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The O'Farrell government and Transport for NSW should release analysis proving single-deck trains are a better fit for Sydney than double-deckers with more seats, transport experts say.
Sydney's train plan, released last year by Premier Barry O'Farrell and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, commits to converting about a third of Sydney's rail system to single-deck trains.
The north-west rail link will be dug with tunnels too small to allow double-deck trains to fit, meaning that if the government honours its promise to link the new line under the city through another harbour crossing, large parts of the rest of the rail network will also convert to single-deck trains.
Transport economist Neil Douglas, who has done extensive work for rail operators in NSW, said the government should release its analysis that showed single-deck trains had a better cost-benefit ratio than other options.
Dr Douglas did the original economic appraisal for the north-west rail link when it was promised by the Labor government in 2005. He said the project then had a cost of about $1.8 billion, when it was meant to use Sydney's double-deck trains and link in with the rest of the RailCorp network.
But the latest proposal is to run it with smaller trains operated by a private company. The project now has an estimated cost of $8.3 billion.
Dr Douglas said it should be possible to read an economic justification for why the plans for the project had changed. But the government has not released one.
Another expert who has worked on Sydney's rail system said it was ''crazy'' the government was locking double-deck trains out of the north-west rail link and the lines it would connect to.
Keith Still, a professor of crowd science in Britain, worked on the Sydney Olympics, modelling the relationship between different types of trains and how long they spent at stations.
Professor Still said double-deck trains proved more efficient.
''Better dwell times, more seats, more comfort for longer distances,'' he said.
A Transport for NSW spokesman said the department conducted an ''extensive study'' of operations in Sydney before deciding on its plan but would not release the analysis. ''Experts also studied, visited and analysed the highest-performing capacity railways in the world,'' the spokesman said. ''Single-deck trains can travel up steeper grades, or hills, than the existing suburban trains.
''This means that when the rapid transit network is extended under the harbour, the stations in the CBD will not need to be as deep.''
In northern Sydney, some residents are organising a petition to have the north-west rail link's smaller trains, and the disruption the new line will cause, debated in Parliament.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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