A trains not planes public transport editorial

The harbour city may have arrived at its very last chance for the new NSW Premier Mike Baird, to correct a terrible planning calamity on Sydney’s much needed NW Rail link, or it may be too late, and it will have to become an awful monument to flawed thinking by former Premier Barry O’Farrell.

But if possible, the decision to build the new line with narrow tunnels incompatible with the rest of the double decker rolling stock used throughout the Sydney metropolitan and outer regional area needs to be urgently reversed.

The tunneling machines are about to begin their work. There is a chance to intervene. The future of sensible rail solutions for Sydney depends on it.

A French version of the duplex design trains being introduced for outer Sydney services from 2018

The matter snapped back into view this week when the Baird Government announced a decision to buy off-the-shelf state of the art double decker or duplex European rolling stock to replace the current aging train sets used for services to Newcastle, the central coast, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra.

These are trains that would never be able to use the NW Rail Link, or the proposed and much needed 2nd Harbour Crossing rail link from Chatswood to the main Sydney CBD, or if you believe Sydney has a great future, use any extension of the NW Rail link to the central coast and Hunter in a metropolitan area predicted to double in population to close to 10 million people by 2100.

The logic for making NW rail customers stand up in single deck trains with few seats for longer outer Sydney services seems perverse. Such higher density metro trains designs are used in major cities abroad for inner shorter city services, not for outer suburban areas.

Much of the NW link to go from Cudgegong Road to Chatswood exists as today’s Epping to Chatswood line, which of course uses double deckers. Chatswood is a choke point for the Epping and forthcoming NW Link services, and recognised as such by the government in its endorsement in principle of a 2nd harbour rail crossing.

The Epping station layout ought to protect, in so far as possible, platform space or alternative routings that would allow trains from the NW to Epping to also easily connect with or indeed run along the surface lines that already connect Epping to the city stations via Strathfield, as well as keep open the potential for eventually completing the Epping to Parramatta section of the original Chatswood to Parramatta line, which was butchered by the previous Labor state government.

Epping and the NW in general share a high growth future ill served by the stunted visions of previous Labor and conservative governments.  Building the world’s least comfortable modern city longer distance rail link to short change that future is tragic, and unnecessary.

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