Thursday, 30 October 2014

The revenge of the Chinese communists

Rod Staples on the far right, ominously
NSW Treasury announced the contracts for the North West Rail Link on the 24th June:
"The NWRL will be delivered via three major contracts:

  • Tunnels and Station Civil Works package, to be delivered as a D&C;
  • Surface and Viaduct Civil Works package, to be delivered as a D&C; and
  • Operations, Trains and Systems (OTS) package, to be delivered as a PPP.
The TSC and SVC packages were awarded to different consortiums at the time of the announcement.

"The OTS package involves the design, construction and commissioning of rail infrastructure (including depot and stabling), procurement of rolling stock, operation and maintenance, and financing of the 23km of new rail network from Cudgegong Road to Epping, as well as the upgrade of existing rail network from Epping to Chatswood.

"OTS will be an availability PPP where demand risk will be retained by Government. A substantial State contribution will also be made during construction".

Delving through the acronyms it can be seen that this was a PPP where the private partner cannot lose. The taxpayer provides all the construction funds and takes all the risks and the private partner gets the profits, if any. The NSW government fought a costly battle in the courts to stop the SMH getting access to documents about the project claiming it would prevent the government from getting the best deal for the taxpayer, but it is impossible to imagine a worse deal for the taxpayer.

The announcement named Northwest Rapid Transit Corporation as one of the "two shortlisted consortia" that "successfully lodged their proposals in December 2013".

The $30 billion question is: Did NRTC have any inkling that Baird, the Treasurer in December 2013, would announce that if elected he would sell taxpayer assets to build a tunnel from Chatswood to Sydenham junction under the Harbour for no other purpose than to hand over the Bankstown line to the operators of single-deck trains?

If they did, then this amounts to fraud on a scale that is unprecedented in the history of Australia. This is fraud that reaches to the upper echelons of the NSW Liberal Party, far beyond Senator Arthur Sinodinos.

If they did not then this is incompetence on an unimaginable scale. The PPP was given task of selecting and procuring off-the-shelf rolling stock from overseas without any knowledge that it would possibly be required to pass up and down gradients so precipitous only lighter single-deck trains could negotiate them. At least, they think they can, they think they can. This was cited as a possibility in documents taken to Cabinet.
Leighton media release
The Premier's announcement on 12 June 2014 of the Harbour rail tunnel paid for by selling taxpayer assets clearly did not come as a surprise to Leighton Holdings. Twelve days later, on 24 June, they issued a media release: "The NSW government today announced the Northwest Rapid Transit Consortium (NRT) as the preferred operator for the North West Rail Link Project; the first stage of Sydney Rapid Transit, Sydney's brand new railway network".

Only a Royal Commission with the power to compel testimony can determine who knew what and when.

The Chinese communist domination

MTR Corp is "the major Operator participant with John Holland and UGL each having minority stakes". So what is the connection between the Chinese communist corporation MTR Corp and the multinational property development company UGL Limited?

UGL states on the ethics page of its web site:
  • We are committed to and take steps to prevent and detect bribery and corruption.
  • We do not make donations to political party funds or candidates
This has been contradicted by a series of emails published in exclusive articles in the SMH and Age newspapers. You can follow them here.

UGL paid the chief executive of Hong Kong C.Y. Leung ₤4 million in two tranches in a secret deal that was never disclosed. The deal was made in relation to UGL's purchase of Leung's insolvent property development company of which the shares were deemed to be worthless. The chief executive of Hong Kong effectively controls 76% of the shareholding of MTR Corporation leaving John Holland as the only independent minority shareholding in the unlisted consortium.

Baird will be selling taxpayer assets to fully fund a tunnel that has no purpose other than to hand over residents on the Bankstown line to a consortium dominated by a Chinese communist corporation and to dump 40,000 passengers an hour on the most vulnerable point of the rail system for south of the Harbour, crippling public transport south of the Harbour forever.

If MTR corp knew of or deduced Baird's plans before or after they lodged their submissions in December 2013 why did they not point out the obvious flaws?

The answer is of course: Why would they?

Revenge is sweet and sour

Baird has provided an "availability PPP", a new term where the NSW taxpayer provides all the funds for construction and takes on all the risks, then the tunnels and rails are handed over to the private unlisted partner. The private partner has nothing to lose. What's not to like.

B-52 wreckage at Victory Museum Hanoi
One of the 15 B-52s shot down during Linebacker II
Then there is the history between Australia and China. During the American intervention in the Vietnamese civil war more bombs were dropped on North Vietnam than were dropped on the whole of Europe in World War II.

We have been reminded by the death of Gough Whitlam that after being sworn in as Prime Minister on 5th December 1972 he and Lance Barnard had ended conscription and announced the withdrawal of troups from Vietnam on December 11 which was before Nixon launched Operation Linebacker II, The Christmas Bombings from 18-29 December. Whitlam criticised the bombings in a letter to the US President but it was evidently too late to save Sydney from retribution.

The carpet bombing of Hanoi was paid for by the American taxpayer and the North Vietnamese ultimately faired better than those in the south who are still dealing with the aftermath of Agent Orange and other things. The Viet Cong had tried repeatedly to tunnel under the defences of the Australian base camp at Nui Dat without success.

Now Baird will sell NSW taxpayer assets to build a tunnel under the CBD then pay a Chinese communist corporation to blitz the City Circle rail services with 40,000 passengers per hour at its most vulnerable point. Unlike the Operations Linebacker I and II which ended with election of a Democrat-controlled Congress, the bombardment of the City Circle will never end - the further the single-deck rail lines extend north of the Harbour the more intense it becomes. The irony is delicious. The Chinese authorities in Beijing must be laughing themselves silly at the stupidity of Australians.

Of course it is not the Australian people that are stupid just a little band of North Shore politicians who had festered too long in the rump of the Liberal Party. The NSW voters will have an opportunity to repudiate these politicians and re-establish their reputation for sound judgement and common decency on 28 March 2015.

If the unthinkable happened and Baird won the election then historians will record that this precipitated the collapse of public transport south of the Harbour. The City of Sydney will have been brought low:
Not by reds in the bed but by reds in the bedrock under the Harbour.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

And then there were nine

Protest rally outside Parliament House May 3
At the beginning of May I attended a rally outside Parliament House. That's me holding the sign DANGER NEW TRAMS TOO BIG FOR CITY STREETS.

The yellow and black do-not-cross tape was unfurled to show the length of the proposed trams - it goes on and on. The rally was to support the successful motion of Penny Sharpe for the release of documents which was referred to in a post at the time. I mentioned to people at the rally that Ms Berejiklian had made some remarks offstage that the length of the trams could be increased from seven segments to nine segments. No-one believed that this could happen. The people at the rally from Kensington and Surry Hills were decent, community-minded individuals. They were unable to comprehend the evil that lurks in the hearts of North Shore politicians.

On Thursday 23 October 2014 Ms Berejiklian posted a media release announcing the selection of a preferred bidder for the project:

The announcement merely referred to a 50% increase in the alleged capacity of the system from the oft chanted 9,000 passengers per hour in each direction that TfNSW claimed could be delivered to Circular Quay. Since the wildly optimistic projections of consultants Booz & Company were that the sum total of people on board the trams at Circular Quay during the morning peak would be 764 with only 565 boarding during this period this claimed increase in capacity was inexplicable.

It was not until the following Monday that Ms Berejiklian fessed up that the trams would be increased in length to meet the demands of the preferred bidder, The Connecting Sydney consortium. There is no further information about the trams the consortium will import from overseas.

I had written to the Minister the day after the Community forum at Sydney High in April 2013 saying: "The carriages are the length of five buses. Running these behemoths through a shared pedestrian/cyclist precinct that runs at least 40% the length of George Street can only be described as insane. Running them past children's playing areas in Ward Park is even crazier. There is no precedent for such a system any where in the world. Only New South Wales produces politicians insane enough to even consider a project like this". You can read my letter here.

At the "Information Session" at Surry Hills I asked the tech guy what emergency braking system would be used by the trams only to be told that would be left to the Private Partner to decide and would depend on where the consortium chose to source the trams.

Photoshopped illustration
Needless to say, I raised objections to the total neglect for pedestrian safety from Crown Street to George Street in my submission to the EIS as well as objections to the shared bus/tram lanes at Fiveways intersection. I have archived my submission here. There were many other submissions to the EIS (20% of submissions) that raised these objections. The subverted public servants at Planning and (now) Environment acknowledged in the Assessment Report: "Public safety has been identified by the community as a key concern. The Applicant has recognised this and has provided an assessment of the safety for all road users including pedestrians, passengers, operators and the general public during both construction and operation phases".

In fact, the only response to the numerous objections about pedestrian safety in Surry Hills and Kingsford by the Department was to included a photoshopped revision of the notorious illustration of trams passing the Shakespeare Hotel in Devonshire Street without any commentary in the text. The Assessment Report went on to deal dismissively with concerns about safety in the pedestrian zones in George Street, Moore Park stop, Royal Randwick Racecourse stop and UNSW stops in section 5.2 Public Safety but there was nary a word about Surry Hills and Kingsford.

By increasing the length of the trams Baird will be blindsiding pedestrians at every crossing leading to and from Central Station far more comprehensively. This was 46,000 passengers in the 3.5 hour morning peak alone in 2011. With this many people the carnage in the killing field from Crown to George Street will be inexorable. The coupled juggernauts will be 18 segments long, posing far greater danger to residents at Northcott Place.

Baird's only reason for doing this is because corporations submitting proposals for owning and operating the trams believe (ludicrously) that this would be necessary for them to make a profit. If the best proposal was from Connecting Sydney corporation the other submissions must have been bizarre.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Mission creep

The Iemma government spent a very large amount of taxpayer's money designing a metro under the CBD and almost half a billion dollars on compulsory land acquisitions before the penny dropped and the Kenneally government worked out that a relief rail from Central to Wynyard was the only rail line under the CBD that actually reduced passenger pressure on City Circle rail services. Now Baird has abruptly announced that he will sell taxpayer assets to fund a rerouting of the tunnels northward from deep under Martin Place to even deeper under First Fleet Park to under the deepest part of Sydney Harbour and so deep under North Sydney there is lift only access to the surface then on to Chatswood, and southward from deep under Central station to Sydenham junction. This project has never been costed or had any design work done on it or as far as anyone can gather had never been assessed by anyone in Treasury or Transport for NSW when Baird made the announcement.

Needless to say, even the most cursory assessment would establish that the rerouting of the tunnels will cause an even more devastating degradation of public train services south of the Harbour than the George Street trams will have on bus services to the CBD.

The Town Hall transfer

The original planned alignment
Town Hall and Central stations
No rational commuter from the northwest would stay on single-deck trains past Epping and get off at a platform god knows how deep under Central station in order to reach destinations along the Western line when they can transfer to an anti-clockwise Northern line train. The only people leaving the single-deck trains at Central would be from the Macquarie stations, who have no choice. The metro station at nominally Martin Place does not provide connections to anything that is not within walking distance of the station. We can deduce that in order for the single-deck trains to meet their claimed objective of transporting 40,000 passengers each hour during the AM peak through a Harbour rail tunnel close to 40,000 commuters each hour would have to leave trains at the one remaining station under Pitt Street between Park and Bathurst Street.

The stations of the City Circle are close together compared to tube loops in other cities because the lines feed into the same overpass over Eddy Avenue. The entrance to Town Hall station on the eastern side of George Street at Bathurst Street is a stones throw from the entrance to the pedestrian tunnel to Museum station on the western side of Elizabeth Street. The escalators to Museum station on the eastern side of Castlereagh Street at Park Street and to Town Hall station under the Galleries Victoria are a stones throw apart for people with very weak throwing arms. The escalators to the Pitt Street metro station are about the same position as the escalators under the Galleries Victoria (not shown in diagram above - replaced with a row of trees). Town Hall and Museum stations have between them eight platforms delivering passengers from all over Sydney to the Town Hall precinct. Sydney City needs two metro platforms delivering, we are told, almost 40,000 extra passengers per hour to the precinct like a hole in the bedrock.

To the barrier counts

Barrier counts at Sydney rail stations in 2011
Town Hall station is the busiest station in the suburban rail network in terms of the barrier counts of people leaving and entering the ticket barriers, which are collected every day. It is the most vulnerable point in the public rail system that commuters south of the Harbour rely on every day. The latest figures published (the City Rail Compendium archived by Google here) are for 2011. Patronage peaked before the GFC in 2008 but has been climbing back up so it is probably back up to close to the 2008 figures. More passengers would alight at Central to transfer to other train services without passing through the barriers and breaking their journey into an extra trip - Central is the busier station. The barrier counts at Town Hall do not record the numbers of passengers moving up the escalators to the concourse and down again to transfer from the Harbour Bridge rail services to the Eastern Suburbs line. They do not include the additional loadings that would take place from passengers transferring from a metro to a Harbour Bridge train at Chatswood to avoid breaking their journey to transfer to the Eastern Suburbs line.

In order for the Sydney Harbour rail tunnel to meet its proclaimed objective of transferring 40,000 passengers per hour under the Harbour during peak periods it would have to dump close to this number of passengers per hour into the Town Hall station precinct. These passengers have nowhere to go except to transfer to City Circle trains headed to the western and southern lines and for Redfern and stations north of Sydenham. The planned "Central" metro platforms were to be god knows how deep under Railway Square to the west of the Country rail platforms and do not provide a feasible connection to the Western and Southern suburban lines - transfers to the single City Circle line from Town Hall to Central stations are the only options for any of the 40,000 commuters per hour Baird asserts will have stayed on the metro beyond Epping and Chatswood stations.

To put this in perspective, in 2011 an average of 46,000 passengers passed through the barriers at Town Hall Station during the three and a half hour AM peak. To meet its proclaimed objective of transporting 40,000 passengers per hour under the Harbour during the AM peak the rail tunnel would have to add an additional 140,000 passengers to the barrier count during the AM peak. The rail tunnel must quadruple the barrier count at Town Hall station. In the words of Joe Biden: "Not physically possible".

This does not take into account the extra passengers using the escalators for internal transfers. To be fair we should give the hourly figures during the morning peak but the figures for the effects of a Harbour rail tunnel are so ridiculous it is hardly worth it:
Everyone who uses or passes though Town Hall station knows that the platforms and escalators are currently operating at close to their maximum capacity during peak periods. In the evenings the flows through the barriers are reversed for exits and entries.

And what about the northbound Harbour rail tunnel

The Harbour rail tunnel announced by Baird had only two objectives:
  1. To cripple the City Circle rail services at their most vulnerable point
  2. To hand over residents of Bankstown to, it turns out, a Chinese communist corporation
The northbound Harbour rail tunnel will, we are told, carry 40,000 passengers per hour under the Harbour. For this to happen 40,000 commuters each hour must decide to use the metro to reach destinations north or northwest of Epping rather than take the much shorter and faster route via Regents Park and Strathfield stations.

Rail tickets are effectively tap-on/tap-off so they provide crude origin destination data. We can gain a crude estimate of the maximum number of passengers that could possibly make the really dumb choice to use the metro to reach Epping station from the published data for 2010:
Origin Destination data for 2010
The data reveals the number of passengers exiting at stations along an entire rail line not at individual stations. The 199 passengers from the Bankstown line exiting along the Epping-Chatswood line (ECRL) would have no choice but to use the metro. The 1,738 passengers headed for the North Shore line stations (mainly North Sydney) would have to ditch the metro at Sydenham station unless they are headed to destinations within walking distance of lifts from "Victoria Cross" (a made-up location that exists only in the imaginations of TfNSW planners). We don't know how many of the 150 passengers who exit along the Northern line are headed to the north of Epping and might be silly enough to change from the metro at Epping rather than transfer at Strathfield but we can hazard a guess that this would be zero. Passengers headed for destinations from Chatswood to Hornsby must change from the metro at Chatswood or, you guessed it, Town Hall station.

All told, the number of passengers travelling through the northbound Harbour rail tunnel during the 3.5 hour AM peak each day will be little more than 200, well short of the 140,000 passengers the tunnel was designed to carry.

The original CBD metro

Metro plan in Ron Christie's 2001 report to the NSW government
The original plan for a CBD metro (red line) was in a report by Ron Christie commissioned by the NSW government and delivered in 2001. Christie stipulated that a metro should be built only after heavy-rail lines compatible with the rest of the network (shown in black and blue) had been completed. The metro from the bus/Northern line interchange at Victoria Road in West Ryde to Maroubra was studied and named the Anzac line. In its final incarnation it would have used the abandoned central platforms and rail tunnel under Whitlam Square at St James station. This metro made a lot of sense. It was designed specifically to relieve rail passenger loadings on Strathfield station and on the bus services along Victoria Road.

The proposal was modified yet again to the "nominally Pitt Street" alignment that redirected the rails under Parramatta Road to Sydney University and potentially beyond - the route further west was never specified. It still made some sense but it proved to be horrendously expensive.

Now Baird, without any known further study or any disclosure of cost or indeed the feasibility of tunnelling under the deepest part of Sydney, has turned the "Pitt Street" alignment into the instrument for the destruction of the efficacy of the public rail system south of the Harbour.

The creep on a mission from God

While still in opposition the North Shore rump of the Liberal Party hatched an undisclosed plan to destroy the efficacy of public transport south of the Harbour and to force passengers onto services operated by private companies. The modus operandi for achieving this objective was to replace the heads of the departments with ideologically-aligned public servants from outside the service and to not allow any disclosure of details of their agenda. These public servants continue to churn out "Rail/Bus Future" plans and "Fact sheets" that contain no plausible facts and make demonstrably-false assertions.

The Westminster system of government did not evolve with mechanisms for dealing with public servants that cover their incompetence with systemic dishonesty and lack of disclosure.

Only a Royal Commission with powers to compel testimony can uncover the facts about the events that led up to the project to tunnel from St Leonards station to Sydenham junction at any cost. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The alternative to drinking the $30 billion Kool-aid

The NSW government has been made aware that there is an alternative transport strategy for the Sydney CBD that does not:

  • cripple public transport south of the Harbour
  • create grid-lock in the arterial roads between the Eastern Suburbs and the rest of Sydney to the south and west
  • create a killing field from Crown Street to George Street
  • prevent the Northern Beaches from ever having effective public transport
  • force Bankstown commuters onto a railway that does not connect anyone to anything
  • require the privatisation of taxpayer assets that fund ongoing expenditure
The elements of the strategy have been outlined in posts on this blog and in this post the staging for implementing the strategy will be discussed.

Stage one

Establish express AM services between Liverpool, Cabramatta, Bankstown, Dulwich Hill, Sydenham, Redfern and Central stations.
  • Cost: zero
  • Rolling stock cost: zero
  • Starting time: Immediately after 28th March 2015
Illawarra Junction
The tunnels of the Illawarra junction provide a connection between the Illawarra-Bankstown line and platforms 4-8 of Central station which have a third rail which was used to extract and turn round steam engines. This allows for an efficient turn back of trains which was developed for the Olympics but is not used to relieve pressure on peak services. The existing southmost freight rail on the Bankstown line provides the relief rail for express AM services. The express services would use existing rolling stock more efficiently.

Re-establish the connection between Bankstown and the inner-west line via Regents Park
  • Cost: zero
  • Rolling stock cost: zero
  • Starting time: Immediately after 28th March 2015
This re-establishes the quick connection between the Bankstown line and the Northern line via Strathfield. Without this connection commuters are forced to change to a Harbour Bridge line train at Central station to reach destinations north of the Harbour. The Harbour Bridge line clearly has a fixed capacity that can be increased only at great expense.

Re-establish the connection between Cabramatta and Lidcombe via Regents Park

  • Cost: zero
  • Rolling stock cost: zero
  • Starting time: Immediately after 28th March 2015
This is a temporary measure pending the completion of the Parramatta-Chatswood rail link in stage 2.

Use the Opal card to control peak-hour congestion in bus lanes in George Street

  • Cost: zero
  • Capital cost: zero
  • Starting time: Immediately after 28th March 2015
The costs are part of the roll-out of the Opal card which is already budgeted for.

Start work on preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the restoration of the Pitt-Spring-Bent-Castlereagh Street tram loop

  • Cost: zero
  • Starting time: Immediately after 28th March 2015
Not all the competent engineers and planners that formerly worked for the RTA and the Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation would have resigned in dismay when North Shore rump politicians put incompetent planners in control of Transport for NSW. The descent into chaos has been so rapid. There would be competent planners shuffling paper clips round desk tops who can be reactivated to do the work.

Set up a Royal Commission into Transport for NSW

  • Cost: Difficult to estimate
  • Starting time: Immediately after 28th March 2015

The Royal Commission into Home Insulation cost $20 million and the Royal Commission into Julia Gillard's home renovations was to have cost $53 million but has blown out to $61 million. A Royal Commission into the incompetence and systemic deceit of public servants at Transport for NSW would have a lot of ground to cover:

  • Who exactly were the knutters at the Round Table discussions
  • What were their qualifications
  • What information were they given before taking part in the discussions
  • How were decisions reached
  • What information on costings did Baird have when he demanded a mandate to sell taxpayer electricity-distribution assets
  • What work had been done on confirming the feasibility of a rail tunnel under the deepest part of the Harbour when Baird made his announcement
  • What work had been done on locating and building stations under the "nominally Pitt Street" alignment when Baird made his announcement
  • etc.

Stage two

Complete the Up and Down Illawarra relief rail

  • Cost: Never been disclosed
  • Rolling stock cost: Zero - Uses existing rolling stock more efficiently.
  • Starting time: Shortly after 28th March 2015
The Illawarra relief rail line is twin tracks to the west of the four tracks of the Erskineville to Sydenham rail link. Preparatory work on the rails had been done when Ms Berejiklian brought the project to a halt. The line would allow express peak hour services from Liverpool, Bankstown, Cronulla, Woollongong and the south coast to by-pass stations from Sydenham to Redfern and Central among other things. These express services would run the pants off French single-deck trains that rely on herding passengers on and off more quickly for claimed increases in journey speed.
Incomplete platform at St Peters station - aborted by North Shore anti-abortionists

Start work on fly-under tunnels from main western lines to Central Terminal  platforms and on underground platforms at Central Terminal.

  • Cost: To be worked out
  • Rolling stock cost: Zero - Uses existing rolling stock more efficiently
  • Starting time: As soon as the design work has been done - takes place on railway land so should not require an EIS
The underground platforms would be as close to the surface as possible for the turn-back rails under Belmore Park to pass under Eddy Avenue and for an eventual relief rail to pass under the Capitol Theatre roughly in parallel with the Eastern Suburbs rail tunnel. The alignment of the twin relief rails tunnel would continue under George Street which is more than broad enough south of Liverpool Street to accommodate four rails.

The relief rail tunnel would dogleg under the RSL Club in George Street and Kent house in Liverpool Street and continue a leisured ascent under the Kent Street alignment to Wynyard station. The Iemma government passed legislation to protect potential rail alignments under the CBD - a property developer wanting to establish a basement deeper than 2 metres along the alignment had to obtain permission from the Rail Authority. The Kent Street alignment would need to be protected ASAP after 28th March 2015.

Restore the Pitt-Spring-Bent Castlereagh Streets tram loop

  • Cost: To be worked out - less than half a billion dollars, say
  • Cost of rolling stock: Zero - uses existing rolling stock on Dulwich Hill line more efficiently
  • Starting date: In due course - after an EIS has been properly exhibited and properly assessed
The tram loop functions as it did for more than 50 years. Passengers alighting from trains terminating at Central station whether at a surface or underground platform walk across the Central concourse to catch the trams in complete safety and cover from the weather. The tram rails provide the third rail loop to the City Circle - not as fast between stops as City Circle trains as they have to deal with cross traffic controlled by SCATS (no priority) but there would be more stops (as many as the bus routes) and passengers do not have to ascend and descend to underground platforms.

Turn-back in the CBD

In order to reduce passenger loadings on the City Circle train services the number of train services transmogrifying from western/southern line services to Illawarra line services as they go round the loop must be reduced. The Airport/Wolli Creek line services must use the City Circle but alternative turn-backs can be built for western lines and Illawarra line peak services. 
The obvious and least costly place in the CBD for turn-back to occur is under Belmore Park at Central station. For this to be feasible there must be a third rail loop to distribute passengers to destinations in the CBD north of Central. The George Street tram project was designed to obliterate all the places in the CBD where buses can physically turn around, crippling Parramatta and City Road public bus services among others. Modelling by consultants of TfNSW has conceded that it is not capable of distributing passengers from Central terminal to destinations in the CBD. The colonnade for the Pitt-Castlereagh Streets tram loop was built into the design of Central rail terminal and the loop fulfilled this function for more than 50 years. Restoration of the tram loop makes the Sydney CBD future proof, does not degrade any public bus or rail service and does not create grid-lock in vital arterial roads.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The trams that destroyed the metro

Screen shot from Harbour Rail Tunnel the video
The schematic diagrams in the scoping study Sydney's Rail Futures undertaken by the Transport Projects Division of TfNSW showed the Harbour rail tunnel to the east of the Harbour Bridge with the rails incongruously crossing the Northern line rails at grade along the quadrupled rails north of St Leonards.
SRT Fact Sheet
The STR Fact Sheet released by TfNSW now shows the tunnel continuing north to west Circular Quay then veering east to cross between Walsh Bay and McMahons Point. This forces the tunnel to pass under the deepest part of the Harbour.
3D sonar mapping of the Sydney Harbour bed
The Harbour bed here is 45 metres below current sea level. To put this in perspective, the Harbour road tunnels which were built by sinking prefabricated sections into a trench dredged in the Harbour floor are 25 metres below sea level. The edges of the trench show up in the sonar images above. The Cross City tunnels are further beneath sea level than the Sydney Harbour road tunnels. They were constructed be lowering the four tunnelling borers into a 40 metre deep dive shaft near the intersection of Bourke and William Streets (the lowest point east of Darling Harbour) and boring east and west.

The alignment of the proposed rail tunnels under the Harbour has been predicated by the determination of the Baird government to use the First Fleet Park on the western side of Circular Quay as the dive shaft for the tunnel borers and for the extraction of spoil from the excavations for the tunnels and stations. The scoping study refers to "significant disruption within the CBD with approximately 190,000 truck movements over 3-4 years for removal of spoil from station caverns and shafts". Note that this was for tunnels that ended just west of Redfern Station. Extending the tunnels to Sydenham junction will generate a lot more spoil.

Note also that the consequences of a tram alignment along George Street was not factored in to the study either.

George and Grosvenor Streets
The George Street trams reduce access to the Rocks to one lane northbound and one lane southbound. The southbound lane terminates at Bridge Street and no right-turns are allowed to Grosvenor Street. All spoil-laden trucks from First Fleet Park will perforce turn into Bridge Street then have to queue to make a right-hand turn with buses from the only place in the CBD where they can physically turn around that was not obliterated by the George Street trams. People south of the Harbour who use public transport will endure years of pain during the construction of the metro tunnels for no gain whatsoever.

Before Berejiklian

Before Ms Berejiklian became Minister for Transport the people of Bankstown had it made:
Rail map Before Berejiklian
The inner-west line looped round to Bankstown station through Regents Park. Commuters could access all the stations west of Lidcombe without changing trains and could access all the stations of the northern line with one change of train at Strathfield. The trains to the east gave access to all the stations of the City Circle without changing trains and one change of train to the Illawarra line at Sydenham or Central or any station in between gave access to Martin Place and the stations of the Eastern Suburbs line.

The only constraint on the frequency of trains on the Bondi Junction-Cronulla route is the availability of rolling stock. And of course the numbers of passengers needing to reach a station during a particular time period. Martin Place has now been developed almost to the full extent allowed by floor-space ratios. Even the Commonwealth Bank building that was the model for tin can money boxes that were distributed to school kids when I was at school (and was where Joe Hockey's mother-in law received inappropriate investment advice pre-GFC) is being redeveloped.

Ms Berejiklian will force Bankstown commuters onto a train that stops at only one of the destinations that could be reached with one change of train: Martin Place. To reach any other of the destinations that they were formerly able to reach they will need to change trains at least once. They will of course do this at the first opportunity, in fact, the only opportunity: Sydenham Station.

The SRT fact sheet (link above) trumpets: "The total number of people reliably carried on a train line in an hour is the true measure of rail capacity. Sydney's rapid transit target of about 40,000 per hour is comparable to the average hourly capacity of rapid transit trains worldwide".

Wow. We have seen this warped logic before with the George Street Light Rail project where it was claimed that 20,000 passengers per hour could be delivered to Circular Quay. This claim was revised to "up to 20,000" then resurrected by the public servants at Planning and whatever else who can not be challenged. In fact the wildly optimistic modelling of the consultants projected that only 724 would transfer from the trams at Circular Quay during the morning peak hour.

In fact a rail line will relieve pressure on existing rail services only if passengers remain on the trains and exit from the trains at the few and far between stations on the line. Passengers silly enough to stay on the the single deck trains and exit at "Martin Place" will literally have no where to go. The George Street buses will have been obliterated by the trams that do not stop at Martin Place and only stop at the train stations they could reach by changing trains at Sydenham station. The bus services in Elizabeth Street will have ground to a halt between the mother of all pinch points at the Old Supreme Court Building and the enhanced pinch points in Phillip Street. The only access to Barangaroo will be to walk.

SRT Key facts

The fact sheet asserts "SRT was identified in Sydney's Rail Future as the next big rail project". The claims that single deck trains have a greater capacity than double deck trains is based solely on the assertion that they have less dwell time at stations. To achieve this single deck trains must have:
  • "Dedicated line operating independently of the existing rail network".
  • "More doors make it quicker to get on and off".
  • "Minimal gap between platform and train - platform level with train doors".
  • "Platform screen safety doors".
  • "Just turn up and go - no need for time tables".
Baird is claiming that driverless trains can operate more frequently regardless of passenger loads because a driver is not being paid. This argument only makes sense to North Shore climate change deniers.

In a post in January Gladys' bottom of the Harbour scheme I pointed out that the platforms on the Macquarie University line would have to be converted to carry only single deck trains - "for one thing the platform heights are different" - and was attacked like a pick pocket. It is a fact.

The claims that single-deck trains can achieve incredible increases in the number of trains passing along a track in an hour is based on infantile modelling and is spurious. The time taken to herd passengers on and off trains at stations has a minor effect on the frequency of trains only if there can be no relief rails and extra platforms at major stations. The modelling is applicable only to tracks where all trains stop at all stations. The Western lines in Sydney achieve far greater capacities and faster trip times for longer journeys as they run express services that leapfrog long stretches of stations.

There were long established plans for two-track relief rails from Sydenham to Redfern but these were aborted by Ms Berejiklian.

Turning back the foreign trains

The "SRT fact sheet" issued by Baird personally in June claims that there will be "11 existing stations upgraded to rapid transit". This does not include the stations on the Epping-Chatswood line. The fact sheet shows a schematic of the single-deck trains turning back at Bankstown and double-deck trains from Cabramatta and Lidcombe terminating and transferring passengers at Bankstown station:
Single-deck rail line schematic, June 2014
This is an outrageously transparent deception by the Premier of NSW that will cost the taxpayers billions of dollars if Baird is not sent packing by voters on March 28. Trains have never turned back at Bankstown station - there are no provisions for this. Baird is adopting the election strategy of his Federal North Shore colleague Tony Abbott - nothing he says can be believed.

In fact there are 21 stations between Sydenham junction and the turnbacks that have already been built at Cabramatta and Lidcombe. "Upgrading" these stations to single-deck foreign trains will be extremely costly for the taxpayer and disruptive for residents along these lines and confer no benefits whatsoever for commuters south of the Harbour.
Dulwich Hill station, one of 21 19th century stations to be "upgraded"
Dulwich Hill station is an example of a station on the line. The two-track freight line to the north was converted to light rail by the previous government. The freight line to the west, from the Shoalhaven River, still operates but one of the lines could be used as a relief rail for express eastbound commuter services to the CBD.

The true schematic
The ultimate plan of the North Shore rump
The Transport Projects Division (TPD) of TfNSW projected the train frequencies along the suburban rail lines for the foreseeable future. They did not project that train frequencies along the Bankstown line would ever exceed 12 per hour. A double-deck train service which they claim can only carry 20 trains per hour without relief tracks can clearly meet the demand for capacity on this line forever.

There is no earthly reason for handing over this public rail line laid down in the nineteenth century to a Chinese communist controlled consortium and using NSW taxpayers' assets to pay for converting the stations to take only the off-the-shelf French single-deck trains chosen by the Chinese communists.

The Epping to Chatswood line was not projected to carry more than 18 trains per hour during the AM peak, ever. There is no earthly reason for converting the platforms to carry only French single-deck trains.

The "scoping study" prepared by TPD and presumably taken to Cabinet by Ms Berejiklian in July 2012 or later is infantile in its methodology and naïve in its assumptions. No attempt was made to assess the actual numbers of passengers that would be expected to alight at the various platforms at different times of the day. The public servants were just shuffling figures based on their (false) assumptions of the maximum capacities of the individual rail lines. Many of the assertions in the figures were patently physically impossible and were dropped from the plans announced by Baird - there were no inter-platform connections with existing stations at Circular Quay, Town Hall and Redfern and no mention was made of a connection to the Eastern Suburbs line, and the tunnel is now continued south from Central to Sydenham junction, whatever the cost.

The schematic shows a line to the east merging into the Epping-Chatswood line north of Chatswood presumably representing a Northern Beaches Rail line which makes up the numbers of single-deck trains that would increase the trains per hour to the "up to 30" they claim can be achieved by herding passengers on and off more quickly at stations - a 50% increase in the frequency of the trains! Other schematic figures in the study show the Northern Beaches Rail line merging god knows where with the tunnel under North Sydney after presumably wending its way under Military Road.

The Northern Beaches rail line

It would be nice to show images of the proposed routes for the Northern Beaches rail line whether they merge with the rail tunnel north of Chatswood or under North Sydney but they don't exist. Baird is citing this line as the sole justification for running single-deck trains under the Harbour but there is no route, no land acquisitions and no estimates of the costs or any study of the feasibility of building a rail line to sparsely populated beachside suburbs. The line would have to pass under or over Middle Harbour and negotiate the Narrabeen lakes and would cost a hell of a lot more than the Northwest rail line now costed at $8.3 billion.

TPD estimated the cost of a rail tunnel under Sydney Harbour and the CBD to Central Station with an undetermined alignment and two stations god knows how far beneath Pitt Street at $8.585 billion in June 2012. This did not include the cost of converting stations on the Epping-Chatswood line and south of the Harbour to carry only single-deck foreign trains. We can now get a fuzzy estimate of the minimum cost to the taxpayer of running single-deck trains on the Sydney rail network: well in excess of $30 billion. This is more than Baird would hope to raise by selling the whole 100% of the electricity distribution network, converting a public utility into a privately-owned monopoly.

The sole raison d'être for a rail tunnel under the Harbour to Central Station is for a Northern Beaches line. Commuters on the Northern line and the northwest line can travel from Epping anti-clockwise to stations west of Central and change at Strathfield station for destinations further to the west or south - no rational human being would pass under the Harbour to a platform god knows how deep under Central station and back track to the west.

The TPD scoping study showed trains from the Northern Beaches merging with the Epping-Chatswood line moments before arriving at the same platform at Chatswood, or with an alternate alignment so deep under Military Road there would be lift access only until well north of the Spit moments before arriving at the platform at "Victoria Cross" where ever that may be. They then pass through the tunnel with a claimed incredible frequency of 30 trains per hour. In fact, riffle shuffling trains from disparate lines as they arrive at a platform would so degrade the frequency of the trains on the line it would be far less than the 20 trains per hour that TfNSW claims is the maximum capacity for lines carrying double-deck trains. Dwell periods at stations cannot be predicted even by supercomputers as they vary with the number of disabled passengers being herded on and off a particular station at a time of day - it is impossible to determine when a train will turn up at a junction. The single-deck trains will have a lower frequency and carry far less passengers on each train, most of them standing.

Passengers arriving at the Chatswood single-deck platform from the Northern Beaches would make the same mass exodus to Harbour Bridge trains as those that arrive from Epping - the metro CBD stations do not connect anyone with anything.

The Independent Mayor of Willoughby Pat Reilly pointed out in July 2013 that high-rise residential towers in the redevelopment of Chatswood station had made the enclosure over the rail lines only wide enough for four tracks leaving no room for a rail link to the northern beaches. You can read his comments here. A TfNSW spokeswoman conceded that existing development near Chatswood station constrained the width of the rail corridor but it was wide enough for future needs. Chatswood is the pinch point for the northern rail system just as Town Hall station is the pinch point for the City Circle. It is beyond belief that public servants at TfNSW could be oblivious to the impact this would have on the frequency of trains that will ever be able to pass through a Harbour rail tunnel.

There are overwhelming reasons for not allowing a Chinese communist corporation exclusive use of the Epping-Chatswood rail line and no earthly reason for allowing this to take place.


Baird announced that taxpayer assets would be sold and used to extend a Harbour rail tunnel from Central to Sydenham junction in order to hand over the Bankstown rail line to a Chinese communist corporation (CCC). The only motivation for this is to boost the profits of the PPP. The tunnel extension had never been costed and no consultation had been made with residents, businesses or Councils along the line. Commuters would be forced onto a rail service that does not connect anyone with anything and would have no say in the matter. There has been no disclosure of where the few stations on the line would be or how passengers would gain access to the real world from the platforms.
Protests in Hong Kong demanding local representation, 28 September 2014
Tear gas has been fired at protesters but no Tianamen Square style massacre to date
So what is the consortium to which Baird will give an exclusive right to run trains on lines built by taxpayer funds?

MTR Corporation was set up as a government-owned statutory authority in Hong Kong in 1975 and was floated on the Hong Kong Stock exchange in 2005. It is still 76% owned by the government which is effectively appointed by the communist politburo in Beijing.

MTR is a major property developer and manager in Hong Kong, making most of its profits from these activities.

Private-Public-Partnerships are attractive to Chinese communist investors - the major investor in the Cross City and Lane Cove road tunnels was a communist Chinese billionaire. PPPs provide a steady cash stream to foreign investors which can be funnelled into tax havens controlled by Chinese triads such as Macao. The investors in the road tunnel PPPs lost everything but this PPP has been set up so the NSW taxpayer loses everything.

Taxpayer assets that provide $3 billion each year for ongoing expenditure on schools and hospitals are to be sold off and spent on building a CBD metro that does not provide connections to anything. NSW taxpayers across the state will be paying higher electricity prices, a higher Goods and Services Tax rate (we're told 15%) and higher prices for public transport which is being crippled to force passengers onto the George Street trams and the Metro. The only passengers on the metro will be from stations that have been converted to carry only the single-deck trains selected by the Chinese communist corporation and owned and operated by the consortium. Passengers will abandon the carriages at the first opportunity and transfer to double-deck trains so the metro lines are unlikely to operate at a profit ever but any profits will go to the consortium. Treasury has named the consortium that will select, own and operate the rolling stock but there is no disclosure of anything else about the contract being entered into.

Opel card data bonanza

The Opal card provides details on where you begin a trip and where the trip ultimately ends up on a daily, hourly or real time basis via the internet. This data is invaluable in planning intergated public transport services for competent transport planners. The data provides information on where you live and where you go the meet contacts on, say, Grindr or Kinder or any of your other activities. The consortium will have access to all this data in real time and can arrange for you to be tracked as you leave the vehicles.

It will not be difficult for authorities in mainland China to monetarise the wealth of personal data being collected about you. In New South Wales they will not have to hack the passwords of Google employees to obtain data they can use about you. The Napthine government in Victoria is the only other government in the world as cavalier with the data about its citizens.

A $30,000 drop in the ocean

Barry O'Farrell at press conference at ICAC
Barry O'Farrell declined to be interviewed for the 4 Corners program Democracy for Sale but was the subject of bemused speculation. You can read a transcript here. Kristina Keneally surmised: "I suppose the question I have is, maybe he didn't want to survive?"

It stands to reason: if he could not lie blatantly about a 30 thousand dollar bottle of wine and get away with it how could he lie blatantly about a 30 billion dollar rail system?

He probably expected Ms Berejiklian to be elected to replace him but the parliamentary members had reservations about her and the gormless Baird, the Steven Bradbury of North Shore politics, was left with the problems he had created. Abbott had said there would be no Federal funding for urban rail projects and was pressing for State gonernments to sell taxpayer assets. The jig was up.

So now NSW has a Premier who is too stupid to see the insanity of what he is doing.

Put a caption to this picture
Ms Berejiklian demonstrates what she does to Mike Baird's cojones

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

PERL before SWline

Northern Line
There is no earthly reason for foreign single deck trains to pass under the Harbour and under the CBD. It flows from this that there is no earthly reason for a foreign-owned and operated corporation to convert a taxpayer funded rail line from Epping to Chatswood to its exclusive use.

There is no earthly reason for forcing commuters using the Epping-Hornsby line to change to a foreign single-deck train at Epping then to a double deck train at Chatswood to cross the Harbour Bridge.

There is no earthly reason why a shuttle "North West Metro train service" should not terminate at Epping rather than Chatswood.

In fact there are compelling reasons for  terminating single deck trains at Epping. At Epping commuters have a choice of transferring to a clockwise train to Chatswood, North Sydney and Wynyard or an anticlockwise train through Strathfield, Redfern and Central.

Transferring the Epping-Chatswood rail line to a foreign-owned PPP breaks the loop making it impossible to efficiently turn Northern Line trains around. The Strathfield junction was not designed for grade-separated access to the City Circle lines, which are fully loaded at present, and the lines at Chatswood Station were not designed for trains from the Harbour Bridge to turn back.

Running on empty

During the Presidential election campaign that re-elected George W Bush the Fox Network picked up on a phrase used by a political analyst: "Running on empty". I can't see what relevance the phrase had to the Kerry campaign. If Baird is not sent packing by the NSW electorate on 28th March his legacy will be trams that run on empty to Circular Quay after depositing passengers in Chalmers Street, buses that run on empty to Circular Quay after depositing passengers in Eddy Avenue because all the places in the CBD where it is physically possible for them to turn around have been obliterated by the George Street trams, and trains that run on empty across the Harbour Bridge to Chatswood after depositing passengers at Central Station. The Sydney CBD will have effectively have been rendered inoperable.

So will the Murdoch Press resurrect the phrase during the State election campaign? Don't hold your breath. Climate change deniers stick together no matter what the consequences for human society.

The South West Rail line

Glenfield Station under construction 2012
The South West rail line was exhibited, approved and funded by the previous State government. Stage one for work around Glenfield station was approved in April 2009 and Stage two for extension to Leppington was approved in November 2010 and contracts were awarded to John Holland Group three weeks later. The Abbott government has refused to provide any funding for further extension of the line despite announcing that there will be an airport at Badgery's Creek - a train line will be constructed under the runways but not connected to anything. Baird will not spend a brass razoo of money he hopes to raise from selling electricity distribution assets on the line.

The flyovers at Glenfield Station feed trains into the East Hills line feeding into the Airport Line and into the Great Southern line through Liverpool and Cabramatta stations. If Baird converts the Sydenham to Cabramatta line to carry only foreign single-deck trains the only way for commuters on the SW line to reach destinations north of the Harbour will be to transfer from a Southern Line City Circle service through Granville to a Northern line service at Strathfield. The trains will then continue running on emptied to the City Circle.

This is not what was planned by the sane and rational public servants who prevailed in transport planning prior to the election of the North Shore Rump government.

Historically Sydney had developed a CBD centric transport system but it was long recognised that this placed unsustainable pressure on the City Circle loop. It was the Wran government that built the Marylands-Harris Park rail link between the Southern line and the Western line west of Parramatta. This link predates the Greiner government.

The Parramatta-Chatswood Rail Link

The Parramatta-Chatswood rail line was conceived to allow commuters using the Southern lines to transfer at Parramatta Station to reach destinations north of the Harbour without using trains that pass through Granville, Lidcombe and Strathfield stations and terminate by passing round the City Circle and changing destination to a Illawarra line. For this to happen double-deck trains from the Western line must be able to share use of the Epping-Chatswood line with Northern line trains. There is nothing to be gained from allowing foreign single-deck trains exclusive use of the taxpayer-funded Epping-Chatswood line and there is everything to lose.

Parramatta-Chatswood rail line
If the Bankstown line is handed over to a foreign consortium then ironically the only trains for commuters on the Southern line to reach destinations north of the Harbour will pass through Marylands station but instead of continuing one extra stop to Parramatta Station will have to circle south through six stations to Strathfield station in order to transfer to a Northern line train. The alternative route from Cabramatta to Lidcombe via Regent Park to Strathfield is also forever obliterated.

The Gillard government promised to provide 80% of the funding for the Parramatta-Epping Rail Line PERL on 11th August 2010. The project was costed at $2.6 billion and $2.08 was set aside to fund construction "over 4 years from 2014-2015".

The project was postponed on 29th May 2013 with an announcement from Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese: "Following the NSW government's rejection of this funding the full amount was reallocated to the following program scheduled to begin in 2019-2020.

"This project remains vital to Sydney's future and I would urge the NSW government to reconsider their decision to shelve it."

Ms Berejiklian riposted: "We are getting on with the job of building the north-west rail and south-west rail links, with or without federal funding".

It turns out this requires handing over a taxpayer-funded rail line to a foreign-owned consortium regardless of the cost and selling profitable taxpayers assets ostensively to fund projects that have not been designed or costed. The costs are incalculable.


Baird made a video to garner support for selling urban electricity distribution networks claiming that he would "unlock congestion" if he considered he had a mandate to sell taxpayer assets. The only commuters from the south-west and suburbs further south on the Southern line who would not catch a train passing through the City Circle would be headed for Parramatta or destinations further west on the Western line. A rail tunnel under the CBD that has connections only to lift shafts emerging god knows where is counterproductive even if commuters on the Bankstown line do not jump ship at Sydenham and north-west line commuters do not jump ship at Epping and Chatswood.