Action for Public Transport (N.S.W.) Inc.

 P O Box K606
Future Transport,Haymarket NSW 1240
Transport for NSW,15 December 2017
email: FutureTransport@transport.nsw.gov.au

Future Transport 2056

Submission on draft strategies


Action for Public Transport (NSW) is a transport advocacy group, which has been active in Sydney since 1974. We promote the interests of the beneficiaries of public transport; both passengers, and the wider community. We make the following submission on the Draft Future Transport Strategy 2056. We greatly appreciate the additional time allowed to us to do so.

We refer in several places to some of the supporting draft documents (Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan, Regional NSW Services and Infrastructure Plan, Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan, Tourism and Transport Plan etc.). We request that this submission be treated as a submission on each of these documents

General comments

Action for Public Transport (NSW) is pleased that the Future Transport Strategy and accompanying documents have been made available for public comment. The commitment to customer engagement (p.6 and p.16) is appreciated.

To that end, we suggest that hazily understood words and expressions like “big data” (p.19) and “smart” motorways should be replaced with plain English wherever they occur. There is a reference to “smart motorways” sitting oddly under the heading “world class mass transit” (p.48), where the latter term is explained to some extent. It is explained in more detail in the Newcastle Future Transport Plan (p.45).

We see some excellent proposals put forward in the document. If Sydney’s public transport system can transition from the one illustrated in Figure 50 to the one illustrated in Figure 51*(p.81), the city will function more efficiently and effectively, and offer a higher quality of life for everyone.
* These appear as Figure 30 (page 57) and Figure 33 (page 62) in the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan

Higher frequency services are proposed, and this is critical to the success of any public transport system, especially if interchanging is required.

If regional cities have faster and better connections, significant transport disadvantage can be addressed, and we can rebalance settlement patterns to the benefit of both regional NSW and Sydney.

The Future Transport Strategy and associated plans are intended to guide transport investment over the longer term (p.7). Our concern is the disconnect in some cases between the strategic directions proposed, and the initiatives that are shown as committed or for investigation within 10 years.

Too many public transport initiatives consistent with the key strategic directions proposed are relegated to the status of “to be investigated”, but not delivered for at least 10 years. This means a lag of many years even for planning to commence. The only committed regional public transport initiatives appear to be the federal inland rail project, the “Fixing Country Rail” projects and the Newcastle light rail project.

In light of the lengthy and unbalanced discussion of cost recovery on public transport systems (Part 10, beginning on p.89) we fear that public transport initiatives are at serious risk of falling by the wayside.

Meanwhile, initiatives that run completely counter to the strategic directions proposed make their way to the head of the funding queue, for reasons that remain opaque. The ill-advised Westconnex, and its equally ill-advised extension to the northern beaches (via a tunnel under Sydney Harbour) are prime examples. Both do nothing to support the key strategic directions for Sydney. Neither will achieve their stated aim of reducing traffic congestion. Yet both are shown as “committed” (in the latter case, “subject to business case” – which is odd in itself).

It is said on p.49 that “smart motorways” are a future direction for “world class mass transit”. This is a strange proposition that could perhaps flow from an editorial error.

Strategic directions

The draft Strategy anticipates a need for transport infrastructure and services to support a very high rate of population growth (p.8). It assumes that there will be more than 11 million people living in NSW by 2056 (p.10). The State currently has 7.5 million residents, and 30 million visitors p.a. (p.33).

The Greater Sydney Commission is working on the assumption that 8 million of the total NSW population of 11 million people will live within the boundaries of Greater Sydney (it has been directed to plan for this number).

On our reading, the other key strategic directions evident in the draft strategy are:

  • Supporting a productive economy (p.11 and p.12). The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.5) says this concerns reducing the time people spend travelling, and increasing people’s access to jobs and business’ access to workers;

  • Supporting a sustainable society (p.12). The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.5) says this concerns increasing the share of trips by public transport, reducing the need to drive or reducing average journey lengths;

  • Reducing road fatalities (p.13). The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.52) says that by 2056, NSW will have a network with zero trauma, saving some 350 lives and more than 12,000 serious injuries each year, and cutting the cost of trauma to the community by over $7 billion a year. These seem to be reasonable and entirely supportable strategic directions. The first two can be related to the recognition on p.18 that “transport is a major enabler of all economic and social activity in our state and contributes to long term economic, social and environmental outcomes”. Allied to this is the recognition that the success of cities and regional towns depends on the existence of attractive and healthy places (p.70).

    The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan p.5 includes “liveability” as an important strategic objective. It says this concerns improving the quality of life in Greater Sydney by reducing the need for long commutes, and helping to manage congestion by better spreading transport demand. We suggest this objective should be adopted in the Future Transport Strategy as well, but not confined to Sydney.

    The objective of reducing road fatalities should be extended to cover road trauma, as it is clear from the text that there is understandable concern about road trauma, whether fatal or not.

    The discussion of “sustainability” in the draft Strategy strangely focuses on the prospect of “unsustainable investment decisions” (p.89). This signals a continued reluctance to invest in public transport (capital) initiatives, driven in part by a reluctance to fund the recurrent cost of services. This of course has the potential to completely undermine the Strategy in practice.

    Seamless customer experience

    The draft Future Transport Strategy envisages a “seamless customer experience” (see for example p. 19). We fully support this idea.

    Ticketing and information

    In the context of ticketing and information, a “seamless customer experience” appears to refer to “seamless multimodal journeys” “convenient payment methods” and systems “directly communicating with customers” (p.20). This leads on to discussion about the Opal ticketing system, and real-time information and alerts. Action for Public Transport agrees that these have made it easier to use the public transport system in recent years.

    We are concerned however that providing alternative booking, planning and payment methods for people without access to digital platforms is relegated to “future directions to investigate”. We note from the Draft Tourism and Transport Plan (p.36) that a large proportion of travelers are seniors.

    Simple measures like having printed timetables available are being discontinued prematurely, on the flawed assumption that everyone has access to the internet at all times. Mobile internet access is expensive and beyond the means of many people. Some of our members report that timetables printed from home computers are impossible to read.

    Connections and interchanges

    The draft Strategy suggests that connections to walking routes, bike paths and bike hire services are an important part of a seamless customer experience. We agree entirely with this suggestion.

    Later in the draft Strategy (p.31, Figure 18, item 5) it is suggested that there will be fast and convenient interchanging, with walking times no longer than 5 minutes between services. This would be a good outcome for passengers.

    The aggressive bus stop removal program being undertaken by RMS is however working in the opposite direction. The program goes by the Orwellian name “Bus Priority Program”.

    It is billed as benefiting passengers by “improving journey times”, but this claim takes no account of connections with another service or another mode. It should for example be possible to get off an east-west bus service, cross a road, and join another service heading north-south without a lengthy walk.

    The wholesale removal of bus stops is progressively sabotaging interchange opportunities, creating much longer walking distances, and increasing total bus journey times. This is of course the antithesis of the “seamless customer experience” envisaged in the draft Future Transport Strategy.

    The bus stop removal program should be halted immediately, and bus stop placement decided in a way that genuinely supports a “seamless customer experience”. The agency responsible should be Transport for NSW, not the RMS.

    Service frequency

    The draft Strategy recognises the need for public transport journey times competitive with private cars (p.35). The Strategy proposes improved service frequency, and more flexible services (p.66):

    In high demand areas including Sydney, the Global Gateway City of Newcastle and the Satellite cities of Gosford and Wollongong, frequent, high capacity trunk services will be provided to move the majority of people. These will be complemented by more flexible or on-demand services on local corridors.
    We welcome any improvement to service frequencies. Frequency has a critical impact, especially if interchanges are required. Spending time waiting for connections is a particularly off-putting customer experience.

    We are however unsure of what is meant by “flexible services”.

    Passengers need and value predictability and reliability of service. Some kinds of flexibility (such as airport buses that wait for a full load before they will depart, regardless of how long that takes), are highly undesirable from a passenger perspective.

    Frequent services (and on-demand services, provided they arrive promptly) give the passenger more flexibility (mimicking the primary advantage of travelling by car as the driver). It is not clear that this is what the Strategy is saying when it talks about “flexibility”.

    It seems likely from p.46 that “flexible services” are an alternative term for “on-demand” services.

    On CBD mass transit and local corridors where high frequency services are not provided, on-demand services can offer a more efficient, personalised and effective way of serving customers by operating flexible routes and picking-up and dropping-off customers based on their requests.

    The Newcastle Future Transport Plan suggests car sharing is another form of “flexible transport” (p.14).

    We think the terms “on-demand services” and “car-sharing” are easy to understand and should be used instead of “flexible services”.

    Network coverage

    The draft Strategy acknowledges (p.27) the “service deficit in Regional NSW and in some areas in Greater Sydney”. It notes (at p.35):

    Customers tell us the main barrier to using public transport is the availability of frequent and reliable services to take customers where and when they need to go. This is especially the case in regional communities and in outer metropolitan areas, where public transport services are more limited.
    We welcome the Strategy’s proposal to introduce significant improvements to public transport network coverage in both Greater Sydney and regional NSW (though we are very concerned about the delivery timetable, especially for regional NSW).

    The Strategy outlines a hub and spoke model focused on regional cities. There is no discussion in the draft Strategy about the merits of a grid system within cities, as a way of maximising access from any point to any other point on the grid. A modified grid is what is shown in Figure 51, and we are aware that this is the underlying system design principle for the very popular Metro Bus system. It would be useful to see the relevant principles of system design in the final version of each Services and Infrastructure Plan.

    Planning and delivery timetable

    The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan, the Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan and the Newcastle Future Transport Plan group transport initiatives as committed, for investigation, or “visionary”.

    Both the Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.17) and the draft Newcastle Future Transport Plan (p.9) state:

    We will investigate a range of initiatives to support the customer outcomes extending across the 40-year timeframe of Future Transport, including both policy and service improvements as well as infrastructure improvements. These include initiatives that the NSW Government has committed to (over the next 10 years), initiatives for investigation for potential commitment or implementation in the 0-10 year and 10-20 year timeframes and visionary initiatives that may be investigated within the next 10 years but on preliminary evidence are likely to require implementation in the 20+ year timeframe.
    The Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.19) and the Newcastle Future Transport Plan (p.10) explain that this means:
    Committed initiatives (0-10yrs) – initiatives that either have committed funding, are committed/ contractually committed, are for immediate detailed planning, or are part of key maintenance, renewal or safety programs. Some initiatives are subject to final business case.

    Initiatives for investigation (0-10, 10-20yrs) – intended to be investigated for potential commitment or implementation within the next 20 years. Those listed in 0- 10 horizon will be prioritised for more detailed investigation to determine if they are required in the next decade.

    Visionary initiatives (20+ years) – longer term initiatives that may be investigated within the next 10 years, but are unlikely to require implementation within 20 years.

    We found it useful to see initiatives grouped in this way.

    An easily understood network

    The draft Strategy places “easy to understand journeys” in the highest priority category for Greater Sydney customer outcomes (p.30 Figure 18). The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan observes (p. 43):

    Transport that is simple to use and easy to understand is one of the characteristics that customers most value. This requires an integrated focus on the end-to-end customer journey, not just the individual elements.
    We agree with this assessment (see also p.66), and we believe it deserves much greater prominence in the draft Strategy.

    Ease of understanding is of course a critical factor for visitors. This is one of the many instances in which what is good for visitors is also good for permanent residents.

    Untangling freight and passenger rail

    We note that Sydney Port aims to have 40% of container movements to and from Port Botany on rail by 2045 (Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan p.51). This would be good for air quality and road safety, and for the liveability of cities and towns.

    We support the Moorebank Multi-Modal terminal and hope to see more initiatives of that kind.

    It is the case that passenger timetables (such as the service between Sydney and Brisbane) are sometimes inconvenient, and service levels constrained, because of the needs of freight movement.

    We are therefore very pleased to see the Federal government press ahead with the inland rail project, which will have positive flow-on effects for passenger rail.

    We are dismayed to see delivery of the Maldon-Dombarton link pushed out for at least 10 years (Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan p.88-89, Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan p.39 (figure 20).

    The Northern Line Sydney Freight Corridor Stage 2 also remains “for investigation” (Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan p.114).

    Greater Sydney

    The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan says that Greater Sydney is one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the developed world (p.30). It notes (p.36):

    The Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) has established a vision for the region as a metropolis of three cities, where people can access the jobs, education and services they need within a travel time of 30 minutes….

    The 30-minute city is a guiding principle that provides people with access to education, jobs and services within 30 minutes by public transport regardless of where they live. It is based on established research that indicates that if people are required to travel more than 90 minutes a day, it impacts on quality of life and the liveability of a city p. 38.

    Figure 18 (p.31) defines a “30-minute city” as one that provides 30-minute access (maximum) to the nearest centre by public transport, 7 days a week.

    An integrated approach

    The draft Strategy proposes that transport initiatives will support the approach developed by the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC). The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan states (p. 36) that the GSC’s vision:

    … underpins our strategic vision for transport in Greater Sydney, which is based around connecting our three cities and the centres and local areas within them.
    It proposes “a coordinated approach to land use, transport and infrastructure” (p.46) and states:
    As part of this integrated approach, we will deliver services and infrastructure that enable 30-minute access by public transport:
    • For people in each of the three cities to jobs and significant services in their nearest Metropolitan City Centre or Cluster – the Harbour CBD, Greater Parramatta or, in the Western Parkland City, WSA-Badgerys Creek Aerotropolis, Greater Penrith, Liverpool and Campbelltown-Macarthur. This will help drive the productivity of our city by effectively connecting people and jobs.
    • For residents in each of the five districts to their nearest Strategic Centre. This is important for the liveability of Greater Sydney, enabling people to conveniently access local jobs, goods and services 

    The Strategy proposes to achieve this by:
    investment in mass transit, improving service frequencies, better prioritising public transport around centres (see Figure 22) and improving walking and cycling connections to public transport. 

    We recognise that this is a genuine and serious attempt to integrate land use planning and transport planning, and we congratulate both the GSC and Transport for NSW for working together in this way.

    The integration of transport and land use planning is encapsulated in Figures 50 and 51. In order to move from the system shown in Figure 50 to the one illustrated in Figure 51, many of the missing links in Sydney’s rail network glaringly evident in figure 50 would be filled.

    With a rolling series of comparatively modest initiatives, accompanied by a dramatic improvement in service frequency, something approaching the excellent systems that exist in Tokyo, Paris, London and New York (Figure 14 on p.29) can be created.

    Greater Sydney Network Initiatives

    At this stage, we will comment only on committed initiatives and initiatives listed for investigation for delivery over the next 20 years.

    Committed public transport initiatives

    Committed public transport initiatives are listed on p. 57 and p.65 of the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan:

    We recognise that real progress is being made, against a backdrop of more than 50 years of malign neglect of Sydney’s public transport system. The Northern Beaches B-Line has already begun operation (the text of the Strategy needs to be adjusted accordingly).

    We support all the currently committed initiatives, with one qualification.

    We would prefer primary emphasis to be on filling in missing links, rather than refitting existing rail lines to metro operation, which is disruptive to passengers. There are plenty of opportunities.

    The gap between Schofields and Cudgegong Rd, where the North-West Metro inexplicably ends, is tantalisingly short.

    We appreciate that the Sydney Metro City and Southwest aims to remedy the problem of having 3 lines running as far as Central and only two lines from that point into the CBD. Once the line reaches Sydenham, that will have been achieved.

    We believe that the Bankstown to Parramatta segment of the metro link planned between Parramatta and Kogarah should then be brought forward for completion as soon as possible, not delayed for 10-20 years.

    As well as strengthening Parramatta, the accessibility boost offered by this short link would provide some real compensation for the disruption to services on the Bankstown line.

    We notice that the extension of the Sydney Metro City and Southwest to link Bankstown and Liverpool has been relegated to “visionary” status.

    There is a passing reference to the Transport Accessibility Program (TAP) on p.18 of the Draft Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan, where it is listed under “policy/planning”. We note that TAP is included as a “committed initiative” in the Newcastle Future Transport Plan p.11.

    In our view, the program is best seen as a construction program, and it is appropriate to include it in the Strategy as a “committed initiative”. Much of the money allocated under the TAP program seems to have been spent on carparks at stations; the program should be rebalanced towards actual station improvements (such as lifts and ramps).

    Public transport initiatives for investigation (0-10 years)

    Initiatives intended to be investigated for possible delivery in the 0-10 year period are listed on p.59 and p.67 of the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan:

    We support all of these initiatives for investigation. There are some critical links, without which the Strategy cannot succeed.

    As many have pointed out before, rail access to Western Sydney Airport will be needed from day one (and even before, to meet the needs of a sizeable construction workforce).

    We recommend that filling some of the short “missing links” in the rail system (Cudgegong Rd to St Mary’s, Carlingford to Epping, Bankstown to Parramatta) be given priority. Filling them will immediately increase the options available to passengers, spread the load on the system, and release positive “network effects”.

    Public transport initiatives for investigation (10-20 years)

    Initiatives for investigation and possible delivery in 10-20 years are listed on p.61 and p.68 of the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan:

    We believe that a Carlingford to Epping rail link, stopping at Carlingford Court, is urgent. The distance is not great. This would at long last provide a rail link between Parramatta and Epping. The scale and pace of development between Carlingford Station and Carlingford Court is remarkable. Moreover, the Macquarie area is a major employment and education centre, and the link would provide access to these jobs for the people living in the south-west of Sydney, where unemployment is worse than elsewhere.

    As noted above, we urge that the Parramatta-Bankstown leg of the Parramatta-Kogarah link be brought forward for completion as an extension of the Sydney Metro City and Southwest line, preferably before the section from Sydenham to Bankstown.

    Extension of the very successful Inner West light rail line to the Bays Precinct is an excellent idea. The route should branch off the existing line at the Rozelle Rail Yards. The route should be preserved and must not be sterilised by a Westconnex mega-interchange.

    Committed road initiatives:

    The list of committed road initiatives appears on p.77 of the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan:

    None of the four motorway initiatives on this list does anything to support the integrated transport and land use plan the Strategy says it is advancing; they cut across it.

    The Strategy generally fails to get to grips with the basic difference between road corridors and transit corridors. The former either dodge centres or destroy them; the latter go through centres and strengthen them.

    This difference is in fact alluded to in the Newcastle Future Transport Plan (p.39), which recognises that motorways are for by-passing cities, not servicing them.

    The “committed” motorway proposals are also inimical to the housing outcomes sought by the GSC. A key link between the Strategy and the GSC’s strategy is the construction of “new housing development around major transport investments” (p. 13). This can only sensibly refer to public transport projects (like metro stations).

    The effect of building motorways in established urban areas is to reduce the amount of land available and suitable for residential use. This can clearly be seen in the EIS for the “new” M5:

    Westconnex should be stopped in its tracks, and the Beaches Link should not proceed. The business case for the F6 extension has deliberately excluded public transport alternatives that could better serve the objective of reducing congestion. We argue that improvements to the Illawarra rail line should proceed before F6 extensions.

    Road initiatives for investigation (0-10 years):

    The list of road initiatives for investigation for delivery in 0-10 years appears on p.79 of the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan:

    With the exception of the F6 extension, these initiatives have a better claim to be supportive of the integrated strategy than any of the tolled motorways (developed as “unsolicited proposals”) listed as “committed” initiatives.

    Since the F6 extension to Loftus is it seems “for immediate detailed planning”, it in fact meets the criteria for a “committed” project. How did that happen?

    Great care would need to be taken to ensure that any Parramatta Inner Ring Road did not have an adverse effect on the pedestrian and cycling environment, nor remove active land uses including housing. The system of one-way streets already diminishes the quality of the pedestrian experience in Parramatta.

    Service frequency

    The draft Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (Figure 22, p.46) summarises the frequency of current services as follows:

    Service typePeak frequencyOff-peak frequency
    Metro 3-5 mins 5-7 mins
    Train 3-30 mins 5-30 mins
    Rapid bus 10 mins 10 mins
    Suburban bus 10 mins 15 mins
    Local bus 15-30 mins 30-60 mins
    Light rail 8 mins 15 mins
    Ferry 10-30 mins 30-60 mins

    This paints a bleak picture, but we think the current situation is even worse than that. Many bus and ferry services that do not run at all in off-peak periods.

    The Strategy proposes to completely alter the way in which frequency is addressed. It sets as Customer Outcome 5: “30-minute access for customers to their nearest centre by public transport, seven days a week”. This is detailed in the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.7):

    ‘Turn-up-and-go’ services are planned on both city-city and centre-centre corridors. This means that once customers reach their nearest main station or stop on a trunk corridor, they will not have to wait any longer than 5 minutes across the day and in the evenings.

    For people living within ~10km of our Metropolitan Centres as well as on local corridors, customers will have access to high frequency services (at least every 10 minutes) that will enable them to reach their nearest Strategic Centre within 30 minutes or to connect to a nearby trunk corridor, where they can continue their journey.

    Service typeAll day frequency
    City-city Turn-up-and-go (<5 mins)
    Centre-centre Turn-up-and-go (<5 mins)
    CBD mass transit High frequency (<10 mins) or on-demand
    Local High frequency (<10 mins) or on-demand

    We are delighted at the prospect of “turn up and go” levels of frequency on some corridors. It is not until this table (Figure 22) appears on p.46 of the Draft Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan, however, that the meaning of “turn up and go” services becomes clear. It should be made clear where the term is first used that “turn up and go” means less than 5 minutes between services (we wonder if that is meant to be less than or equal to?).

    Later (at p.67) the Strategy suggests that “turn up and go” services are predictable and reliable services without timetables. This is a little misleading in that while passengers would not need timetables, the transit operators do operate to a timetable.

    On-demand services

    The implication of Figure 22 (p.46) is that if a service does not run at least every 10 minutes, it will cease to be a scheduled service, and the service will become “on demand”. Very few bus services run at 10 minute intervals, ferry services never do. The Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan explicitly acknowledges (p.105) that this means an end to local bus services in some areas.

    We would need to be very confident that there is an excellent “on demand” system in place before endorsing this proposal.

    We wonder if it is really intended that a train or a ferry or light rail service be “on demand”? Is the Strategy actually talking about buses here? We also wonder why CBD mass transit would be “on demand” rather than turn up and go.

    The pictogram on p.63 of the draft Future Transport Strategy shows a passenger calling for an on-demand service on a mobile phone. This no doubt will be common, but it should not be necessary to carry a phone with internet access to use an “on demand” service. Serious disadvantage in some areas would be further entrenched if this were to happen.

    It could be that a call could be made via a touch screen or via a simple button a passenger can push, either while on a bus, train or ferry, or at a transit stop. Such a system would need to be activated by an Opal card or mischievous calls would be rife.

    The fares for on-demand services should be integrated with Opal ticketing. We note that the Newcastle Services and Infrastructure Plan proposes the use of Opal cards for car sharing payment. We support this idea.

    In truth, taxis are already “on-demand” public transport, but the cost is prohibitive. They could be used more extensively as “last mile” transport now, if an arrangement could be reached allowing an Opal card to be used to pay about the same as the current bus fare for a short, and possibly shared, taxi ride.

    Gosford and Wollongong as “Satellite cities”

    The draft Future Transport Strategy proposes (p.21) that Gosford and Wollongong will be “satellite cities” by 2056, and will have connections to Greater Sydney with “fast transit”. The suggestion is made on p.54 of the draft Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan p.33 that the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Area will encompass these two regional cities, i.e. that there will be not three, but five, “metropolitan cities of Sydney”.

    As noted above, it is suggested (at p.66) that both Gosford and Wollongong will be provided with “frequent, high capacity trunk services” and “more flexible or on-demand services on local corridors”.

    In our view Gosford and Wollongong already are satellite cities, and they need fast transit connections much sooner than 2056.

    There are some State-wide initiatives that are listed as “committed” (see Newcastle Future Transport Plan p.11). Among them are a new intercity fleet, a regional fleet program, and the “Fixing Country Rail” program. The Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.22) describes the “Fixing Country Rail” projects as including “sidings, passing loops, the reopening of non-operational sections and network enhancements that allow the use of faster, longer and heavier trains”.

    These committed initiatives should mean some improvement to rail services serving Gosford and Wollongong, and they are very welcome. There are however no other committed public transport initiatives for either city.


    The list of committed transport initiatives for the Central Coast is contained in figure 19 on p.37 of Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan. Not one of the committed initiatives is a public transport initiative.

    Among the public transport initiatives that we think should be expedited is track straightening for intercity services, to improve journey times. According to p.36 of the Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan, this is still “for investigation”. So too is the bus “headstart” program, a simple but effective measure to improve bus journey times.


    According to the draft Future Transport Strategy (p.23) the Wollongong population is “expected to grow” to more than 500,000 people by 2056 (bigger than Canberra). It is worrying to see that not one of the committed initiatives specific to the Illawarra is a public transport project (Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan p. 38-39, Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan p.11). All the public transport initiatives listed on p.38 of the Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan remain “to be investigated”. Unless this situation changes, the mistakes Sydney made are about to be repeated in the Illawarra.

    The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan recognises that the Maldon-Dombarton link will “enable more passenger train services to operate on the Illawarra line without impacting freight rail services (p.89). And yet, it has been pushed out yet again, for at least 10 years (Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan p.88-89, Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan p.39 (figure 20)). We regard this as profoundly neglectful of the needs of a growing centre of population.

    Newcastle as a “global gateway” city

    Greater Newcastle comprises the local government areas of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Cessnock, Maitland and Port Stephens, currently home to around 575,000 people (expected to grow to around 760,000 people by 2056).

    This area is “larger than the state of Tasmania or the Australian Capital Territory” and so diverse that averages showing most travel is by car are not useful (see p.21 of Newcastle Future Transport Plan). As noted on p.5:

    The majority of the population live within the Lake Macquarie (35%) and Newcastle (29%) LGAs.

    The area’s greatest population density is within 5-10km of the Newcastle city centre at around 19 people per hectare.

    Far more informative is the public transport access level map on p. 51, which demonstrates that most of the Greater Newcastle Region is seriously deficient in public transport services. It is difficult to read (particularly the green markings) but the message nevertheless is clear.

    It surely should come as no surprise that people are failing to use public transport services that aren’t there.

    It would be excellent to see a similar map or set of maps for the Sydney Region, Gosford, Wollongong, and Nowra. We expect that the same phenomenon could be observed.

    The Newcastle Future Transport Plan (p.11) suggests it will benefit from the Fixing Country Rail program, the new intercity fleet, and perhaps the regional rail fleet program. This is true, and we are fully supportive of these initiatives.

    Apart from these, however, the only committed public transport initiative for Newcastle is the light rail line, which comes at the expense of an existing rail line. Every other public transport initiative is merely “under investigation” (p.56).

    It is not technically difficult to straighten out sections of the rail line to Newcastle in the short term, cutting travel time substantially. The draft Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.113) says that 7 deviations have already been identified that would reduce travel times from Broadmeadow to Central by 40 minutes. And yet the Newcastle Future Transport plan p.13 says this is just something “we plan to investigate”. The pictogram on p.57 of the Newcastle Future Transport Plan is difficult to read, but it seems to say that upgrades to the existing rail corridor are not planned for delivery for at least 10 years.

    We regard the straightening of the line to Newcastle as an urgent need. It would also be of benefit to residents of Gosford, increasing their access to work and educational opportunities in Newcastle as well as in Sydney.

    We contend that Figure 3 on p.7 of the Draft Greater Newcastle Future Transport Plan should include customer outcome number 5 (Increased accessibility to employment and services such as health, education, retail and cultural activities within Regional Cities and Centres) as a customer outcome explored within the Plan.

    In Newcastle, for reasons that remain opaque, high capacity rail services have been cut years in advance of the light rail system that was supposed to “replace” them. Public transport usage has been damaged by reliance on bus services to fill a gap that did not need to be created.

    If customers were really “at the centre of everything we do” (Newcastle Future Transport Plan p.7) this state of affairs would not have arisen.

    The folly of truncating the rail line at Wickham is clear from p.5 of the draft Newcastle Future Transport Plan, which notes that Newcastle centre has the highest job density and the best future job prospects.

    Greater Newcastle currently has around 275,000 jobs. Most jobs are located in Newcastle (43%) and Lake Macquarie (27%) LGAs.

    Newcastle city centre has the greatest employment density at over 57 jobs per hectare, which is more than double the next highest area of Hamilton/Broadmeadow at 22 jobs per hectare. Employment precincts are also located at Glendale and Charlestown and a corridor of employment stretches along the New England Highway towards Maitland.

    Employment growth is expected across Greater Newcastle, with the greatest growth occurring within the Newcastle city centre.

    Rail services should be restored at least as far as Civic, where there is now a campus of the University of Newcastle, drawing staff and students and staff from the Central Coast and Sydney metropolitan region as well as from the Hunter region. We understand there are expansion plans (https://www.newcastle.edu.au/about-uon/our-environments/our-campuses-and-locations/newcastle-city-precinct).

    Canberra as a “global gateway” city

    As noted above, it is suggested in the Strategy (at p.66) that Canberra will be provided with “frequent, high capacity trunk services” and “more flexible or on-demand services on local corridors”.

    The Strategy states (at p.22) that “Quality services will reach across borders, providing regional areas with efficient access to their closest capital city.” Action for Public Transport (NSW) thinks this is an excellent approach.

    We are especially pleased to see Canberra recognised as an important city (its population is approaching 400,000) with strong connections to regional areas in NSW. It is, after all, nested entirely within NSW. Clearly services in Canberra are mostly a matter for the ACT government, but there is no reason there should not be extensive and productive liaison between the two jurisdictions.

    Rail services between Sydney and Canberra have improved in recent years, but more needs to be done to reduce journey times, increase frequency, and improve connections to and from the station at Kingston. This is an instance where hire car arrangements, dedicated parking spaces for car share vehicles and bicycle hire facilities would be very useful.

    Canberra should be on the east coast high-speed rail route. The Sydney-Canberra leg would in our view be an excellent first stage.

    Support for (other) regional cities

    The draft Strategy proposes (p.14) “a network that delivers an ambitious vision for thriving communities and centres across NSW”. Specifically, what is proposed in regional NSW (at p.66) is that:

    The focus will be on services that operate on more localised networks radiating from regional cities rather than Sydney. Services will include scheduled public transport services such as in town bus services.

    The resulting “hub and spoke” regional network (p.67, figure 38) is intended to provide reliable, timetabled services on certain routes, allowing same day returns between regional cities and centres. The regional cities intended to form the hubs in this hub and spoke model appear (from the map on p.42 of the draft Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan) to include Tamworth, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Bathurst-Orange, Coffs Harbour and Lismore.
    This approach has merit, provided there are also fast and frequent services from the regional hub cities to a capital city (Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide or Brisbane) or to a city with a major teaching hospital (Newcastle). Some higher order services (especially medical services) may be unavailable in the nearest regional centre.

    The federal inland rail project will have a positive impact on some regional passenger services by reducing conflict with the needs of freight transport. As in the case of Newcastle, Gosford and Wollongong, some improvement to regional public transport services will also come from State-wide initiatives.

    There are however no other regional public transport initiatives that have reached the “committed” stage.

    Regional NSW therefore has no commitment to:

    The opportunity to create thriving regional communities will be lost if this does not change.

    Recent work by Professor John Stanley and Associate Professor Janet Stanley at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (University of Melbourne) indicates that a lack of transport choice in regional areas is a big factor in low rates of preschool attendance, low levels of educational attainment, and low levels of job readiness. A research report prepared for the Productivity Commission indicates that there is deep and persistent disadvantage in many rural and regional communities (http://www.pc.gov.au/research/supporting/deep-persistent-disadvantage).

    The draft Strategy refers to regional pilot programs to be operational “by the end of 2017” (p.66). It is now the end of 2017; this section of the Strategy needs updating.

    Supporting the development of Newcastle and Canberra as “global gateway cities” (or simply as cities) is a good idea, as we noted earlier, but we do not see this as a “regional NSW customer outcome” as suggested on page 30 (figure 15).

    High-speed rail

    The draft Strategy says (p.48) that:

    as technology continues to improve and change, we need to be prepared. For example, the future of rail may be a high speed intercity rail system able to compete with commercial airlines.
    This is a puzzling comment as the technology for high speed intercity rail is already well advanced. The Newcastle Future Transport Plan (p.57) seems to think there is something in the offing that will run at about 1000kmh. Japan has just opened a new shinkansen line; it is not treading water awaiting the invention of a 1000kmh alternative. Neither should we.

    It is well known that the Sydney to Melbourne air corridor is one of the busiest in the world. We note from p.43 of the draft Strategy that the intrastate air routes that connect [Sydney with] Ballina, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie are the busiest on the NSW air network. These also lie along the route of the proposed east coast fast rail project.

    There is strong evidence that high-speed rail has the capacity to influence settlement patterns in a positive way, to the benefit of both Sydney and regional NSW. There is a section in the draft Strategy that suggests we are heading in the opposite direction.

    The draft Strategy notes that regional NSW is home 3.1 million people, 40% of the State’s population. Its population is expected to rise to 3.6 million (out of a total of 11 million) by 2056. This means that the proportion of the population living outside Greater Sydney is expected to fall from 40% to 32%. It is difficult to be sanguine about that prospect.

    We note here that the assumption that 8 million of the total of 11 million people expected to live in NSW by 2056 are expected to cram into Sydney does not arise in a vacuum. It reflects historical settlement patterns, and these in turn reflect historical patterns of transport service provision.

    The Newcastle Future Transport Strategy (p.12, p.54) says that faster rail is at least 20 years away. It does propose protecting the corridor, and does talk about faster rail to Newcastle/Central Coast, Illawarra and Canberra (p.54), but there are no committed initiatives in any of the Plans (though some of the Fixing Country Rail projects noted on p.22 of the Regional Services and Infrastructure Plan might assist).

    We think the time for faster rail is now, and that it is time for the east coast high-speed rail project to be expedited.

    A recent Federal House of Representatives Committee Inquiry into “the role of transport connectivity in stimulating development and economic activity both in major urban areas, and in regional Australia" considered many relevant issues. Our submission can be found at http://aptnsw.org.au/documents/connectivity.html.


    The draft Future Transport Strategy uses the term “sustainability” to refer to two very different issues: financial sustainability and environmental sustainability.

    Primary emphasis is placed on financial sustainability (p. 27) and this is treated as synonymous with increasing cost recovery from fares. Most of the content under the heading of “sustainability” is exclusively about cost recovery in the public transport system, and most of that discussion is about fares.

    The Strategy also talks about environmentally sustainable travel (p.28), and rightly sees this as associated with a move from private cars to public transport and active transport modes, such as walking and cycling. This is consistent with the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.5), in which sustainability is seen as concerning increasing the share of trips by public transport, reducing the need to drive, or reducing average journey lengths.

    We think it is confusing for the Strategy to introduce a boutique usage of the term “sustainability”. The issue of cost recovery could be addressed under that heading.

    Cost recovery

    The question of funding transport projects and transport services is a big subject, which we can only touch on here.

    We are perturbed by the line of reasoning in the Strategy (section 10, beginning on p.89) which seems to lead inexorably to the destruction of any hope of getting from Figure 50 to Figure 51, and much else of value in the draft Strategy.

    The draft Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan says (p.6)

    With a forecast population of 8 million by 2056, Greater Sydney will require new transport infrastructure capacity to allow the city to grow whilst maintaining liveability. This includes new transport links or significant upgrades to existing transport links. All identified initiatives are subject to detailed feasibility studies, business cases and funding.
    The Future Transport Strategy (p.89) states that NSW cannot sustain improvements to the transport system without improving levels of cost recovery. There is some mention of advertising and miscellaneous revenue, and a passing mention of value capture, but the remainder of the discussion in section 10 is confined to public transport fares. This comment must therefore relate solely to proposed public transport system improvements, and not to road proposals.

    It is clear that there is particular resistance to capital investment in public transport, based on a reluctance to fund the recurrent cost of providing services, and/or a belief that a first world society cannot afford to do so (page 89). Every new customer is seen as a drain on the public purse.

    Conversely, the repeated failure of motorway construction to achieve its stated aim (reduced traffic congestion) does not result in a wary eye being cast towards proposals to do it all over again, so long as there is no perceived call on the State budget. There is one reference to the drying up of petrol excise as electric vehicles become more common, and the impact on Federal road funds (p. 93) but by and large tollways get an easier run because they are pitched as involving “no cost to government”.

    Given the population projections on which the GSC is working, there is a real prospect that Sydney is about to repeat the discredited practice of rolling out housing without access to serious public transport services. All the talk about integrated land use and transport planning would amount to just that, talk.

    Sleight of hand

    The “no cost to government” line has always involved a sleight of hand; in the case of Westconnex, a large and expensive program of roadworks aiming to accommodate the additional traffic it will generate is being paid for from public funds. The Beaches Link proposal has been put forward largely as a means of “mitigating” the congestion problems that would be created by Westconnex pushing more traffic onto the Anzac Bridge.

    There is now to be free registration of vehicles if their owners pay private toll operators more than $25 a week, a scheme expected to cost government $100 million in its first year of operation, and to climb over time (in the same way as the M4 “cashback” scheme escalated). Charging less for owning a vehicle and comparatively more for using it on congested roads may be a basically sound approach, but $100 million per year to support toll operators who got their projections wrong would be another thing entirely.

    Silo thinking

    There can be no sensible objection to the proposition that we should get the most from every dollar we spend on services and infrastructure (a heading on p.96), and we make no such objection.

    In our view, however, section 10 of the draft Strategy is unbalanced. It looks at public transport in a silo, and does not recognise the ramifications of car dependence for the costs incurred in other portfolios. The external costs of additional VKT (vehicle kilometres travelled) are not fully recognised.

    One such ramification is road trauma. The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.52) indicates that there are around 350 lives lost and more than 12,000 serious injuries each year, and that the cost of road trauma to the community is over $7 billion a year.

    Public transport systems use scarce and expensive urban space much more efficiently than roads. We are pleased to see the vastly superior carrying capacity of public transport networks is recognised on p. 69. The opportunity cost of devoting valuable urban land to motorways that routinely fail to achieve their stated aim of reducing congestion is however not recognised. See our submission on the New M5 at http://aptnsw.org.au/documents/new_m5_eis.html.

    The proposed dedication of large swathes of land in the Bays precinct to Westconnex is another example of opportunity about to be squandered.

    These costs can be difficult to count accurately, which does not make them disappear, but does cause them to disappear from view in conventional economic assessments of transport initiatives.

    Apples and oranges

    Care needs to be exercised in comparing the cost recovery performance of different systems. It is necessary to understand the factors that contribute to different rates of cost recovery. The high cost recovery of the Hong Kong system, for example, rests on receipts from property sales and rental, not fares.

    Higher levels of travel from distant suburbs to the central cities may reduce cost recovery, if fares are not distance-based in a linear way.

    This may seem “unfair” unless it recognised that high housing costs have forced many “key workers” on comparatively low incomes to live further from the city centre and undertake long-distance commutes. In the US, city centres have been the centres of disadvantage, while incomes tend to rise as distance from the city centre increases (the so-called “doughnut syndrome”). That is not what happens in Australia.

    Travel blending

    The Strategy is right to recognise that public transport users and private car users are not distinct groups (p.36):

    We know that most people use more than one mode of transport and that private motor vehicle users can also be pedestrians, cyclists and public transport passengers at different times. Three quarters of people aged 60 years or over drive a car and the same proportion use public transport. We also know that taking buses and walking increases as people age beyond 70 while use of other modes declines.
    The aim of transport planning has to be what used to be called “travel blending” in an earlier jargon. Proposals to increase fares have to recognise that public transport passengers who own cars (they may for example be using “park and ride” facilities) will be very sensitive to fare increases, because the cost of additional petrol is marginal and will be even less as electric vehicles gradually displace petrol and diesel fuelled fleet. This is particularly so if they have free parking at their destination.

    A practical suggestion

    The basic proposition in section 10 of the Strategy is that public transport fares should be raised until they represent a preset level of cost recovery. This proposition gives no weight at all to the impact this could have on patronage and hence modal split, nor the exclusionary impact it would have for people on lower incomes.

    Action for Public Transport has addressed these issues in several submissions to IPART. See, for example, http://aptnsw.org.au/documents/ipart_fares_2016.html.

    Broadly, our position is that fares should be set to recover operating costs to the extent that this can be done without damaging patronage and without making fares unaffordable for lower income earners.

    Options for raising additional capital funds for public transport projects and recurrent funding sources to cover operations do exist (including various value capture models, or extending or raising the State’s car parking levy). The most obvious first step is however to reallocate money being spent in a vain attempt to reduce congestion in urban areas by adding more road space. Again.

    Environmental sustainability

    The draft Strategy (p.28) refers to a transition to a low emissions environment. An aspirational target in the State’s Climate Change Policy Framework, zero net emissions by 2050, is intended to set NSW up as a leading and competitive low-carbon economy.

    The draft Strategy points out that moving more people by active and public transport has benefits for all (p.34). Apart from environmental benefits (some of which are accounted for in conventional analyses, many of which are not), the Strategy further notes (p.28) that such a shift will “improve urban vibrancy and liveability”.

    The simple message conveyed by Figure 14 on p.29 (mode share) is that all of the unequivocally global cities – Tokyo, Singapore (a city-State), Paris, New York and London - have a very high public transport mode share.

    Figure 14 also suggests a link between density and mode share. This is interesting, but density is tricky. It would require a full understanding of the area included in the boundaries of each of these cities to properly assess the suggested link.

    For example, the chart shows suspiciously low densities for Sydney and Melbourne. If the boundaries have been drawn to include large natural reserves (which Australia is fortunate to have comparatively close to our cities), and/or semi-rural areas, the data will be skewed and misleading. In fact, the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan (p.13) includes the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Wollondilly in the boundaries of Greater Sydney.

    All of the cities noted as having both higher densities and higher use of public transport than Sydney also have excellent public transport systems. This is a critical factor, perhaps the critical factor. Detailed work by Paul Mees (Transport for Suburbia 2010) makes a convincing case that the level of service has far more to do with the use of public transport than does residential density.

    Very low residential densities militate against public transport use, but density is not the only issue. Attempting to satisfy the extravagant space demands of bigger roads and more parking contributes significantly to the creation of low densities in urban areas in the first place.

    Once more, see our submission on the New M5 at http://aptnsw.org.au/documents/new_m5_eis.html.

    Finally, we note the proposition that public transport costs could be part of salary packages (p.63). This is an excellent idea and we wonder why can’t it happen already.

    Active transport

    The Strategy reports that (in Sydney?) there are already 3.5 million walking only trips and 448,000 cycling trips on an average week day, and proposes that:

    More active transport will improve network outcomes overall, but more importantly, will deliver positive health, wellbeing and environmental outcomes too.
    We agree with this proposition. The Strategy suggests that encouraging more people to use active transport to move around will require Transport for NSW to “look at” safer, well connected infrastructure such as bike paths and walking paths.

    We hope you can do more than “look at” these initiatives. The Strategy says there are “plans to expand the network of separated walking and cycling pathways” (p.40); there are some details at p.72 and p.73.

    We note the encouraging figures from WA (p.51) showing that “e-bikes” reduced commuting by car (as driver or passenger) from 61 % to 32 %.

    The observation on p.71 that walking and cycling opportunities extend public transport catchments (as well as reducing congestion and lowering carbon emissions and air pollutants) is correct. Almost all public transport journeys begin and end on foot. The quality of walking networks matters a great deal to public transport users.

    The Sydney Chainsaw massacre

    Pedestrians need shade. We suggest that most streets can be “green corridors” if they have street trees that are not massacred by power utilities. There should be a program of putting poles and wires underground and ridding the streets of them.

    The Greater Sydney Service and Infrastructure Plan (p.18) suggests working with local government to support pedestrian activity on roads in centres and local areas, but we think there also needs to be work done with the utility providers – they are the ones wielding the chainsaws.

    Demand management

    We agree that “demand management” should be the first response to congestion and performance variability.

    We are surprised that there is no discussion of road access pricing which the Productivity Commission advocated recently.

    Parking policy is a proven method of managing traffic demand. There is recognition that this is the case in the Newcastle Future Transport Plan, and the Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan proposes reviews of parking policy in some centres (p.8 and p.18). We support this initiative. Charging for currently-free parking would promote its efficient use.

    The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan also suggests that road allocation policy will give priority to higher efficiency vehicles. Despite the name, that is not what the “Bus Priority Program” is doing.

    Our members are inclined to think the exercise is actually driven by an urge to make left hand turns easier for drivers, and has little or nothing to do with the needs of bus passengers. Getting the most out of the existing road network should not involve ripping out bus stops to facilitate left turns by (mostly single occupant) private cars.

    Nor should it mean turning healthy shopping strips into clearways, making them unpleasant for shoppers and killing off businesses.

    Time shifting

    Public transport users find it very difficult to shift their time of travel if service frequencies deteriorate rapidly outside the peaks, as they usually do. “Turn up and go” or high frequencies need to run right through the day and evening to change this, as is proposed in figure 22 (p.46). Wi-Fi access and device charging points would also help, as time-shifters can do some work during the journey to and from their place of work (many already do, but it can be expensive).

    Road safety

    The Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan says that by 2056, NSW will have a network with zero trauma, saving some 350 lives and more than 12,000 serious injuries each year and cutting the cost of trauma to the community by over $7 billion a year (p.52). The draft Plan (p.52) states:

    We will work towards achieving this service outcome through a Safe System approach, where we plan services and design infrastructure to integrate with human behaviour to prevent trauma. It involves all elements of the system (infrastructure, vehicles, speeds and user behaviour) working together to ensure safety and in a way that accounts for human error.

    The Strategy notes that human error is estimated to cause 90% of vehicle crashes (p.49). We are pleased that Encouraging modal shift away from private vehicle usage and toward public transport modes is recognised as a measure that contributes to road safety (Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan p.52)

    It is concerning that the Regional Infrastructure and Services Plan forecasts a growing freight task that will see "more heavy vehicles mixing with other vehicles and transport users on the road, which can increase risk for our customers" (p.65). We would suggest such a trend not only can reduce road safety, it definitely does. This is another reason freight rail initiatives such as the Maldon-Dombarton line deserve to be brought forward.

    Projects related to the transport of freight by rail are also “to be investigated” rather than committed:

    Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) clearly have the potential to reduce road trauma in the long run, provided the safety issues they themselves raise are resolved.

    The Strategy also suggests that if CAVs are predominantly used to run shared services, they could also help reduce congestion and get people out of their cars by extending the catchment of traditional public transport systems (p.49).

    We suggest that a “shared” CAV is a form of public transport, just as taxis currently are. As in the case of taxis, affordability will be a critical issue.


    Action for Public Transport (NSW) appreciates the fact that Transport for NSW is seeking comment on the draft Future Transport Strategy documents. We also appreciated previous invitations to comment on Sydney’s Rail Future, and on the most useful locations for stations on the proposed West Metro.

    This is in stark contrast to the opaque “unsolicited proposals” process that delivered the Westconnex proposal, and has now metastasised into the “Beaches Link”.

    In this submission, we have identified many public transport initiatives that should move into the “committed” category as soon as possible, along with the Maldon-Dombarton line which would have a positive impact on both freight and public transport, and on road safety.

    We hope our submission will be of assistance to the Future Transport Team.

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