St George and shire rail commuters to benefit from budget funding for digitalised signalling

Update

A packed train on the Illawarra line.

A packed train on the Illawarra line.

An extra five trains per hour will run on the T4 Illawarra line during morning and afternoon peak periods as a result of a signalling upgrade to be funded in the state budget.

The technology improvements will also allow eight more services an hour on the T8 Airport Line.

However, the extra services won’t be added until the “early 2020s” and will be introduced “progressively”, with an unclear completion date.

In the meantime, commuters will have to put up with trains that are often seriously overcrowded in peak periods.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced at Sutherland station on Sunday the T4 and T8 lines would be the first to benefit from state budget funding of $880 million for technology improvements on the Sydney Trains network.

Ms Berejiklian said the extra five trains on the Illawarra line, including an extra two services on the Cronulla branch line, would increase capacity by up to 30 per cent.

The improvements on the Airport Line would mean trains at least on average every four minutes instead of every six minutes, along with extra services from Revesby, she said.

“These upgrades will be delivered in stages with services coming online progressively from the early 2020s,” she said.

Ms Berejiklian said the Sydney rail network was “complex and reliant on old technologies which limits the number of services we can provide”.

Cronulla MP and Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the T4 line was “at overcapacity in peak hour”.

“At the moment, we can’t physically fit even one extra train on in peak hour, so I’m thrilled that the T4 will be one of the first two lines to get modern signalling, to dramatically increase capacity on our busy train line,” he said.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance said the T4 and T8 lines were being given priority because of the significant passenger growth.

“The program will start to upgrade parts of the network with state-of-the-art digitalised signalling and control systems used by some of the best railways around the world,” he said.

“While we’re building the world class Sydney Metro, it’s important we take action to bring the existing suburban, intercity, and freight services into the 21st Century.’

Mr Constance said “the initial investment of $880 million will go towards developing and starting deployment of digital systems to replace legacy signalling and train control with modern, internationally proven, intelligent systems”.

“It will also be used for planning the initial stages of the T4 and T8 program, which over the next 10 years will deliver:

  • “More services that will reduce wait times, meet demand and provide more seats for long distance customers.
  • “Faster travel times for customers through digital train control technology and upgraded rail infrastructure, creating more opportunities for express trains.
  • “Improved reliability and reduce customer impacts from incidents.”

Mr Speakman said the 10-year timeframe did not apply to the T4 and T8 lines, but to the whole network upgrade.

Earlier

Passengers try to board an overcrowded train at Kogarah.

Passengers try to board an overcrowded train at Kogarah.

Relief is on the way for travellers on the overcrowded T4 and T8 train lines.

The state government has announced $880 will be provided in this month’s state budget to digitalise signalling on the Eastern Suburbs-Illawarra and Airport-South lines.

This will enable an increase in the number of services and reduce overcrowding.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian will provide more details at a media conference in the shire on Sunday.

Sydney Trains chief executive Howard Collins told The Leader in May new signalling and control systems were the key to catering for increasing passenger numbers on the Illawarra line.

Mr Collins said a SmartRail review being carried out by Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW was expected to lead to the ability to run more trains.

The Illawarra line was set up to accommodate the change because it was “fairly self contained”, he said.

Transport for NSW has previously refuted claims the SmartRail project was linked to plans to privatise the line.

Handing the line to a private operator has long been a goal of transport bureaucrats, with the line already operating relatively independently from the rest of Sydney’s complicated rail system.