A tale of three light rail lines (and two to come) – clarification on CESLR travel times

A response to the final article in my three part series on Australia’s new light rail systems raised some issues regarding the travel times for Sydney’s planned CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) project.

I had stated in the post that this would be the slowest of any of the currently operating or planned systems with an average speed of only 13.8kph, based on a trip duration of 39 minutes end-to-end for each branch of the system, these both being nine km long. Dudley’s comment pointed out that Transport for NSW may have got the times wrong and had also made contradictory estimates of the journey times in the mid-thirty minute range. He also noted that there was some expert opinion that even these travel times were somewhat conservative.

As I noted in my reply to Dudley’s thoughtful comment, the 39-minute estimate came from several sources including a community information document released in September 2013. This stated that journeys would take 15 minutes from Circular Quay to Central and “a maximum of 24 minutes” from Randwick and Kensington to Central. However the business case released only two months later claimed that services will take 15 minutes from Central to Circular Quay, 15 minutes from Randwick to Central (ie a total of 30 minutes), 18 minutes from Kingsford to Central (a total of 33 minutes) – but from the other end, 34 minutes from Circular Quay to Randwick or Kingsford.

Therefore in the space of a few months these publication provided four journey time estimates – 30, 33, 34 and 39 minutes. It is also unclear if these are estimates of the duration for off-peak or peak trips, but even if we disregard the 39-minute duration the average speed is still comparatively slow.  The quickest estimated trip duration (30 minutes) would see LR vehicles complete the trip from Randwick to Circular Quay at an average 18kph, while the average of the three fastest times provides a speed of 16.7kph.

These speeds would move the CESLR off the bottom of the speed league table, but not by much. They would make the planned line the second-slowest in Australia – slightly faster than the Adelaide-Glenelg tram but still slower than Sydney’s existing Dulwich Hill LR line and noticeably slower than either the Gold Coast G:Link or Canberra’s planned Capital Metro. It is also concerning that we still don’t appear to have a definitive estimate of speed or trip duration for the CESLR.

I’ll have a bit more to say about the CESLR in the near future.

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2 Responses to A tale of three light rail lines (and two to come) – clarification on CESLR travel times

  1. Tony says:

    As the guilty party responsible for triggering a review by TfNSW of the expected journey time (I pointed out that it was slower than the former Sydney trams took in mixed traffic!), I know that by comparison with equivalent lines in Europe the journey should take no more than 25 minutes to either terminus. However, the people who originally planned the line told me that it would be impossible to get between Circular Quay and Central in less than 15 minutes because of traffic lights etc, Taking that at face value, that leaves 10 minutes between Central and Kingsford/Randwick. I’d give them 15 to be comfortable, given that they won’t always get light priority at some very busy intersections. But we won’t know the reality until they have trams on the ground.


  2. Pingback: What happened in StrategicMatters in 2015? | StrategicMatters

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