Thursday, 20 March 2014

Blue murder at Central Station

Original plan
The original plan according to Parsons Brinckerhoff was for there to be three tram rails in Chalmers Street. The third rail would double as a double as a bus stop lane when coupled juggernauts were not travelling non-stop through Surry Hills - most of the time. The figure was of course cropped so it was not possible to determine if inbound juggernauts could cross the outbound rail then back out from the platform after picking up passengers, but it looked unlikely.

The alignment diagrams released inadvertently by Sydney City Council reveal that indeed they could not - juggernauts have to turn into Eddy Avenue and use the central third rail to turn round. There was no conceivable need for the third platform in Chalmers Street. It was just designed to deceive people making submissions to the EIS as to the intentions of TfNSW. In a rare instance of clarity, the submission of Sydney City Council raised an objection to this.

Plan C
Now TfNSW has fessed up and removed the third platform from the amended plan being submitted for assessment. Now the plan is to pedestrianise Chalmers Street north of Devonshire Street. There was no inkling of this in the multiple-choice plans described in the EIS.

The latest design is completely at odds with the alignment diagrams given to the Sydney City Council and released inadvertently in their submission, yet the text implies that Council is complicit in accepting the new plans after the close of submissions.

The text says: "Overall, the revised design would provide a safe environment for all users, accommodate emergency vehicles and provide a low speed limit (approximately 10 kph) in the shared zone to provide access to existing private properties." No speed limit is proposed for the trams and juggernauts, this will presumably be decided by the PPP.
The Moore Park end
The juggernauts travel barrel through Surry Hills with stops only at Moore Park and Chalmers Street. At the Moore Park end, passengers are to be forced to zigzag up ramps to prevent them polluting the tramway of the superior race goers of Randwick with their corpses, but the numbers of passengers at all times other than when there is an "event" is very small. At the Chalmers Street end the pedestrian crossings are arguably the most heavily used in the state, at both ends of the platforms, and it is open slather.

Now it's open slather

The original plan in the EIS was cropped so as not to show the crossings, but the alignment diagrams show that the crossing across Elizabeth and Chalmers Street was traffic-light controlled, but with no centre-island as at present. In the revised plan submitted by TfNSW pedestrians are to be dumped on the eastern side of the rails and are left to run the gauntlet of crossing the tram tracks anywhere they choose at their own peril.
Five pm on a Monday, every phase has the same pedestrian volumes

Pavements in Elizabeth Street are narrow, pedestrians spread out
Pedestrian view from the edge; trams will be the length of 4 buses
Cyclist rides across pedestrian crossing
Pedestrians are dinged at if they try to cross the rails in front of a tram so they must wait for the rear of the tram to pass them. Pedestrians crossing the rails to get to the Surry Hills side of Elizabeth Street will have Buckley's chance of seeing a tram zipping round the corner from under the arches of Eddy Avenue and they will not hear it either. Their chances will be even less when coupled juggernauts are running on completely empty onto the third rail in Eddy Avenue in order to turn round, passing back and forth empty through two of the most heavily-used pedestrian crossing in NSW.
Tram driver's view
The tram drivers will have no chance to see pedestrians emerging from behind a tram or juggernaut and this can occur anywhere along the Chalmers Street route. Attempts to force pedestrians to use signalised crossings only would only result in them moving along the platform to cross. Tram passengers from the south-east heading for Surry Hills will alight from any of the five doors and wait for the rear of the tram to pass before crossing the rails. Chris Lock repeatedly told the community meeting in April that trams cannot stop.

4:40 pm at Devonshire Street Tunnel
It will be even more murderous for pedestrians emerging from the Devonshire Street tunnel entrance of Central Station (the rectangular structure to the south of the platform in the revised plan of the stop) and crossing the tracks to catch a tram or juggernaut to the south-east, or to get to Surry Hills. When a tram or juggernaut is slowing in to the stop from Devonshire Street it will be physically impossible to see a tram or juggernaut which has left the stop and is accelerating into Devonshire Street. The plan is for the rails to cut into existing pavement to the west of the present bus lane.

View from top of the steps

Steps go to front of canopy

Onslaught of the lycra-shirts

Pedestrians headed towards the two entrances to Central Electric will have more chance to see trams and juggernauts coming, but nothing will save them from Clover Moore's lycra-shirts. The green strip at the top of the figure of the revised stop is, believe it or not, a two-way bike lane. Bicycles using these lanes will barrel into pedestrians waiting for an approaching tram to pass, from either direction. Woe betide a pedestrian bumped into the path of the tram. Bicycles are not registered, so the cyclist can abandon the bike and disappear into the crowd. Meanwhile the CBD is effectively shut down for an indefinite period. There are signs on poles and on the footpaths saying CYCLISTS DISMOUNT but as you can see in the pictures above and below they ignore these signs. With two-way cyclist lanes they will be able to pick up speed before ignoring the signs and ploughing into pedestrians waiting to cross the tram rails.

I have yet to see a cyclist dismount.
Fortunately they are few and far between
People trying to get to an event at the SCG, Football Stadium and Entertainment Centre will have to run the gauntlet of crossing the rails from either exit of Central Station when the juggernauts are operating at their maximum frequency. TfNSW chants that coupled trams could move up to 18,000 passengers an hour, using infantile modelling. This would require a juggernaut every 2 minutes in each direction and would shut down tram services in George Street, unless you are prepared to have trams running into the back of juggernauts and severely injuring the 220 standing passengers. This situation is pictured in the plan of the revised stop!

The Business Case for the EIS stated that the seven-segment trams will employ four less drivers to carry the same maximum passenger loads. This will undoubtedly boost the profits of the Private Partner when trams are running on empty to Circular Quay but will not be of benefit to the taxpayer if tram drivers are on Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder pensions for the rest of their lives.

The Summer Olympic solution

Heading for Swans game in June last year
The transport system in place for the Sydney Summer Olympics is currently used to handle events at the SCG and Football Stadium. It worked impeccably during the largest event on earth and it still does. Passengers transferring to
trains at Central are picked up and returned to the concourse on the western side of Chalmers Street in complete safety - they are not exposed to traffic at either end. Buses also head to other destinations.

Events seldom occur during commuter peak periods so the buses and drivers would otherwise be idle. It would have to be a nice little earner for public transport - travel10 cards are not accepted. The number of buses required would be small since it is a very short loop, using the bus lanes in Foveaux and Albion Streets and Randle Street. I walk a similar distance to Swans Games from northern Surry Hills and many other patrons prefer to walk to the SCG from Central. The operation of the services does not impact on any other bus services operating at the same time.

In contrast, the juggernauts will be operating during peak periods for the nightclub/movie theatre strip in George Street and trams transferring patrons to bus services along Parramatta Road and City Road and Central Station have to travel on empty to the terminuses at Randwick and Kingsford in order to turn around. This is a crazy situation that TfNSW has not thought through and it places everyone leaving Central Electric Station in jeopardy. O'Farrell and TfNSW have been made aware that there are alternative light rail systems that do not have the defects of the system in the EIS.

Seven-segment trams do not run along city streets anywhere in the world, for obvious reasons. Running seven and fourteen segment trams through narrow city streets is so far beyond the accepted standards of civilised society as to be all but unthinkable.

The heavily-used pedestrian crossing in Eddy Avenue has been cropped in the figure by Parsons Brinckerhoff as usual. The situation for pedestrians and buses in Eddy Avenue will be just as bad as in Chalmers Street. I will make this the subject of another post.

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