Sydney Metro – a brief guide to a complex history

In researching an article on the implications of the Sydney Metro for the existing suburban rail network, I realised how difficult it was to understand, let alone explain, the very complex way in which the metro concept developed. There were at least half-a-dozen iterations of the proposal, with different modes and several route variations, before the current project was announced in 2012 – and even after that it has continued to evolve.

I decided it would be useful to develop a summary timeline of the project’s history. I have drawn from several sources, including several useful Wikipedia articles on proposed and implemented rail projects in Sydney, State government reports and media releases, the government’s Metro site, the Transport Sydney blog, my earlier posts on the metro and media reports. A PDF version of the timeline is available here.

Sydney Metro alignment (source: Sydney Metro website)

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Parramatta Light Rail part 3: Stage 1 extension and Stage 2 options

In the first post in this series I discussed the implications of the NSW Government’s recent announcement that the Parramatta Light Rail (PLR) project will be built in stages, with the link to Carlingford being given priority over what is now a stage 2 line through the Sydney Olympic Park corridor which is to be planned in conjunction with the Sydney.

In the second post I discussed the preferred route, comparing it to one chosen originally by Parramatta Council. In this third article in the series I’ll discuss in more detail the Stage 1 extension option currently under investigation as well as the complexities surrounding the route choices for Stage 2.

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Parramatta Light Rail part 2: unpacking the Westmead to Carlingford corridor

Previously I discussed the impacts of the NSW Government’s approach to the planning of the Parramatta Light Rail, following the recent announcement that only one of the previously-identified routes – the section from Westmead to Carlingford – would be constructed as the first stage of the project. In this post I’ll discuss the preferred route in a bit more detail, comparing it to Parramatta Council’s original 2013 proposal. This is no longer available online but the following maps show the current route proposal and as a comparison the route selected by Parramatta Council.

Parramatta Light Rail Stage 1 preferred route (source: NSW Government PRL website)

Parramatta Light Rail Stage 1 preferred route (source: NSW Government PRL website)

Parramatta City Council's 2013 preferred light rail route options (source: Parramatta City Council)

Parramatta City Council’s 2013 preferred light rail route options (source: Parramatta City Council)

The analysis is made somewhat easier because the line falls into three distinct sections, as outlined below. It’s important to bear in mind however that the route and stop locations are indicative at this stage and could change as a result of further consultation.

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Parramatta Light Rail part 1: two steps forward, one step back

The recent announcement by the NSW government that the Parramatta Light Rail (PLR) project will be built in stages, with Stage One prioritising a link to Carlingford over one to Sydney Olympic Park, should come as no surprise. Ever since the November 2016 announcement of the Metro Sydney West (MSW) it was clear that the relationship between the light rail and the proposed metro line would need to be resolved before either project could proceed past concept stage. That the situation has got as far as this without resolution says a lot about the government’s infrastructure planning processes.

Parramatta Light Rail Stage 1 preferred route (source: NSW Government PRL website)

Parramatta Light Rail Stage 1 preferred route (source: NSW Government PRL website)

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Sydney Metro West: knowns, unknowns and some guesses – part 2

In part one I outlined what we do know about the NSW government’s Sydney Metro West announcement, which is comparatively little, and then (based on a few guesses) discussed station options for the four areas the government has committed to serving through the new metro – Sydney CBD, Bays precinct, Sydney Olympic Park and Parramatta. In part 2 I will move further into speculation about route options for the new line as well as options for its extension.

Artist's impression of Bays Precinct metro station. Source: transport for NSW

Artist’s impression of Bays Precinct metro station. Source: transport for NSW

Route options

Assuming that unnecessary underwater crossings are avoided the most direct line between the four identified stations is a shallow arc between Parramatta and the CBD. This is consistent with the focus in the project overview, “on a corridor between the Parramatta River and existing T1 Western Line”. If the government intends to make the new corridor time-competitive with the existing line this is likely to limit the extent which the line can deviate from the shortest route.

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Sydney Metro West: knowns, unknowns and some guesses – part 1

The NSW state government has finally ended years of speculation by announcing that a metro will be built between Parramatta and the CBD to increase capacity and reduce overcrowding in this corridor. Dubbed Sydney Metro West, the project is expected to be opened in the “second half of the 2030s”.

The announcement comes barely two weeks after the closing date for comments on the government’s Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study in which a “western metro-style service” and a “new higher speed tunnel” were two of the five options nominated to connect Western Sydney with other parts of Sydney, along with six options that connected to the proposed Western Sydney Airport.

While Monday’s announcement confirms that the government has committed to the construction of the metro and provided some indications of its preferred route, it leaves many fundamental questions about the project unanswered. We can however make some guesses about what shape the new line might take.

More unknowns than knowns - the only map available from Transport for NSW relating to the Sydney Metro West proposal

More unknowns than knowns – the only map available from Transport for NSW relating to the Sydney Metro West proposal. Source: Transport for NSW

What we do know… and what we don’t

While the initial Sydney Metro Northwest and City and Southwest announcements were not exactly over-burdened with documentation, the Metro West announcement by the NSW Premier Mike Baird and the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance was far briefer, both in form and content. Comprising a media release, single website page, a two-page project overview, a short promotional video and little else, the announcement contained no information on fundamental issues such as the specific route, number of stations, projected travel times and patronage or the potential for further extensions.

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Taking the train downtown part 2 – will we be sitting or standing, and why?

In my previous post I examined the investments into heavy rail capacity and connectivity into and through the CBDs of Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney planned over the next ten years. One aspect which I didn’t have time to examine more closely was the range of approaches to rail car design and procurement across these projects.

Artist impression of Melbourne's new High Capacity Metro Train. Source: Victorian Premier media release

Artist impression of Melbourne’s new High Capacity Metro Train. Source: Victorian Premier media release

As it appears that Auckland won’t be acquiring additional rolling stock for its new City Rail Link, I’ll concentrate on the purchases being made for the new lines in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney (and in the case of the latter only the purchases for the new metro and not the intercity fleet). The comparison is now a little easier to make as the Victorian Government has recently announced more information about its order for 65 new trains and identified the preferred tenderer. It is also a more interesting comparison because it highlights the different approaches to procurement and specification across the three cities’ new rail fleets.

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