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RUSH hour commuters will be forced to wait for at least two crowded trains to go through Chatswood station before being able to continue their journey to the city, under the O'Farrell government's centrepiece $9 billion transport project.
The government's decision to build the north-west rail link as a shuttle between Epping and Chatswood, breaking its promise to allow trains to run all the way to the city, will lead to potential chaos for many north shore and Hills district commuters.
Thousands of commuters disembarking at Chatswood will be unable to get on city-bound trains already operating at capacity. And passengers getting off the north-west trains may struggle to fit on the crowded platform at Chatswood.
With an ''optimised'' timetable for the north-west rail link, more than 40 per cent of peak-hour passengers transferring to the city at Chatswood will be unable to get on the next service because it will be too crowded, according to analysis commissioned by Transport for NSW and obtained by the Herald.
Further, more than 15 per cent of them will be unable to fit on the next two citybound trains on the north shore line.
The analysis was commissioned and done just before the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, and the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, announced the new model for the north-west rail link on June 20.
Last night Ms Berejiklian said one of two environmental impact statements required for the link has received planning approval.
Under the model, the line will be built and run by a private operator rather than RailCorp. Transport for NSW hired consultants from the engineering firm Arup to look at whether Chatswood Station could cope with the passengers transferring to citybound trains.
Arup modelled what would happen if one peak-hour train on the north shore line was cancelled which, on RailCorp's record, would happen about once a fortnight. In this case, 62 per cent of north-west rail link passengers would not fit on the first train to the city. Almost 40 per cent would not fit on the second train. More than 20 per cent of passengers - about 1900 people - would have to wait for a fourth, fifth or sixth train. In this scenario there would be ''extreme difficulties to alight and to enter the platform from stair'', a summary of the analysis says.
''Patrons entering the station have difficulty moving away from the stair and patrons coming off NWRL services … cannot exit carriages due to congestion,'' the summary says.
Even with a good running service, queueing levels would exceed good practice. ''Modelling doesn't take into consideration the frustration and anxiety of missing trains,'' it says.
The modelling assumes 8880 people will get off the north-west rail link at Chatswood to transfer to the lower north shore or city.
Using freedom-of-information laws, the Herald requested the analysis in July. The response from Transport for NSW redacted all substantial analysis, in part because it said releasing it could jeopardise procurement for the line. The department said the analysis was only preliminary because it was based on assumptions still being developed.
The Herald obtained sections of the analysis independently.
A spokesman for Transport for NSW said the modelling obtained by the Herald assumed 20 trains an hour on the north shore line in the morning peak.
''We are undertaking work to determine what improvements need to be made to the network to run 24 trains an hour,'' he said.
Ms Berejiklian said: ''The government is working to make this a world best-practice interchange and we are confident we will deliver that.
"Everything that has been presented to me by Transport for NSW leaves me in no doubt that Sydney's rail future has been well thought through.''
The government's infrastructure adviser, Infrastructure NSW, will release its plan for new tollroads through the inner west and south of Sydney tomorrow.
It will also recommend building an airport at Badgerys Creek, a move that is not supported by the O'Farrell government.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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