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The North West Rail Link

Jun 29, 2012Hot Topic

The NSW Government recently released its plan for the North West Rail Link. The rail link will be 23km long, including 15km of tunnels between Bella Vista and Epping – the longest and deepest tunnels ever built in Australia.

It’s being billed as the solution to the transport woes of our growing North West region.

But is really all its cracked up to be?

The North West Rail Link will be the first rail line to feature new generation single deck, high frequency trains which will operate from the North West to Chatswood, arriving every five minutes. No timetable, just turn up and go.

The line will be privately owned, eight new stations will be created and plans to create a second harbour crossing are already underway.

And these ‘new generation’ trains will be Automatic Train Operation (ATO) trains, which the government says will mean the trains will be able to accelerate much faster.

We all know the North West Rail Link is a vital piece of infrastructure, but have the government got the planning right? Is all the government spin hiding what is bound to be a lacklustre attempt at solving the transport woes of the North West region?

Instead of the smooth, hassle-free journey into the city that the government are saying we’ll get, will we actually see a very different reality?

Will we see overcrowding as passengers are forced into single-deck trains?

Will Chatswood cope as people are forced to change trains to get into the city?

Will the splitting of the rail network into different pieces run by different operators spell disaster?

Is the move to Automatic Train Operation (ATO), really just the first step towards driverless trains?

Is the fact that this is the first step in privatisation of the passenger train network a worrying move?

The O’Farrell Government has long promised an integrated long-term strategy for Sydney’s passenger rail system, but isn’t this the exact opposite? With trains operated by multiple operators can we expect to see more complicated fare structures and disjointed timetabling?

And by privatising the line, is the Government opening the gates for the travelling public to be charged a fortune for the pleasure of the journey? The Airport Link is the only other private line, and private operators there have heaped exorbitant travel fares on commuters and made the service totally unviable.

The O’Farrell Government is investing $3.3 billion into the North West Rail Link over the next four years, with $360 million in this year’s State Budget alone. The tender process for the construction has already begun. The government is ploughing ahead – but are they going the right way?

Here’s the NSW Government’s overview document.

What’s your view?