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THE State Government agency building Sydney's controversial $5.3 billion City Metro has vastly overestimated the number of people who will use the service, official figures reveal.
The figures, obtained by the Herald from CityRail records, show the Sydney Metro Authority has almost doubled the number of potential passengers who might board the metro at Central.
The revelations come just weeks before three construction teams lodge their bids to build the seven-kilometre line between Central and Rozelle.
The authority's environmental assessment identifies Central as the key to the success of the project, saying it is ''expected to be the single busiest station for the CBD Metro''.
Critically, it predicts that, during the busiest hour of morning peak, between 4400 and 5920 passengers will transfer to the metro from Central Coast and Blue Mountains services.
But the CityRail figures, which rail industry sources have reviewed for the Herald, show that only 2514 people now transfer during that time. Even if every one of these passengers boarded the metro, the numbers would still fall short of estimates by up to 3400 people.
Even worse for the metro's prospects, the figures, compiled from ticket sales and head counts, reveal that only 1371 of these 2514 passengers will be travelling to the three CBD stations served by the metro. A rail expert who has also reviewed the forecasts said: "Based on existing CityRail ticketing data, the metro's worst-case scenario for passenger numbers of 4400 is still more than twice the likely patronage figure."
The 1371 people who may take the metro would all fit on to just one full Tangara train, undercutting the metro's claim that it will provide relief for overcrowded CityRail stations in the CBD.
"A simple cost-benefit analysis would suggest that the benefit of one train per hour for a cost of $5.3 billion hardly seems good value,'' the expert, who asked not to be identified, told the Herald.
The new CityRail timetable, which began two weeks ago, freed up capacity for up to three extra trains from Sydney's west to the city. This suggests the suburban rail system can adapt to minor changes in demand, easily providing more relief than what the metro is offering.
The metro authority said its projections ''reflect the fact the metro will provide an alternative for CityRail passengers currently transferring at both Redfern and Central''.
In a statement, the agency added: ''Many passengers who currently alight at Redfern from CityRail services are expected to continue to Central to use the metro.''
But rail experts say passengers who currently change at Redfern, crossing from platform one to three, would face a walk of more than half a kilometre to reach the metro platforms at Central.
The metro authority also said: ''New metro stations at Barangaroo, Pyrmont and Rozelle are also expected to generate a growth in demand from other CityRail passengers, because of the faster and more frequent metro services to these destinations.''
Barangaroo station, however, would be located beside Wynyard, giving CityRail passengers little incentive to change to the metro at Central.
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