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July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Sydney began adding extra buses and trains to its public transportation system today to cope with an influx of people descending on the city for a glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI during World Youth Day celebrations.
To cater to the extra volume of commuters, 45 additional trains and 2,500 buses will run on the city's transportation network, said Adam Berry, a spokesman for World Youth Day.
The crowds expected by organizers in downtown Sydney today will test the city's ability to move large volumes of people on a network of railways more than 150 years old.
Today will see ``the largest passenger movement in the city's history,'' Berry said. ``We're expecting 350,000 people to move out of the city using trains; the same for buses.''
Commuters should expect crowds on trains and transport hubs throughout the day, especially after the 81-year-old pontiff's journey along the city's waterfront.
The pontiff is scheduled today to tour the city's iconic harbor in a 13-vessel ``boat-a-cade'' past the Opera House and underneath the Harbor Bridge to Barangaroo wharf, where he will address a crowd of more than 100,000 pilgrims.
The state government has advised commuters to leave their cars at home during the weeklong event in a bid to reduce traffic in the city by 30 percent.
The pope's visit has placed the city's rail lines and buses under scrutiny. Rail unions, in the midst of a pay dispute with the New South Wales government, last week threatened a 24-hour strike today. The strike was eventually called off.
Scuttled efforts by the New South Wales government to develop a single ticketing system for all of Sydney's buses, trains and ferries has earned criticism from the state's opposition and international transportation authorities.
Failure to introduce the so-called T-Card ticket system has tarnished Sydney's reputation, Hans Rat, secretary-general of the International Association of Public Transport, told the Sydney Morning Herald last month.
Sydney's transportation system has become the ``laughing stock of the world,'' New South Wales opposition leader Barry O'Farrell told reporters in June.
About 200 commuters were trapped in a tunnel in the city's east for more than 40 minutes when their train broke down because of a power failure, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported more than a week ago.
Commuters have long complained about delays on the city's rail system. The city's metropolitan network daily operates more than 1,500 carriages over 2,060 kilometers of track, according to an e-mail from RailCorp spokesman Paul Rea.
In 2007, an independent report by Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway Corporation found that Sydney's trains travel on average 32 kilometers (20 miles) before getting delayed, whereas trains in Hong Kong travel 396 km.
Sydney organizers have urged those attending World Youth Day events to take public transportation to avoid traffic. Train services have been maintained for morning and afternoon commuter peaks. Regular users have been asked travel into the city between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and to leave between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Trains will run at capacity, World Youth Day's Berry said. ``We usually run two peak period trains a day, but every day this week we are running four peak period trains,'' he said.
World Youth Day has been billed as the largest youth gathering in the world and is the biggest festival Australia has hosted. Organizers expect 140,000 pilgrims to converge on the waterfront today for a chance to see the pope.
More than 300 city streets have been closed to traffic during the celebrations to make way for pilgrims. The event will climax with an overnight vigil on July 19 at the Royal Randwick Racecourse followed by an open-air mass the next day that organizers say will draw more than 500,000 people.
One consequence of all the road closures: Sydney's George Street has become a pedestrian walkway populated by lunchtime office workers, shoppers, Catholic pilgrims waving their country's flags and police standing guard.
Some supporters of the tourism industry like what they see.
``Creative solutions to our transport problems can reduce urban congestion, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve Sydney's liveability for workers and residents alike,'' the Tourism and Transport Forum said in an e-mailed news release this week. ``Tackling congesting is a major factor in making Sydney a better place to live.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Krissie Vitasa in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: July 17, 2008 00:56 EDT
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