Thursday, 30 July 2015

Barangaroo timelapse - Whole of site 2011 - 2015

Forever blowing thought bubbles

Original CBD metro, Wynyard stop
The original plans for a CBD metro from Rozelle had a stop to the north of Wynyard station. It would have been so far under sea level the only access to the surface would have been by lifts and there was no indication of where the lifts would have been located. Rod Staples is a new breed of public servant with little but contempt for the public. They could at least conjecture that some passengers of buses that are terminated at Wynyard Park might have found their way a couple of blocks north and got on a metro train rather than flood onto the City Circle trains. "That was a bloody stupid idea" commented Kristina Keneally after she had cancelled the project.

Rod Staple's plans for the North Shore rump politicians do not hold out any hope for diverting bus passengers disembarking at Wynyard park away from the CBD loop trains. The metro begins its precipitous decent to pass under the deepest part of the Harbour after crossing over the Cross City under Park Street, if indeed this is possible - it is yet to be confirmed.

Now, on 23 June 2015, Mike Baird and his new Minister for Transport  and Infrastructure Constance announced revised plans for the alignment of the bottom-of-the-Harbour metro.
This metro project is progressing in the same manner as the NorthShoreConnex road tunnels with infantile CGI generated videos released, which contain no plausible information. The diagram left was produced by the SMH trying to make sense of the announcement. The announcement was that the underground station was "expected to be located at Central Barangaroo" and "a working party will be formed" to consider "the optimal scale of Central Barangaroo in the light of the increased transport capability".

The video released with the announcement was a reworking of the original video implausibly showing separate tunnels on top of one another passing under the deepest part of the Harbour. The video continued to refer to stations at Martin Place and Pitt Street prompting the graphic artists at SMH to show violent dog-legs to Castlereagh Street and back to Pitt Street.

Underground? Make that underwater

Millers Point 1907
The waters of Darling Harbour lapped against the cliff to the west of Kent Street. Convict labour built the Argyle cut to link the wharves at Millers Point and Walsh Bay to George Street. There was no road at the foot of the cliffs and Darling Harbour which was deep enough to take the largest ships of the time. Central Barangaroo is a concrete slab constructed over the Harbour in order stack containers before the container wharves were built in Botany Bay. The original plan for a metro station at Barangaroo placed the platforms to the east of the escarpment spanning up to a block north of Wynyard Station. It was never disclosed how deeply underground it would have been or how passengers would have reached the surface.

The Kennelly plan for Barangaroo
When Paul Keating took control of the planning at Barangaroo he insisted on chipping away the concrete slab to roughly resemble the original shape of Millers Point. Christina Kennelly as Planning Minister called for submissions for landscaping the slab and the new government dared not alter the plans. The Barangaroo Authority released a YouTube video of time-lapse images of the transformation of the slab on 27 July 2015. I have downloaded a link in an accompanying post. Hickson Road and a boardwalk are the only part of the slab to remain at the base of the escarpment west of High Street and its heritage listed terraces.

A underground subway station "expected to be located at Central Barangaroo" would have to remain deeply under the floor of the Harbour after passing under the deepest part of the Harbour. So what would this cost?

The underground station at Edinburgh Airport had been costed at half a billion pounds in 2006, because of the necessary provisions for fire emergencies and the need to facilitate evacuations - this was a year after the terrorist bombings in London. The plumetting Au$ makes it difficult to make conversions. No-one has built an underwater subway station anywhere in the world so it is impossible to estimated what it would cost to build one. Baird has set aside $84 million in the State Budget to supposedly find out.

Baird changed the plan at Barangaroo to give Packer absolute waterfront land at the southern end of Central Barangaroo without competative tendering and without disclosure of the terms of the contract. The announcement of a subway station can best be seen as a ploy to do the same to the remaining waterfront land at Central Barangaroo. It is not the developers that will meet cost of building a subway under the Harbour, whatever it would cost.

The coup de gråce for rail services south of the Harbour

One of the first acts of the Liberal Party government was to commission a "pre-feasability study" into Bus Rapid Transport from the Northern Beaches which was published in June 2012. None of the options short-listed came close to being economically viable.

Baird announced before the election that his government would fund a feasability study into a bus rapid transport corridor, which would reach the same conclusions, but would be required in order to declare the scheme a State Significant Major Project. The project required doubling the capacity of the Spit Bridge but it was never specified how this would be done. The pre-feasability study considered terminating the buses at Wynyard Park, as at present, or at the mysterious Victoria Cross, shown as adjacent to North Sydney and accessed via Falcon Street. The dot representing Victoria Cross has now drifted further north in TfNSW videos and crude maps but no-one knows where. So the terminus will be Wynyard Park.

In fact Northern Beaches bus services were stopped from accessing the traditional terminus at Lee Street at the beginning of November 2014. Passengers were forced to catch a George Street bus to reach the new terminus at Wynyard park. North Shore politicians truly believe they can do what they like with voters from the Northern Beaches.

Hills Buses will also be effectively terminated at Wynyard Park. This has not been formally announced but has been indicated in the "City Centre bus network map" detailing routes that will be implimented when George Street is closed for traffic. Baird will insist that there will be temporary pain before the trams run, but it will become progressively worse for the rest of the life of the City.

The route map shows Hills buses terminating at Druitt Street while buses from Pyrmont are sent north to King Street where they pass through the mother of all pinch points along with every bus from George Street and every bus from Oxford Street and Flinders Street. Will buses be forced to riffle-shuffle with private vehicles through the pinch point? The only buses that will be using the vast layovers at the Lee Street terminus when buses are forcibly terminated at Randwick and Kingsford are minor routes to Elizabeth Bay.

Unmanageable congestion in Elizabeth Street and Druitt Street will immediately force a revision of these bus routes.

Whether Hills buses terminate at Druitt Street or Wynyard park passengers will quickly realise that their best chance to transfer to a train or a Parramatta/City road bus will be to flood onto a City Circle train at Wynyard.

Preventing bus services from the Hills suburbs, the North Shore and the Northern Beaches from reaching Railway Square for the first time in the history of the City, except through the Elizabeth Street pinch point, will create overloading of the City Circle at its most critical point (Town Hall Station). The George Street trams will do nothing to relieve this congestion - the stops are too remote and inconvenient and the service cannot compete with the tube trains.

The localised overloading of the City Circle will cripple all the rail services south of the Harbour.

Monday, 27 July 2015

My trip to Europe

A trip to Europe to see the places from where my grandparents had migrated was part of a bucket list, but it was also an opportunity to observe and ride on tram systems that I had been studying on-line in the course of writing this blog. These are some of my observations, city by city.


Pantographs down at Place Garibaldi
The tramway in Nice is impeccably designed. The U-shaped route passes under the elevated motorway that was built alongside the elevated railway so trams do not obstruct arterial traffic. Bus services along the other main north-south road, Bd de Chimiez, terminate immediately to the north of the tram line and are unaffected by tram movements. The average speed of the trams over the 8.7 km route is 19 kph - faster than the bus services they replaced. The trams I travelled in were packed to the rafters. Paper tickets are validated on board for each journey. The trams have no signalling, relying on headways and drivers sight-lines for safety. The 100° curve moving into Place Garibaldi (shown left) has unimpeded sight-lines.

Followers of this blog will recall that Nice rejected the "third-rail" technology of Alstom. The trams run on nickle-metal-hydride batteries for a short section along Place Garibaldi. I had a terrifying demonstration of the wisdom of this decision. I had to travel by taxi to Nice airport in torrential rain. The drainage along large sections of the elevated motorway could not cope and vehicles were pumping sheets of water over the edge with their tyres. The driver handled it with aplomb - he had done it before.


Rosie Hackett bridge across Liffey
Dublin is constructing a Cross-City luas which will provide connections between the successful tramway to the north of and parallel to the Liffey river and a light rail to the south-east that uses abandoned rail lines. An additional bridge has been constructed across the Liffey exclusively for the south-bound tram rail and buses and taxis. O'Connell Street is one of the widest thoroughfares in Europe but only the north-bound rail will cross the O'Connell bridge and travel up the centre islands - two lines were evidently considered too disruptive during extensive consultations and inquiries that had been conducted since 2005.

Tickets have to be purchased before boarding the trams - there are ticket vending machines at all stops. With the introduction of an intergrated smartcard for all public transport, the touch-on/touch-off Leap Card, this is openly referred to as an honour system. Plain-clothed "Revenue Protection Officers" are being introduced to reduce fair evasion.


T-junction at Picadilly Gardens
 Manchester has an extensive tram network to supplement the urban rail network. The tram lines to the north literally pass through the heavy rail terminuses at Victoria and Piccadilly stations. The tram lines to the south enter central Manchester via abandoned elevated rail tracks to the former terminus of the Midland Central Express to London which is now a heritage-listed convention centre. This line comes down to earth to pass through the historic center and link up to the northern system at a T-junction at Picadilly Gardens (left). The noise levels at this junction, the inevitable screaching of metal on metal, have to be heard to be believed. Double-decker bus services from the south pass through the city centre to terminate with a U-turn in the south-east corner of the T-junction.

Manchester bus terminuses
Not all bus services from the south terminate here. Some buses cross the tram lines at the main artery for vehicular traffic, Portland Street, and continue as north-eastern sector bus services. Once buses cross the tram rails they remain separate from the tram lines - buses never share lanes with trams.

Most bus services to the to the north terminate to the north of Piccadilly Gardens or at a purpose-built bus transfer station adjacent to another tram stop north of a vast area of department stores and shopping malls. This transfer station operates like the bus transfer station at Bondi Junction with doors that open automatically when a bus is discharging or taking on passengers.

Manchester buses queued for U-turn
Public transport in Manchester has been designed to minimise crossings of the bus routes with the tram tracks, with good reason. This is in stark contrast to the deleriously incompetent tramway foist on Sydney by Chris Lock and Ms Berejiklian: all buses from Parramatta and City Roads cross the tram tracks at Eddy Avenue coming and going; buses forcibly terminated at Pitt Street are forced to cross tram rails a mind-numbing eight times in order to turn round.

The other stark contrast is in the location of the tram stops. Tram stops in Manchester are integrated into the railway terminals at Piccadilly and Victoria stations and the tram terminus of the southern tram lines is linked to a railway station at Deansgate by a footbridge over a canal - the famed canal alongside Canal Street. Tram stops are located between these stops, adjacent to the bus terminals. Free bus routes, one one-way (orange line) and one two-way (green line) also link the rail stations.

This is in contrast with the George Street tram stops that mindlessly replicate the train stations. Commuters whose bus services have been terminated at Wynyard park will have the choice of catching a City Circle train coming as frequently as modern signalling can achieve or a tram whose frequency is determined by congestion at Pitt Street. Free bus shuttles in Sydney will be obliterated.

The tram stop in the centre of Manchester is the pinch point that determines the capacity of north-south tram movements. The tram rails through the stop will be doubled with another dual track to the west passing along Corporation Street, a pedestrianised street passing through the area of shopping malls and department stores. One rail has been lain alongside the existing platforms, which will be closed down next month while the remaining lines and island platforms are built. The George Street tram capacity can never be increased.


Royal Scottish Academy
The statue of young Queen Victoria is clearly not amused by the chaos at her feet

Princes Street tram stop
Buses in Edinburgh have for æons used bus stops strung along Princes Street adjacent to Waverley Rail station, between North Bridge and the Scottish Academy, as an interchange for distributing services throughout Edinburgh. Now the buses are forced to share a single lane with trams at the most critical intersection for the bus distribution network.

The Mound, Edinburgh
The satellite images used by Google Earth were taken before Princes Street was closed to traffic and torn up, so they give a snapshot of what has been given up because of the trams. At the intersection in front the Scottish Academy buses turned right to the northern suburbs, left onto The Mound taking them back to the south-west or carried on towards Haymarket station. Now buses only circulate on to The Mound.

Kings wall (orange line)
The railways that extended north from the Midlands originally terminated at Haymarket to the west of Old Edinburgh town, which had been built on a ridge dominated by the Castle. Pedestrian streets, Closes, so narrow you can touch both sides with outstretched arms, sloped steeply from the central thoroughfare down to Nor' Loch and Cowgate and were easy to defend against Vikings, marauding Highland chieftains and the English. Houses were stacked eight stories high on top of shops and work places and, as in medieval London, sewerage was dumped into the streets. Cromwell was able to capture and hold the Castle but with the Restoration of a Scottish king to the English throne and the Act of Union the city expanded beyond the city walls. The Royal Mile was connected to Princes Street by North Bridge and to Chambers Street by South Bridge, over Cowgate, and Nor' Loch was reclaimed. The wealthy residents north of Princes Street objected to a railway through their parkland until an act of Parliament allowed the rail companies to burrow under The Mound and establish Waverley Station, which spans the entire valley. Railtracks never made it up the slopes and the rail lines continue east of Waverley to link with the lines on the east coast of England. A train line to the north, west of Haymarket, was closed as uneconomic and converted into a cycle path, as were lines to the port from the eastern tracks. Urban transport in Edinburgh has always been provided by buses operating on the roads along the ridges and the overpasses that connect them.

The Scottish Parliament passes an act to establish a rail station under Edinburgh Airport in 2007 and it received Royal accent. The underground station was costed at £500 million and would have been linked to the Forth Bridge line and the Haymarket-Glascow line. The Scottish National Party (SNP) manifesto at the election promised to scrap the station and also a proposal to build a tramway to the airport. The SNP-led minority government after the election commissioned a report from Audit Scotland that confirmed that the projectioned cost from 2003 of £498 for a tramway from the airport to the port was sound.

A draft business case had been accepted by the Scottish Parliament in March 2007 before the election on 3 May 2007. The plan for construction of the shared-road sections was drawn up by a joint design team from the infamous Parsons Brinkerhoff and Halcrow Group and work commenced in July 2007. The SNP-led minority government agreed to continue the scheme after a failed vote in Parliament, stipulating that no further public money would be available. SNP had 47 seats in the devolved Scottish Parliament, Labour 46, Conservatives 17, Liberal Democrats 16, Greens 2 and one independant. Edinburgh Council approved the final business case on 25 October 2007 months after work had commenced and had responsibility for the project through a wholly-owned subsiduary Transport Initiatives Edinburgh.

There was a moment of sanity on 25 August 2011 when Council voted to terminate the line at Haymarket. This actually made sense. The line from Haymarket to the airport is segregated from the road network with bridges over the rail lines and and a tunnel under the interchange at the start of the Edinburgh City Bypass, a free motorway around the coastal city. The frequency of services is limited only by demand and safety standards - there are many level crossings. Extending the line to St Andrews Square merely replicates the rail line to Waverley and ensures that congestion at the pinch point in front of the Scottish Academy will always determine the frequency of services. It is physically impossible for the two extra island stops to the west along Princes Street to ever transfer passengers to buses - they have a long walk to their destinations.

A week later Council reversed its decision and agreed to extend the tram line to St Andrew Square, after the Scottish Parliament threatened to withdraw funding. The tramline, shortened to half its length, cost over £1 billion when interest charges are factored in. It is universally described as a fiasco - half the length at twice the cost.

I wanted to get a photo of a tram queueing to go through the pinch point but they were so infrequent I gave up. This was a Saturday evening but airports don't close at weekends.

A statutory inquiry into the fiasco was set up by the Scottish Parliament on 7 November 2014 so public servants could be compelled to give evidence. It is expected to examine more than 2 million digital files and 200 boxes of documents.

Edinburgh compared with Sydney

New Town, Edinburgh 1819
It turns out that Edinburgh will get off relatively lightly compared to what is being inflicted on Sydney by the George Street trams. The George Street trams mindlessly replicate half the City Circle loop but they also obliterate all the places in the CBD where it is physically possible for buses to turn around.

New Town to the north of Nor' Loch was laid out in accordance with Georgian planning principles with orthogonal major roads alternated with minor roads and lanes. Melbourne and Adelaide have similar road structures. In Edinburgh this was achieved the same way as on Manhattan island - hillocks and outcrops were flattened and the rubble used to form The Mound. Planners were not encumbered by medieval land titles. Bus services can be rerouted to roads further north to avoid the chaos in Princes Street. Commuters will just have to walk further to catch a bus.

Diverting bus routes and other traffic away from the pinch point at The Mound could potentially allow the frequencies of the tram services in Edinburgh to be increased. This is not possible in Sydney where every bus from Broadway will be forced to pass through the intersection of Pitt Street and Eddy Avenue entering and leaving the CBD regardless of where they are terminated. The frequency of trams in George Street must inevitably decrease over the future life of the City of Sydney. The volume of general traffic through the intersections at either end of Eddy Avenue can never be diverted since Wentworth Avenue/Elizabeth Street is the major arterial road between the Eastern Suburbs and the rest of Sydney to the south and west, and the other routes, Cleveland Street and Gardener Road, are also stuffed by the tram rails. In Edinburgh traffic passing round the city centre using the City Bypass to the south or a route through the port, to the north, is unaffected by tram movements.

Trams in Edinburgh share a lane with buses only on the outbound route for a short distance in front of the Scottish Academy. In Sydney trams will share lanes with buses in both directions for an unspecified distance from the Kingsford terminus across Gardeners road. Every bus that transfers passengers at the terminus will be forced into these lanes regardless of where they are eventually forced to turn round. It is not known whether buses will turn right into Bunnerong Road from this lane or a separate right-turn lane. Parsons Brinkerhoff showed buses entering the shared lane at random - no attempt to maintain safe headways. This cannot be. It will not be possible to increase tram frequencies while this system persists. There are shared lanes in Centenial Park on the Randwick leg which creat the same problems.

The trams in Edinburgh do not pass through pedestrianised areas.

One can keep on producing odious comparisons of the George Street trams with all the other tram systems in the civilised word. There has never been a tramway as incompetently designed.

My observations have comfirmed the obvious: the George Street trams are the greatest mistake made by a city since the fall of Troy.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Push recruiting

A couple of weeks before Mike Baird became Premier ads appeared in newspapers asking for applications from qualified persons to apply for positions in the NSW Public Service. The ads defined the role of a public servant to give the minister for planning and infrastructure unbiased advice and said the recruitment drive was to deal with the large number of coal mining applications needing to be assessed. The ads were never proceeded with.

The ads for Project Director Light Rail make it clear the applicants will not have leave to give any independent advice. The light rail is described as high capacity, reliable and sustainable but it is not clear what is being sustained. The position "is accountable for the delivery of a world class light rail that is safe and reliable". Public Servants can not be sued for fatalities and injuries that are the result of incompetence so the successful applicant has nothing to fear.

I was told by the tech guy at the Surry Hills information session that the successful consortium bidding for the contract would be required to present an audit of the safety provisions before construction commenced. Clearly this has not occurred. ALSTOM is the only member of the ALTRAC consortium with assets sufficient for them to be sued, so ultimately they will be held accountable.

Chris Lock was stood down abruptly from his position as Deputy Director General of the Transport Projects division of TfNSW in April after a 10 year career. He appeared with Ms Berejiklian at the Sydney High "community forum" where he was howled down. He got a better reception later that week at a Randwick Businessman's breakfast but became a total recluse when people including myself pointed out the obvious flaws in his arguments. He continued to "work" full time on the project using complete lack of disclosure and deliberately contradictory information from the consultants to the EIS to avoid scrutiny.

"Pizza boy" Jeff Goodling has also been stood down. He explained a great length that he could not answer any technical questions about the light rail: his role was to "deliver the Project". I confronted him about the deliberate contradictions in the consultants descriptions in the EIS. He said these should be pointed out in submissions so they could be dealt with. In fact the consultants continued to produce contradictions up to the signing of the contract by Altrac.

The new Minister for Transport, facing the annihilation of his political ambitions, does not care what qualifications the naxt head of the department has on his CV. He is looking for a Public Servant with political skills to deal with "stake-holders" and hopefully con the general public. There will be no shortage of applicants seeking a position that has taxpayer-funded superannuation for life.