BY ALEXANDER LEWIS
Don’t like changing trains on the way to work? Well, you’re going to have to get used to doing it a whole lot more, according to NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
The Sydney Metro, for which the government unveiled plans earlier this year, will supposedly double the capacity of our train network.
But part of the plans involve replacing the existing double-decker service along the Bankstown line with single-deck driverless trains that end at Bankstown, stoking a fiery debate at a budget estimates hearing last Tuesday.
When asked by the Greens Transport spokeswoman, Mehreen Faruqi, whether the metro would be an improvement for the thousands of people who lived west of Bankstown who would have to start changing trains to get to the city, Mr Constance said “people are going to have to get used to interchanging.”
“Some 1.6 million people are going to move into town between now and 2031. We have to face the facts: People are going to have to get used to interchanging,” Mr Constance said.
“It happens elsewhere around the world. It is going to happen here. Commuters are interchanging every day of the week as we speak. There is going to be more interchanging.”
Ms Faruqi also questioned Mr Constance as to why the Bankstown line had been specifically chosen to accommodate the new service.
“Given that the Bankstown line had about 15 million journeys in 2014 and there are other lines that have much higher journeys, like the Western line with 34 million journeys,” she said, “why not improve the capacity of lines that are overloaded?”
Mr Constance did not answer the question specifically but said the government was building greater capacity into the entire network by separating out the lines.
“All lines are constrained by the city circle as all lines head there,” he said.
Ms Faruqi told City Hub that converting double-deck services to single-deck services along lines such as Bankstown would reduce capacity across the entire network.
“The government’s position in estimates really showed how little thought has gone into this project, which will fundamentally change the entire way our train network operates. They will not release any detailed studies or cost-benefit analyses that show it is the best solution for Sydney, and it was admitted that the Metro doesn’t have a business case, nor has it been assessed by Infrastructure NSW,” she said.
“People along the Northern and Bankstown lines will suffer for a long time on inadequate replacement services while the Metro is being imposed, then the rest of Sydney will suffer from a lower capacity service.
Ms Faruqi said the Greens would prefer the government to improve the capacity of the current network through heavy investment in modern, automated signalling, as well as through the introduction of more light rail.
But according to Mr Constance, improved signalling throughout the existing network had been part of the plan all along.
“I note that the Labor Party and The Greens are opposed to the project. You voted against the funding of the project in the Parliament. You voted against the $1 billion to go into the Western line to do exactly what you are talking about in regard to improved signalling,” he said.