Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Not just sociopathic - psychopathic

Ward Park alignment diagram (superseded)

Superseded stop
When I came home from the Community Forum at Sydney High School in April I was unable to sleep. I had looked into the jaws of death and seen callous indifference to the lives of others.

The following day I started composing a letter to the Minister. I wrote: "Running these behemoths through a shared/cyclist precinct that runs at least 40% the length of George Street can only be described as insane. Running them besides children's playing areas in Ward Park is even crazier. There is no precedent for such a system anywhere in the world. Only New South Wales produces politicians insane enough to even consider such a system."

A couple of months later, at the beginning of June, I and everyone else who had written in to express their concerns received a standardised letter thanking us for our interest. Chris Lock would become a recluse and the Minister would refuse to answer any questions in Parliament on the project.

Booz & Company modelling
Booz & Company in the Technical Papers expected vast numbers of train passengers to walk to the Ward Park stop to catch a tram rather than risk live and limb crossing the tram tracks blindsided at Chalmers Street - a reasonable assumption. Now TfNSW is claiming this was a terrible mistake, or as Pizza Boy Jeff Goodling would say "an inadvertent mistake". They have produced a "corrected table":
Revised peak AM boardings
Every figure except three in the diagrams is different, although some are startlingly similar - projected boardings at Moore Park change from  216 to 215 despite the stop being moved substantially to the south. TfNSW claim to be able to predict passenger numbers in 2021 to the last passenger. The Opal Card would provide origin/destination data on a daily basis, but without such data the figures bandied about by TfNSW and its consultants are just gibberish.

Proposed design change of Surry Hills stop

I would like to show a figure of revised plan of the Ward Park stop but it does not exist. The changes are just described cursorily in text in section 6.6 in the Preferred Infrastructure Report. Instead of an island platform "the new platform configuration would provide two 2.8 metre wide, 45 metre long side platforms". TfNSW falsely claims the design is similar to the design in the EIS in providing "a pedestrian crossing at each end of the stop and would be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA)". In the design in the EIS, the alignment diagrams released inadvertently after the close of submissions show that the space between the rails is reduced to a point before reaching the Marlborough Street crossing - a disabled passenger would need a very narrow wheelchair to avoid being crushed between trams departing and arriving at the stop!
The problem with both designs is that the crossings are designed solely for the benefit of the tram operator and have no relationship to established pedestrian movements in Surry Hills. The current crossing is of course at Riley Street and the platforms lie across it. The EIS assumed a planting strip would deter people from crossing here and force them to dogleg to the prescribed crossings!

The provision of a platform between the rails and the single vehicular lane will make it much more likely for pedestrians to cross across the platforms. The vehicular lane will be grid locked all day and most of the evenings because movements are blocked by any vehicle turning right at Crown Street. Pedestrians will just have to walk through stationary vehicles.

People waiting for a tram to pull out from the platform so they can walk behind it, regardless of whether they alighted from one of the five doors of a tram or are pedestrians trying to cross between the Surry Hills ghettos, will be blindsided to a tram or juggernaut passing through in the other direction because the tracks curve into Ward Park. I asked the tech guy at the "Information Session" how far from the side of a tram would someone have to stand to see an approaching tram. He said the Private Partner would have to produce a safety plan before beginning operation - this was reiterated in the EIS.

The revised design exposes people crossing the tracks to far greater danger since there is now no buffer between the tracks - the moment someone steps out from behind a tram, splat. They won't hear it coming as trams are noisiest when accelerating from rest. There is no way that people can be dissuaded from crossing the tracks to get to the outbound platform or to get to the northern Surry Hills ghetto. The EIS states that heavy rigid vehicles would encroach on the light rail alignment in making left-hand turns at the few streets where this would be allowed. With the revised design they will be encroaching on the platform and they would demolish any pedestrian barriers designed to  prevent crossings at Riley Street.

The section figure prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff shows children and dogs frolicking in Ward Park with just a step down to the footpath separating them from the tram rails. The revised design reduces the width of the footpath by around one metre we are told and ensures there can never be barriers to stop children running across the platform and onto the rails.

It is physically impossible for a PPP to reduce the dangers to pedestrians and passengers in Devonshire Street, Chalmers Street and Eddy Avenue. There will be a continuous killing field from Crown Street to George Street.

So, will the O'Farrell government indemnify the Private/Public Partner that knowingly constructs and operates a tram system that exposes pedestrians and passengers to levels of hazard that are not considered acceptable anywhere in the world from being sued by people injured or the relatives of people killed? Will it provide the PPP with an Ellis defense exonerating it from the acknowledged faults in the system? Would this expose the NSW taxpayer to an open-ended liability to litigation?

Government Information requests refused on grounds of commercial confidentiality.

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