Plan for Metro lines to South East Sydney

The NSW government has released the South East Sydney Transport Strategy and included in the preferred scenario two new metro lines to be built by 2041 and 2056.

The Strategy outlines how Transport for NSW expects to respond to growing population in South East Sydney, an area of the city stretching from Redfern to La Perouse and to Rockdale.

The first metro line would extend from the CBD to Green Square, and Randwick and terminate at La Perouse. The second would begin at Randwick and travel to Kogarah via Sydney Airport.

The CBD to La Perouse metro line would be an extension of Sydney Metro West, and is the first Metro line to be completed, in 2041.

Metro between Randwick and Kogarah would be delivered by 2056 and would extend beyond Kogarah to Miranda.

In addition to the new metro lines, a rapid bus network would link the south east. A Transport for NSW spokesperson said that the combination was preferred over light rail options.

“After considerable consultation with Councils and other key stakeholders, two new Metro lines were considered to be the most effective means to provide for the transport needs of South East Sydney into the coming decades. Light Rail was considered, but a Rapid Bus and Metro combination allowed for better outcomes in terms of delivery and connectivity.”

The Strategy also assumes that metro will connect Hurstville and Macquarie Park and Kogarah and Norwest.

The Strategy acknowledges that current transport infrastructure in the region is not meeting the needs of the population.

Stations on the Airport Line, the only heavy rail line that runs through the region, reach capacity by 7.15am. With three in six trains arriving over capacity and four in six trains departing over capacity between 7.45 and 8.45am. With further development forecast along the line there is a need for greater capacity.

“Transport for NSW recognises that as South East Sydney continues to grow over the coming 30 years, new lines will be needed to support existing infrastructure,” said the Transport for NSW spokesperson.

The Strategy also covers the Port Botany area and while not recommending further rail to the port beyond the Port Botany Rail Line Duplication project, does set out as an objective that Port Botany has “easy access by all modes to local commercial, industrial and employment precincts.” The Strategy however does not include passenger rail to Port Botany, only recommending that Port Botany be connected via bus and private vehicle to the rest of Sydney.

The Strategy marks a shift in transport planning for the South East region of Sydney. Instead of taking a “predict and provide” approach, the Strategy identifies a vision for the region and then indicates the proposed transport infrastructure. As written in the Strategy:

“This approach recognises that continuing to accept current mode share, and in particular high levels of private car use, is not going to realise the vision, rather it will lead to increased road congestion and reduced accessibility for local residents, workers and visitors.”

Face masks strongly encouraged on NSW public transport

Face masks are now encouraged for passengers on NSW public transport.

The change to strongly encouraging mask wearing came on Sunday, August 2, with NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant recommending masks be worn in indoor settings where physical distancing is hard to maintain, such as on public transport.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that physical distancing is still the main goal.

“People should continue to maintain their physical distance – it is our most effective weapon. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t maintain your physical distance you should wear a mask,” she said.

“It is critical the community understands masks should be used in conjunction with other measures, and not as a standalone measure.”

People are still advised not to travel on public transport if they are sick and to maintain good hygiene.

While masks will not be enforced on public transport, Transport for NSW is strongly recommending passengers wear masks.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson also said that updated mask guidelines have been issued for staff.

“Transport for NSW has made face masks available for customer facing frontline staff and is strongly recommending these masks are used at work.”

While masks were made mandatory in Melbourne on July 22, no other Australian jurisdiction has enforced a similar measure. Social distancing is also not mandatory on public transport in NSW, however heavily encouraged and promoted through the “no dot, no spot” campaign.

CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) Caroline Wilkie said that the rail industry thanked those who were wearing masks.

“Wearing a mask helps save lives and keeps our rail workers safe as well,” she said.

“We welcome the public support for those on the front line as they keep working to support the rest of us.”

Passenger volumes on NSW public transport were beginning to increase in May and June. Sydney Trains recorded a low of six million trips in April, while June recording 13,754,000 trips. Since the start of July, however, trips on the entire NSW public transport network have begun to decline again, by around 9 per cent.

Prior to COVID-19, in June 2019 32 million trips were taken on the Sydney Trains network.

Parkes

$185m investment to build on Parkes rail links

The NSW government has announced $185 million investment to build on rail infrastructure delivery in Parkes.

The future site of the intersection of Australia’s major freight lines, Parkes is expected to play a central role in Australia’s logistics networks and supply chains.

Inland Rail will pass through Parkes, connecting Melbourne and Brisbane via regional NSW, Queensland, and Victoria, and will intersect in the Central West town with the rail line linking Sydney to Perth.

The NSW government’s current investment will fund the Parkes Special Activation Precinct, which will leverage these links to develop a logistics and intermodal hub. Parkes also has the advantage of being much more affordable than metropolitan cities, with land values at just 5 per cent of the capitals.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the investment in roads, sewer, and water connections will help grow regional NSW.

“This precinct is all about attracting money, economic growth and jobs to regional NSW,” he said.

“We know that where there is significant government investment, it attracts private investment ten-fold. This precinct could attract up to $1 billion in private investment over the next 10 years.”

The precinct will be developed by the Regional Growth NSW Development Corporation, who will lead design and construction, applications and approvals, and provide assistance for those businesses looking to set up in the regions.

The precinct stretches over 4,800 hectares of land, and can be used for purposes such as freight and logistics, food processing, warehousing, plastic and e-waste recycling, and cold chain storage.

The precinct will also focus on sustainability, as it will be Australia’s first UNIDO Eco Industrial zone. The initiative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation seeks to enhance the environmental, economic and social performance of industrial businesses through collaboration.

Work is now complete on the link between Inland Rail at Parkes and the Broken Hill rail line to Perth.

Permits required for freight crossing NSW border from Victoria

Freight rail personnel travelling from Victoria to NSW will have to apply for a permit, under new regulations imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The new rules were imposed on July 8 and apply to anyone crossing the border from Victoria to NSW. While freight and logistics are exempted from the ban on travelling across the border as they are seen as providing critical services, a permit is required.

A separate permit is being created to clarify conditions for freight and transport operators. This permit will allow freight personnel to travel between NSW and Victoria for the purpose of their duties, as long as their employer has a COVID-19 Safety Plan and does not require them to self-isolate.

Applications for the new freight and transport permit will be live through Service NSW by close of business Thursday, July 9.

When the border closure was initially announced and put in place, freight and logistics operators were required to self-isolate, however chair of the Freight on Rail Group of Australia Dean Dalla Valle welcomed the change to the freight and transport-specific permit.

“Rail maintenance workers, terminal staff and safety compliance officers also need to regularly cross the Victorian-NSW border in cars to service and supervise essential freight train operations,” he said.

“Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole and his key agency staff immediately understood and appreciated these nuanced, daily practical requirements of our sector. He also understood the logistical difficulty of forcing hundreds of train crews to self-isolate for 14-days each time they crossed the border on a freight delivery run.”

Australian Logistics Council CEO Kirk Coningham also welcomed the NSW governments creation of the freight transport permit.

“ALC has been working with the NSW government and other industry groups over the past day to rectify the impractical requirement for freight transport workers entering NSW from Victoria to self-isolate for 14 days,” he said.

“We are pleased that the NSW Government is now creating a new permit that will allow our industry’s workforce to continue delivering essential goods to communities without being forced into self-isolation.”

Passenger rail between the two states has been halted, with the XPT service from Sydney terminating at Albury.

According to a statement from the Victorian and NSW agriculture ministers, both governments are working to ensure freight can flow across the border.

“We are working closely with our federal and New South Wales counterparts to ensure freight movements across the border can continue and our agricultural products can be delivered to market shelves across Victoria,” said Victorian Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes.

NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said that the governments will ensure that the agricultural supply chain will continue operating.

“Agriculture is critical to both our states and to the country, which is why we’ll be working to make sure there’s minimal to no disruption to this essential sector.”

Rail freight and the wider transport sector has been recognised as critical to ensuring Australians can access essential supplies throughout the COVID-19 period. When other state-borders were closed earlier in 2020, exemptions were granted for freight to continue. Coningham said that these procedures should continue.

“Our industry has supported communities right throughout this pandemic, and it’s important governments return that support by ensuring their COVID rules and regulations are practical, workable and allow us to keep delivering.”

Dalla Valle said that the efficiencies of rail had been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic.

“What has become crystal clear during the COVID-19 pandemic is the innate power of rail in being able to transport bulk volumes of freight over large distances and state borders in a safe and efficient manner,” he said.

“For example, a typical interstate goods train up to 1,500 metres in length can haul approximately 220 shipping containers, helping to significantly reduce the number of truck (and hence people) movements across state borders.”

Dalla Valle also said that rail was able to ensure that goods are transported via corridors and facilities that did not come into contact with the public.

Fare hike waived in ACT as light rail frequency increased

Public transport fares have remained frozen in Canberra, to help reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fares have not increased since January 2019, and ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel said that keeping fares the same would reduce the financial burden of COVID-19.

“The ACT Government knows that COVID-19 has put increased pressure on families, and every little bit counts,” he said.

“Many people rely on public transport to get around, and freezing bus and light rail fares will help to ease financial stress during this challenging time.”

Although Steel is not encouraging Canberrans to fully return to public transport just yet, he is advising that those who do need to travel do so outside of peak hours, where there is an additional saving.

“I encourage Canberrans to travel at off-peak times when it is cheaper, and to help reduce crowding on buses and light rail.”

Cash is also not being accepted around the network. MyWay cards or pre-paid tickets are permitted.

“Having a MyWay card is still the cheapest way to use public transport, as the card calculates the cheapest possible fare per passenger, based on any eligible concession and daily or monthly fare caps,” said Steel.

While the ACT has decided to keep fares the same, NSW instituted changes to its fares on July 1. Transport for NSW lowered fares outside of the peaks, and off-peak pricing was instituted on light rail. A scheduled CPI increase was also not applied. Fares for journeys on buses and light rail under three kilometres were increased, to encourage walking and cycling.

In the ACT, from July 18, upgrades to the transport network will see trams frequency lifted to every five minutes during weekday mornings. A new bus network will provide an extra 692 buses each weekday, with changes to routes and increases in frequency.

Container rail into Port Botany. Photo: Sydney Ports

NSW provides information for freight industry to be COVID Safe

The NSW government has released industry-specific information for the transport and freight businesses to help them navigate the risk of COVID-19.

According to Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, the materials have been designed for non-customer facing businesses and to provide practical guidance to limit the spread of the virus.

“80,000 businesses have already downloaded the NSW Government’s COVID Safety Plans, and we’ve now created additional resources for transport, freight and ride shares, offices, construction sites, and manufacturing premises,” Anderson said.

The NSW government has kept borders open to rail freight throughout the crisis, with no restriction on interstate movement into NSW for rail.

In addition, freight trains were given extra access to the Sydney metropolitan rail network in what were ordinarily restricted periods for passenger rail only.

NSW Ports CEO, Marika Calfas, said such measures should remain in place for the foreseeable future.

“These measures should be continued in the longer term to deliver community-wide productivity benefits, allowing trucks to supply businesses during evening periods, to alleviate pressures on the road networks during peak hours, and freight trains and passenger trains to share the network safely,” Calfas said.

“This will be especially important during the recovery phase when road congestion is likely to be exacerbated due to reduced public transport usage.”

Anderson said that the NSW government was working to ensure that businesses can operate as smoothly as possible.

“Ultimately we want to focus on getting NSW’s economy back up and running and providing businesses with the right guidance to operate safely and successfully in the current climate.”

The online database of information includes checklists for a COVID-19 safety plan for businesses, covering wellbeing of staff and customers, physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning, and record keeping. Businesses are also encouraged to register as being COVID Safe. Links to financial assistance are also available.

Thales to support NSW digital strategy

Global technology provider and rail signalling manufacturer Thales will develop a leading digital control, communication, and signalling centre in Sydney.

The announcement follows Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s $1.6 billion Digital Restart Fund which aims to make NSW the digital capital of the southern hemisphere.

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins said that the announcement enables Thales to commit to basing its digital innovation in Sydney.

“This is incredibly exciting for the many innovative companies operating in this state. To back the NSW ambition, we are committed to establishing a digital innovation lab in western Sydney to develop digital solutions for public transport,” said Jenkins.

Thales supplies digital transport systems to Sydney Metro and has supplied telemetry solutions to Sydney Trains.

Jenkins said that Thales would be drawing on its global expertise and tailoring the solutions to the needs of NSW and Transport for NSW, focusing on Metro, light rail, transport cyber security, and digital rail signalling.

“The Digital Innovation Lab will continue to grow smart jobs in western Sydney, enhancing our existing team of world-class engineers and software developers already based in our Transport business.”

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said that investment in digital technology would drive the state’s economy.

“This record investment in technology recognises that digital infrastructure is as important as transport infrastructure to the State’s economic growth.

“We must be fast followers in the Digital Revolution to accelerate agility, lift productivity and generate the jobs of tomorrow.”

The $1.6bn in funding also includes $240 million to enhance NSW’s cyber security capability, the biggest single investment in cyber security in Australia’s history, said Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello.

Cyber security is also a focus for Thales.

“It’s never been more important that our public transport systems are protected with the highest levels of cyber security, which Thales delivers to public transport operators around the world,” said Jenkins.

team

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.