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Sydney’s extended light-rail network

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:

Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian today announced light rail would be built through the Sydney CBD to Randwick and Kingsford to reduce congestion and revitalise the city.

The estimated $1.6 billion 12 kilometre light rail project will link Circular Quay and Central via George Street, the Moore Park sporting and entertainment precinct including the Sydney Cricket Ground and Allianz Stadium, Randwick Racecourse, the University of NSW and Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick.

Light rail will be built in parallel with the implementation of a redesigned bus network to significantly reduce the number of buses clogging the CBD during the peak.

Around 40 per cent of George Street will be pedestrianised, between Bathurst Street and Hunter Street, for light rail – meaning 60 per cent of George Street will still be accessible to private vehicles.

“This is a once-in-a-generation project to revitalise the centre of Sydney by reducing congestion and offering a fast, attractive public transport option to key locations,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“The NSW Government is getting on with the job of building for the future.”

There’s already another well advanced plan for extending the existing inner-west light-rail line significantly, as shown below:

TPD_LightRail_InnerWestLightRai-Extension_map_Feb_2012_0And here’s the CBD and southeast scheme:recommend-route-DecLooking at the light-rail plans in a bit more detail, there are some remarkable similarities between what Sydney is trying to achieve through a number of public transport initiatives and what Auckland’s trying to achieve through the City Rail Link. Things like:

  • Reducing the number of buses travelling along busy inner city streets
  • Providing better reliability and service quality for public transport
  • Improving the pedestrian experience of the inner city
  • Boosting employment and economic growth

For example, Sydney really struggles with the huge number of buses entering its CBD during the peak period – which this light-rail project as well as a reorganisation of the bus network will help resolve.sydney-bus-numbersI 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.

34 comments to Sydney’s extended light-rail network

  • obi

    “For example, Sydney really struggles with the huge number of buses entering its CBD during the peak period – which this light-rail project as well as a reorganisation of the bus network will help resolve.”

    So light rail could ease long term predicted bus congestion in central Auckland? If so, you have a much cheaper alternative to the CBD rail tunnel. This should be explored further.

    • S

      Light rail should certainly go down Dominion Road, I think. I’m not sure I’d advocate using light rail in place of the existing heavy-rail network, though.

    • Bbc

      It was already explored in the CCAS study and found not to provide the benefits that are possible with the CRL, so no it doesn’t need to be re-explored for the umpteenth time.

    • Luke C

      Obi you clearly did not see the $1.6 Billion price tag of the light rail line (also a warning to Celia Wade-Brown).
      Also note the corridor the light rail line is planned on is generally very wide, so very well suited for light rail. Auckland has no so wide streets.
      Note also that the Sydney buses this plan replaces are rather like crows feet services, one or two long lines, then branch off near the end.
      Auckland has none of these services either, as buses generally branch closer to the city.

      • bbc

        Auckland has no such wide streets? Beg your pardon, Auckland is chockas of full wide streets that previously had trams running down them, but that’s beside the point, if we wanted we could have trams running down High Street. You just need to visit somewhere like Basel to realise that trams need hardly any space at all.

        • Luke C

          Anzac Parade is 50m wide, and Alison Road 30m wide. Most Auckland roads are 20.12m wide so much more cramped to add a light rail line.
          Agreed light rail doesn’t need wide corridors and can cope with narrower corridors than buses. However that is not relevant. What is relevant is how easy it is to add to a particular suburban environment. As Sydney has these very wide road corridors much cheaper and easier to add light rail on a dedicated corridor than in Auckland. Also politically easier as don’t have to remove road space. We’ve seen big issues already with building a dedicated bus lane down Dominion Road due to lack of space.
          I guess I’m sounding anti light-rail here, and I’m not. Just think that light-rail will de difficult and expensive to do in Auckland on a larger scale, and that this corridor in Sydney seems very well suited for light rail. So therefore using it to attack CBDRL is just plain madness.

          • That may be true (although the likes of Ponsonby Rd, Jervois, Great North, Great South are actually 28m wide), but it’s also largely irrelevant. All those “one chain” wide arterial already have bus lanes, albeit part time shared with parking in most cases. To create trams in Auckland would be more of a case of making those PT lanes permanent and moving them to the middle of the road rather than the sides. That’s not really removing road space, if anything it’s removing parking which naturally is another battle to be won.

            Trams (i.e. light rail entirely in street corridors) might be a surprise blessing for Auckland simply because we do have fairly narrow arterials. A proper bus lane needs to be about 4m wide, a tram lane can be as little as 2.8. Put the tram lanes in the centre and they can function as a flush median too. Take one of those 20m wide streets, put a pair of tram tracks in the middle and a pair of 3.5m road lanes alongside and you’ll still have enough room for some cycle lanes kerbside and decent footpaths. Depending on the variation in street width, pockets of kerbside parking might be perfectly possible wherever you have a couple extra metres to play with.

          • Luke C

            Yes I agree is entirely possible but politically different, as not just 24hour parking will be removed, but also turning lanes. Much more expensive doe to the road needing total reconstruction, while in Sydney is easier to build in existing space. Also space important for less cramped stations too.
            However I don’t think we have a corridor like the only in Sydney where a large area of the city could have an improved service with a light rail line. Sure Dominion Road would be great but patronage will just come from corridor itself, rather than most of south-eastern Sydney like this one will cover.
            Despite how awesome it would be is difficult to justify spending 100’s of millions on a corridor like Dominion Road, unless is used to drive large land-use change.
            Most of Aucklands corridors too low a density for light rail to really shine, works best in medium density mixed-use corridors connecting a wide range of destinations.
            My preference for light rail would be Great North road to Point Chev, then down through Unitec to Mt Albert station. Huge opportunities for redevelopment along GN road especially. Would really need a NW rail line to remove GN Road buses that come from Westgate though so is a very long term project.

          • No reason turn lanes have to be affected, all out arterials already widen at intersections to provide additional turn and queuing lanes.

            Shortly dominion rd will have entirely contiguous bus lanes, including through intersections. No reason those can’t be tram lanes, except the desire to maintain some occasional off peak parking.

          • Bryce P

            Has a tram line down Dom Road, from SH20 to Queen St, been costed?

          • Don’t think so, but a recent review of Australian light rail and team extensions had an average cost per km of A$12 million (in 2009 dollars). Based on that my guess is Britomart to SH20 at Mt Roskill would be around $80 million.

          • Bryce P

            That would have to be good value for money. Surely? Better than the proposed Wynyard extension, well, at least for a few years until Wynyard fills up.

          • Bryce P

            Run the tram lines down the middle.

          • I think Wynyard to Britomart makes a good first step, followed by Queen St to K Rd. That would give us a nice city distributor. The third stage, once we’re serious and have a proven application of modern trams in Auckland, would be to extend down Dominion Rd.

    • Mr Anderson

      Obi I know you’re just trolling on that issue but as others say light rail isn’t cheap and isn’t a replacement for heavy rail, but rather a supplement for it. Dominion Rd would be a great light rail line.

      • Light rail instead of the CRL? what does that do for the people in Pukekohe or Henderson, come on Obi, you must understand that the CRL is all about unlocking the value of the existing rail ROW. That’s what makes it such a bargain; for the cost of a few km of tunnelling Auckland instantly gets a region wide metro system! Best value of any major transport investment on offer.

      • obi

        Yes, it is obvious trolling. But it still looks like the NSW have looked at the issue of bus congestion (and a bunch of other future problems) and decided that light rail can solve them. If the light rail solution works in Sydney, then it could work elsewhere. You’ve essentially undermined the case for the CBD tunnel by presenting a possible alternative, and promoting it as the work of a “government that isn’t completely insane in its ideological dislike of public transport”.

        • Light rail is a good system to consider for parts of Auckland but why that means it must be instead of the CRL is a conclusion entirely of your own devising. LRT could be used on existing bus routes for areas not served by the rail network, like Dominion Rd. Therefore exactly same as in Sydney; conventional rail serving RTN corridors and LRT and buses on the surface FTN routes. No contradiction, but complimentary systems. Has the fact that both technologies run on rails confused you about their different purposes? The decision was between BRT or LRT on these routes in Sydney, not between Conventional rail or LRT.

          Here I think Mr A is interested in showing how strangely pigheaded our current government is with their extreme motorways only policy and finds the contrast with Sydney instructive. So the issue isn’t what the mode is so much as the fact that there is investment in Transit at all!
          There is no doubt that the CRL is the key first project for Auckland; there is no other contender nearly as good.

          Although I must say the little I know of Australian infrastructure politics has taught me that nothing is too ideal there either; with multiple layers of government and just as many dinosaurs determined to build for last century…. [see HW below]

        • Max

          Lol, obi – how is this undermining the case? Sydney ALREADY has a through rail system. Of course they build light rail instead of converting a terminus station! They are far ahead of us on that, man!

          Also, while the money is obviously a fair big chunk, the largest city of our country could (within, say, 10-15 years max) easily deserve and afford and use BOTH light rail and the CRL. If we didn’t waste all our money on stupid motorway projects, we’d have easily enough to do both, without having to screw anyone else over…

  • I have a unique conservative viewpoint that this is the stupidest plan ever.

    Dragging city bound passengers around via Central will be significantly slower than present and removing the ability of buses to use parts of George St raises questions about where they will actually go. Sussex St isn’t reachable without conflicting with the trams and there also appears to be a significant increase in buses on Elizabeth St on this plan. It’s not at all clear that Elizabeth St won’t become as bad or worse than George St presently is with this plan being implemented.

  • I’d suggest taking off the rose-coloured lenses when analysing anything that goes on with transport infrastructure planning and policy in NSW. The real nuttiness is reserved for the quasi-autonomous ‘Infrastructure NSW’, headed by a former Premier from the same centre-right coalition party. INSW has released its 20-year infrastructure plan, mostly involving road construction, including the ‘WestConnex’ motorway, a ‘missing link’ between two radial motorways. Not to mention building bus tunnels through the CBD for BRT (based on its allegedly higher carrying capacity than LRT). INSW seems to be engaged in a political battle with Transport for NSW and the Minister for dominance over transport infrastructure planning and delivery. More to this announcement that meets the eye and a lot will happen before the first rails go down in the Sydney CBD. And this video from PT lobby group Ecotransit sums things up nicely – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0DYZOWRO_0

    • Riccardo

      Very true HW also the centre right government that worries me is the potential next federal government, whose leader’s first speech to parliament was on the evils of suburban trains, an odd topic as it isn’t even a core federal responsibility, albeit they hold the purse strings.

  • Dave West

    Hope NSW first ask these guys on the what not to do when it comes to light rail. High speed indeed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFeafS-7akE

  • Bryce P

    The main thing I notice in the drawing is the existing heavy rail network which carries on over the bridge, uses a loop and has no dead end stations.

  • Ben S

    Any move back to light rail is a step in the right direction, although I believe transport in general should be reverse engineered around how we build our communities.

    As long as you have poor communal focus in suburban design, in other words, suburbs that are by default designed around motorised transport then other transit systems will always be seen as tokenistic.

    In the late 40s the vision for Auckland was high density inner suburbs served by a growing tram network. Urban sprawl was feared and widely cautioned against.

    In the 50s that vision was mysteriously usurped by the motorisation lobby – as happened in the USA. The governments of the day massively exacerbated the problem by contributing around 25% of the houses being built (aka State houses) which they simple plonked on great tracts of land with zero thought to suburban design (the isolating effects later diagnosed as “suburban neurosis”!). We all know what happened next – the road/motorway network took priority – it too poorly designed – the trams ripped out, etc etc.

    Flash forward and we have a city built around motorisation and it would take some superhuman leadership to undo that. As a fairly broad aside, the scale of the task is not helped by the fact that it’s fuelled by a lack of disincentives for large-scale capitalism, for example, big box retail. So I think to undo motorisation and create cities that favour people and the environment over corporates is a rather large socio-political ask…

    Still, it’s what we should do. Otherwise we’ll be getting in our cars and driving to the mall, sitting in traffic jams, complaining about poor public transport, condemning our middle and lower classes to isolated, low-quality lifestyles, wrecking the environment and all the other downstream effects of mass motorisation for decades to come.

    Er, ok rant over. Phew.

    • Ben, all true. And the task can seem daunting but really a lot of small changes in the right direction will help get us there. Suburbs can be re-engineered at the fine grain, traffic slowed, place quality reintroduced. Gradual steps like the shared spaces and structural changes like the proper pricing of parking and improved provision on Transit are vital too.

      But a few really big changes can get us to a tipping point. This is why I call the CRL the ‘Killer App’ for Auckland, linked with the other three huge changes underway, integrated ticketing, bus redesign and coordination, and the fast and frequent electric trains, it give us the freedom to reduce the hegemony of auto-dependency on our city. And therefore re-shape it for the 21st century.

      Key to this is what we invest in, it is very frustrating seeing the sums being blown on promoting the old model. This is surely the last flurry of motorway madness in Auckland.

      • The second paragraph really sums up why our government doesn’t want CRL, it really is the game changer.
        Sydney has a problem with too many buses, just like Auckland will in the near future. Because Auckland PT is less developed than Sydney the solution for Auckland is the CRL, light rail on the Dominion road corridor and others should follow.

  • George D

    This has a lot to do with Sydney’s anxiety about being overtaken by Melbourne, whose trams add dramatically to the fabric of the city. People generally oppose things for ideological reasons until the cities that have them

  • Malcolm M

    It is interesting that Infrastructure NSW planned a bus tunnel down George Street. Traders in George Street quickly united against that plan and were instead strongly supportive of light rail. The lesson from this for Auckland is that Centre Right governments are swayed by united lobbying by business.

    The short bus tunnel would have had a higher price tag than the 12 km of light rail. It involved a cut-and-cover tunnel along George Street, and rebuilding of the Town Hall and Wynyard stations. This would have been enormously disruptive to traders and commuters alike, for relatively little gain. Melbourne’s CBD is enhanced by trams as internal circulators, with a lot of passengers hopping on a tram to travel only a few blocks. It’s good to see other cities wanting to emulate central Melbourne’s success. However light rail is not an alternative to heavy rail for longer-distance commuting, because too many compromises are made to their speed in mixed traffic by unfriendly traffic light sequences. This has caused a decline in commuting on Melbourne’s trams, whereas heavy rail commuting has been increasing. It’s best if business supports plans that are already on the table (eg the CRL), rather than trying to propose new solutions that only provide governments an excuse to buy time by ordering another study.

  • Luke C

    I think the only way bus tunnels are higher carrying capacity than rail is for short sections into the city. Once you add stations slashes the capacity.
    For example the bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel (NJ to NY) carries up to 62,000 per hour, however there are no stations. Having stations slashes capacity to 10-15,000.
    Brisbanes busway does function well, but I doubt it would if it wasn’t complementary to a rail system.

  • John Smith

    Why does Australia have centre right governments that don’t hate public transport?

    It’s probably a lot to do with the fact that these are state governments, and they are directlyresponsible for running the service. In Sydney and Melbourne at least, public transport is important enough to cause serious political grief when it breaks down, so governments of both colours have to care about making it work.

    At federal level the dynamic is more similar to yours: the parties of the right have a more rural base and care little about urban affairs. The present centre right opposition leader, Tony Abbott, has written a book which includes typical right wing anti public transport memes (cars = freedom = good, public transport = collective action = bad).

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