This will be a rather short post since this isn’t really my information, but more rather a very useful resource for train fanatics and train travellers alike. I’m not sure how many would have come across nswrail.net but they are a treasure trove of information about the NSW Rail Network.
Many may have heard that UNSW was supposed to have a train station. In fact, many may not even know this was the case. Consulting nswrail.net, it was supposed to be part of the Eastern Suburbs line – a station called University. It would appear that it was planned around the late 1970s – way before my time. Having heard occasional murmurs, and the occasional jealous comment at Macquarie Uni’s station – there is the fact – plain and simple.
It’s quite funny because they were only just recently talking about light rail to UNSW. As part of their 20-year transport master plan, light rail features prominently. Unfortunately, to me, it seems like a poor solution. I will admit, I am no expert, but it seems ironic that once, Sydney had trams (a cousin of light-rail), and seemed happy to be rid of them, at least by the way people seemed to joke about Melbourne and their trams. And all of a sudden, we seem to be coming back to the same idea, just that it’s a more modern looking tram.
In fact, the Sydney Light Rail itself was never quite that popular. It definitely got more popular after it was integrated into myMulti tickets – but many of their tram stop ticket kiosks have been taken out of action likely because they just don’t see the volume of people they were expecting. And they move at a glacial pace around the city. This might be because heavy trains are slow to stop, and people are quick to jump onto the road in the city. Imagine hopping on a train at that glacial pace all the way from Central to UNSW … express? Not a chance!
The problem is obvious – light rail shares the road. We all know how grid-locked Sydney traffic is, and by sharing the road we are definitely making the traffic worse. While the document claims that the light rail can carry more passengers, and reduce the jams due to buses – buses are not confined to a single track and can often travel fairly quickly, and we generally overload them anyway! By the time you work out the vehicle lengths and compare them – light rail’s advantage is purely marginal. It would appear that the light rail is claimed to carry 300 but is twice as long as a bendy bus which carries 100 according to the document. I hazard to say we fit more than that into a bendy bus – but it seems like an awful lot of work for little gain …
And where will we find the space to build extra lanes if we weren’t going to share the road? Are we going to have an elevated roadway? It would be nice, but expensive. And if we just built extra lanes – we would still have to share the junctions with the rest of them – waiting for traffic lights. Not as bad, I admit, but still not optimal. It sounds as enticing as a bus lane which is just a little bit of red and white paint and a traffic camera. And a sure way to piss off all the drivers.
Worse still, light-rail may have to contend with irresponsible drivers in the case of shared lanes – broken down vehicles, and delays from other trams on the same line. We all know what it’s like when CityRail has a major disruption – I just can’t see light rail working at all, given the large volume of student flow we presently have. They claim that Light Rail is quite reliable and has good metrics – possibly based on the present limited network – but the larger the network, the more numerous your trams, the more likely they will run into trouble. Buses suffer many breakdowns and accidents per hour – but at least when they do, that doesn’t stop the whole line.
Many of them already travel by train – myself included – so I think a fully-fledged train line, isolated from the road, will do wonders in reducing the bus traffic, while simultaneously improving the travelling experience given the larger capacity of trains. But the services do have to be frequent enough, and the reliability has to be good enough.
I think it’s likely to just be one of those things done by the government to appease those light rail to Dulwich Hill campaigners – why not extend it to UNSW as well and reap some more support? There has to be something visibly done to get support, so lets do something but not necessarily what needs to be done.
The saddest thing is, regardless what happens, I probably won’t see it in place by the time I leave UNSW – and that will be after at least eight years of attendance and bus queues. It may just be as lofty as the Parramatta to Chatswood Rail Link (now just Epping to Chatswood), and the North-West Rail Link (which looks like it might finally happen, but be a bit shorter than what was originally promised – all the way to Schofields).
After all of this, it still seems absurd the amount of travelling students have to do, and the sheer number of students which make the trek to uni every day. The amount of greenhouse gases released due to travelling to uni may be extremely significant, regardless of the mode of transport.
Enough ranting, back to rail stuff! When travelling around the network, sometimes you will see branches, spurs which seemingly lead to unusual places but are generally disused or see little traffic. Pretty much all of them are listed on nswrail.net. Also listed are the origins of the names of the places where there are stations, and stations which have since closed down.