THE NEW N.S.W. GOVERNMENT
Labor scraped into power in the March 25th election. In the new Cabinet, two ministers lost important parts of the shadow portfolios they had held for sometime. One was the new Minister for Transport, who in opposition had been spokesman on all transport matters. However, in Government, there is a separate Minister for Roads.
However, APT are pleased to see the Premier acknowledging that "decisions about infrastructure and transport have a much greater influence on the nature of our cities than conventional planning instruments such as local environmental plans" (letter to ministers quoted in SMH, 24 May). And, combining the railways, the public buses and the ferries into the Public Transport Authority may lead to benefits for the public.
APT cannot see how this arrangement (which the former Liberal
government dropped several years ago) fits in with integrated
planning of transport. Rather, it seems likely to assist the Roads
and Traffic Authority empire-builders to maintain their hold on
transport planning and thereby inhibit the proper development of
metropolitan public transport systems.
Since its election, the new Government seems to have made every mistake APT had feared in transport matters. Apart from the above:
EASTER SHOW TRANSPORT SERVICES
CityRail has a curious way of attracting Show patrons to its trains when it replaces trains with buses on four lines over the Show's first weekend and on the Bankstown-Sydenham line for the whole duration of the Show.
It is clear that rail maintenance has to happen. In deciding when, the competing interests seem to be
OUTER BLUE MOUNTAINS
APT have heard that the oft-mooted proposal to truncate CityRail train services at Mount Victoria or even Katoomba instead of Lithgow has surfaced again. There is a rumour that the latest proposal may be related to a well-known bus operator thought to be interested in tendering for any new bus contracts.
Of course, the bus lines would benefit from diverted rail passengers if the trains between Lithgow and Katoomba were withdrawn. Revenue return from outer Mountains rail passenger services is very small indeed; only a minority ride beyond Springwood.
It is possible that the dispersed communities west of Mount Victoria would be better served by buses, even considering the inconvenience of a time-losing mode change at Mount Victoria.
ACT Electricity and Water have three energy-saving demonstration homes in Gungahlin. Unfortunately, their vision is marred by "hop into the car" promotion of mobility. APT suggest that if the 20kWh or so of energy used by the average car per day were taken into account, the vision would be shown to be truly short-sighted. If society were serious about saving energy, the first place to look would be excessive mobility in cars.
FEDERAL ATTITUDE TO RAIL
It is desirable that the momentum gained with the "One Nation" rail capital works program continue into 1995-96, and that ongoing funding be assured in a manner similar to funding of the National Highway System. The most pressing need is for a "Child Of One Nation" program as follows:
With the achievement of Adelaide-Melbourne gauge standardisation and other "One Nation" works along with the establishment of National Rail, the Federal Government made significant improvements to rail in the early 1990s. The challenge is to continue the drive to improve rail efficiency and competitiveness for the remainder of this decade. This will require upgrading of the mainline rail track in Eastern Australia from its present "steam age" alignment. Progress on this front is warranted in time for the Sydney 2000 Oympics and the Centenary of Federation in 2001. One way this could be achieved is for Federal Parliament to adopt the Australian Centennial National Rail Transport Development Bill. This Bill was introduced into the Senate on 31 May 1990 by the Democrats with provisions including the establishment of a Trust Fund to improve mainline interstate and export rail track. with gauge standardisation. The Bill lapsed but was restored on 5 May 1993, and awaits support by either Government or Coalition Senators to pass the Senate.
Transport Minister Laurie Brereton opened the South Grafton Viaduct on Friday 5 May. Unfortunately, he failed to announce a successor for the "One Nation" works program. This is being written a few days before the opening of the new standard gauge Melbourne-Adelaide line; APT wonder whether anything worthwhile will be announced then.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT STRIKES BACK
One of the first casualties of preparations for the Granville Y-link, which will provide direct rail connection between Harris Park and Merrylands, was a motor tyre business on Parramatta Road. Fair enough - how many times have you seen railway land turned into car parking?
TANGARA SEAT ADJUSTMENTS
As noted previously, CityRail decided to adjust the uncomfortable seats in Tangara trains by raking them back 5 degrees. Only a few trains have benefited from this decision. Noting that the project seemed to have stalled, APT investigated with CityRail. We have been told that seats in all trains are expected to be modified by the end of this year.
WYNYARD - PET PEEVE
The George Street entrances to Wynyard underground railway station remain almost invisible to someone approaching them from either direction along George St., or indeed to someone standing directly opposite.
APT understand that the many planners within the RTA have since the
recent election discreetly been re-titled "engineers". This would be
intended to thwart any attempt to move planning from the RTA to the
Department of Planning and Urban Affairs.
TOWN HALL STATION SEATS
While waiting for your train, you may have been forced to stand because all the seats on your platform were occupied. APT have heard a pre-recorded announcement apologising for the shortage of seats and then reminding passengers that notwithstanding the shortage, no-one is to sit on the steps. This shows that the matter has received official attention in the past.
APT understand that the matter has been referred to RailNet for inclusion in the upgrade of Town Hall station planned for next year.
REDUCED ACCOMMODATION ON SOME BUSES
State Transit recently implemented an agreement reached with its bus drivers' union to reduce the maximum number of standing passengers on any bus from 27 to 15, in order to improve drivers' vision, and hence safety.
APT are concerned at the impact such a restriction would have on the capacity of the bus system and would have preferred a more flexible and innovative approach to the problem. State Transit has very few spare buses with which to make up the lost capacity, and there is no evidence of vehicles having been obtained from other operators. Nor is there any evidence of the use of bus-to-base radio, or taxis, to assist passengers left standing as a result of the new ruling.
The passengers most likely to be repeatedly affected are those boarding at stops where buses are usually already fully laden.
Fortunately, drivers appear to be using discretion, and not rigidly applying the new rule. However, there remains the likelihood of serious inconvenience to passengers should any driver decide to apply the rule in an ad hoc manner.
SWEDISH TILT TRAIN
As readers would know, the previous NSW government arranged for three carriages of Sweden's X2000 train to be brought to New South Wales for exhibition and for a few weeks' trial running.
The exercise appears to have been a very costly promotion, even neglecting transport costs from Sweden to Australia. Considerable civil engineering work was carried out to permit the train (somewhat wider than standard NSW long-distance trains) to pass safely at various locations. And then these three carriages, with a total capacity of 100 paying passengers, needed two XPT locomotives that normally draw trains carrying several hundreds. And of course the train was almost as affected by limitations of our 19th-century track as are our other trains. For instance, the Xplorer was described at its unveiling to have of a top speed of 180 km/h and an average speed of 140 km/h yet in practice is timetabled to travel 326 km Sydney-Canberra in 4h7m - an average of 79km/h. The X2000 was timetabled to do the same trip in only 3h25m (average 95 km/h) but some of the savings were due to (i) travelling via East Hills whereas the Xplorer travels via Regent's Park (ii) not stopping at Strathfleld, Moss Vale, Tarago, Bungendore or Queanbeyan. Some X2000 trips were affected by delays including the perennial trackworks.
Time alone will tell whether the promotion was justifiable. APT have called on the Minister for Transport to determine the best train/track investment mix for the people of NSW.
APT's track test of the tilt train appears in the May issue of Railway Digest.
NATIONAL RAIL NEWS
Vince Graham of NR spoke at an Institution of Engineers meeting on 4th April. He passed some interesting comments such as in Sweden, the price per kilometre of rail access is set at 0.6 of the cost of a road trailer charges for access to roads and the rail track charge for locos is 2.5 times that of a semitrailer to gain access to a road. But road freight businesses in Australia are not expected to upgrade the road infrastructure from their balance sheets the same as rail, although some people expect rail to meet the full cost of maintaining their track.
One questioner noted that between Brisbane and Sydney, even after the building of Lawrence Rd and Rappville deviations (north of Grafton) there were still a few kilometres with both tight curves AND steep grades that are below John Whitton's survey design standards of the 1860s. $25M would just about fix these limiting sections.
B3 OR NOT B3
APT analyse the proposed B3 motorway from Wahroonga to Marsfield as being important to the RTA because (a) it feeds the M2 tollgates (b) it provides better road connection to the North from the Olympic Games site at Homebush (c) it might relieve the Pacific Highway and Pennant Hills Road of some of the huge increase in traffic caused by connecting the P3 from Wahroonga to Berowra.
However, the RTA has said in letters to owners of nearby land that the road won't be constructed for 20 years. This came to light with an announcement that the RTA is selling off some of the land reserved for the B3 in Exeter Street, Wahroonga. This does not mean that the plan has been formally abandoned but rather that the RTA has decided that it might as well sell now those parcels of land which are not essential for the road.
HOT AND COLD WITH THE SAME BREATH
In the Mount Druitt - St Mary's Standard of 22nd March, the then local MP Anne Cohen (Lib.) announced extra lanes for part of the M4 motorway. She said the lanes would permit increased speed, improving road safety. In the same article, she stated that the reduction in speed limits along the M4 in June last year has dramatically improved safety.
APT wonder what the safest speed would be! If road safety decisions
do not warrant better logic than that, what hope do other transport
APT are grateful to the organisers of the Ticketing Technologies Conference on 5th-6th April for allowing an APT representative to attend at a reduced charge. This allowed user input to a talkfest otherwise dominated by vendors and operators. In his opening remarks, the conference chairman (SRA's then chief John Brew) said "it is time to see ticketing from the customer's point of view". APT look forward to Day One of the new era.
There is not the space here even to summarise the various speakers' papers, so just a few remarks:
"Technology is the Answer. Now, what was the Question again?"
STATE RAIL'S VIEW OF THE FUTURE
Barry Garnham, the Director of SRA Access Group (RailNet) addressed the Institution of Engineers on 18th May.
Among many interesting things, he said:
BUS FARE INCREASES
Readers will be aware of the recent Government Pricing Tribunal hearing into public transport fares. APT participated in this hearing. There can be little objection to modest increases in fares generally in line with inflation. However, some people view with concern the proposal from Sydney Buses to increase fares for multi-ride tickets but not for single-ride. Our buses have a serious problem in keeping to timetable in today's traffic. Regular bus travellers will be well aware that selling tickets to single-trip passengers is a major source of delay for buses. Worse, the delay is unpredictable and therefore contributes to clustering of buses.
It appears that the logic behind the requested increase for tickets such as the popular blue Travel-Ten (ten $1.20 rides for $7.80) is that the charge could be raised somewhat without causing many people to stop buying these convenient tickets. But single-trip tickets will not be raised, as they are ostensibly the lowest-priced.
At a recent talk, the Transport Studies Institute of the University of Sydney described their new TRansport and Environmental Strategy Impact Simulator (TRESIS). The presenter asserted that heavy rail did not have a good future due to the dispersion of demand and that buses would be a more viable public transport mode. He also said that in fifty years' time, traffic congestion was likely to be more of an issue than air quality because improving motor vehicle technology would see undesirable emissions controlled to acceptable limits.
APT disagree. We feel that the best transport strategy would be to provide people with the access to the services etc. they need in a way that does not foster needless mobility. A viable approach is to emphasise corridors which favour rail through the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD). Other cities have done this (for example, inner Toronto); why can't Sydney?
The presentation did not give details of particular findings from TRESIS because these findings have not yet been seen by the government agencies which requested them.
FOR YOUR DIARY
World Environment Day 3 June. Theme is "Liveable cities, sustainable environment". Stalls at Circular Quay. Enquiries 6901977.
Local Gov't and the Environment - the next four years. Conference, Sydney, 3 June. Enquiries: Total Env't Centre, 2474714.
Urban Transport 95 - conference, Sydney, 19-20 June. Enquiries: IIR, 9545844.
National Public Transport Week 27th August to 2nd September. Organised by Link-Up - a Metropolitan Transport Project Inc. Inquiries: (02)665 7085.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Sydney's New Southern Railway - article by John Gerofi in May issue of Sydney Review. Points out that the route could have been better-connected at Redfern and Arncliffe; conjectures that the premium fares will encourage shuttle bus services to off-airport stations.
Timetabling for Tomorrow - an agenda for public transport in Australia. Urban & Regional Development Review strategy paper #2. Order your copy from Department of Housing & Regional Development, (06)277 7099.
Sydney [University]'s new transport scholar has a global track record - article in University of Sydney News 22 March. Discusses a new appointment at the Institute of Transport Studies. Also reports on a dinner at which John Walker, the Director-General of the state Department of Transport, spoke. Walker wants to avoid the mass urban congestion, the economic loss, and the social inequity that flows from transport systems like ours which are not managed in their entirety. But he still wants his motorway network.
Access Pricing - discussion paper by Stephen P. King. Government Pricing Tribunal of New South Wales, February. Access is the commodity which transport users need - how much ought they be charged?
A Policy speech for voters with brains - Monday Comment in Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March, by Ross Gittins. States that there is no need for the public sector to surrender its policy-setting role when it hands service-providing to the private sector. Should be read by any transport ministers who think that transport projects should be selected on the basis of their profitability to the operators.
The Last Gasp and Made in Japan - articles in Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 February. Interesting writing about the future of cities such as Sydney. Shows what happens when public transport and other community services are stifled.
Britain's Last Gasp - editorial in New Scientist, 13 May. Criticises the U.K. government for its inaction about motor vehicles and their emissions.
Transport Engineering in Australia new serial from the Institution of Engineers. It is to cover not only the traditional engineering areas but also planning, economics, behavioural science and policy analysis. Subscriptions $25 p.a. to the Institution at 11 National Circuit, Barton 2600.
Freight Transport and the Environment - collection of papers edited by Kroon, Smit and van Ham. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1991. An important step towards public understanding of why current transport practices are unsustainable.