Industry welcomes Sydney Metro funding

The new Sydney Metro line to Western Sydney airport will lead to long term benefits for the rail industry and the wider economy said Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA).

“It will not only create jobs to support our post COVID-19 recovery, but will also generate new opportunities for business and industry in years to come.”

The injection of an extra $3.5 billion from the state and federal government to get the project underway in 2020 was announced on Monday, June 1.

“This is exactly the kind of jobs creating infrastructure investment the country needs right now and we are pleased to see this important project getting underway this year,” said Wilkie.

Western Sydney Airport Chair Paul O’Sullivan said that the new rail line will be essential to ensuring the airport’s economic impact.

“Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport will not only ensure that the Airport is connected to the city’s rail network, it will complement the Airport’s ability to create economic growth and opportunities for the region, creating jobs for the people of Western Sydney and providing new ways for people to get around.”

When making the announcement on June 1, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that the line will be opened at the same time as the airport, in 2026, a goal that Wilkie welcomed.

“A direct rail connection from day one only strengthens the case for the airport precinct as the region seeks to attract more businesses to western Sydney as part of the development,” Wilkie said.

“This gives the region the best chance of making the most of the opportunities the airport precinct presents.”

NSW Labor has supported the project, however noted that local content must be prioritised.

“NSW businesses must be given priority in supplying construction materials and services to build this important rail link,” said NSW Labor deputy leader Yasmin Catley.

Wilkie said that the investment now would pay dividends for years to come.

“Investment in rail projects like this one provides much more than just a short-term boost as part of our recovery,” she said.

“This is a great example of state and federal governments working together to make sure economic stimulus measures deliver tangible and lasting benefits to our communities.”

Western Sydney Airport Metro line to begin construction this year

An extra $3.5 billion will be invested by the NSW and federal governments for the Sydney Metro – Western Sydney Airport line, with construction to commence before the end of 2020, announced Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Construction is already well underway on the airport, and later this year works will start on this new Metro service which will link the suburbs of Western Sydney to the rest of Sydney,” said Morrison.

Morrison made the announcement of extra federal funding alongside NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

“This project is moving forward, through the hard work that has been carried out by the Federal, New South Wales and local governments over the past year,” said Berejiklian.

“The opportunities this mega project will provide are vital as our economy recovers from the financial impact of the COVID-19.”

The line will include six metro stations, including two at the airport, one at the terminal and another at the business park. Stations will also be built in the Western Sydney Aerotropolis, Orchard Hills, and Luddenham. An interchange station will be built at St Marys to connect the line with the rest of the Sydney network.

The 23km line is expected to cost $11bn and is scheduled to open in 2026 in time for the opening of Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport.

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that the metro line will be at the centre of the under-development region.

“This new metro railway line will become the transport spine for the region, connecting travellers from the new airport to the rest of Sydney’s public transport system.”

Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge said that the project would support the wider economy.

“This project will support 14,000 jobs, bringing new opportunities for the people of Western Sydney, closer to home,” he said.

“It represents an economic stimulus in the middle of Western Sydney, supporting jobs for electricians, carpenters, plumbers, tunnellers, surveyors, crane and forklift operators and truck drivers.”

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Commuters warned to stay off public transport during peak hour

Commuters are being warned to avoid taking public transport in peak hours to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a press conference on Friday, May 15, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that people should not get on buses and trains in the state unless necessary.

“We don’t want any more people at this stage catching public transport in the peak. If you’re not already on the bus or train in the morning do not catch public transport,” she said.

Throughout the lockdown period NSW has run trains to a normal schedule to maintain capacity so that passengers can social distance, however with more workplaces opening up and people returning to work, there are concerns about the number of people on the services. Berejiklian said limiting passenger numbers would help to limit the spread.

“And I stress that strongly because we know overseas public transport was the main reason why the disease spread. At this stage we are maintaining good social distancing but we’re going to be very strict about that.”

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said that current patronage levels were reaching the capacity limits set to ensure physical distancing on public transport.

“Everyone will need to maintain physical distancing during this pandemic,” said Constance.

“That means if you are not already using public transport during the peak times, please do not use public transport during peak periods.”

Transport for NSW and Sydney Trains have put in extra measures to reduce crowding on services, including communication campaigns and managing numbers at stations using Opal gates.

“We will be monitoring patronage and have staff at key locations across the metropolitan area to assist customers,” said Constance.

A ‘no dot, no spot’ campaign will be used on trans to indicate where the safest places to sit and stand are. If a service is full, passengers will be asked to wait. Data will also be used to communicate what services have space via apps, social media and Transport Info.

Commuters in Adelaide were also asked to avoid using public transport. Travellers on the Gawler Line have been experiencing crowding partly due to 50 of the city’s 70 diesel trains being taken out of service due to a mechanical fault. South Australia chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier told local radio that crowded public transport should be avoided.

“I think it would be much safer to avoid getting on any public transport where you can’t do the social distancing,” she said.

Some jurisdictions around Australia have been encouraging commuters to use more active modes of transport such as walking or cycling to counter overcrowding on public transport and roads once work patterns begin to return to pre-COVID-19 norms.

Investment in infrastructure to place constraints on rail projects: ANZ report

With several states rolling out record transport infrastructure programs at the same time, reports of capacity constraints are on the rise.

Allens international commercial law firm reported in a 2019 survey that infrastructure leaders in Australia are 77 per cent more concerned with the risks facing the sector than they were five years ago.

Over 43 per cent of respondents said their top concern is being unable to deliver the immediate project pipeline.

The Allens survey stated that this is contributing to two major issues: an acute skills shortage that’s reaching crisis point, and escalating material costs that are putting unsustainable pressure on company performance.

They survey also reported that tunnels and rail are considered to be the highest risk projects, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. 

Constraints are predicted to continue to spread, with the Cross River Rail in Brisbane and Stage 2 of Canberra Light Rail both expected to commence shortly.

ANZ Research’s Australian Major Projects report said rail construction is expected to be lower this year.

“Capacity constraints will only worsen with several more multi-billion-dollar projects set to commence over the medium-term,” ANZ researchers said.

“The Victorian Government has almost doubled the funding for level crossing removals, while there is significant upside risk to the $20bn estimate for Sydney Metro West.”

The Australian Major Projects report predicts public investment will detract from economic growth during the year, however small-scale projects or maintenance works will stimulate the economy during the short-term.

ANZ Research does not expect governments, at either the federal or state level, to commit to bringing forward major infrastructure projects or significant additional infrastructure spending in the near term.

Catherine Birch, ANZ Senior Economist said there are timing lags between the completion of rail and road projects and the substantive phase of new ones.

“Debt is cheap and will likely stay cheap for a long time but asset recycling offers a means to fund projects while limiting increases to government debt,” she said.

“NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged the possibility of selling the remaining half of WestConnex to help fund projects including Sydney Metro West.”

Currently costed at $A20 billion, The Sydney Metro City & Southwest is the largest new public project that will drive high activity within the sector and is not expected to be operational until 2030.

“Ultimately, without effective policy action, capacity constraints pose a material risk to both public and private delivery of necessary infrastructure,” ANZ researchers said.

Sydney’s light rail opens

PICS: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, transport minister Andrew Constance and Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore officially opened the L2 Randwick Line light rail service from Circular Quay to Randwick early on Saturday morning.

Rail Express was in attendance to travel on the first tram down George Street, Sydney CBD’s main boulevard, since trams last travelled the route in 1958.

By Sunday afternoon 115,000 customers had used the service which operated on average every 6-8 minutes, according to Transport for NSW. These patronage figures are about three times the daily patronage of the Inner West Light Rail.

“The trams should never have been taken out! So we’ve put them back in, but there’s no footboards on this one, so there’s no riding them on the side,” minister for transport Andrew Constance said.

Frank Ayrton, who had worked as a conductor on the old network which was ripped up by 1961, was among the the first to ride the first service down George Street, alongside Constance, Berejiklian and Moore.

He told Rail Express his job included walking along the outside of the trams to collect fares from those riding on the footboards.

“One hand was for the money, the other hand for the tickets and all you had to hang on with was your elbow,” Ayrton said.

Berejiklian took the opportunity to address the delays to the project: “I just want to say to everyone in the community:  thank you for your patience. The people of NSW, whether you live, work or come to visit Sydney, you’ve been extremely patient with us, so thank you.”

“Literally thousands of men and women have spent many hours assiduously over the years to make this a reality, they’ve started a major network and made a network which is changing our city and transforming our state, and I’m excited to see the light rail form a broader part of our transport network. The young people here today they’ll grow up knowing that we had a city that’s integrated, that’s modern, that’s looking to the future,” Berejiklian said on Saturday morning.

Secretary of TfNSW Rodd Staples also addressed the challenges. “Whether you’ve been involved in the original conception of this service, whether you’ve been involved in building it, whether you’ve been a community member or a business member, whether you’re a tram spotter, while you’ve had a long way – it’s fantastic to be here with you today to celebrate the commencement of this service.”

“The city has been a construction zone over the last couple of years…and something that you won’t know though is that during construction, I found out that we had a secret helper. Gladys’s father, Mr Berejiklian, would quite often go into the city and find a construction zone and talk to the workers, and then report back to the premier about how things were really going,” Constance joked.

The ALTRAC consortium – Alstom, Transdev, Acciona and Capella – delivered the integrated system. The 12km network was delivered under a turnkey PPP model, which included the design and supply of 60 Citadis X05 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), power supply equipment including over two kilometres of twire-free ground-based power supply, energy recovery substations – HESOP, signalling, communications, depot equipment and a 19-year maintenance agreement.

The 60 LRVs will be able to move up to 13,500 commuters per hour (6,750 in each direction) during peak times once fully operational, according to Alstom.

As part of the contract, the consortium has also taken over the operations and maintenance of the existing Inner West Light rail (IWLR) that connects Sydney’s inner west with the Pyrmont peninsula, Darling Harbour and the southern CBD.

“This new Light Rail system will transform Sydney and provide a step change in the city’s public transport capability and reliability while protecting the aesthetic appeal of the CBD and improving sustainability of the overall transport network,” managing director for Alstom in Australia & New Zealand Mark Coxon said.

Opening day issues included a driver braking suddenly, with one man falling down on the packed tram. The service was briefly delayed while the driver was replaced.  A tram also lost power later in the afternoon, which necessitated all trams be stopped for thirty minutes.

In response, ALTRAC held a conference in the afternoon to address the issues, saying additional customer resource officers were deployed on the ground, stops were being monitored on CCTV and crowd management crews, heavy tows and police were stationed throughout the network.

“It’s been a bumpy day,” chief officer light rail operations Transdev Australasia Brian Brennan said.

“Tram failures do occur, it’s reality, but it has been an outstanding success today.”

More than 200,000 km of testing has been carried out on the line during testing while the 100 drivers have each undertaken 190 hours of training, however introducing customers on real journeys presents different challenges.

As capacity grows on the network and customers become more accustomed to the system, journey times will further improve as the L3 Kingsford Line opening approaches in March 2020, according to the state government.


Frank Ayrton, conductor before Sydney’s original tram network was torn up in the 1960s.


Trams were packed on the first day of services.

Sydney CBD light rail. Artists Impression: Transport for NSW

Sydney Light Rail open date announced

Sydney’s CBD and South East Light Rail is set to open on the 14th December, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and transport minister Andrew Constance have announced.

“The CBD and South East Light Rail is a big step towards revitalising our city and will transform the way we live, work and go out in Sydney,” Berejiklian said.

“Trams will be fare-free for the opening weekend so the community can ride the new light rail to celebrate this historic event.

“The new network will move up to 13,500 commuters an hour during peak time in both directions, replacing the conga line of buses which used to sit in traffic on George Street. A coupled tram holds up to 450 customers, the equivalent of up to nine standard buses.”

The service was initially slated to open in March this year, but suffered delays as well as budget and legal issues. The total cost for the service ended up being $2.9 billion, double the original cost predicted by then transport minister Berejiklian in 2012.

Constance revealed the first passenger services will start at 11am on Saturday and run between Circular Quay and Randwick until 1am.

“We have launched multiple safety campaigns telling people to stay safe around light rail. We need pedestrians to keep their heads up and drivers to stay out of the tram corridor and not queue across intersections.”

Services on the CBD and South East Light Rail will run from 5am to 1am every day of the week, according to the timetable.

Sydney’s metro tunnels nearing completion

Twenty-two kilometres of the Sydney Metro tunnels are now complete, leaving about 30 cent left of the mammoth public transport project.

Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) Nancy tunnelled its way to the new Martin Place Station last week, where it was welcomed by Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Transport Minister Andrew Constance and workers.

Since launching in October 2018, TBM Nancy has cleared 6.8 kilometres via the new metro stations at Waterloo, Central and Pitt Street.

“While people are getting on with life in the city above, deep underneath the CBD giant machines like TBM Nancy are getting on with the job, building tunnels for our future metro rail,” said Berejiklian.

“This tunnelling is pivotal to a well-connected public transport system here at Martin Place, where customers will be able to transfer between the new metro and the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra line,” said Constance.

TBM Nancy will spend a few weeks undergoing maintenance before being re-launched to complete the last 1.3 kilometres between Martin Place and Barangaroo.

Before TBM Nancy’s arrival, workers spent 21 months building the caverns for the new Martin Place Station, removing about 198,000 tonnes of rock in the process.

“Deep under city streets and buildings, this historic new metro line will not only increase the capacity of our rail network but make it easier to get around,” said Constance.

NSW government considers a Pyrmont metro station

The NSW government will investigate the possibility of building a metro station at Pyrmont, with the Western Harbour precinct intended as a new economic hub.

“We are, for the first time, treating Pyrmont and the Western Harbour precinct as the gateway to the CBD,” said Premier Gladys Berejiklian in early October.

“For our city and State to continue to be the jobs capital of the nation, we need this area to be revitalised. We have successfully transformed Barangaroo into a spectacular waterfront precinct and are in the midst of revitalising Central.

“Pyrmont is the next frontier.”

NSW government has accepted the recommendations of the the Greater Sydney Commission’s (GSC) review into the Planning Framework for the Western Harbour Precinct. The report, which was released in late September, suggests  prioritising public transport projects in order to improve business-to-business connections and support the 30-minute city.

This will include discussing infrastructure investments, focussing on access to the transport network.

Planning and public spaces minister Rob Stokes said the NSW government would immediately move to better support proposals to develop the area.

“We can support larger-scale development and maintain the unique heritage nature of Pyrmont – it’s not an ‘either/or’ choice,” said Stokes.

“However, we must plan for the precinct strategically, rather than on a site-by-site basis, to ensure the long-term liveabilty and sustainability of the area.”

Sydney Light Rail network nears completion

The finishing touches are now being made to Sydney CBD’s new light rail network, with tram testing already underway between Circular Quay and Randwick via Town Hall, Central Chalmers Street, and Moore Park.

According to the service provider passengers can expect services to be up and running soon.

Tree pit protections, localised paving and driveway asphalting between Goulburn Street and Hay Street are being finalised.

Utility works at the Hunter Street and Margaret Street intersection are ongoing and road asphalting will be laid in the coming weeks.

Water works are underway at the Park Street and Druitt Street intersection, while stormwater works on Bathurst Street are due for completion by the end of October.

Pedestrian crossing works, bike lane construction and paving works are also nearing completion, including along the busy central Eddy Avenue site.

“As we get ready for services to start in December, Sydneysiders will see more trams every day. Driver training extends into the CBD this week and there will be up to 12 trams out testing day and night, seven days a week,” said Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy took the opportunity today to remind road users to exercise caution and adjust their behaviour around the new mode of transport.

“The message for all road users is the same; ditch the distraction, follow the road rules and pay attention.”

“Drivers and operators of heavy vehicles must follow the new traffic signals and always stop on the red. Never turn in front of a tram and do not queue across intersections. Food delivery operators and couriers are also reminded to not ride in the tram corridor,” said Corboy.

The trams are powered by an Alstom developed technology called Aesthetic Power Supply (APS), a “third rail” strip embedded into the ground.

APS is designed so power flows only to parts of the third rail while the light rail vehicle is completely covering them, making the technology safe for pedestrians and motorists.

 

Transport for NSW introducing $50 weekly travel cap for Opal

The New South Wales Government will start placing a weekly cost cap of $50 on Opal cards from Monday June 24.

The new cap is about 20 per cent lower than the current cap of $63.20 a week, and is expected to save public transport users up to $686 a year. These savings will also extend to users of the recently launched North West Metro, saving $563 a year for an adult customer travelling to and from Tallawong station and Central five days a week.

Examples of regular weekly commuters who could save $686 a year under the new plans include those travelling from Meadowban to Barangaroo via ferry, Tuggerah to Central and Kiama to Sutherland routes.

State premier Gladys Berejiklian said that the new cap would help to ease cost pressures for around 55,000 customers across NSW public transport services (including ferries).

Caps for concession holders will also be reduced as part of the plans. Opal card benefits such as weekly travel rewards and transfer discounts will also survive the new cap.

“We want to make public transport more affordable and that is why we are lowering the cap,” Ms Berejiklian said. “From Monday adults will pay no more than $50 a week and the concession cap will also be reduced from $31.60 to $25 a week.”

State transport minister Andrew Constance added that from Monday fares would rise in line with inflation at 1.9 per cent as opposed to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommendation  of 4.2 per cent.

“This means catching the train, bus, ferry, metro or light rail is still a much cheaper option than driving,” he said.