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

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