Fixing the Parramatta Light Rail fiasco and public transport vandalism.

The proposed Parramatta Light Rail is a complete fiasco.

  • The cost is blowing out to $3.5 B ……which makes blowing $2.5B on rebuilding 3 stadiums sound like good value!
  • A historic pub will be demolished
  • Parramatta “Eat Street” to be buried in construction dust
  • The proposed route through Parramatta – down congested Church Street – makes no sense. Villiers Street and Marsden then left into Macquarie St would avoid Church Street.
  • It effectively goes nowhere by terminating at Carlingford.

The only redeeming feature is that it might make the other light rail fiasco …the one STILL not running down George Street Sydney and hidden by chicken wire and tumbleweeds ….look half good.

Like the Sydney CBD light rail, the Parramatta Light Rail would seem to be nothing more than some lip stick on a “pig” where the pig is the plan to sell off a massive chunk of North Parramatta public open space to private interests and allow the allocation of juicy redevelopment opportunities to the finance and development inner circles of “mates” favoured by the government of Gladys Berejiklian.

All fuelled by an out of control immigration program run by the likes of Mr Peter Dutton in Canberra that has everything to do with the interests of Big Business and very little to do with ‘sharing boundless plains’ or building a fair and equitable community.


There is still time for Gladys and local member for Parramatta Mr Geoff Lee to change direction and save some face but they need to hurry.  The government is melting down as we speak as their ideological obsession with privatisation continues to explode as “partnership” deals with the private sector fall apart.

The Original Sin – Destroying the Parramatta to Chatswood heavy rail connection

The Clyde to Carlingford rail corridor was supposed to be the other half of the Chatswood to Parramatta heavy rail link.  It was intended to allow full sized “grownup”  double decker Waratah trains (the ones with lots of seats and nice aircon)  to run from the T1 Western Line at Parramatta up the tracks to Carlingford and then, via a short tunnel, to Epping where they would then run via Chatswood to the City.

A Parramatta to City route via Chatswood and the lower North Shore would have allowed a massive number of passengers who are currently travelling on the T1 Western line via the city to North Sydney and the North Shore to bypass the city and harbour bridge completely.

A good part of the reason the trains running from the Western suburbs to the city on the T1 Western Line are now so jam packed in the peak hours is that the solution, allowing those wanting to cross the harbour to go via Chatswood, was vandalised by the NSW Liberal government.

That panic look that you see so often in Gladys’ eyes and the increasingly desperate promises to deliver a Metro West rail option as soon as possible are because she knows that the rail meltdowns we are experiencing on a near weekly basis are a mess of her (and Mickey Baird and Bumper O’Farrell) government’s own making.

An act of public transport vandalism that was so blatant that it rates as one of the grubbiest in the sordid history of NSW politics.

And that is no mean feat as no one does sordid like Sydney.

So what was the vandalism?

The nature of the vandalism is straight forward.

  • Rather than build a proper heavy rail route from the North West to the City via Epping,  East Denistone, Top Ryde, Ryde, Gladesville, Drummoyne and Balmain (see map below) the Liberals thought they could get away with a cheapo version by pinching the Chatswood to Epping section of the Parramatta to Chatswood heavy rail project.
  • They figured this would allow them to get away with just building a new section of tunnels from Epping to Rouse Hill.
  • However, in order to be able to “sell off” a section of the rail network to their finance and development “mates” they needed to make this “new” section incompatible with the rest of the network.
  • To do this they decided on a “Metro” single deck rail solution and use that as an excuse to make the tunnels for the new section past Epping too small for the standard Sydney fleet.
  • The Metro decision: The people of North Western Sydney will find that standing in a Metro carriage clinging to a strap for 50 minutes will be quite unpleasant compared to the comfy bus seats they now enjoy right to the centre of the CBD or could have enjoyed if the Liberals did the job properly and built heavy rail sized tunnels.  But that is a small price compared to the Liberal Party ‘hacks’ enjoyment received from sabotaging a chunk of the public transport network.
  • Yes I kid you not. They actually dug the Metro tunnels too small to ever be used by the rest of the Sydney heavy rail fleet.  It is more than a little ironic that the Liberal government are now desperately widening the tracks over the Blue Mountains to make those “narrow” tunnels compatible with the wider standard fleet and the new wide intercity trains they have ordered from Korea.
  • To complete the vandalism “project” they are now shutting down the Chatswood to Epping section for seven months from September 2018 so they can make sure that this section is also unable to be ever used again by the standard Sydney heavy rail fleet.
  • Once the Chatswood to Epping section is made unusable by the standard rail carriages used by the rest of the network, the thinking seems to be that there will be less resistance when they want to sell off the Metro to their mates.
  • The problem with this grand plan was that they did not think about what was going to happen when tens of thousands of people were dumped by the Metro at Chatswood station and had to board the existing heavy rail North Shore Line to get to the city.
  • To solve this lack of foresight, rather than simply duplicate the North Shore heavy rail line from Chatswood to North Sydney and across the bridge (perhaps by reclaiming the eastern side of the bridge that already had tunnels to Wynyard station) or by a tunnel under the harbour, they decided to dig a completely new underground route to the city at vast expense.
  • Why? because they needed to maintain the ‘new’ Metro standard all the way to the city.
  • Yet the new stations they are building for this duplicated North Shore line will be within 500 metres of the existing St Leonards and North Sydney stations.  Billions and billions of dollars to duplicate existing railway stations on the North Shors.  Absolutely nuts and very expensive nuts at that. Surely the Liberals understand that splashing dough on the North Shore will not win them any new seats?
  • To justify this great new silvertail expense they then decided to pinch the Bankstown line as well. Which means another perfectly good rail line will be shut down to be converted to “Metro” toy train standards and then sold off to Gladys’s banking and development mates with rights to pack towers of units right along the route.

The lunacy of this public transport vandalism will be exposed when the proposed new heavy rail from Badgery Creek reaches Schofields station and has to terminate there because the heavy rail cannot fit down the bunny holes that were dug for the North West Metro.

All those passengers from the new airport will be forced to drag their bags off the train they caught from the airport and onto the private “Metro” line that Gladys will by then have flogged off to some mates.

So what can be done to salvage some value for Western Sydney and Sydney as a whole?

Without a doubt the government should now immediately rip up the plans for the Parramatta Light Rail.  At least to the extent it travels down Church Street through Parramatta and uses the Carlingford rail corridor.

Having permanently sabotaged the original Parramatta to Chatswood heavy rail plan they should now join Chatswood to Parramatta with a “Metro” rail link between Epping and Parramatta.

While it may be too late to change the “Metro” plan for the Chatswood to Epping section, there is no reason that the new Metro cannot branch at Epping with some trains heading towards the North West and some heading towards Parramatta along the original route for the Parramatta to Chatswood link.


The promise was trains every 4 minutes to the North West.  Trains every 8 minutes to the North West and every 8 mins to Parramatta will be more than enough.  If that is not enough they can extend the North Western Metro down to Gladesville and Balmain…the route it should always have followed (See the blue line running south of Epping) and run them every 4 mins.

When the Chatswood to Epping line was built it was always intended that it would continue to Parramatta. Thus while ramps were built at Epping to connect it to the main North line, stub tunnels were also built at Epping so tunnels could eventually be dug through to Carlingford station a distance of only a few kilometres (top green line in picture below)


The surface track from Carlingford can then be duplicated and wired for Metro services at relatively low cost (red line above).

Somewhere near Camelia or Rosehill racecourse short tunnels can then be dug through to Parramatta station, only a distance of a few kilometres (bottom green line) That will allow passengers to change at Parramatta for Metro services via Epping to Chatswood, North Sydney and the City.

A fast Metro connection between Chatswood and Parramatta with

  • Macquarie University,
  • the University of Western Sydney,
  • connections at Epping to the main North Rail Line and the Metro rail to the North West and
  • the North Ryde “Silicon Valley” area

in between should be a “no brainer” but then for a government with no brains and too much ideology it might be too hard.

What about west of Parramatta

While a service from Parramatta to Chatswood will be an enormous achievement and at much much lower cost then digging tunnels all the way from Parramatta to the City underground via the bays, it makes sense to start thinking about where the Metro might go west or south west of Parramatta.

A possible option might be southwest including:

  • Merrylands West,
  • Smithfield
  • Wetherill Park
  • Prairewood
  • Edensor Park
  • Bonnyrigg
  • and then on to Hoxton Park and terminating at Leppington.

This will certainly help cement Parramatta as a central business district for Western Sydney as it will have multiple connections / spokes radiating out in all directions.


What about the ALP and the Greens

What they need to do is obvious.

They need to promise to rip up the current plan for the Parramatta light rail and promise to extend the ‘Metro’ rail from Epping to Parramatta after the next election.

Extending it towards the south west with construction paid for by a tax on the value of the land that increases in value as a result of better transport links would seem a sensible plan but that may be asking too much from our current crop of pollies.


Categories: Macrobusiness

10 replies »

  1. “The Original Sin – Destroying the Parramatta to Chatswood heavy rail connection”

    That is exactly right. I have written following posts about it:

    Sydney planning chaos: New Planning Review makes no provision for light rail at Epping station (part 2)

    Sydney planning chaos: New Planning Review makes no provision for light rail at Epping station (part 1)

    Sydney mismanages transition to driver-less single deck trains (part 2)

    Sydney plans to dismantle rail infrastructure built just 6 years ago (part 1)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Crude Oil!

      Fantastic posts and should be read by all.

      You sound like you are right across the technical issues.

      On the assumption that converting Chatswood to Epping back to Heavy Rail will be practically impossible once converted, would it be possible to have the Metro branch at Epping in the way I describe to allow metro services to Parramatta and the North West using the ‘stub’ tunnels constructed when the Chatswood to Epping link was constructed?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nick Greiner was Head of Infrastructure NSW and its the same old story – he invited MTR to come in and tender for the metro as a driver-less and incompatible system in part to stick it to his traditional enemies at the rail union but also to provide ‘mates’ with greater opportunities to make money from the partially-privatised Sydney Transport system.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thousands of seats were removed from Melbourne trains to make crush-loading easier; it’s now quite difficult to get a seat. Incidentally Brisbane has a narrower gauge than Sydney but Melbourne’s gauge is actually broader – a stupid mistake that harks back to the colonial era.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is interesting. Wider gauge! I wonder why they never went down the double decker route. Perhaps capacity was not much of an issue back in the day or perhaps the wiring is too low to allow for double decks. I doubt that they were thinking about double decks when they set up the electric wiring in Sydney.


      • Vic/SA went with 5’3″, NSW went with ‘standard’ gauge (after originally agreeing to 5’3″) and QLD/WA went with ‘Cape gauge’ which is 3’6″ – unfortunately the colonies operated too much like countries.

        Sydney’s double deck trains do require much larger clearances; there was a lot of modification to the Sydney network in the 1960’s when double-deck trains came in. Melbourne had an experimental Tangara in the early 1990’s but it was restricted to two lines because of clearance issues. There were just too many problems with network compatibility so they decided to stick with single deck.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. We have a lot of vandalism of our own here in Hellbourne – the VLine is effectively a Metro train for all intents and purposes. There’s a huge volume of people who commute daily from Geelong, Ballarat, the peninsula etc, apparently the ATO has all predictive processing it needs to draw blood from the rocks we don’t export but, alas, Transport has a 486 running Windows 95 on dual-purpose, or something.

    Liked by 1 person

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