Sydney's rail future

Parts of Sydney’s rail network will be converted to a high-frequency, metro-style, single deck system, the state government announced today, while also commiting to an eventual second harbour train crossing.

But the government performed an about-face on the North West Rail Link, declaring it would be a privately-run shuttle between Rouse Hill and Chatswood, reversing an earlier pledge to run trains from the north west all the way into the city.

The decision means commuters travelling on the new rail line, and people travelling between Epping and Chatswood, will need to change trains at Chatswood for services to the city.

The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, and the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, made the announcements on “Sydney’s Rail Future” at a press conference at Parliament House this afternoon.

As foreshadowed by the Herald this month, they said the government would commit to building a second rail crossing for Sydney harbour some time after the North West Rail Link was finished in about 2019.

The second crossing would result in a 60 per cent increase in the number of trains that could make it through the city, Mr O’Farrell and Ms Berejiklian said.

The North West Rail Link will be operated under a public private partnership. The line will be built to offer a high-frequency, single deck train service between Rouse Hill and Epping, and the existing Epping to Chatswood line will need to be upgraded to cater for the different type of trains.

Ms Berejiklian said the government would retain control of fares and timetables on the line, even though the trains would be run by a private company.

In other announcements today, Ms Berejiklian and Mr O’Farrell said:

  • Planning work would soon start on a second rail crossing for Sydney harbour.
  • Once the second crossing was built, it would link single-deck trains from the North West Rail Link to the Bankstown Line and the Illawarra Line to Hurstville.
  • The Epping to Parramatta train line was not part of Sydney’s immediate future.

The government is yet to hand down its draft transport masterplan, but made the announcement on Sydney’s train future today because it needs to brief industry about its plans for the North West Rail Link next week.

“Through the extensive consultation we have done with industry, the community and experts via the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan, and when we’ve looked at the best examples overseas, it has become clear that what we are announcing today is the best option for all of Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“This is a long-term transformation of our rail network – introducing rapid transit to the system to deliver major increases in capacity and frequency for greater Sydney.”

Ms Berejiklian said boring machines would begin work on the North West Rail Link in 2014, with expressions of interest for the construction contract to be called for later this month.

Ms Berejiklian would not set a timeframe for the building of the second harbour crossing.

The second crossing would be constructed under the harbour, the Transport Minister said.

– with AAP