Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trains and the North West

Looks like the SMH doesn't plan to publish my letter on the North-west rail line, so I'll blog instead.

The decision to change the North-West rail from an above ground interchange to a through connection under Epping is not new. This revision was made under the previous Government before the project was scrapped in the face of opposition from the residents of leafy Cheltenham prior to the 2007 election.

A memorable quote from a public meeting at the time was the resident who said “if people want a train line they should live in Cheltenham, not in the North West”.

We again see the potential utility of public transport investments being compromised by objections posing as environmental concerns. This follows the loss of one station on the Epping Chatswood section due to the decision to go under rather than over the Lane Cove River.

The decision however does not reduce the utility of the line. The Strathfield-Central section of the network is heavily congested. Bringing more trains up the North Shore line is a better option.

But the best option is the final NW line plan that incorporated a new harbour crossing and additional CBD stations. The last proposal - before it was scrapped due to the loss of funding from electricity privatisation - was for a tunnel to the East of the existing crossings.

In the context of the Barrangaroo development however I wonder whether sufficient consideration has been given to a rail crossing to the West. This could use the existing track behind Luna Park to access the tunnel to the North. to the south the tunnel could continue under Barrangaroo providing the possibility for a station closer to this development than Wynyard. A further station could be located near Darling Harbour. From there there are alternatives of connecting to Central or swinging West to connect to the White Bay goods line which could then be used for passenger heavy rail.

Ultimately though we don't need a string of separately announced plans for different lines. We need a forward commitment that says $X will be spent EVERY YEAR building new tracks around Sydney. We could then include extensions of the eastern suburbs line, additional branches in the West and a line up the Northern Penninsula.

Finally, let me note that prior to the 2003 State election the Liberals took up the cause of every resident who claimed the Epping-Chatswood line would damage property prices for affected residents. It hasn't. Will they apologise for the fear-mongering.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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