WHAT A WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD
APT have long had reservations about guards on metropolitan services. These doubts arise not from any lack of worthwhile things for guards to do but rather from the reluctance of guards to do these things. One night recently, while waiting at Town Hall station, your reporter saw a train pull into Platform 2 with the guard hanging out on the wrong side, obviously expecting to open the doors on that side.
It is inconceivable that a guard could be so inexperienced as not to know which side of trains are the Town Hall platforms. APT suggest that by his inattention to the progress of the train, this particular guard weakened the case for retention of his own job and the jobs of his mates. We understand that guards are being paid to do things like announce stations and patrol the train.
CHANGE OF VENUE
APT's regular meeting is still at 5p.m. on Tuesdays. The venue has shifted to upstairs at 802 George Street, the Bicycle Institute rooms. As always, you are welcome.
A new destination indicator has been erected on Platform 4 at busy Redfern station. One of its panels is a TV-style monitor; we trust that it will be legible early in the morning despite the direct sunlight it will then have shining on it. APT have been told that after the trial, the indicator will be removed.
We would have thought there were better places to install new indicators. One of the more obvious is the constant puzzle at Redfern posed to passengers for Campbelltown. South-western trains leave from both platforms 6 and 8 and have been known to leave from platform 4.
SUPPORT FROM HIGH PLACES
It transpires that the new Governor of NSW, Sir David Martin, is a railway man at heart. Great enthusiasm has been shown by His Excellency for train travel, both in the vice-regal carriages and at the controls of steam locomotives. APT sincerely hope that before long, some of the Governor's sentiments filter downwards to his ministers, not least the Minister for Transport. Without disagreeing with the vice-regal preference, APT submit that railway systems can be justified on economic social and enviromnental grounds which should also be taken into account.
Equally surprising was the presidential address of the Anglican Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn to a synod meeting in Wagga on September 22: "One cannot but be a supporter of railway transport as we watch the increased overloading of the road system. Yet at the very time we see these problems on the increase, the NSW Government seems determined to cut down on rail services" (Church Scene, 29 September). Conscious of the large number of trucks on the Hume Highway at night, and the marked hazard forced upon lesser travellers, Bishop Dowling said it was better to improve the safety of the roads and plan ahead for good rail transport than to pray by the bedside for healing for those seriously injured in road accidents. He expressly mentioned the fact that road "improvements" can result in an increase in road traffic rather than a reduction in accidents.
Another clerical appeal comes from Hunter's Hill. Six locals have been killed in highway accidents since 1987; one of them was a Congregationalist pastor. The Anglican rector has called for a return to rail, pointing out that the government is not taking the cost of road accidents into account in its "rationalisation" of country passenger services.
ROADS & TRAFFIC
A creation of the Greiner government was the new Roads and Traffic Authority, formed from three former departments (DMR, DMT and Traffic Authority). APT understand that in reality this so-called amalgamation is a takeover by the DMR of the other two. Many jobs have been abolished in the DMT and the TA and many staff have been made redundant.
The most unfortunate aspect of this is that the Traffic Authority has lost its former independent advisory role. The TA was valuable insofar as it could give an independent examination of any of the DMR's enviromentally damaging proposals. Now the TA has been swallowed into the DMR and will be bound by the road-building policies of the DMR juggernaut. This increased power for the freeway builders comes at a time when more and more people are becoming conscious of the environmental damage which freeways cause.
We quote from an advertisement published on 14th November: "The Roads and Traffic Authority is undertaking a major expansion of road building". The ad, published by the government, makes the RTA the determining authority for ALL road proposals. APT understand this decision to be a direct reversal of an election promise.
B-DOUBLE FEARS REALISED
One of the arguments for the extension of B-double trucks into capital cities was that each B-double trip would replace more than one trip by a smaller truck, with a nett reduction in the number of vehicles on the road. APT never accepted this, feeling it more probable that rail freight would be lost to B-doubles, with a resulting increase in road traffic.
We have been vindicated. It has been reported that Caltex have ceased
using rail transport to distribute their products in South Australia.
A reason cited for this has been the introduction of B-doubles. South
Australian motorists will now share their roads with an extra 50,000
tonnes of flammable liquids per year.
This new rail ticket, which permits unlimited daytime off-peak rides in the Kings Cross - Central - North Sydney area, is presumably supposed to be instead of the Day Rover. APT cannot understand why it is unavailable for bus travel.
Oddly, the new BusTripper ticket introduced last July appears to be the subject of a publicity embargo. Perhaps it should be incorporated into an extended CityHopper which also covered ferries.
On 29th October, a special steam train ran excursions between Darling Harbour and Gosford. AFT were amused to see Convention monorail station filled with acrid black smoke; we felt that this underlined the sad truth that the monorail and steam traction are equally irrelevant to Sydney's transport problems.
A similar trip a couple of weeks later had transport minister Bruce Baird riding on the footplate of locomotive 3801. It is to be hoped that this implies official Ministerial recognition that the Dulwich Hill - Lewisham - Rozelle - Glebe - Darling Harbour line exists and could be adapted for commuter use.
This line has enormous potential. Converting it to double-track passenger use would require only (i) stations (ii) electrification between Haymarket and Rozelle Yard (iii) widening of the narrow tunnel under Railway Square. The line seems ready-made for a light rail route. A low-level tunnel under Haymarket could service the Entertainment Centre, the CBD, and other suburbs. Darling Harbour traders would benefit from such a service, as would everyone from reducing Sydney's air pollution and traffic congestion.
On a related topic, it is pleasing to see that Qantas-CRI are proposing to open the Botany freight line for passenger use to the airport. They intend building a new spur line under the tarmac to the local and international terminals. Trains will leave the Illawarra line at Sydenham. APT will believe this when we see it; we point out that Arncliffe station is only a few minutes' walk from the international terminal.
APT find difficult to explain minister Baird's decision to hold a public inquiry into the proposed Castlereagh Tollway (just as we could never understand why Laurie Brereton let the Harbour Tunnel be subject to an environmental impact study). The minister has said that it would be foolhardy to go against the findings of such an enquiry; we note in passing that Kirby enquiries into the Warringah Expressway and the Kyeemagh to Chullora road found against each.
The first stage of the Castlereagh is to be from North Ryde through Epping to Pennant Hills Road, with later extension to Seven Hills. For the authorities, it is vital to their scheme of making the new towns of Rouse Hill and Kellyville utterly dependent on private car transport. For APT, it is a ridulously elaborate way of doing little more than easing a bottleneck at Epping which could be removed directly. For the many residents of parts of Beecroft who stand to lost their pleasant bushland environment and for residents of parts of South Turramurra who recognise that the Castlereagh will need a new road from Wahroonga southward through the bush to make the Castlereagh viable, it is a cause celebre. These worthy citizens have assembled a small army of experts to convince the Enquiry that there are many reasons why the Castlereagh should not be built. APT will be there too, arguing that there is no reason why it should be built.
State cabinet occasionally meets in rural towns, especially in marginal electorates. They met in Cootamundra on 26th September. It was known that truck tachographs were on the agenda. The night before, extensive lobbying was carried out by twenty trucking heavies, with the result that Cabinet rejected Bruce Baird's move for early introduction of compulsory tachographs and merely agreed with the "concept" of tachographs. But a spate of smashes in October, including the horrific Grafton one, gave the minister grounds for re-opening the matter and tachographs are now on the way.
APT trust that other reforms, such as federal licensing of truck drivers which would prevent drivers from spreading their offences over several different licences, will not be far behind.
OUR FOREIGN DEBT
You may have been puzzled to see a full-page newspaper ad from Macquarie Bank referring to boiling frogs in the context of Australia's large and growing balance of payments problem. It is said that a frog placed in cool water will sit there while the water is brought to boiling point, killing and cooking the frog. Humans are similarly poor at reacting to dangerous situations that arise gradually, such as adverse balance of overseas trade.
With an eye to the Commonwealth election due in the next few months, Macquarie are presumably trying to attract attention to macroeconomic issues. The bank's analysis is that our economy is uncompetitive and that our savings level is too low; it argues that we should reduce government spending and move away from income tax towards consumption tax. Further, according to these economists, we should improve efficiency of sea transport and the railways.
APT have no criticism so far. But Macquarie go on to take a negative view of greenies who obstruct profitable projects (traditionally, economists are unable to see more than five years into the future). The bank simplify things by emphasing Commonwealth matters, ignoring the State and Territory governments. On the plus side, APT approve of Macquarie's acknowledgement of the difficulty caused by the 3-year terms of Commonwealth governments. And the electors have a well-documented history of voting for personal greed not community need.
The crunch comes when you realise that Macquarie do not even mention the desirability of conserving energy, even if only for the sake of lessening expenditure on energy imports.
WHERE ARE THE ROADS, ETC.
APT find curious the article on page 7 of the current NRMA Open Road. Among the usual calls for increased Commonwealth road funding is a tasteless reference to the death of an RTA flagman; this appears to be an attempt to associate by proximity. APT cannot understand how funding would have averted this tragedy.
The new fish market at Blackwattle Bay is to become a tourist venue.
Why then has bus route 459, which runs past the site, been cancelled
on weekends? The offence is compounded by the announcement that the
old markets will be demolished - for a car park!
Many organisations similar to APT exist. Should you have connections in the area, we suggest that you contact:
Action for Public Transport (A.C.T.), P.O. Box 1875, Canberra City 2601.
Consumers' Transport Council, P.O. Box 54, Wollongong East, 2520.
Public Transport Users' Association, P.O. Box 324, Collins Street, Melbourne, 3000.
Rail 2000, 9 Montpelier St, Parkside, 5063, South Australia. (08) 274-1126.
Hills Transport Action Group, 9 Renown Aye, Crafers 5152.
Lachlan Regional Transport Committee, P.O. Box 6, Woodstock 2793.
Friends of the Northern Railway, P.O. Box 319, Armidale 2350.
Coalition for Urban Transport Sanity, 39 George Street, The Rocks 2000.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the substitution of road buses for trains after midnight, you can't complain about the publicity. The Nightride service has been widely advertised in metropolitan and local newspapers, on posters at railway stations, and by timetables and special maps at bus stops. Railway platforms whose train timetables have been poorly displayed and desultorily maintained now sport bright new blue Nightride timetables. Bus stops where daytime bus routes have been passing by for decades unacknowledged by any timetable now boast Nightride timetables and maps.
It is a pity, then, that the new train timetable booklets issued to coincide with the removal of the last night trains from 29th October don't make any mention of the buses, let alone show a timetable for them. Oddly, the booklets plug the "free" bus route 777 which has not been free for some months. Nocturnal commuters now have to consult a separate timetable for their buses.
Readers with long memories may recall the announcement of Nightride, and how it was supposedly to allow maintenance work to be done overnight and to allow free movement of goods trains at night. Well, (a) the whole Illawarra line from Oatley to Wollongong is closing from 27th December to 28th January (b) Menangle Park station has just been declared dangerous and closed indefinitely (c) Lewisham station has closed for three months (d) APT's spies have not noticed many goods trains at Bondi Junction at night. Come to think of it, the passenger trains taken off were so sparse that any conflicting goods movement could easily have been adjusted (e) weekend track closures are still occurring.
The good feature of Nightride is that passengers feel much safer than they would on trains, because of the restraining influence of the driver on any potential troublemakers. Also, there is an hourly service all night, which the trains never provided. The limited capacity may emerge as a problem when the January festivities are under way; time will tell if the flexibility is there to provide extra buses as needed.
There has been a side effect, namely the effect on later services of cancelled early morning trains. On the North Shore line, two peak hour services have been cancelled - the 7:17 from Gordon and the 8:44 from Lindfield. Despite adjustments to the stopping patterns of the surviving trains, residents of Artarmon who miss the 8:42 will now have to wait until 8:57 and Wollstonecraft commuters will be similarly affected. APT suspect that the gaps left by the cancelled trains are already earmarked for use by Central Coast services, illustrating the benefits of not living in a politically blue-ribbon area. V.F.T. REVEALED
Now that the proponents have run out of 2lst-century features of the proposed Very Fast Train service between Melbourne and Sydney (and possibly Brisbane) to dazzle us with, the real issues are becoming visible.
Developers of the route would be in the running for rights to also develop super-high-tech towns (multi-function polises, MFPs) along the way. Such rights are of course likely to be enormously profitable. The VFT consortium realise this and obviously intend capturing land value increases along the route. They recognise that this will help pay for the project, holding fares down and supporting patronage and hence viability.
Our governments either don't understand this or don't want to know it.
PARK STREET TUNNEL
As originally conceived, this inner-city project was to include a bus terminus connecting to Town Hall railway station. In return for conferring upon Sydney's CBD the dubious benefit of 900 car parking spaces, the developers were to construct the bus facility and also were to contribute towards the roofing-over of Park Street so as to join the two parts of Hyde Park.
The successful tenderers, Kumagai and Concrete Constructions, don't see it that way. They want to replace the bus station with 300 more car spaces. Result? A project claimed to "take traffic out of the city" will actually attract traffic. There will be measurable increased traffic in roads leading to the CBD. There will be nothing to make public transport more attractive.
The project is to be the subject of an EIS. It is to be hoped that the assessment is handled more fairly than was Kumagai's harbour tunnel.
APT respectfully draw the government's attention to the following from the RTA's 1988 Metropolitan Parking Policy: "parking policies should be established on the basis of comprehensive studies which place parking requirements in the context of an overall transport strategy".
The city of Paris is cancelling 100,000 parking spaces.
Environment 1990 Darling Harbour, 2nd-Sth May 1990. Free. Use route 410 bus from QVB instead of the monorail.
International Environment Conference concurrent with the above. Enquiries to Faye Cameron, 449-5279.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Rail: Five Systems - One Solution The Efficiency of Australian National's E-W Operations. AGPS
The Global Predicament. Paul Ehrlich. $12, A.B.C. Radio Tapes, P.O. Box 4444, Crow's Nest 2065.
How to be Green. John Button (NOT the senator!) $14.95 from your bookshop. Published by Arrow/Century-Hutchinson, 1989.
COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON
to all our readers!