Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The circus comes to Surry Hills

More TfNSW staff than locals
The TfNSW road show took over the first floor exhibition room at the Surry Hills Library for the last time before the deadline for submissions on the EIS. When I asked if I could take photos I was told that all the wall posters appeared on the web site. Only one of the display panels contained matter related to Surry Hills - the same panels had been used at every one of the "community" exhibitions.

I was eventually able to give my list of unanswered questions raise by the EIS to the "technical" guy at the presentation. I can report back on his responses.

He confirmed that LRVs would be travelling at the speed limit, 50 kph, when travelling through Surry Hills. Since the LRVs will have priority signaling at intersections, this is a voluntary constraint. He said that if Clover Moore lowered the speed limit in Surry Hills to 40 kph trams would travel at this speed. Why?

The response to questions on braking were "don't know". The engineer claimed that the trams could stop as quickly or more quickly as a rubber tyre vehicle but I disputed this - small steel wheels on steel rails have low friction. He said that the trams would have emergency brakes as well as regenerative braking but said it would be up to the PPP to decide the type of braking when ordering the carriages from overseas builders. He said the trams would run on batteries though the pedestrian areas. I pointed out that would limit the use of regenerative braking in emergencies as batteries can not be charged fast enough. He said that the trams would put up their electrical contacts at stops and recharge for the next leg. This means they will not be using regenerative breaking in ordinary operations, which may look pretty but sea levels rise. All this will remain unknown and will be decided by the PPP.

He conceded that a planting buffer would not ensure that pedestrians would use only traffic light controlled crossings and that the displacement of the stop into Ward Park would make it difficult to see an approaching tram from the rear of a stopping tram. He confirmed that ordinary services, which will stop at every stop and open and close their doors regardless of whether any one is getting on or off, would operate in conjunction with coupled carriages which will not stop. He said that safety specifications would need to be developed subsequent to the EIS.

The indicative plan of the Surry Hills stop developed by Parsons Brinckerhoff does not appear to have much relationship with the actual plans. He was unable to explain the bus in Marlborough Street and said the stop was not regarded as an bus/tram interchange. He said the Crown Street bus services would continue as before and I commented that they would be stuffed by the right-hand turn into the ghetto.

He had not seen the map of proposed key south east bus network changes on page 130 of the technical paper 1 or the table on the following page. He said the EIS and plans for changes to bus routes were regarded as separate issues. I was incredulous, saying the trams obliterated most of the "real estate" (Chris Lock's term) for buses to physically turn around in the CBD - at Circular Quay and Randle Street - and the EIS must not be approved until these questions had been resolved.

He could not explain how bus services reported in the table on the following page as being "terminated" at the Kingsford interchange, the Randwick interchange and Todman Avenue would physically turn around. Again, this was regarded as a separate issue to the EIS.

He could not explain how traffic in Clisdell Street could be physically tuned around at the blockage. I showed him a photo on my iPhone of the single lane at the intersection of Butt Street with Elizabeth. He conceded that the balcony of the flats had been damaged by trucks.

We discussed the infamous artist's impression of the Shakespeare Hotel at Steel Street in the original brochure. He agreed that patrons would be crossing Devonshire Street to their homes in the other ghetto. He asked how would this be different from dealing with rubber tyred vehicles at present. I pointed out that traffic at night at present is few and far between, but Saturday night is a peak period for travel between the cinema and night club areas in George Street and Parramatta Road bus services and Central, and the trams must continue to Randwick or Kingsford to turn around. There would be a tram passing along Devonshire Street every one and a half minutes as tired an emotional revellers were heading home. I asked if it was planned to build rickety overpasses between the ghettos. He smiled indulgently.

He was called away before we could clear up the discrepancies between the Parsons Brinckerhoff volumes and the Technical Papers by Booz & Company.

He was intelligent and forthright and he listened to the arguments against the Project and the alternatives and encouraged me to advance the matters I had brought up in my letter to the Minister in April in my submission to the EIS.

I have been waking up at 3 or 4 AM since the release of the EIS and going over the matters in my mind and I have not been able to go back to sleep. This morning I slept in to a quarter to seven. I have more confidence that the EIS will be professionally assessed.

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