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No quick fix to Sydney's train woes

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 15/02/2018 0:40:00 Matthew O'Sullivan
Transport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples. © Edwina PicklesTransport for NSW secretary Rodd Staples.

From his expansive corner office in central Sydney, the state's new Transport Secretary, Rodd Staples, commands a view over Central Station where commuters crowd platforms. 

While a screen on a wall in his office broadcasts a live feed of the rail network, Staples can see for himself on the rail lines below at Central how a major incident - such as a large fire on a building site in Circular Quay on Tuesday - can cripple the city's strained rail network.

Five weeks after commuters endured two days of rail chaos, Staples and Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins have recommended to the government a series of measures aimed at lessening the impact of major incidents in the short term.

Staff temporarily stopped commuters from entering platforms at Town Hall station during the evening peak on January 9. © Louie DouvisStaff temporarily stopped commuters from entering platforms at Town Hall station during the evening peak on January 9. And while they will help, the reality is that there is no easy fix to the challenges confronting Sydney's rail network.  It is an old system struggling to cope with record levels of demand fuelled by a booming population.

And it means Sydneysiders will have to become more accustomed to what occurs in large cities overseas such as London where stations are closed temporarily to avoid dangerous levels of overcrowding.

They got a taste of that during the meltdown last month when station staff stopped commuters from entering platforms at Wynyard and Town Hall. On Tuesday, it occurred again at Wynyard due to delays caused to services early in the day by the fire at Circular Quay.

"We will work really hard to minimise that but ... you can expect that to continue and we will have to close stations from time to time," Staples said on Wednesday.

"Safety has to be the number-one priority." 

Like the Berejiklian government, Staples is pinning his hopes on a new $20 billion metro train line relieving growing pressure on the City Circle line in the CBD and busy stations such as Town Hall and Wynyard.

While the metro project has its share of critics, Staples believes the new single-deck train lines will both boost capacity and help separate rail lines so that when an incident occurs on one, the disruption caused does not cascade across the entire network.

A full realisation of Staples' plan is still years away. The first stage of the new metro line between Rouse Hill in the city's north west and Chatswood is due to open next year. But the more important second stage under Sydney Harbour and onto the CBD, Sydenham in the south, and Bankstown in the west, is still six years away from the first driverless trains carrying passengers along it.

In the meantime, the state's top transport bureaucrats will have to resort to measures that will mitigate but not remove the chance of more meltdowns occurring on the rail network in the months and years ahead.

15. helmikuuta 2018 2:40:00 Categories: Sydney Morning Herald

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