Today (Monday 2/6) is the last opportunity to lodge a comment on the so-called Sydney Metro.
The reason I say so-called Metro, is because this isn’t really a Metro. It has some of the features of a Metro, but not the good ones.
This is neither a Metro, nor is it regular heavy rail – it is the worst of both worlds.
A normal metro spends about 25% of its time loading and unloading passengers, so having 3 doors instead of 2 is a significant saving. But a normal metro has stops between 400m and 800m apart. This so-called metro will have 2km between stops, and often more. It will spend perhaps 12% of its time waiting for passengers to load and unload. The time saving from the extra doors is therefore only a small percentage of the travel time, and it comes as the cost of capacity.
This matters, because normal metros run short distances. It is no great inconvenience to stand for a short period of time, and there are enough seats for those that can’t. This so-called metro will have people standing for up to 40 minutes, after which they will have to change trains, and on a typical day, keep standing all the way in to the city. Many people physically cannot do that.
Double decker trains carry more people, in more comfort. The extra capacity is worth more than the marginal increase in dwell time.
While Metros can run with less headway than heavy rail, this so-called metro will not. It will run with a headway of 4 minutes. Several of Sydney’s heavy rail lines already have headway less than that, and others could, with upgraded signalling and power.
The tunnels are planned to be just slightly too small for other Sydney trains. There is no justification for this. For not much extra cost, the tunnels could be just a bit bigger, giving the option to run regular trains, or perhaps to run larger metro trains, if that turns out to be the way of the future. This would avoid the need for passengers to interchange between lines, and would make the whole network more flexible.
There could have been and should have been an extra stop or two in Alexandria – 5km with no stops does not make sense for a metro. Further, the current location of the Waterloo Station lacks logic. It is too far from Redfern station and Green Square station to serve as an interchange. But it is close enough to both that a large part of its catchment area is already covered by Redfern or Green Square stations. The station should either have been close enough to Redfern that it could serve as an interchange, or it should have been in an area not already well covered, such as Dank St, or other more southern parts of Alexandria, or as proposed earlier, Sydney University.
Adding a new station to the Airport line would not be cheap, but this Metro (so called) will not be cheap either, and it is an inferior solution, as designed. A better investment would to add a new station to the Airport line, upgrade signalling and power supply to allow more trains to run on the existing lines, and perhaps add extra tracks out to Erskineville and beyond – there is land reserved, though there are apparently OH&S issues if that land is used for tracks.