Don't overlook Metro's new route potential

Sydney's latest transport projects have experienced significant teething problems, only worsened by problems with the new train timetable.

But there has been a 30 per cent growth in public transport use in the past five years, and the Metro and new light rail will ensure Sydney can continue to cope with such growth for the next 40.

 Before the 2011 election, the Herald, frustrated by a decade of inaction on transport, established an independent public inquiry, chaired by Ron Christie, to formulate a public transport plan for Sydney. 

The Opal card was introduced, construction began on major Metro and light rail projects and more rail, bus and ferry services were brought on line.

Real-time information and travel apps have made public transport more convenient. But more train drivers and trains are needed to accommodate growth in passenger numbers on the existing rail system.

The CBD-South-East light rail has been controversial. But light rail has made a successful comeback around the world - Sydney's inner west light rail has had 60 per cent patronage growth since 2015. All indications are the new line may be one of the most well-patronised corridors in the world when it opens in 2019.

The Metro extends rail to Sydney's north-west, which sorely needs it, and also introduces driverless trains and platform screen doors that will enhance efficiency and safety. It provides additional capacity across the harbour and through the city. 

The Metro needs to be extended south if it is not to be an orphan system. Converting the Bankstown line, as the government has proposed, will enable more frequent, faster and higher capacity services on that line.

But it will be expensive and disruptive during construction. One factor often overlooked, however, is that the Metro, with capacity for at least 30 trains per hour, will allow a further line north of the harbour (for example, to Spit Junction and later to Mona Vale), and a further line south of the harbour (such as one along the F6 corridor beside Botany Bay). The growing metrosystem will thus provide relief to the existing heavy rail system.

Rather than arguing endlessly about the merits of projects underway, Sydney would do better to keep planning and building for a future where driverless shuttle buses feed into heavy rail, metro and light rail networks.

  • Dr Garry Glazebrook (pictured) is a transport and urban planner.