Some thoughts (somewhat interconnected and jump around) about planning Sydney’s future transport, with a prime focus on rail at the CBD end, using that most reliable planning base the Sydney UBD !

Road – Some vital elements in forward planning for the Sydney road network include an F3-M2 connection and a western bypass of Sydney CBD connecting the North Shore to the Mascot/Botany area and in the process providing a truck link from the north (presently Pacific Highway and SH Bridge) the North West (presently Victoria Road) and the West (presently M4 and Parramatta Road) to Mascot and Botany. The Blueprint printed in the newspaper, which presumably was based on RTA demand forecasting, has joined these two proposals in his 20 year forward plan and provided these links – hence we can forecast with some relatively high degree of certainty that they will be in place within 10-20 years. Funding should not be a major issue as the links, although very expensive in road funding terms, would be highly effective road links that would attract PPP’s and toll funding. But the Blueprint proposal is not as costly as the current F3-M2 proposal at about $4 billion, which in my view is too costly in terms of benefits it would achieve and the amount in would take from the transport budget. (i.e. it is the wrong solution and hence if built it will fall into the same category as the Cross City Tunnel, Lane Cove Tunnel and Chatswood-Epping Tunnel; preferably it will not be built but simply continue to be postponed, as seems to be the case,  until a more viable solution is adopted

The abovementioned road project has the consequence of removing road traffic from the SH Bridge – the equivalent of two lanes that presently use the Western Distributor – in fact as Chris Stapleton showed a Western Bypass would have such a dramatic effect on traffic across the SH Bridge that it would even be practical to remove the Western Distributor – I am not promoting that. But with reduction of traffic across the SH Bridge it does provide an opportunity to revert lanes 7 and 8 to rail as originally intended by Bradfield – restore its heritage status. Even if this could not be achieved (through expected RTA opposition, which hopefully will be resolved by the restructure proposal for transport) there is a relatively low cost option to restore lanes 7 and 8 traffic to the bridge by a local connection that was examined some years ago by DMR>RTA. That is hang 2 car only lanes below the deck connecting Milsons Point to CBD North – From Broughton Street and Alfred Street on the north side of the SHB to George Street and Fort Street on the south side – a relatively low cost connection compared to the SMH proposal to hang rail tracks for which the connection back into the rail network would be extremely and probably prohibitively costly.

So within 10-20 years we should have the potential to revert lanes 7 and 8 on the SH Bridge to rail. [I am aware that rail on lanes 7 and 8 means we would lose the Cahill Expressway as a traffic artery – this in my view is not an issue as traffic on it today is light, < 1 traffic lane capacity each way at peak – that could readily be carried in the SH Tunnel and Cross City Tunnel. Also if we wish to retain the Cahill Expressway it would be much more useful to Sydney CBD if the western end was pushed through to Kent Street.

Rail – A Future rail crossing of the Harbour, say within 15-20 years appears vital for rail. Cost like all rail projects will cause postponement after postponement if unduly high. I quesstimate a Wynyard to Chatswood duplication via lanes 7 and 8 of the SH Bridge would cost < $1 billion. A comparable tunnel connection under the Harbour from say Martin Place to St Leonards and thence duplication to Chatswood is quesstimated of the order of $5 billion perhaps more (the crossing of the Harbour alone would be about $2 billion, based on the SH Tunnel cost). The first to me appears highly viable the second another CBD Metro type project which would in my view would just continue to be reviewed postponed, reviewed postponed as it does not seem to stack up with benefits achieved and draw down on the Transport budget.

The second project vital to Sydney immediately (within 5 years) is Parramatta (Westmead) to the CBD as per FROGS Rail Plan Stage 1. The CBD end was left undetermined in that plan but it now seems that it must link to two CBD Stations as well as Central to provide effective linking with the existing network. To this end desirable it should go to platforms 26 and 27 at the eastern end of Central to provide effective interchange, thence to a new station at Town Hall for passenger distribution to the CBD and interchange with the rail network and to another CBD central station –  probably best to Martin Place but presumably at or near Wynyard would equally suit. {Note all agree Barangaroo is nonsense as a CBD Rail Station at Barangaroo even with King Street Warf development does not generate rail passengers sufficient for a rail destination and it is too remote from the CBD in elevation to provide an effective CBD location. The best way to link Barrangaroo to the CBD is a pedestrian and cycleway link,, necessarily by lift and relatively level link or by moving footway/cycleway).   The preferable rail option is achieved by  joining the two rail connections above - the cross Harbour link to the CBD Inner City Station on the Parramatta-CBD line – this is a key element in rail planning. It also appears that it may be impractical to join the new Town Hall station to the existing unused Wynyard Station to suit option 1 above for a Harbour crossing and we must go under the Harbour. But if we are to be realistic with rail planning and stop the grandiose schemes that never happen we must get rail down to practical proposals – perhaps second best but at least they happen.

So if we are serious in terms of transport planning and that means practical in funding terms, the issue becomes a choice between two viable options, both probably second best –

1.      Terminate Parramatta – CBD at Town Hall and possibly another station near Martin Place and terminate North Shore duplication at existing unused Wynyard Station; OR

2.      Find a practical solution to link the new Town Hall Station to the existing unused Wynyard Station even if not perfect.   

I would appreciate comments on these thoughts.

Ken Dobinson


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