WHAT A GOOD IDEA
APT were struck to discover that petrol vehicles are not permitted in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel during construction. We think that policy should be continued indefinitely!
APT reported last year that the much-publicised "CityDecker" mid-life refurbishment program for the earlier double-deck suburban rail carriages had been put on hold, and the money used to boost station upgrades which have proved to be immensely popular with local MPs.
Unfortunately, the interiors of these trains continue to deteriorate. Seat colours are a mixture of green, assorted browns, yellow-brown speckled, and even the latter painted brown and wearing back to speckled. Walls, floors, windows and light fittings show increasing signs of patch repairs, and some seats are the wrong shape, size or just missing altogether.
Sadly, CityRail were for some time unable to release any carriages for refurbishment and the programme is only just reviving. There are barely enough trains to support the new timetable, and more are needed to restore lost services in response to community pressure. The remaining red trains must also be set for early retirement, so it will be a while before new Tangaras can make any difference. In short, CityRail have reached a mid-life crisis where continuing train shortages over the next two years will prevent them completing the urgently-needed CityDecker refurbishment program. So much for managing better!
The Minister for Transport has decided to reform this body. APT have offered two nominations. We take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedicated work of Sheila Swain, A.M., who was our nominee on the original Council, and who has represented the interests of all public transport users on the Council for more than a decade. -
In the recent Davidson by-election. APT were diverted to see two candidates promising a ferry service from Roseville Bridge to Circular Quay. We hope that few votes were won by this promise.
The service would be costly to implement yet would attract little patronage. The water near Roseville is in places too shallow even for swimming, so dredging a channel would be needed and this channel would then need to be maintained. The trip would be about 11 nautical miles and is far from straight - the road distance is less than 13 kilometres.
Yet part of it is in waters subject to an 8-knot speed limit so the trip's duration could hardly be less than an hour. Because the Spit Bridge cannot be opened in peak hours, the vessels would have to be low enough to fit under its 5-metre clearance. The same vessels would have to carry passengers comfortably across the Heads in heavy weather.
The cause of transport efficiency in Sydney would be better served by proper planning than by pulling promises out of the air like the Roseville ferry.
Until now, toll roads have only been legal within Sydney and between Sydney and Wollongong or Newcastle. Recent amendments to the law make it possible for new roads anywhere in N.S.W. to be toll roads. The change is probably aimed at the Pacific Highway north of Hexham. We understand that the Victorian government is considering a privately-owned tollway for the Eastern Freeway between Balwyn North and Ringwood. For reference, APT set out all toll roads and their current status.
The toll on the F3 near Berowra was lifted several years ago at the behest of the Commonwealth government. But the 60c toll on the F6 near Waterfall is still collected in both directions. The F5 from Moorebank to King George's Road will open later this year and will be a toll road. The F4 "missing link" from May's Hill to Prospect has just opened; simultaneously toll collections started at a point near Silverwater Road. The toll is said to finance not only the new link but also widening from Concord. The toll is $1.50 each way for cars.
At the end of August, the Harbour Tunnel is to open. The toll will be $2 per vehicle (southbound only). In fact, much of the finance comes from an equal toll on the Harbour Bridge (which motorists started paying five years ago!). The project could not have happened without such an outstanding parallel route on which it was politically possible to increase the toll from a nominal 20c to the current $1.50 - readers will realise that most Bridge users cannot evade the toll by using the Gladesville bridge because the extra distance would be prohibitive.
Increasingly, new roads are being financed privately. This has ramifications, including the quirk that bicycles are uninsured on these roads. Car insurance is unaffected, because of a special provision. APT wonder why bicycles cannot benefit from the same arrangement. A deeper problem with privatisation is that the financier totally ignores external costs of motoring. And why should he be interested - he does not have to pay even for the land his road is on, let alone costs inflicted by generated traffic on the community at large.
Tenders have been called for the Newcastle suburban bus services. Readers will understand that only a couple of years ago, the suburban rail system was decimated and that closure of Newcastle station itself is in the offing.
APT do not argue who operates the bus service. Our concern is with the service itself - is it adequate, and does it recognise community service obligations of public transport? We fear that a private operator is less likely to be concerned with frills than the UTA is. And any major change to a city's bus service should not be made unless there is a long-term plan for the city's land-use and transport which the change is part of.
HEAVY ROAD VEHICLES
A.P.T. have many times drawn attention to policies (both State and Federal) which we feel unfairly favour private trucks and road coaches over rail services in rural areas. Inefficient though rail services have been, there was no warrant for the virtual shutdown that has happened since the mid-1980s. If you don't believe us, compare the old Sydney Terminal indicator panel now in the Powerhouse Museum with the present station. Platforms 1 to 15 are so lightly used that re-development of most of the land they are on is being canvassed. Goods services were hit, too.
It should be clear that major influences on the cost of running railways (we are not discussing metropolitan passenger services which are essential to the existence of centres like Sydney) have been inefficient operation and outdated capital. Political obstructions having been cleared, the way to attack these is directly. Rail unions are now supportive of efficient work practices. But governments have not been forthcoming with sufficient capital for bringing track up to modern standards nor even for modern rolling stock.
On the other hand, trucking interest have been extraordinarily successful in winning concessions from governments. Two N.S.W. examples will suffice. The Wran government appointed the secretary of the Transport Workers' Union to the Traffic Authority, giving trucking interests direct access to road safety decisions. The same government also gave trucks access to the Port Kembla coal loader, which had been designed exclusively for rail use, even though this meant several heavy trucks per hour moving along suburban roads which patently were unsuited to such usage.
During the 1980s, it became clear that the costs externalised by our society's over-reliance on heavy road transport could not be ignored. Many people were killed or injured in accidents involving trucks and/or coaches. Traffic noise grew - it is now accepted that 1.6 million Sydney people live in homes severely affected by traffic noise, some of which is due to trucks. And research led to the finding that a truck does about ten thousand times the road surface damage of a car on the same road.
Several lobby groups then urged governments to levy truck operators for this road surface damage, estimated to be as much as $80,000 per year for a B-double. One obstacle was our federal system under which vehicle registration was run independently by six states and two territories (and later the Commonwealth). A complication was Section 90 of the Constitution, which prevents states from levying excise duties. Another problem was Section 92 of the Constitution, which provides that "interstate trade [and] commerce.. shall be absolutely free".
An enquiry into heavy vehicle cost recovery was conducted by the Inter-State Commission in 1989. The enquiry recommended that within a few years, trucks and buses should be charged for most of the road surface damage they caused. Shortly afterwards, the Commission was dismantled!
Let's try again! A body called the National Road Transport Commission was created a few months ago and directed to examine the question. It found very differently from I-SC, apparently because its terms of reference included the importance of the transport industry to the economy. It recommends a uniform level of heavy vehicle registration charges for all states which is less than the current NSW rates. In view of the "ravages" the trucking industry has suffered in the current recession, the NRTC feels unable to recommend that the old [?] agreement to fully recover road surface damage costs by 1995 be adhered to. The effect of its recommendations would be a windfall for South Australia which presently has quite low charges. But the proposed charges are lower than current NSW figures. Fortunately, NSW says it cannot spare the revenue. Roads minister Murray has expressed surprise at the difference between the NRTC findings and the earlier I-SC figures. This is promising, as it shows that the higher echelons of NSW government are aware of the problem. The good news for NSW is that with less to be saved by NSW operators registering in other states, presumably fewer will do so.
The NRTC will not admit that pricing affects demand - they prefer to assert that demand for road transport is inelastic and then argue that everyone would be better off if it were cheaper.
Throughout all this, many projects favourable to trucks have been proceeding apace, including the Harbour Tunnel, the F5 section discussed above, the Cullerin Range deviation, and the F4 missing link.
SPECIAL EVENT TRANSPORT
Sydney Buses, of necessity, advertised extensive route changes on 29 February for the annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras which has become a major event in Sydney's calendar. The Oxford Street parade displaced many eastern routes. Some additional bus services were also advertised. Unfortunately the lack of official government recognition of the Mardi Gras was reflected in CityRail's response; no advertising, no extra trains or carriages, and a major weekend track closure affecting all services between Central and Sydenham. It's all depressingly similar to the 1990 City-to-Surf fiasco when trackworks severely disrupted train services on the busiest Sunday of the year, despite the date of that event having been publicised twelve months earlier. The trackworks could have been limited on that day to those which did not affect services. APT report severe overcrowding on some trains before and after the Mardi Gras. We also report inconvenience to thousands of visitors to the U.S. Navy Coral Sea fleet on 2-3 May when services through Sydenham were totally closed. We ask when CityRail is going to take seriously its community obligation to provide and advertise adequate services for special event traffic.
This year's City-to-Surf will be on 16th August; we trust that any
trackworks that day will be planned thoughtfully.
USER WILL PAY
The Water Board has foreshadowed the possibility of property owners having to pay drainage charges based on the degree of imperviousness of their land. The more impervious, the more money water management authorities spend dealing with run-off.
This is another instance of charging the user with costs formerly externalised; such decisions are not easy to implement. APT point out that roads and carparks are 100% impermeable; ballasted rail track is 100% permeable. An interesting example in Sydney was the asphalting of the former Alexandria railway goods yard to form the Paddy's Market car park, which produced several new hectares of impermeable land overnight and caused concern to areas nearby which were flood-prone already.
In addition to physical problems caused by the extra runoff, roads discharge usually contains oil and a cocktail of heavy metals and nasty chemicals. APT wonder what private motoring would cost if water pollution charges were levied on road users.
Work has started on the new passenger link between the Redfern ends of platforms 8 to 16 (dubbed the InterCity Commuter Subway). APT regret that the work planned for this year does not include opening the Redfern ends of any of these platforms into the Devonshire Street tunnel. Much shoe leather would be saved if a new opening were made. Unfortunately, distance and time saved in N.S.W. can only be taken into account for cars!
NEW BUSES FOR SYDNEY
APT are negotiating with the State Transit Authority on a number of design features relating to 300 new Scania buses with Ansair bodies. Government-imposed budget constraints will mean that we are unlikely to see all the features we would like. Two prototype buses will be placed in service in June for evaluation and to test passenger reaction.
AND NOW A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR
"Red skin is like public transport ... no one really likes it.' APT were appalled to read this in an advertisement for cosmetics published in a metropolitan daily newspaper. Dense cities - the major markets for cosmeticians and others - simply could not exist without public transport.
URBAN TRANSPORT PLANNING
APT have prepared a review of urban transport planning in N.S.W. in response to a Dept. of Transport discussion paper. In it, we argue the economic, social and environmental benefits of better public transport and the calming of road traffic. We go on to assert that area-wide traffic calming is an essential prerequisite to urban consolidation both in achieving more desirable urban forms and providing a better quality of public life in streets no longer dominated by road traffic.
We have sent a copy of this review to the Public Accounts Committee as part of our submission on the financing of infrastructure. We have also sent a copy with our submission on the Final Report of the Botany-West Transport Study.
AIR POLLUTION IN WESTERN SUBURBS
The recent second Air Quality Summit, held at Bankstown, revealed a major stumbling block to progress with the problem - our Health Department will not admit that air pollution is bad enough to cause any health problems. Despite it having been known for a year or more that illnesses such as asthma are already noticeably more prevalent in western Sydney than (for instance) on the upper North Shore, our health authorities are still denying the problem. They say that the link is unproven, and that the human lung has plenty of unused capacity. APT are reminded of the tobacco industry's attitude towards smoking and health. Only very recently have tobacco interests stopped denying the abundantly clear link between smoking and the many health problems it causes.
It is imperative that Sydney act now before its commitment to car transport becomes any harder to undo. Unfortunately, the N.S.W. government seems to regard the opening of nine new expressways in Sydney this year as a positive achievement. And the new Environmental Impact Statement released this month for the proposed F2 is still more petrol-headed thinking. The north-west is being invited to choose between a freeway and a freeway, without the full consequences to air quality and the urban environment elsewhere being accounted for.
URBAN CONSOLIDATION & TRANSPORT
APT have a 12-slide presentation covering interactions among land use and transport modes that was prepared for a meeting last month. It discusses the need for land use and transport to be harnessed in order to shape the multi-centred urban structure that is a necessary prerequisite to higher land use densities being successfully achieved.
After explaining the interactions, the presentation goes on to show how use of rail systems benefits the community and states why extensions would be similarly beneficial. We need an urban structure based on the 4 Cs - regional Centres, transport Corridors, traffic Calming and beneficiary Contributions.
Many present transport policies conflict with the above, and uniformly higher densities will make things worse. More desirable urban forms will not develop unless the present expansionary approach to road traffic is changed.
Contact APT for any further details you may require.
APT report the passing of George Oubridge, former secretary and a long-time supporter.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Public Inquiries - Their Use and Abuse. Article by Scott Prasser in Current Affairs Bulletin. February.
Towards an Eco-City by David Engwicht (of CART Brisbane). $14.95 from bookshops. More than just a sequel to Traffic Calming, it provides a context for sensible planning of land-use and transport. Ask your local council to get copies for the town planner, the traffic engineer and the aldermen.
Case for the Urban Environment - conurbations must follow a comprehensive urban policy. Article by Alexandre in OECD Observer, April-May 1992.
Winning Back the Cities by Peter Newman, Jeff Kenworthy and Les Robinson. How our cities should plan for lower energy consumption - it will require vision from planners and politicians. $9.95 postpaid from Pluto Press, P.O. Box 199, Leichhardt 2040.
Moving Melbourne a public transport strategy for inner Melbourne. Written by Kenworthy and Newman. Shows how to make an Australian city more liveable. Suggests some entirely achievable goals for the next ten years and identifies many improvements that could be made without large expenditure. Somebody should write one for Sydney. From Inner Melbourne Regional Association, 568 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004.
Towards Better Cities - Reurbanisation and transport energy scenarios. By McGlynn, Newman and Kenworthy. It shows there is a strong case for the multi-centred city with good public transport to and between centres and with much traffic calming. Hedging bets by also building expansive road systems simply will not work. Available from Commission for the Future, P.O. Box 115, Carlton South 3053.
Herd of White Elephants? - some big technology projects in Australia. Edited by Scott. $19.95 buys you an interesting perspective on the Very Fast Train and the Sydney Harbour Tunnel among others.
FOR YOUR DIARY
Peter Newman speaks in the Town Hall foyer, 12 and 16 June, as part of the Council's "City Talks" programme.
Rail Reform Strategic Change and New Directions seminar. 15-16 July. Sydney. (02) 954-5844.
Australian Transport Research Forum. Canberra, 7-9 October 1992.
Page 3, February issue: the telephone number for S.T.A. service enquiries is 131315. APT apologise to those readers who reached Ansett Flight Arrivals.
We might as well set out the information again. For ferries and S.T.A. buses, call 131315. For trains, call 131500 (CityRail) or 217-8812 (country). For private buses, call the Metropolitan Bus Centre on 630-0511 who will direct you to the appropriate bus operator. Of course, you could call the particular operator directly if you know who it is.
Sadly, the Government are still pushing the line that this arrangement is a "better" service than the old single-number arrangement Meanwhile, planning the single-number all-mode enquiry service for public transport in south-east Queensland is proceeding and public comment has been opened:
The airport rail link go-ahead has been announced. What this means for the final evaluation of the Botany-West Transport Study is not clear to APT.