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Hundreds of extra train services will run through Sydney’s Inner West and T8 Airport lines every week under a $1 billion plan to increase peak-hour capacity by as much as 80 per cent on parts of the city’s transport network by 2024.
The NSW government will set aside the money in Thursday’s half-yearly budget update to bolster the existing rail network capacity in time for the Metro City and Southwest’s opening.
Sydney’s Town Hall Station during pre-pandemic peak hour.CREDIT:RYAN STUART
The plan will take existing services from the soon-to-be converted Sydenham to Bankstown line and funnel them into the T2, T8, T4 Illawarra Line and South Coast line. It will also include funding for new trains, however the government is yet to finalise a contract.
Morning peak services will increase by 80 per cent at the Domestic, International, Mascot and Green Square stations on the T8 line, while an extra 4800 customer spaces will be created on the Inner West Line, with a train expected every three minutes.
Services will also increase by 30 per cent, with space for 6000 more customers, on the T4 Illawarra Line. Non-peak services between Wollongong and Sydney will jump from hourly to half-hourly.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government needed to “future-proof” the network in a sign the state anticipates strong resurgence to its public transport network post-pandemic.
“Moving Bankstown Line services to the new standalone metro system removes an existing bottleneck and frees up capacity to deliver more services on other lines where it’s needed,” he said.
“One billion dollars in funding ensures we’re future-proofing the existing rail network to keep pace with demand.”
While patronage has recently pushed close to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the network spent much of 2020 operating at or below 50 per cent.
“The vaccine is going to change things and people are going to get their confidence back,” Mr Constance said.
“The vaccine is going to change things and people are going to get their confidence back.”
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance
“It’s going to be a major step forward in returning to a more normal way of life, and that is going to have an impact on our public transport patronage.
“We’re already seeing numbers on the rise, and they will return to pre-pandemic levels.”
The planned increase in train volume comes after the Berejiklian government committed $880 million to a digital upgrade of signalling on the two lines in the 2018 state budget.
Upgrades are being made to rail infrastructure including stabling yards, signalling, track, station platforms and power supply between Central, the T8 Airport Line tunnel and the South Coast.
A digital upgrade to signalling enables trains to travel closer together and increases frequency.
Automating protection systems on trains and tracks is also designed to allow trains to run at higher speeds while improving safety and reliability.
In 2018, then Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins – who is now the acting Transport for NSW secretary – said digitally upgrading the network was what helped increase London’s Tube capacity from three to five million people.
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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