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Action for Public Transport (N.S.W.) Inc.

OPINION: Evasive responses to NWRL submissions

posted Thursday 7 March 2013

Official responses to submissions made on the second Environmental Impact Statement of the North-west Rail link have been published. They can be seen at http://103.4.17.5/2013-03-05_NWRL_EIS_II_SUBMISSIONS_CHAPTERS_1-6.pdf and http://103.4.17.5/2013-03-05_NWRL_EIS_II_SUBMISSIONS_CHAPTERS_7-9_and_Appendix.pdf.

Responses on issues of network planning, including tunnel bore, do not address the issues raised. Here are some examples taken from submissions by individuals in Chapter 7. The italicised submission text is actually from the official summary prepared with the responses; how closely it corresponds with the intentions of submissions is not clear.

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Submission:

Belief that it is a high risk strategy to base the only possibility of direct train service from the North West to the city on the construction of the proposed new line, particularly while the Government persists with the expensive and impractical deep level option under the harbour. Suggestion for a more cost-effective and "obvious" solution is to reinstate the rail tracks which were removed from the eastern side of the bridge in the 1950s and bring the proposed NWRL into Wynyard in the first stage, and further south under the city as funds permit, however this is still believed to be an expensive project that may well be deferred further into the future, leaving the NWRL as a "white elephant" shuttle in the long term.

Response:

The suggestions in this submission are beyond the scope of the NWRL project. NWRL is an integral component of a plan to transform and modernise Sydney's rail system. Called "Sydney's Rail Future", the plan is a part of the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan which provides the strategic context for the NWRL and its relationship to the rest of the Sydney rail system. The NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan was developed following extensive community and stakeholder consultation.

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Submission:

Concerns regarding the proposed single deck trains which are believed to be better suited to short inner city metro-style journeys. Services will run from Rouse Hill, a predominantly dormitory outer suburb, taking commuters on a long distance commute to Macquarie Park and Chatswood while double deck trains, which are supposedly no longer suitable for short distance journeys, will collect passengers off the NWRL and take them for remaining few kilometres all stations to the city. The justification for single deck trains is not clear. Preference for NWRL to use a heavy rail network with adequate seating capacity. Belief that the metro style trains are not appropriate for the proposed NWRL project due to the length of journey. The metro proposal should therefore be abandoned in favour of a full heavy rail alternative with a double deck train service.

Response:

The NWRL has been identified as a key priority railway transport infrastructure project which would provide a significant expansion to Sydney's rail network in an area of future population and jobs growth.

"Sydney's Rail Future: Modernising Sydney's Trains" released in June 2012 is an integral part of the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan. It sets the long term strategy to increase the capacity of Sydney's rail network through investment in new services and upgrading of existing infrastructure. A whole-of-network approach has been taken to long term planning for Sydney's Rail Future. It has closely analysed anticipated future demand across the network to identify areas requiring significant capacity increases. Change will not be delivered overnight. The implementation of the strategy will unfold over the next 20 years through the implementation of a long term program of service improvements, capital works and network upgrades.
Stage 4 of Sydney's Rail Future will see completion of a new tunnel under the Harbour and a new Sydney CBD line, allowing services from the NWRL to extend directly to the Sydney CBD

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Submission:

Concerns that the proposed NWRL will not be opened until the entire route is constructed. Concerns that due to the high expense and long construction time of this large project, this approach will deny rail transport to the Hills District for much longer than necessary. Preference is that the line is opened in stages from Epping, even one or two stations at a time, using temporary turn back arrangement and a temporary maintenance system via a connection at the Chatswood end. This will bring forward the availability of at least a partial rail service to the North West.

Response:

The staged opening of the NWRL would result in the need to undertake significant temporary works along the alignment, eg temporary stabling facilities until the permanent stabling facility is completed. The proposed construction methodology is to undertake the major civil construction works, followed by rail system and station fit out and commissioning. The current proposal is for completion of construction and systems integration by the end of 2019, followed by the opening of the NWRL to the public.

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Submission:

Concerns that fully loaded double deck trains already travel through the city at three minute intervals (20 per hour) yet there are plans to increase this frequency when the train lines are already at capacity. Limited on line capacity across the Harbour Bridge occurs at the height of the peak, for a period of approximately 60 minutes. Outside of that time there is ample capacity for trains from the proposed NWRL to run through to the city. The decision to build a single deck 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.
b. The decision to construct NWRL prior to the second Harbour Bridge crossing on the grounds that the North Shore line is at capacity has been contradicted by the statement made by Minister for Transport Hon Gladys Berejiklian, "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." (SMH 2/10/2012).

Therefore this proves that there is already capacity to run six new trains per hour from the NWRL direct to the city, ie a train every 10 minutes, which would be adequate capacity until the second Harbour Bridge crossing was built (additional trains could terminate at Chatswood to provide a 5 minute peak service from the North West).

Response:

The NWRL will be fully integrated into Sydney's public transport network providing a reliable service for approximately 400,000 residents in the north west. At Chatswood customers would be able to cross the platform to change onto the existing rail network. Train services would be organised to ensure that customer interchange waiting time is minimised. It is expected there would be a train every three minutes from Chatswood to the city during peak times. Regular services to / from the city in the off peak would be provided. The North Shore service would be increased, from the current 18 trains per hour up to at least 20 trains per hour during the peak.
b. The planning for the second harbour crossing is in its early stages. The planning for the crossing is within NSW government priorities. The NWRL would add to the existing public transport options available and would be fully and seamlessly integrated with other transport modes, including the existing rail network. Rapid transit services, initially 12 trains per hour during peak periods (a train every five minutes in peak periods), will be operated with single deck rapid transit trains, advanced signalling and dedicated track.
At Chatswood customers would be able to interchange (cross the platform) with the existing rail network. Train services would be organised to ensure customer interchange waiting time is minimised. It is expected there would be a train every three minutes from Chatswood to the city during peak times. Regular services to / from the city in the off peak would be provided. The North Shore service would be increased, up to at least 20 trains per hour during the peak.

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Submissions from organisations received the same treatment. See, for example, the submissions from Action for Public Transport in section 6.2.12 (first volume, pages 7.93ff) and from Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust issues 18-28 (pages 6-136 to 6-143).

The issue of quietly reducing the tunnel diameter from 6.6 metres in EIS1 to 6.1 metres (slightly too narrow for double-deck trains) is likewise circumvented - see paragraphs h and q in 7.6.4 (page 7.94) and the responses on pages 7.96 and 7.97. The simultaneous steepening of tunnel grades from 3.5% to 4.1%, unusable by current double-deck rolling stock, is not addressed at all.



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