HOW TO RUN A RAILROAD
APT was privileged to watch a peak-hour train delay form, grow and spread on Monday morning the 20th March 1989 at 8:00. Our man was standing on Central's platform 19 when he noticed that the train on platform 20 appeared to be waiting for something. The problem was that it had no driver one appeared at about 8:10. The train started and our man saw that it had delayed four other trains, all of them full. Thus the absence of one man caused possibly 4000 passengers to be held up.
Another incident: Track works were scheduled between Gordon and Chatswood on Sunday 2nd April. In order to make train movements elsewhere as close as possible to the normal timetable, it was planned to have four trains per hour arrive at Gordon from the north and turn around and to have four trains per hour arrive at Chats- wood from the south and turn around. Sets of three buses bridging the gap were scheduled at three per hour. First objection: at least some passengers must be badly delayed by the un-coordinated connections. On top of that, the heavy rain made trouping up and down steps less than pleasant. Second objection: Owing to the rain, the track works were called off early in the morning. APT does not believe that normal running could not have been restored, at least by early afternoon.
Still no sign of incorporation of the Very Fast Train into Sydney's airport plans. Meanwhile, in the absence of a strong expression of interest from the Victoria government (who are conducting an inquiry into the VFI) without involving N.S.W.), the VPT consortium is talking of going Sydney-Brisbane instead of Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne. This is not entirely trans-Murray bluff; the VFT cannot hope for Brisbane-Melbourne travellers to change mode at Sydney and thus has good reason for wanting to connect all four eastern capitals.
Of course, the airport issue is really about externalising transport costs. Those who benefit from flight think convenient airports are a good idea; they ignore the loss of amenity to others such as South Sydney residents.
APT regrets that the Federal Government is not interested in any change to its Badgery's Creek airport plans in order to accommodate the VFT. We believe that since the VFT and domestic airlines have overlapping markets, the Government should recognise the interdependence of the two modes, and the potential for minimising the total capital cost of long-distance
transport infrastructure. As for international travel, the idea of having overseas passengers land at a country airport, and then to conduct their customs formalities at 350 kph on the VFI' to Sydney or Canberra deserves fuller investigation.
RAIL PASSENGER SECURITY
The recent increase in violence on and around the railways at night is being used by the Government as a pretext to close down the metropolitan system at midnight. APT points out that the buses would be inadequate in terms of comfort speed, timekeeping and reserve capacity. Further, APT doubts that the SRA would incur the expenditure necessary to clearly mark the stopping locations. Patronage would almost certainly decline. With arrangements already in place to run buses, an advancing of the shutdown to 11:15 or even 10:30 would be easy to organise. The present Government would not scruple to "justify" it.
The effects would hit the young hardest; they would be less able to go to cinemas etc. APT urges the Government to recognise the social costs of this proposed cutback in services.
SYDNEY HARBOUR IMMERSED TUNNEL (S.H.T.) AGAIN
APT was concerned to learn that a certain Labor M.L.A. feels that the use of benefit/cost ratios in the assessment of highway and other transport proposals is all ****" Similarly, a North Shore mayor was seen in mufti at North Sydney Council's recent public meeting on the SHT inquiry; His Worship indicated in the voting that he does not accept that the tunnel is undesirable. They are two examples of decision-makers accepting bad advice. This loss of credibility of the traffic engineering profession is basically due to the unprofessional legerdemain of the D.M.R. typified by this project. The medical profession has been largely freed from snake-oil peddlers by the efforts of the honest; it would seem to be time for honest engineers to take similar measures.
The new concessions for frequent harbour-crossers will no doubt be well-used by those who can benefit from them. APT expects this to weaken further, although not by much, the delicate balance between toll collections and the monthly payments to the Joint Venture. The tokens, cards and stickers are an attempt to speed up collections; it was demonstrated years ago that to collect a single coin toll takes just under 6 seconds. Collecting $1.50 takes fractionally longer. There are 3 booths per lane at peak hours which would be able to handle just over 1800 vehicles per hour paying a single-coin toll but can't now. Hence the longer a.m. queues.
The obvious compromise for the tunnel is to use it to increase car lanes by 2, with the other 2 for a guided transit system from Warringah to St James, with possible extension south or south-east. You are earnestly requested to write to the Minister for Transport, Parliament House, Sydney 2000, pointing this out. Please also urge the Minister to release the 15 or so contractual documents referred to in the recently-released legal opinion as well as any subsequent agreements. An inquiry should be held urgently to determine if the point of financial no-return has been passed. If it hasn't, the project should be suspended; if it has, the contract should be altered along the above lines.
It's been said many times that the SHT won't help much with the congestion. Tunnelers who doubt this should look at Brisbane's new Gateway Bridge. Lord Mayor Atkinson complains (Courier Mail, 8 Feb) that heavy vehicles have NOT been taken out of the city. For an analysis of why traffic congestion is not solved by building more roads, see The Economist of 18 Feb 89 at your local library.
COUNTRY RAIL SERVICES DWINDLE EVEN FURTHER
With effect from early April, running of the Brisbane Express has been adjusted so that it takes 50 minutes longer each way. The dilemma of how to announce this "improvement" was averted by not announcing it at all, except in Brisbane. APT expects that within a year or so only the following will run: XFFs to Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra daily. Northern Tablelands express daily.
The present Government has enacted a policy that all rail freight services must be commercially viable (Transport Administration Act, 1989). The result will be the loss of much grain traffic to road. APT's view is that making rail freight customers pay the full cost of the service would be fine if only the same policy could be applied to the road freight industry. Latest estimates of the de facto road damage subsidy per heavy truck are about $40,000 per year and there are other noticeable external costs of truck operation.
HALF AS MUCH FOR TWICE THE PRICE
One of the surprises of the Royal Easter Show was the appearance at the STA stand of a new Sydney public transport map. Well, not all of Sydney, just the part east of Lidcombe; and not all public transport, just buses and ferries; and not all buses, just government buses. To be fair, the map is correctly titled "Sydney State Transit Bus and Ferry Travel Guide".
And all this reduced information costs you $2 - twice the price of the old map, which also had details of trains and private buses, as well as covering all of Sydney out to Penrith and Campbelltown.
As far as the map and the accompanying tables go, it is very good,
but it's a pity that attempts to co-ordinate with the railways and
private buses seem to have been abandoned. (P.S. It doesn't mention
the monorail anywhere.)
THE GREINHOUSE EFFECT
The warning bells are ringing louder. If environmental catastrophes like the greenhouse effect are to be minimised or delayed, the world must curb fossil-fuel emissions such as those from motor vehicles. More and more cities around the world are placing ever-tighter restrictions on the use of motor cars, and the time frame for decisive action is getting shorter - some say 20 years. And what of Sydney? The NSW Government is still calling tenders for building more expressways. even radial ones paralleling existing railways in the South-West and on the North Shore. Look at another city which followed that policy - Los Angeles has 4000 miles of freeways and their peak hour speeds often fall below 10 m.p.h.
Even if you don't accept that impending greenhouse changes should make us reduce energy consumption, it is clear that domestic oil supplies are finite and their exhaustion early next century will put our balance of payments in a very unfavourable position. Alternatives to petrol are around but are not cheap. Increased use of public transport would reduce oil consumption.
The one solution to traffic congestion which has not yet been fully explored is, according to The Economist of 18 February, road pricing. Since 1975, cars entering central Singapore with fewer than four people have had to pay a toll of $3 per day. Hong Kong has experimented with an electronic system of charging similar to a supermarket bar-code scanner. Stockholm may soon become the first European city to charge for the use of city-centre streets.
APT predicts that within 10 years, a NSW government will follow the pro-public transport policies of progressive overseas cities (L.A. is building four rail lines). For the NSW Liberals, this would mean an about-face. For Labor? - well, Mr Carr is saying people should use public transport, solar energy and recycled waste (Herald, 4 Nov 1988). It is to be hoped that public opinion will move from greed to need sufficiently quickly for him to enshrine such ideals into Labor platform. For two very good articles on the future of transport in cities, see The Economist above.
CENTRAL COAST 1. NORTH SHORE NIL
The SRA has been "running Central Coast trains via the North Shore". What they have actually done each morning is to extend one North Shore service, the former 7:49 all stations from Lindfield, to start from Gosford. Needless to say, the Lindfield people can no longer get seats. There has been a cunning move to mask late running - another train is available at Lindfield to fill the 7:49 slot should the Gosford train be late, but otherwise it waits there until 8:02, giving it 34 minutes of idle time each morning peak. APT thinks this is a waste of a car set and crew.
BUY NOW! PRICES SET TO RISE!
Readers who could use yearly or quarterly transit tickets are
reminded that fares generally will probably rise in June. Buy your
ticket before the rise.
AND NOW A MESSAGE FROM OUR SPONSOR The trouble with the Premier's proposal to carry advertising on the outside of trains is that according to him only a declining minority of citizens use them. With the ultimate burial of all large railway stations under skyscrapers, many people will go from January to December without sighting a train. APT suggests that advertising would be more conspicuous on ministerial limousines which, like the trains, are publicly-owned.
SYDNEY SIGHTSEEING BY BUS AND FERRY
Another surprise brochure handed out (free) at the Show was "The See More Save Money Guide - Sydney Sightseeing by Bus and Ferry" It is well-produced and says all the right things. The surprising thing is that although it says "fares and information supplied correct at date of publication. May 1988", your intrepid reporter does not recall having seen the brochure on any of his numerous enquiring forays into places where such brochures should be.
The date seems to be correct as the authority is shown as Urban Transit (not State Transit). But where has it been all this time? And why?
Another problem is the great gulf evident again between the bus and rail operations. Although the Guide mentions rail services to various tourist destinations, it is entitled "Sightseeing by Bus and Ferry".
There are no photographs of trains amongst the buses and ferries. Perhaps we need a matchmaker or good introduction agency to get their publicity departments together again.
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Former fans of Lewis Carroll will remember the White Queen explaining to Alice that the punishment came first,then the trial, and then the crime (but only if the criminal hadn't repented). It's the same with the NSW Government; they start to build a highway, then they announce it, then they do whatever is necessary to elude the intention of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. It's happened again, this time with the road from Pearce's Corner to the Castlereagh Tollway. The R.T.A. has been progressively buying land in The Broadway, Wahroonga, for years. The announcement was made this month. The contrived compliance with the E.P.A. Act will come as sure as night follows day.
ECONOMIC VALUE OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT
APT has often had pointed out to it in the context of transport
debates that the drivers of vehicles in traffic jams are generally
earning money. Their vehicles are performing less efficiently than
they would in free flow, i.e. fuel is being wasted. Further, the
vehicles themselves and their loads are worth a lot of money so the
delays to them represent poor utilisation of assets. There is often a
sarcastic inference that APT should acknowledge the costs to the
economy of traffic jams. Invariably the conclusion is drawn that
greatly increased funding of road works is the cure to this malaise.
APT is certainly aware of the high costs of transport. But we do not agree that road works are the solution, and certainly not enormously expensive highways with mutes chosen according to their effect on the next election. The simple truth is that public transport works are in general a cheaper way of clearing the roads than are road works. The SRA spends 21.4 cents per passenger kilometre (source: State Wide, July 1988). Running a typical car 16000 km per year costs over $6100; at a typical occupancy rate of 1.2, this works out to about 32 cents per passenger kilometre. Already you can see economic advantage to the community in putting as many trips as possible onto trains, especially off-peak.
But it doesn't stop there. There are many other costs of running cars which the owners fob off onto everyone else, such as noise in residential areas, accidents and of course congestion. As for clearing congestion by building more roads, the trouble is that top executives and valuable cargoes must share the road with other users. Invariably, extra road space is absorbed by extra trips and longer trips. We would run of out money (and land) long before we had so many roads that there was no congestion.
APT was lucky enough recently to find a copy of an internal D.M.R. document discussing the relative merits of public transport and road-based solutions to Sydney's acknowledged traffic chaos. Guess which association was described as "an over-zealous motoring lobby"? (HINT: not Ostrich Insurance) The document proves the authorities recognise (i) that traffic can be induced by road works (ii) that land use and transport interact (iii) that public transport has a value in reducing congestion. Funny - they've never conceded any of that before.
The birth and death of bus route 410 (Market Street to Darling Harbour) are recorded. APT mentions this because 410 was so poorly promoted that you are unlikely to have heard of it. New routes should always be well-advertised.
A recent issue of TL alleged that there is a "rail conspiracy" intended to divert money into Government coffers by way of promoting rail freight. The flaw in this specious argument is that the N.S.W. Government is actively promoting B-doubles (road trains), thereby weakening rail freight revenue, If car registration goes up to $500, don't forget that about $200 of it is your personal subsidy to the trucking industry. Even worse, you pay it as an ownership tax on your car not a usage tax, and so there is no metering of road use in it.
The new 3 cent/litre levy on fuel is, despite its superficial semblance to a user-pays arrangement, another cross-subsidy which we hear will be used to bolster non-viable privately-operated tollways. Unsurprisingly, the road lobby like it. Do you still think that there is a rail conspiracy?
"The metropolitan road system would continue to function, even if no new roads were built." The Kirby Report on the Kyeemagh-Chullora Road Inquiry, quoted in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel Inquiry - Vol. 2, Detailed Report.
Urban Transport Sat 6 May 1989, Maiden Theatre, Royal Botanic Gardens. $12 including papers. Urban Environment Coalition, P.O. Box 555, South Sydney. 212-6193.
Japan. Trans-Siberian Railway, USSR, Poland and on to Europe. May 1990. Flexible itinerary. Enquiries: Aust. Electric Traction Assoc., Box 112, Eastwood 2122
South America via USA, and Mexico. About Sept 1990. Again dates & itinerary are flexible at this stage. Info from APT meetings. Both tours will have a public transport theme, but are not "organised" in the usual sense, independence and self-reliance being encouraged. Numbers will be small - about 10 persons.
Nth Qld - 2nd-17th September 1989. $1850 including accommodation. ARHS, Box 1346, Toowong 4066
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Traffic Calming. A Brisbane citizens' group describes a nice meld of opposition to highways with speed controls on local roads. Favourably reviewed by motoring writer Alan Kennedy in the Herald, 30 March 1989. Send $16.50 to Campaign Against Route Twenty, 50 Exeter Street, Ashgrove 4060.
Sydney Harbour Tunnel Inquiry - Detailed Report A masterly summing-up of the most contrived decision in the history of Sydney transport $30 from North Sydney Council. -
State of The World. Paul Ehrlich. $12 postpaid from A.B.C. Radio Tapes, Box 8213, Stirling Street, 6000.
Sydney by Public Transport. A detailed list of all train, bus and ferry services, government & private. including frequencies, with how-to-get-to information for major points of interest like hospitals, sporting grounds, etc. $12.95 postpaid from Transit Australia Publishing, G.P.O. Box 1017, Sydney 2001.
APT is nurturing a new movement dedicated to the wellbeing of
pedestrians, many of whom have just stepped off a public vehicle. The
movement has sprung largely from the frustrations of pedestrians
inconvenienced by footpath obstructions. Persons interested in
actively supporting this fledgling should contact APT.
Page 2 last issue, column 2, last paragraph, second line. For more read less. Sorry.