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.

This is reinforced by the location of the intermediate stops identified so far relatively close to the terminating stations. Regardless of where the CBD station is located, there is very little opportunity to locate an additional station in the 3 km section from there to the Bays Precinct. At the other end a station in the 6.7 km section from Parramatta to Sydney Olympic Park at Camellia or (just possibly) Western Sydney University is more feasible, but either location may duplicate the planned light rail line.

This means in effect that the greatest potential for additional stations and route variations is likely to be limited to the middle section between Sydney Olympic Park and the Bays Precinct which are around 10 km apart. Within this section there are three broad options, though obviously the final route is likely to involve a combination of these.

Option 1: The most direct route

As noted earlier the direct corridor option results in an arc, which is about 20 km long. This is shorter than the existing rail corridor from Parramatta to Town Hall station which is 24.5 km.

Currently the fastest trains do this trip with three intermediate stops at Strathfield, Redfern and Central in just under 30 minutes, or an average of around 50 km/h. If we assume the most direct route is chosen for the new corridor and, hypothetically, the existing double-deck rolling stock was to be used with the current stopping pattern (i.e., three intermediate stops), the trip would take about 24 minutes.

The new line will however use single-deck metro rolling stock similar to that being purchased for the current Sydney metro project with shorter station dwell times. If the indicative travel times for Sydney Metro Northwest (where the planned average speed will be around 60 km/h) are applied to this corridor then the trip time is likely to be around 20 minutes, or if another two to three stations are added, up to 25 minutes.

This is broadly consistent with an estimate by the Transport Sydney blog that the trip would take 25-30 minutes, based on an earlier version of the route with more stops. My suspicion however is that the government will keep the total number of stops on the new corridor comparatively low – certainly less than the 19 stations between Parramatta and Town Hall on the current line, and possibly as low as seven to 10 stations.

The direct option makes most sense if there are even fewer stations, for example no more than six, with the new line acting as an express link in conjunction with an extension to the planned Western Sydney airport. If therefore there were to be only to be one or two additional stations locating them in the area between Concord, Canada Bay, Five Dock and Leichhardt would seem to make sense but these locations are a little distant from the planned redevelopment of the Parramatta Road corridor.

There are two other station options. The existing Concord West and North Strathfield stations are a kilometre or so from Sydney Olympic Park and thus would seem to be unlikely candidates for a metro stop. Either would however offer an interchange between the metro and the main north line, offering passengers a faster interchange and journey than changing at Strathfield especially for those wishing to travel west to Olympic Park or Parramatta.

On balance the direct route offers the fastest travel times but apart from the Olympic Park and Bays Precinct sites does little to service the redevelopment projects in the Parramatta to city corridor.

Option 2: Southern route

In this scenario the corridor would move southwards closer to Parramatta Road. Heading towards the city the line would travel southeast from Olympic Park to Strathfield, then broadly follow Parramatta Road before turning northeast to the Bays Precinct, in effect deepening the arc of the most direct route and adding about two or three kilometres – and potentially, minutes – to the trip.

As a trade-off for the extra travel time this corridor would provide an additional interchange with the heavy rail network at Strathfield and enable the metro to provide direct support for the Parramatta Road redevelopment through one or more additional stations in this corridor. There are a number of options here; the Sydney West Metro Link consortium proposed that the line proceed in a direct line from Strathfield via Five Dock to the Bays Precinct; but another option would be to construct a station around Ashfield and at least one other, ideally near the University of Sydney which has significant potential to provide patronage in its own right.

Additional surface public transport would still be required along Parramatta Road between and beyond these locations but adding two or three additional metro stations would also help to reduce congestion and the number of buses coming into the CBD from the west.

Stations could also be added in the section from Olympic Park to Strathfield, though this would run the risk of duplicating the light rail line planned for this corridor. Indeed the Strathfield interchange could even be dropped (or replaced with an interchange at Concord West or North Strathfield as described in option 1) with the metro line proceeding directly to two or three stations on Parramatta Road. Planning a metro corridor in the vicinity of Parramatta Road is however complicated by the tunnels and other infrastructure under construction for WestConnex.

The southern option (see map) would seem to offer the best combination between a reasonably direct and fast route and servicing of key locations along the corridor.

Possible route for the Sydney Metro West. Underlying map source: Google Maps 2016

One possible route for the Sydney Metro West. Source: the author – underlying map source: Google Maps 2016

Option 3: Northern route

While a deviation north of Parramatta River to somewhere like Gladesville is theoretically possible this seems to have been ruled out. A more feasible scenario would be a line that would invert the arc with a link from Olympic Park to a station at Drummoyne and then to the Bays Precinct via another potential station at Rozelle. As with the southern option this would add around two or three kilometres and minutes to the journey.

This corridor has the advantage that some sections around Rozelle have already been reserved as part of the previous government’s failed attempt to build a metro line. It would also have the potential through integration with the bus network to relieve congestion of Victoria Road in a similar way to which the southern option could help reduce traffic pressure on Parramatta Road, though plans for redevelopment in this corridor are more modest. On balance this seems the least likely option.

From guesses to speculation – options for extensions

Beyond Parramatta

This is where we move into the realm of speculation. As I noted in part 1, the Sydney Metro West announcement has come barely two weeks after the closing date for comments on the government’s Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study which listed five options for connecting Western Sydney by rail and no less than six for providing a rail link to the proposed Western Sydney airport. The confirmation of the metro option for the Parramatta-city corridor means that all the options to build a rail link to the proposed Western Sydney Airport are still in play (incidentally I need to point out that my discussion of these options and indeed of the airport proposal should not be taken as endorsement of them).

Western Sydney rail options. Source: Transport for NSW

The shortest and cheapest route to the proposed airport is still a heavy rail link from the south west rail link but this could also be the slowest. When the Sydney Metro West line is completed there will be two metro options, one via Bankstown and Liverpool on the City and Southwest Metro, the other via Parramatta on Metro West. Each of these also addresses a number of other planning and transport objectives in Western Sydney – but not all of them. Given the range of options, the remaining uncertainty around whether the airport will be built and indeed when the metro lines will be completed it is almost impossible to make a prediction or even to identify the most viable route.

Beyond the CBD

There are fewer extension options at the CBD end but in some respects they are more intriguing. The Metro Link consortium proposed an extension to Maroubra or La Perouse in the southeast, with an interchange with the CBD and south east light rail line currently under construction. Another option entirely is suggested in the Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study; the conversion of the existing Airport Line into a dedicated stand-alone metro running from Revesby to a new station in the CBD, aimed at allowing additional trains from other lines onto the City Circle during peak hour.

While they are treated separately in the study there is an obvious case for combining the CBD terminals for both the Sydney Metro West and the proposed airport shuttle – and from there it is not too difficult to imagine them being integrated into a single line. Under this scenario the Sydney Metro West could enter the CBD from the west, interchanging with the planned metro stage two line at the planned Pitt Street station and then turning south to integrate with a converted airport shuttle possibly using the disused platforms at Central. Given the capacity that would be available at the eastern end it may be possible to combine both this and the Maroubra line as branches.

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

  1. Pingback: Sydney Metro West: knowns, unknowns and some guesses – part 1 | StrategicMatters – the home of The Strategic Week

  2. Adam says:

    Interesting analysis, but your placement of the bays precinct station at the fish markets is a big assumption. This could e a good station placement, but another equally likely option is the white bay power station precinct, which seems to be the Government’s favoured option, given the placement of the station on its west metro ‘map’. I also think the power station option is much more likely because provides a mass transit option closer to the white bay cruise terminal and the planned high-tech business hub at the power station, while the fish markets already has transit access via the existing light rail line.

    If the power station is the location for the metro station your arcs may need reconsideration, and the most likely tunnel alignment to the CBD is under the anzac bridge (or — less likely — a surface line on the disused glebe island bridge.

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    • Alex says:

      Thanks for the feedback Adam.

      You’re right, somewhere near the White Bay power station would seem to be more central to the wider precinct. However there are a few complications, such as the need for two (albeit small) harbour crossings and the proximity to the planned underground WestConnex interchange at Rozelle and the future Western Harbour tunnel. This isn’t to say that there aren’t any difficulties with my suggested option either – I’ve just realised that the planned metro station at Pitt Street will actually be between the eastbound and westbound Cross City tunnels, which I imagine would make a second metro tunnel from the west and therefore one of my interchange proposals very problematic!

      Because of the planned motorway infrastructure and other issues I think there are broadly only two approaches to the Bays Precinct; one as I suggested from the south side with a station at the fish market before entering the southern part of the CBD (though as I said this and a Pitt Street station interchange are complicated by the Cross city Tunnel). The other is on the northern side, approaching via Rozelle with a station at White Bay and ending up in the northern section of the CBD, interchanging at Barangaroo or Martin Place. If this approach is chosen then it is less likely that Metro West will service either Parramatta Road or Sydney Uni, and will be closer to either of my central or northern route options.

      Regarding your point about the options for entering the CBD from a White Bay station I think a tunnel is much more likely than converting the disused bridge. As I said in the original post I think some sort of distribution system within the Bays Precinct will be required regardless of station location. This could be done quite simply by running a second light rail line between Lilyfield and Pyrmont Bay stations around the north side of Rozelle and Blackwattle Bays and over the old bridge. Reuse of the bridge for light rail rather than the metro makes a lot more sense, especially if it needs to be retained as an opening bridge.

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  3. Ted says:

    Welcome back Alex. I’ve missed your incisive summaries of what’s happening in Sydney. It’s damn frustrating having to rely the SMH for infrastructure news. They either don’t report, or always manage to put a negative spin on everything – perhaps relying on cues from their “gloomsayer-in-chief” Elizabeth Farrelly…

    As they did this morning in a cover story on the future of Sydney. Their page 5 report on metro rail was headlined “Congestion crush set to continue” (sigh) and managed to find several “experts” to pour scorn on the West Metro. One of those is an odd little group that apparently has the ear of their reporters – basically one man and his dog who writes a grumpy blog. They’re always called “a public transport advocacy group,” however can never find any public transport project they actually support… But a great source of negative quotes, if that’s the way you want to present things.

    Anyway, via a map labeled “Metro rail: what’s planned” the Herald has its (speculative) route for the West Metro running though Rozelle, Drummoyne and what looks like Wareemba and Concord West before hitting Olympic Park. Be nice if it was true (I live on the route), but I agree with you Alex, it has two new water crossings (three unless it does use the old Glebe Island Bridge), and is probably unlikely… Though a station and bus interchange at the White Bay Power station makes a lot of sense on many levels – neatly dovetailing with the government’s ambitious (and very welcome) plans with tech companies like Google for the area.

    Further into Rozelle there’s another spot Sydney Metro still seem to still have their eyeballs on – the derelict Tigers eyesore on the corner of Darling St and Victoria Rd – site of an earlier Metro station. The last (of so many!) redevelopment plans for that site were again rejected recently, a slightly puzzling decision, since they were now largely compliant with the old Leichhardt Council’s FSR, and the decision was made AFTER the plan for a WestConnex tunnel from the Iron Cove Bridge to the Lilyfield interchange was announced. That new road tunnel (which will have no toll) will largely solve all the Victoria Rd traffic issues that bedeviled earlier plans for the site. My theory is: Sydney Metro still wants it.

    Finally… I have recently spoken to several WestConnex activists (very active in my area) about plans for this metro – asking if they will support it. Perhaps surprisingly, they have said no. In fact one early this morning (at a small demonstration at a WestConnex drilling site near Pioneer Park, Leichhardt), said that he would demonstrate against the metro too – and actually managed to get quite angry about it.

    Most of these people are the older supporters of the (now defunct) Leichhardt Council, I recognise many of the faces from many of their Nimby meetings. They are all getting on, and may be too old for further active protest (like being arrested, as some are trying to do now with the WestConnex) by the time this metro is actually built. Be perhaps the governmemt can still make them happy – re-route the whole thing a long way away from them! Or at least NOT build ANY stations anywhere near them…

    Look fwd to you next report Alex…

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  4. Alex says:

    Thanks for your very kind comments Ted.

    While I have been critical of the previous metro plans I have always thought there was a strong case for one in the CBD-Parramatta corridor – the issue is what sort of metro it should be. There is a wide range of views on this and no single alignment or set of station location options will satisfy the conflicting demands.

    I’ll revisit this in a future post, though I want to do something first on the GSC regional plans and also the BTS patronage figures. As I said in my earlier comment however the route via Rozelle is a distinct possibility and I recall some indication a while ago that the government was still reserving the corridor. That was before the road tunnel to Iron Cove Bridge was announced which I imagine along with the interchange makes this a fairly crowded bit of real estate, but I imagine the Rozelle option is still in play.

    In relation to my blog I ended the trial of a weekly news post a little earlier than anticipated because of a combination of personal factors, including a couple of overseas trips. I really enjoyed doing it but in retrospect I was little too ambitious. I underestimated the time involved and it proved to be a bit of a “Catch 22” – putting together a weekly post covering a dozen or more stories meant I simply didn’t have time to write any longer-form articles.

    Despite this I hope to restart the weekly posts but probably in a slimmed-down format with about half-dozen posts, interspersed with longer articles. I’m also considering whether to post stories individually on a rolling basis rather than in a weekly digest. As soon as I resolve this and a few other issues I’ll make the decision, but first I want to write a few more long-form stories.

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  5. Pingback: Parramatta Light Rail part 1: two steps forward, one step back | StrategicMatters – the home of The Strategic Week

  6. Pingback: Parramatta Light Rail part 3: Stage 1 extension and Stage 2 options | StrategicMatters – the home of The Strategic Week

  7. The recent release of the Parramatta CBD transport strategy clarifies some more details about the likely location of the Parramatta Metro station – it is likely to be a separate station from the “old” double deck rail station.

    https://www.cityofparramatta.nsw.gov.au/sites/council/files/inline-files/Att_01%20Parramatta%20CBD%20Strategic%20Transport%20Study.PDF

    The reason for this is that the “old” station will be extremely congested by the 2030’s, purely by serving as a destination station for Parramatta CBD office workers. In particular TfNSW’s “Strategic Transport Model” shows by 2036, “old” Parramatta station will be as congested as Wynyard is today – to quote from page 33 of the above link:

    “Action 10.2: Consider the need for, and plan for a second railway station in the CBD in order to offer additional travel options from broader areas to the CBD and address future level of demand. Current forecasts indicate similar station demand to Wynyard by 2036; there is a need to decentralise demand and de- congest the Parramatta Transport Interchange”

    Adding an interchange (to metro) function onto the “old” Parramatta station will compound the congestion problem even more. Parramatta CBD needs a second CBD station (not an augmented interchange station), in the same way Sydney CBD has multiple stations to spread out passenger flows across the CBD. Strathfield (with eight platforms vs Parramatta’s four platforms) could be a much better interchange station.

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  8. Pingback: Parramatta Road: light rail shelved but is “intermediate transit” still on the table? | StrategicMatters – the home of The Strategic Week

  9. Pingback: Sydney West Metro and Parramatta Light Rail revisited | StrategicMatters – the home of The Strategic Week

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