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Thousands of commuters face journey times of at least an extra 10 minutes when buses are used to replace train services during the seven-month shutdown of the Epping-to-Chatswood rail line from late next year.
More than 120 new buses will run as often as every six minutes during peak periods, connecting stations disrupted by the conversion of the existing 13-kilometre heavy rail line, which only opened in 2009, to carry single-deck metro trains.
The conversion of the line is part of the first stage of Sydney's $20 billion-plus metro railway from Rouse Hill in the north-west to Chatswood.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance urged the more than 14,000 commuters who would be affected by the closure to "bear with us", saying they would eventually experience a "transformative" service.
"It is going to be a challenge, which is why we are urging people to plan their trips," he said.
"There is very significant congestion out there [on the roads] but we will run the buses at the same time as we are investing in the infrastructure to try to assist bus movements."
As part of the changes, a shuttle bus will run between Epping and Macquarie University, as well as express and all-stop services between Epping and Chatswood.
The other new bus routes will include Beecroft to St Leonards; St Leonards to Macquarie University; Eastwood to Macquarie Park; and Epping to Macquarie Park.
Mr Constance said the exact date for the line's closure in the second half of next year was not likely to be made public until about a month beforehand so as not to confuse people.
The three main stations affected by the rail closure are Macquarie Park, Macquarie University and North Ryde.
Optus, one of the largest businesses at Macquarie Park, has named the end of November 2018 as itspreferred date for the shutdownbecause of a drop in traffic to and from Macquarie University at that time.
Mr Constance said the conversion of the Epping-Chatswood line to metro, which would include construction of glass screens on platforms, additional signalling and electrical work, was due to be completed by the middle of 2019.
That means the first stage of the metro line could open after the state election in March of that year.
The government will spend $49 million on alternative transport during the closure of the line.
Of that, $35 million will be for the contract for private bus operators Hillsbus and Transdev to provide the extra services. An extra 120 bus drivers will be hired.
CBD co-ordinator-general Marg Prendergast said commuters would probably spend at least an extra 10 minutes travelling from Epping to Sydney's CBD but exactly how much longer their journey times were likely to be would not be known until bus schedules and timetables were completed.
"We will be flexible and agile - we will cater for what we see," she said. "We are confident that we have the buses and the plan to do it."
Ms Prendergast said fares for the alternative bus services would be the same as they would be if commuters were using the rail line.
"We're coding Opal to actually be like a weekend rail close-down," she said.
Tens of thousands of commuters who travel by train between Bankstown and Sydenham each day will also be forced to catch buses for up to two months each year for five years from 2019 while the line in Sydney's west is converted to carry metro trains.
It is part of the second stage of the new metro railway, which will run from Chatswood under Sydney Harbour to the CBD, and on to Sydenham and Bankstown.
The first driverless train for the new metro railway is due to arrive in NSW in the next two months.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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