Travellers may have noticed at Roseville station a showcase containing, among other things, a timetable for train services. Printed at the top of the 1893 schedule is the disclaimer "no longer in use"
Two years ago, APT asked whether the NRMA was a front for the trucking lobby following its ambit claim for upgrading the entire Hume Highway to four lanes by the year 2000. Many people must also be asking this question now after reading the article "A road for Australia" in the March/April 1996 issue of Open Road that set B-double operations within two years as a top priority and "Specific Target". The article has been reinforced by broadcast advertisements featuring a public figure.
NRMA advocacy for an upgraded Pacific Highway is appropriate although it would be good to see some balance with their support for some concurrent rail upgrading. However, B-double operations within two years on the Pacific Highway north of Hexham is of no benefit to the motorist and average NRMA member. The road in its present condition is declared unsafe for B-doubles by the RTA, and, would require significant upgrading to be safe for B-doubles and for motorists sharing the road with any B-doubles.
The use of B-doubles would see more Sydney-Brisbaie line haul freight transfer from rail to road. The National Transport Planning Taskforce BTCE report (1995, p 63) notes for Sydney-Brisbane railway that "Transit times, reliability and costs are so poor that the corridor may not survive as a commercial freight alternative unless improvements are implemented." This Task-force noted a short term National Rail modest bid of $163 million for the corridor and estimated that $535 to $970 million would be needed for an upgrade to competitive standards. Over the years, Hume Highway reconstruction whilst leaving the Sydney-Melbourne railway with its "steam-age alignment" has been a major factor in the increase in truck numbers on the Hume Highway over the last 25 years at the expense of rail freight. An Energy R & D Corporation project at the University of Wollongong found in 1993 that a similar trend on the Pacific Highway could see, by the year 2005, a transfer of some 2 million tonnes per year of Sydney-Brisbane freight from rail to road. This would result in consumption of an extra 45 million litres of diesel fuel.
The Howard Government has a clear responsibility to start some basic
upgrading of the mainline interstate Iron Highway in Eastern
Australia. Trucks are allowed discounted annual fees and no mass
distance taxes on the basis that 18 cents a litte of diesel excise is
set as a road user charge. A return of 18 cents a litre of rail
diesel excise would raise over $80 million a year for much needed
track upgrading. The main priorities for Maitland-Brisbane are
reconstruction of some 13 kilometres of "red sectors" (track with
steep grades on sharp curves, discussed in our February newsletter)
at a cost of about $40 million, and some concrete resleepering to
remove speed-weight restrictions.
In the campaign for the recent Federal election, party leader Tim Fischer was heard to say that the Pacific Highway upgrade from Newcastle north to the Queensland border was an example of what his party supported in order to get Australia "back on the rails"! So was road black-spot funding.
CITYRAIL SERVICE EXPANSION
As readers would know, the Harris Park triangle is to open in a few months (the original target of October is unlikely to be met because of difficulty in obtaining some equipment) and the airport link will open in a couple of years. Cityrail's fleet of 1500 carriages is currently 85% utilised at peak hour and this will rise to 90% with the additional services.
Attempting to raise this utilisation would be foolhardy. Also, new rolling stock will be needed by 1999, when the Tulloch trailers still in service from the 1960s will be due for retirement. Hence Cityrail's need to start accumulating funds, and its wish to put fres up as far as the Pricing tribunal will permit.
ON THE BUSES
Private buses are holding up State Transit Authority buses outside Wynyard railway station in George Street while passengers boarding the private buses hand over large sums of money to purchase or top-up their stored-value tickets.
The timekeeping of Sydney's bus services stands to benefit greatly if drivers can be freed from ticketing tasks.
The RTA's "solution" to its worst road accident black-spot - the roundabout at the intersection of Homebush Bay Drive and Australia Avenue - is to carry most of the north-south traffic on a bridge above the roundabout. The new work estimated to cost $11 million for 400 metres of flyover, which is typical of the high cost of recent RTA urban projects. However, readers will be aware that sums of this size are not easily found for public transport improvements.
APT are concerned that the project is being assessed on a Review of
Environmental Factors instead of going through the procedure of an
Environmental Impact Statement. It seems clear that much cheaper
alternatives, such as reducing traffic speeds, were riot considered
and that costs of extra traffic generated by the development were not
taken into account.
The same procedure, circumventing the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, was employed for the Abbott Road widening at Seven Hills and stands to be employed for the M4 widening now under consideration. Unless there is in fact no significant environmental impact, in each case the following questions are raised:
BUS LANES AND SAFETY
This topic surfaced on 12th March, when one bus ran into the rear of another during the morning peak period on the Harbour Bridge bus lane. The collision is thought to have been caused when a taxi in the bus lane (which is legal) suddenly changed lanes. Interestingly, several callers on talkback radio later that day expressed concern that buses travelled too fast for safety. Buses are more usually associated with too little speed! Of course, the safe speed is related to the separation of the vehicles in the bus lane and their behaviour.
There are bus lanes on the M2 motorway, which is due to open in 1997. Because the design of the bus station at Oakes Road on the M2, which has a single platform which must face the left side of buses, the inbound and outbound bus lanes will cross at each end of the station. Concern has been expressed about the risk of a head-on bus collision at the crossovers.
SIR JOHN HOUGHTON
This prominent British scientist, Chairman of the Royal Commission into Environmental Pollution, visited Sydney early in April. He addressed public meetings at universities and also spoke to many staff of the N,S,W. Environment Protection Authority. There was nothing new (to a well-read person) in Sir John's well-presented addresses on the science, impact and politics of global wanning. He concluded with the comment that we mostly knew how to address the issue but lacked the will. In answer to a question, he agreed that emissions due to transport were an important issue, despite the modest percentage they are of all emissions. -
NEW WYNYARD STAIRCASE
The new entrances of Wynyard railway station in Carrington St and Wynyard Park opened quietly in April. There was no opening ceremony, either because the new Government decided there was no publicity value in being associated with the project or because none of the included shopping space was ready. The new work has a considerable impact on the park, which has lost a pleasant fountain and a substantial amount of lawn; these could be criticisms of it. Far more important is the fact that it has evidently been designed to maximise the commercial opportunities without sufficient efforts being made to benefit the traveller. One main idea of the development was to simplify the connection between Wynyard railway and bus services, which involved a complicated trip either through an arcade to George Street or across 4 busy lanes of York Street. The new connection takes travellers on an almost-as-complicated climb contrived to maximise the number of shops passed. Although there is a lift, it does not help with access to any rail platform.
The efficient function of one of Australia's busiest train-bus interchanges has been compromised because too much emphasis has been placed on income from retail leases, and too litt!e on the value of passengers' convenience and travel time.
A draft of a so-called strategy for transport planning has been prepared for the Inner Metropolitan Regional Organisation of Councils. It does not look like a strategy; it is full of phrases such as "encourage public transport" without the least hint of how IMROC is going to accomplish this nor know how successful it has been at doing so.
The ratepayers whose funds were used to prepare this document deserve better.
Early in its term, the Carr government created the Urban Strategy Group, chaired by Mant, to prepare a management blueprint on how to best guide and shape Sydney's future. According to a Herald report (20 May), the USG will recommend a powerful new Cabinet-level body to oversee all major planning decisions, including new freeways and railways. Such was recommended by the Sharp report (U.K., 1971) which has been mentioned in this newsletter from time to time. However, it has not been the case in Sydney since John Bradfield was Director of Public Works in the l920s. The Herald expects the USG recommendation to be accepted, which could signal a new and better era for public transport.
Mant gave a well-attended public talk in March on the funding and providing of accessibility. He began by discussing how much of the way that local, state and federal government is structured today is little changed from the original colonial structure. He described it a guild system in which tightly focussed departments (or in reality professional guilds) undertake to discharge their responsibilities as set out in their controlling legislation. Coupled with this, each department has a set of clients (eg, construction companies, forestry companies) who work closely with the instrumentality and come to depend on the instrumentality's particular structure and continued existence. When this is threatened, they exert pressure on the politicians to leave things alone.
What we presently have is a set of competing organizations that operale in a parallel, ineffectively coordinated way, who are responsible for both the outcomes (good roads, clean water, subdivisions, public housing) as well as providing the means of achieving those outcomes.
John Mant did not believe that the "Interpartmental Committee" was an effective way of coordinating these activities because specifying and achieving outcomes often comes into conflict with a government organizations institutional power. E.g., the RTA won't give up its planning powers because its budget is dependent on building new roads. In other words, the RTA is responsible for both specifying the "outcomes" of the road system and providing the means by which it should be achieved, He came back time and time again to the point that specifying objectives (clean water/air, public housing that is nice to live in) should not be responsibility of those instrumentalities that are responsible for providing the services and achieving the outcomes. If they aren't split you get a skewing of the outcomes to serve the needs of the providers.
The examples he gave were largely in the area of public housing in which you have a guild of town planners and construction engineers who worked closely with their clients, the construction companies. In this case, the outcome of "good public housing" came to be defined as building lots of houses on the fringes of suburbia where cheap land was available. The fact that the tenants didn't especially want to live in what have become ghettoes was ignored.
It was of interest that Mant referred to planning which places people and their destinations closer togetherin order to achieve access, as well as to transport solutions. NSW spends $2500 million annually on providing access.
STATE BUDGET ANOMALIES
In December 1995, legislation was passed in State Parliament to adopt the NRTC charges for trucks from 1 July 1996. So the Carr Government with the support of the Coalition will be slashing annual registration and permit fees for B-doubles from about $15000 to $5000, halving heavy semi-trailer charges from about $8000 to $4000, and generally costing the taxpayer of NSW some $75 million in 1996-97 and thereafter $60 million a year. The Budget announced late this month virtually maintains the RTA budget; funding to the State Rail Authority was cut back.
Where to now?
REAR ROUTE NUMBERS (AGAIN)
It's not just passengers, or would-be passengers, who benefit from the correct display of route numbers on the rears of buses - it's also bus drivers. Your correspondent witnessed an incident recently in Parramatta Road where two inbound buses were approaching a stop where some passengers were waiting. The driver of the second bus, seeing that the first bus was marked 438, continued on without stopping. The driver of the first bus, which wasn't a 438 but a Special carrying a wrong rear route number, also continued without stopping: And the waiting passengers stayed waiting, and wondering.
The fact that Sydney's government-owned buses have the best destination signs in Australia is no accident. Sydney's bus passengers constantly have to badger the State Transit Authority to maintain its standards.
CLEAN AIR 2000
This NRMA initiative has issued its first report on the issues of Sydney's air pollution. Note that the NRMA, because of its huge membership, cannot be seen as too far ahead of public opinion. The report describes the problems well but is short on solutions. Its main weakness is its presumption that clearing congestion is the way to reduce air pollution; of much more importance is to divert metropolitan roadbuilding funds into public transport.
On 5th March, a planner from the Federal Airports Corporation addressed a Sydney meeting about expansion plans. The audience learned that the FAC gets 45% of its revenue from car-parking charges. Further, it is obliged under its charter to meet any needs for roads that airline operators might assert. This may help explain pressure for road amplification around airports.
CITY-GLEBE-LEICHHARDT LIGHT RAIL
As has been widely reported, the Sydney Light Rail Company has conducted, jointly with the NSW Department of Transport, a study of the feasibility of extending the light rail now being constructed from Central through Haymarket and Pyrmont to the Fish Market. The extensions would be a loop to Circular Quay in the north and, to the west, under Glebe to Leichhardt.
Following the study, SLRC asked government for $37.5 million to finance the extensions. However, if the consortium can persuade governments to support the extension in other ways, not as much money will be called for at the outset. For instance, it might be possible for some of the risks of the extension to be borne by the public, just as has been done for some so-called private road projects recently.
It appears that there is little if any scope for value-capture around the Glebe and Leichhardt stops, because the relevant areas are residential and want to stay so. And the catchments of the Leichhardt stops are limited on the north and east by a canal, the present goods railway, and the Link Road.
The proposal is being assessed by the Department of Transport.
Travellers may have noticed that the surface level of platforms 1 and 2 at Strathfield was lowered recently. Unfortunately, the lowering was not matched by the new passenger lifts. There is now a considerable drop, which must have been avoidable, from the lift down to platform level.
APT's attention has been drawn to the front cover of the 1996 URD
Sydney street directory. The cover shows a contrived montage picture
of a huge expressway interchange on the outskirts of Sydney's CBD.
Traffic on the "interchange" is very light. One wonders whether the
designer paused to reflect just how much land would be taken up by
such an interchange relative to the small number of people using it.
OPEN SEA FERRIES
Late last year, Gosford Council called for expressions of interest to operate ferry services between the Central Coast and "Sydney". The most likely route would be from Gosford to Circular Quay wharf 3. This service would be low-capacity public transport, and would be fairly expensive to run. However, it is interesting to see Council's proposed solution to overloads on the F3, which already is carrying more traffic than was projected for 2007. APT concur with the Peninsula Public Transport Coalition's call for more use of the railway.
FOR YOUR DIARY
Sutherland Shire Environment Day - 2 June, Menai Market Place. Will include a public transport display.
Health & Urban Air Quality in NSW - conference, Parramatta, 3-4 June. Organised by the Health Dept and the Environment Protection Authority. Enquiries (02) 876-8300.
Public Transport Derby and World Environment Day. 5 June. Enquiries 247-4080.
Public Transport and Saving the Environment - Politics in the Pub, Harold Park Hotel. 7 June.
Dinner and Transport Trivia Quiz - Bodhi Restaurant, Hay St. 7pm, $25. Enquiries 247-4080.
Integrated Urban Planning - conference, Sydney, 24-25 June. Enquiries IIR, (02)9954-5844.
FOR YOUR LIBRARY
Sydney Buses Network Map - new edition. Keep a copy in your desk.
Urban Planning in Curitiba - article by Leitman and Rabinovitch in Scientific American, March. Curitiba is the Brazilian city whose buses carry mor.e passengers per lane per hour than anywhere else. Bus interests cite Curitiba when selling systems to politicians.
Cost-Benefit Analysis: the Problem not the Solution - article by Adams in The Ecologist, Jan-Feb. A larger version has been published separately.
Great Planning Disasters - 1980 book by Peter Hall. Discusses five world-famous "white elephant" projects, some of them involving transport. Recognises that merely considering the profitability of a project as assessed by a private developer is insufficient.
Transport and Urban Development - compendium edited by Banister. In chapter 11, (Accessibility and Development Impacts) Wegener writes that the connection between transport and land-use is only strong where access is a scarce commodity, so controlling them requires not only encouragement of the land-use pattern desired, but also restrictions on access. ISBN 0-419-20390-7.
Moving Pictures: Transport research, policies and assumptions - article by Yencken in Urban Futures 21 (April), published by Department of Transport and Regional Development, Canberra. New research challenges many of the policies of transport decision-makers.
The Future Eaters - book by Tim Flannery. The last quarter of it shows how the growth of Australian cities was influenced by the resources of the continent; it may be interesting to people concerned about the future of Sydney. ISBN 0-7301-0487-7.
Connections - Frequency & Speed - managing our public transport so more people will use it. New book published by Environment Victoria, 2nd Moor, 19 O'Connell St, North Melbourne, firstname.lastname@example.org, (03)9348-9044. $27 posted.
Traffic Congestion and Road User Charges in Australian Capital Cities - report by Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics. ISBN 0-644-36066-6, $14.95 from government bookshops. This recent report attracted much publicity because of the huge road-usage charges it calculated to be "optimal" in the most congested parts of our cities. However, the same report recognises that speeding up traffic (reducing its generalised cost) leads to more road travel. Can building roads be worthwhile if they don't clear metropolitan congestion?
The Big Switch - book by Gavin Gilchrist. This writer is very influential, as he is the Science writer for the Herald. This book shows how he views the question of energy supply. He suggests that recoverable coal reserves, essential for metropolitan rail services and many other things, are not as vast as some people think. ISBN 1-86373-750-2.