The problem with the CBD Metro
11 September 2009
The morning was clear, bright and windy when I strolled across Werrong Lane to the Brushtail Café. Old Possum was propping up the bar with a long black and the papers, chuckling to himself.
“Ye Gods! This McGurk killing. I feel like I’ve stepped back in time 30 years. Any moment now, Peter Baldwin will stagger through the door with his face beaten to a pulp”. He sipped his long black with wry amusement. “I mean, Joe Meissner gets a mention here in the SMH. Remember how the papers used to style him ‘The sub-machinegun salesman of South Sydney’ … and Richo. He’s wandered onto the set as well … I thought they died years ago. It’s like living in an episode of ‘Life on Mars’.”
“What is it about the ALP? Where do they get these friends and relations?”
“I call it the new, fast, shonky money factor. Once upon a time they used to get their money from the unions and ordinary working folk. Now they get most of it from seedy developers and merchant banks.”
Just then Joadja came back to the bar. She’d been in the back room making up placards for a demo against the CBD Metro proposal and brought in a piece of her handiwork to show off. She’d found a particularly witty photo of David Campbell and Nathan Rees and had embellished it with dialogue. Campbell was asking “But what’ll we do for the Westies, Nathan?” and Nathan was saying “They’ll just have to wait”.
“The whole insidious problem with the CBD Metro idea is that it’ll completely sabotage any future expansion of the heavy rail network”, Old remarked.
“Because the city is the choke-point for the entire network. Sooner or later – and the way people are being forced back onto public transport by peak oil, it’s going be sooner – we’ll need a couple of additional rail tracks through the city.
“Anyway, years ago, the rail planners reserved a couple of corridors under the city, and the most important one is under Pitt Street. That’s the one they’re going to use for the CBD Metro.”
“So if they use that, we can’t increase CityRail services?”
“Exactly … well not by much anyway. Whereas, if you unblock that choke-point with extra heavy rail track, you could increase services right across Sydney by 50 per cent. That means a station that now has a train every 15 minutes could have a train every ten minutes. And that would apply to over 250 stations. That’s not something you want to throw away.
“But what the CBD Metro is going to do is worse than that. The devil is in the detail. You see, the Metro would have to go under the CityRail lines at Martin Place and at Wynyard. That puts it deep down. I mean really deep. It isn’t practical to go any deeper, so in the future, there couldn’t be any new tunnels running north-south through the city – and that’s the death-knell for any expansion of services.
“But wait – it gets even worse. Some metro-style lines would be a good thing, but this silly CBD Metro idea also prevents them from happening in the future.”
“Where would these good metro lines go?”
“Well there really should be a line to Mosman and the northern Beaches, and metro would be ideal for that, and a Northern Beaches line could run through to the CBD then turn south East and go down to University of NSW and Maroubra Junction. There are a couple of different planning options for that, but with the CBD Metro in place you couldn’t build either because the CBD Metro would be in the way.”
“But hang on … there are only two tracks over the Harbour Bridge. Isn’t that a choke-point too?”
“There’s a bit of spare capacity there, but it will be pretty soon. There’s a couple of options for fixing that problem. The CityRail boys always wanted a rail tunnel under the harbour and, in the long-term it will be necessary, but obviously it would be very costly and it suffers from the problem that it has to go deep, which means steep gradients – not good for trains. That Dr Glazebrook from UTS has come up with another option. He’d take back the two eastern lanes of the bridge and use them for rail – they used to be used for trams you know.”
“Sounds like a great idea to me. It’d be a tiny fraction of the cost of a new under-harbour crossing. I mean, traffic isn’t growing, in fact it’s falling on most roads and the harbour tunnel is way below capacity. The cars can just go there.”
“Okay troops, time to leave for the demo” said Joadja emerging from the back room with the rest of her placards.
“Why not?” I said. “We just gotta stop this desperate mob of weird incompetents from stuffing up our beloved city any more. But Old, you mentioned that CityRail had plans for all these options for rail under the CBD. How come these things aren’t out there in the public domain. Why should they be a state secret?”
(There is no suggestion Joe Meissner, Richo, any Rees Government identity or indeed any of the 40 official suspects were involved in the murder of Michael McGurk).