected by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who said it was “some time away” from being viable.

Hopefully one or both the state and federal government will bite the bullet and accept the conclusion of the both the Joint Study on Aviation Capacity and the Infrastructure NSW report, which recommend a second airport be built at Badgerys Creek. This location provides improved transport links and employment opportunities for the growing Western Sydney region. It’s an unpopular decision, but it’s the right one.

Budget Estimates

The Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, fronted the state budget estimates hearing on transport on Tuesday. Major information arising from that hearing included points below.

Heavy rail:

The portion of the hearings that made the headline news was about non-air conditioned trains being kept on, despite these being scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2014 once all the Waratah trains are delivered. It comes from the following question and answer:

“Are you planning beyond 2014 for the C and K sets and other non air-conditioned sets to have to remain on the network to meet the timetable changes…Mr Wielinga are you confident that the C, K and S sets are not going to remain on the network beyond the rollout of the Waratahs?” – Penny Sharpe (9 Oct, 2012), Shadow Transport Minister

“No. We are being as flexible as we can be. The question that needs to be asked is: How many additional services do we want to put on? If our customers are seeking additional services and we want to increase that above what is programmed at the moment, we will use whatever rolling stock is available to us to provide those customer services.” – Les Wielinga (9 Oct, 2012), Director General of Transport for NSW

Some confusion remains as to what this means, primarily due to Ms Sharpe’s questions, and whether she was asking only about non-air conditioned trains, or about the old silver sets (each given a letter classification, with C and K being air conditioned, while L, R, and S are not air conditioned). This led to the following back and forth on Twitter:

What could potentially be happening is that all non-air conditioned trains are being withdrawn from service, but kept warehoused for use in case of emergency, should a situation arise in which Cityrail was short on trains. In these cases, a non-air conditioned train is better than a cancelled train. Mr Wielinga’s response would be consistent with such a scenario. Or alternatively, it could just mean that increased numbers of services each day means that some non-air conditioned trains will be kept on in regular service in order to meet timetabling requirements.

Ms Berejiklian was asked if a second harbour crossing that is not in the form of an under-harbour tunnel was being considered, but she did not directly address the question (page 30). She instead pointed out that 15 different options had been considered for Sydney’s rail network once the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) is completed, but these were high level options (such as converting the existing harbour crossing to single deck metro, rather than building a new one, or maintaining double deck rolling stock on the entire network) that did not include specific alignments. She did, however, reaffirm that a second harbour crossing will be built (page 14).

A figure cited by the Sydney Morning Herald of $4bn of extra work which would be required to handle the NWRL once it is completed is not new money, and these costs are already budgeted for.

The narrower tunnels on the NWRL, large enough for single deck rolling stock but not double deck rolling stock, will result in cost savings. However, the cost savings are less than the cost of refitting the existing Epping to Chatswood section of the line to run the single deck trains (page 29). The real savings would occur when building new tunnels, most potentially an under-harbour tunnel, as single deck trains can handle steeper gradients than the heavier double deck trains.

Light rail:

The Greenway – a pedestrian and bicycle path, which was originally part of the Dulwich Hill light rail extension before being deferred, would have costed $37m to build (page 34), compared to the cost of the light rail extension of $176m. The $176m figure includes $24m for rolling stock (page 16), and was revised upwards from $120m under the previous Labor Government, which (along with the delay in its completion) Ms Berejiklian says is because the previous government had not done any geotechnical work, considered where the rolling stock would be acquired from, etc.

A final decision on George St light rail will be made in the final transport plan (page 33), to be released by the end of the year.

Miscellaneous:

Opal is on track to be rolled out on ferries in December of this year.

The Director General of Transport for NSW, Les Wielinga, was never a full director of Infrastructure NSW, he was only ever a temporary “guest” (page 9). Mr Wielinga also argued that the differing conclusions made by his organisation (Transport for NSW) and Infrastructure NSW was due to each taking a different approach, and so different solutions were inevitable but that he also did “not think this is a problem”.

The finalisation of the new transport master plan for NSW is one step closer, with the release of a discussion paper outlining the current context and key challenges for transport in NSW. The next step is public consultation on the masterplan, which will be considered and incorporated into the actual masterplan that is to be finalised later this year. To make a submission, you can contact Transport for NSW on masterplan@transport.nsw.gov.au by 27 April.

The key points raised in the discussion paper (relating to commuter transport in Sydney – I have skipped over freight and rural transport), along with the page references are covered below. The main points that I thought were missing, and will mention in my submission, are congestion charges for driving in the CBD and bike share, both of which I discuss briefly below.

Introduction

There are a number of corridors in Sydney which will see capacity constraints over the next 20 years. These include (1) CBD to Northern Beaches, (2) CBD to Inner West, (3) CBD to the airport, (4) airport to South-West Sydney, and (5) Macquarie Park to the Northwest Growth Sector (pp. 39-40).

Corridor capacity constraints over next 20 years

Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Discussion Paper, page 40.)

530,000 new jobs will be created in Sydney in the next 2 decades, 50% in Western Sydney and 20% in the global economic arc covering the Macquarie Park -Chatswood-St Leonards-North Sydney-CBD-airport are (p. 34).

When deciding what should be done in order to meet transport needs, the first priority should be small enhancements to existing infrastructure (such as track duplications, platform extensions, creation of bus lanes, improved timetables, better interchanges, etc) to deal with bottlenecks/pinchpoints rather than expensive construction of new infrastructure. Where this cannot be done, new infrastructure should be the solution (p. 41). All current projects across Sydney are also displayed:

Current transport projects 2012

Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Discussion Paper, page 14.)

Integrated transport system

To be successful, the transport system in Sydney needs to be a single integrated network, rather than a patchwork of competing networks that do not allow for an easy and simple trip from point A to point B. To this extent, the NSW government has created a new transport authority: Transport for NSW (seemingly modelled on Transport for London) which puts customers at the centre of planning and decision making (p. 3). It also accepts that an integrated public transport system uses buses and light rail to compliment and support the heavy rail system, rather than compete with it (p. 3).

Roads and driving

The freeway network in Sydney still has a few missing links, including the M4 East between Strathfield and Sydney Airport/Port Botany/Sydney CBD, a connection between the Sydney Orbital on the M2 and the F3 at Hornsby, and the Sydney Orbital on the M5 and the F6 in the South (p. 46).

The discussion paper was noticeably silent on the issue of congestion pricing for the CBD, which has been used in places like London to reduce traffic congestion and act as a source of revenue for public transport.

Heavy rail

The Cityrail network is quite extensive, with half of all residents living within 2km of a train station and half of all jobs being within 1km of a train station (p. 58). But while coverage is quite extensive, the network is fast approaching capacity constraints, and the discussion paper says a few things about how the heavy rail network can be made to run more efficiently:

One way of tailoring services to customer needs is to separate services so that the high frequency all-stop services can operate on different tracks to the express services. This can be achieved through improved timetables linked to the development of new rail infrastructure projects. Timetables need to be customised to the different needs and priorities of customers. Increasing the frequency of trains will reduce crowding and speed up journey times. Increased service frequencies will enable those making short trips within inner Sydney, such as on the Inner West, Illawarra and Bankstown Lines, to ‘turn-up-and-go’ without needing to consult a timetable.

Sydney has a highly complex rail network. Fifteen outer lines feed into eight inner lines, which in turn feed into six lines converging through the Sydney CBD. This results in constraints where rail lines converge. Further consideration about how to separate major lines is required.

Automatic Train Protection and Automatic Train Operation systems can be used to automate acceleration and deceleration of trains as well as manage the distance between them. These systems increase safety and can enable increased capacity on each line. Automatic Train Protection is currently being introduced to the rail system and a trial of Automatic Train Operation [i.e. driverless trains] will be undertaken to test the capacity that could be gained. These systems will support the improvements in timetables to increase frequency and reduce journey times. (p. 43)

Single deck metro style trains and a second harbour crossing are also discussed, almost to the point where it seems like a certainty that these change will be occurring and that the only question is when, not if (p. 45).

Rail infrastructure construction timeline

The SWRL, NWRL and City Relief Lines appear to be the next 3 major expansions to the Cityrail network. After that it’s a question of which order a second harbour crossing or metro conversion will occur, not whether either or both will occur. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan Discussion Paper, page 45.)

Light rail

Any new light rail lines constructed in the inner city will be designed to fit in and compliment the bus and train network rather than to compete with it. As a result, it will replace a number of bus routes and see a redesign of the bus network to fit in with light rail (p. 49).

Buses

There is currently a significant amount of congestion in the CBD caused by buses, particularly around Wynyard (from the Harbour Bridge) and Circular Quay (via the CBD). A short term solution of re-routing some lines is provided (p. 48), though nothing is mentioned about long term solutions (though this is likely to involve replacing buses from the Northwest with trains on the Northwest Rail Link and buses from the Eastern Suburbs with light rail). Nor is there any mention of re-organising bus routes to have them travel through the city (as many metrobuses currently do), rather than merely terminating at one end of it, which could potentially eliminate about half the buses travelling through the CBD itself.

Ferries

The ferry system is to be privatised, starting with new private routes that were recently announced, then followed by franchising out the government owned Sydney Ferries to a private operator (p. 51).

There was no mention of any other possibilities of privatisation, such franchising out any potential future metro style rail network or for private operation of the Northwest Rail Link, both of which have been rumoured in the press.

Cycling and walking

Both cycling and walking are also said to need to be promoted, but nothing is mentioned about integrating it with rail as was mentioned with buses and light rail (p. 5). Significant work has been put on constructing large (and expensive) park and ride facilities to allow commuters to drive and park their car to the local train station, but relatively little for cyclists to ride their bike and store it before getting on the train, which could significantly increase the catchment area around train stations for people who live too far to walk, have limited bus connections and/or do not to drive to the station for whatever reason.

Also not mentioned is bike share (p. 52). Such a scheme was implemented in Melbourne (600 bikes) and Paris (20,000 bikes), but to a much lesser extent in Melbourne than in Paris and therefore never quite reached a critical mass for it be as successful as it was in Paris (click on the link to read Alan Davies’ article about it at The Melbourne Urbanist). Obviously, one challenge to bike share in Australia is the mandatory helmet laws. That aside, imagine how much easier it would be if you could ride your bike to the train station, leave it in a locker, catch the train into the city, then hire one of the bike share bicycles to get you to your final destination. (A similar outcome can be achieved by transporting bikes on buses/trains, but this only works if few people do it and is therefore not scalable to being done by large numbers of people.) This leads to an increase in the area which you can get from and to the train station at both ends of your journey, making public transport a much more attractive option. Jarrett Walker over at Human Transit refers to this as the “last mile issue” and has some interesting further reading on the topic.