Sydney light rail: NSW government moves to quell capacity concerns
July 6, 2016 – 10:35AM Matt O’Sullivan, Sydney Morning Herald
A combination of trams running on Sydney’s new $2.1 billion light rail line and buses will boost public transport capacity from the eastern suburbs of Randwick and Kensington by up to 30 per cent during morning peak hours, the state government says.
The number of passengers the government expects the 12-kilometre line to carry once it opens in 2019 has come under attack from opponents of the project. They argue the removal of buses from existing routes will lead to a significant fall in public transport capacity to Sydney’s south east.
However, Transport for NSW forecasts the combined tram and bus network will boost city-bound capacity by more than 10 per cent from Kensington, and 30 per cent from Randwick, during the morning travel peak.
The felling of Moreton Bay fig trees on Anzac Parade for the light rail line has been highly controversial.
It also predicts a doubling in morning capacity in the other direction from the CBD to the University of NSW and hospitals in Randwick.
As part of changes to the transport network, bendy buses will gain priority on routes to the CBD from the southeast, replacing smaller standard buses.
The felling of trees – especially century-old Moreton Bay figs on Anzac Parade – to make way for the light rail project has also sparked public outcries.
The construction zone in the CBD for the light rail will soon stretch from Circular Quay to Liverpool Street in the …
CBD transport coordinator general Marg Prendergast said she understood the emotion surrounding the removal of trees but “the accusation we are clear felling is just not true”.
So far, 23 Moreton Bay figs located along the entire length of the route have been felled, and a further eight are under consideration for removal. She said at least 81 of the 112 figs would remain once the light rail line was completed.
Fewer than 10 trees of all species – one of which is a fig – are still to be felled between the Tibby Cotter Bridge on Anzac Parade and the intersection of Alison and Darley roads.
Ms Prendergast said the oft-cited figure that the light rail project would lead to about 220 fewer bus trips within the CBD during morning peaks encompassed the government’s changes to the broader transport network. That process began in October when the bus network in the central city was overhauled.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that we would reduce capacity. This is all about positioning us to cater for growth,” she said.
“That is why it is so important to keep the bus roadway [along Anzac Parade]. The answer to our transport solution is light rail plus bus.”
Some 15 trams will run in each direction every hour between 7am and 7pm – equating to a service every 4 minutes along much of its route. The line branches to Randwick and Kensington mean services will be less frequent along these sections.
The trams will be more than twice the length of those running on the inner west line between Central Station and Dulwich Hill.
Transport for NSW said the removal of 180 buses – both citybound and outbound – from the city centre between 8am and 9am represents capacity for 9000 people. “This is comfortably replaced by the 6750 customers light rail will carry in each direction per hour,” it said in response to questions from Fairfax Media.
The buses to be removed on routes from Randwick and Kensington will be the standard vehicles that carry about 50 passengers each – not the longer bendy buses that will remain on express routes to and from those suburbs.
Precise detail for exactly how many buses will run between the CBD and the south east will be developed next year using data from the Opal electronic ticketing system.
Ms Prendergast said origin and destination data from the Opal “is gold for us” in predicting demand and adjusting the network accordingly.
“We have never had that granular information. It allows us to de-congest the corridor [to and from the city’s south east],” she said.
Within the next two weeks, the construction zone in the CBD for the light rail will stretch from Circular Quay to Liverpool Street in the city’s south.
Ms Prendergast said pressure on Bathurst Street – an important traffic corridor in the CBD – would increase in the next few weeks weeks once George Street was closed between Alfred Street at Circular Quay and Liverpool Street in the south.
The laying of tram lines through Surry Hills will also present a challenge because of the suburb’s narrow streets and large number of trees.
A figure on the likely number of trees to be removed on Devonshire Street, which dissects Surry Hills, has yet to be finalised.
“We are really conscious of Surry Hills and how we deal with it,” she said.
Public transport advocate and tram expert Greg Sutherland said he was concerned that too many trees had been felled because vegetation was being removed to meet specifications for a heavy rail line instead of light rail.
“I would take anything they say about tree numbers with a grain of salt,” he said.
Transport for NSW said the standards for the light rail required clearance for tree branches of 2.5 metres and trunks of 2m from overhead wires and the trams when they were in motion.
Despite the claims of some opponents, Mr Sutherland said he believed there would be adequate transport capacity to the south east from the light rail line.
“There has never been a case in Europe where they’ve said light rail can’t cope and we will have to put buses in,” he said. “If there is a surge in demand for light rail, they can extend capacity by adding more more light rail vehicles.”
26 comments so far
Dear Margaret, what is the SEATED capacity of trams compared with the replaced buses? Some of us are over 40 or otherwise loaded and don’t want to stand.