Opinions On Sydney Rail Transport
This is a post containing my niche opinions on Sydney's public transport system. If you're from Sydney and a transport nerd, this is probably interesting. Otherwise, maybe read something else.
I'm not going to give background, suffice to say that Sydney is Australia's biggest city and has the highest number of commuters who use public transport.
Without further ado, some spicy takes. 🌶️
Isolate the Eastern Suburbs line
Sydney has an interesting history in that all its rails are standard gauge, making the entire train network actually useful for interstate travel and freight. (This is unlike every other city with trains in Australia, which all have a largely isolated narrow or wide gauge network.) However, parts of the network are useless for this because they're so isolated.
Proposal: The Eastern Suburbs line from Redfern to Central should be "cut off" from the rest of the network.
It makes no sense that I can get on a train at 9:13 from Bondi Junction and end up in Kiama at 11:39. Kiama is no different than Gosford or Newcastle in this regard: it's an intercity location, so you can encourage tranfers.
Now, you could extend the line westward from west of either the existing Central or Redfern stop, with stops at places like RPA (woefully underserved right now for a major health district), Leichardt, and perhaps Ashfield for another interchange. This extension works because you can keep running the T4 line between Central and Bondi Junction while you do the construction; just splice in new tunnels to extend the already underground route west, and keep the portal to the rest of the system.
This doesn't need to be a metro in the "driverless" sense, but it's an acceptance that you don't need to run trains so far.
Don't Metro Everything
The last few months have seen a few takes that the Sydenham to Bankstown part of the metro conversion might happen later, or not at all. I tend to be fine with this, even though a lot of the work has gone into upgrading stations already.
Sydenham is just a great place to do an interchange^. You don't need to run trains so far if you can literally swap onto another train with a couple of minutes anyway, and it gives you more backup in the network. To me, while the T3 line is kind of this weird bastard child of Sydney's ancient rail network, it seems to serve as a relief to the main western corridor, and converting it to a metro prevents interesting use like this.
So yes, remove the T3 lines from the City Circle, of course. But just stop it at the three-pronged boundaries of Sydenham, Lidcombe, and Liverpool.
^except the track arrangement is a bit weird, because you only have the Metro lines then four other stations which need to be shared. Could you stop both the T4 line and the T3 lines here, forcing people onto Metro/T8 or something like shuttles around the City Circle?
Badgery's Creek Airport
Metros are sexy and the Liberals hated the unions, so build a driverless metro in the middle of no-where. Uhhh.... sure.
Yes, this line should just be built into the Sydney Trains network, and eventually "circle around" to Leppington.
This is probably the least likely thing to happen on this list though, because it's not even technically compatible with the rest of the network (25kW AC).
This technically isn't Sydney trains, and not even a spicy take, but just straighten the line south. It's a no-brainer and you have to start somewhere to reduce time to regions like Bowral, or even Goulburn or Canberra. The problem with all governments around these infrastructure projects is that they all think it should be huge, monumental, or have a giant business case. No! Just straighten some curves, and do a little bit every year.
Honestly, the same advice goes for the train north to Gosford and Newcastle, but the terrain makes it so much harder to do: we're relying on hand-cut tunnels from ~100 years ago, which are miraculous but probably hard to reproduce today (i.e., safety costs money).
Ring Light Rail
I watched a video a while ago on "ring rail", specifically "ring light rail". Sydney is okay at not just having a hub-and-spoke model (*cough* Melbourne *cough*) but not perfect. If you want to have a few CBDs and not just route everyone into or around the CBD, you need alternative transport routes.
For me, the most obvious place to put something like this is to connect the numerous western lines in Sydney, allowing for fast interchange between these 'corridors'. Honestly, it could be a metro instead, but light rail has the side effect of actively removing options to drive. (Yes, sorry.)
You'd connect these major locations:
- the new Metro West stop on Paramatta Road in Burwood
- down Burwood Road, directly connecting to Burwood Station
- to Campsie
- via Bexley or Kingsgrove
- to Rockdale or Kogarah
- optionally ending at Brighton-Le-Sands.
The biggest win here is honestly anything that connects to the Metro West stop, which is kind of weirdly placed on Paramatta Rd—folks aren't interchanging from their cars, so you need to make the station work with feeders from around the area. It just makes sense to extend south to Burwood, and then the other centers are a long way away, but again, the goal here is to reduce friction going into the city and back.
Ignore the Northern Beaches
Honestly, the Northern Beaches (like Bondi Beach) have shot themselves in the foot for decades. There's occasional thoughts of running train lines up to high NIMBY areas, but it's just not worth it: it's time to give up.
Less Spicy Takes
- High-density around train and light rail stations (of course)
- Fix the Dulwich Hill end of the L1 line so trams can run more than every ~10 minutes in peak
- Turnback for Airport Line trains after Wolli Creek, so you can run shuttle services
- Extend the L3 light rail to Maroubra and beyond (maybe even turning down to Maroubra Beach 🏖️): Anzac Parade was literally designed for it
- Extend the metro to Schofields, but no further: make the Richmond line more useful to more people (yes, even though it's suburban hell)
I'm funemployed and have time to think about these while juggling a new baby. So this has been an incredibly quick writeup.
I also admit that I am hippy who lives in Glebe in a detached house and owns a Tesla, so even though I'm pro-development, maybe that voids my opinion. So tell me how wrong I am on the birdsite.
Or if you're from the NSW Government, call me 🤙