North West Rail Link
submission by Hunter Transport Consulting Pty Ltd
3 December 2012
The NSW Government is to be congratulated on it's initiative to deliver rail transport to the North West however a fundamental flaw has been made in planning to build it as an isolated link and to go back to the operation of single-deck rolling stock.
The decision by the NSW government to deliberately limit the height of the NWRL tunnels to prohibit operation of double deck trains will go down in history as a misjudgement on the scale of the choice by the colonies to build train tracks to different gauges.
The claim that single-deck trains, with fewer seats, can somehow carry more passengers than double-deck trains is not properly justified by the EIS and is not borne out by European practice.
By way of example, RATP (The Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens or `Autonomous Transit Operator of Paris') is currently increasing capacity on Line A of the Paris RER by replacing single-deck M184 trains (432 seats, total capacity 1,684 passengers) with double-deck M109 trains (948 seats, total capacity 2,600 passengers).
The NSW Government should exercise extreme caution in adopting an approach that is the exact opposite of that being taken by a leading European transit operator.
In Sydney terms the best analysis of why double-deck trains carry more passengers was provided by Alex Wardrop in Appendix C of the 2010 Christie Report. His conclusions included:
"What all this illustrates is that single deck trains, with their significantly lower seating capacities, cannot meet the transportation duties expected of Sydney suburban trains which need to carry passengers long distances".
The so-called Three-Tier system contradicts itself in terms of segregation of rolling stock. Single deck trains better suited to short inner city Metro-style journeys will run from Rouse Hill, a predominantly dormitory outer suburb, taking commuters on a long distance commute to Macquarie Park and Chatswood, whilst double deck trains supposedly no longer suitable for short distance journeys will collect passengers off the NWRL and take them for the last few kilometres all stations to the City.
The decision to institute the NWRL as an isolated shuttle train prior to the second Harbour crossing on the grounds that the North Shore line is at capacity has been contradicted by the recent statement by Minister for Transport Hon Gladys Berejiklian that "We will be increasing the number of services from the North Shore to the City to 24 an hour; currently we are getting about 17 or 18 across, so that will increase substantially by the time the (NWRL) line is open."
Therefore this proves that there is already capacity to run 6 new trains per hour from the NWRL direct to the City, i.e. a train every 10 minutes, which would be adequate capacity until the second Harbour crossing was built. (Additional trains could terminate at Chatswood to provide a 5 minute peak service from the North West).
It also needs to be remembered that the limitation on line capacity across the Harbour Bridge only occurs at the height of the peak, for a period of a little over 60 minutes. Outside of that time there is ample capacity for trains from the NWRL to run through to the City. The decision to build a shuttle service will result in passengers travelling during the off-peak, at night and on weekends being forced to change from one train to another for no benefit whatsoever.
The operation of the NWRL as a shuttle train to Chatswood will significantly reduce the attractiveness of not only the NWRL but also the existing line it replaces through Macquarie and North Ryde. Passengers from stations north of Epping will have to change trains twice to reach destinations such as St Leonards, North Sydney and Wynyard. The slow travel times already faced by passengers from the North West (because of the historical decision to go under rather than over the Lane Cove River) will be exacerbated by the forced change of train at Chatswood.
For many residents of the North West, even west of Castle Hill, buses will remain the fastest way to the City and will certainly be more convenient under the planned NWRL shuttle because of an almost door-to-door service by bus without changing, compared to a 3 mode bus-train-train journey via the NWRL.
Whilst it is commendable that the EIS recognises the need for a second Harbour rail crossing it is a high risk strategy to base the only possibility of a direct train service from the North West to the City on the construction of this new line, particularly whilst ever the Government persists with an exorbitantly expensive and impractical deep level option under the harbour.
The more cost-effective and obvious solution is to reinstate the rail tracks which were removed from the eastern side of the bridge in the 1950's and bring the NWRL into Wynyard in the first stage, and further south under the city as funds permit, however this is still an expensive project that may well be deferred further into the future, leaving the NWRL as a white elephant shuttle in the long term.
Lastly, planning for the North West rail line seems to assume that the line will not be opened until the entire route is constructed. As this is an expensive and long term project such an approach denies rail transport to the Hills District for much longer than necessary. It would be quite feasible to open the line in stages from Epping, even one or two stations at a time, using temporary turn back arrangements and a temporary maintenance system via a connection at the Chatswood end.
In conclusion the following changes to the EIS are recommended:
1. The NWRL tunnels should be built to a diameter suitable for Sydney's double-deck rolling stock;
2. Services from the NWRL should operate directly through to the City from the opening of the line, using spare peak hour paths identified by the Minister's statement (SMH 2/10/2012) and the ample capacity available outside of peak hours.
3. The NWRL should be opened in stages, one or two stations at a time, to bring forward the availability of at least a partial rail service to the North West.
Glen E Hunter
Hunter Transport Consulting Pty Ltd
3 Chadworth Place
BAULKHAM HILLS NSW 2153
Phone: +61 2 9686 6556
Fax: +61 2 9688 7556
Mobile: +61 411 106 556