Government must test replacement system before any rail cut decision, says Save Our Rail – MEDIA RELEASE 11/11/2012

Save our Rail today calls on the NSW Government to conduct a trial suspension of rail services before making any final decision to cut Newcastle rail infrastructure or services.

Responding to strong rumours that a decision to cut the Newcastle rail line was imminent, Joan Dawson, President of Save Our Rail, said it would be irresponsible of the state government to make any final decision on the fate of the line without a prior trial of the proposed replacement system.

“The government constantly tells us their budget is tight, so before they make any final commitment to spending hundreds of millions of dollars to cut the rail line, we’re calling on them to test it first to see if and how it would work”, Mrs Dawson said.

Such a trial should simulate as closely as possible the intended truncation, so as to be able to analyse accurately how it would impact on:

  • customer satisfaction
  • traffic management and road use, including possible road closures
  • financial implications, including the cost to provide and run replacement buses
  • the ability of the replacement system to cope with variable passenger numbers
  • the viability of affected businesses

Mrs Dawson suggested that the trial should operate on weekends only, in order to minimise the impact on regular commuters, and for at least ten weeks in order to test how it would cope with variable passenger loads.

“Any responsible, caring government would ensure maximum benefit to the whole community would result before spending a significant amount of scarce public money to remove transport infrastructure”, Mrs Dawson said.

“In the case of the Newcastle rail line this includes all rail users who travel to and from  Newcastle Station – from the Hunter, the Central Coast and the rest of NSW.

“A trial before any final decision would demonstrate the genuineness of the government’s commitment to the goals expressed in its own NSW 2021 State Plan on accountability, transparency and giving the community a say in decisions.

“The attached document highlights key elements that we believe should be incorporated into a credible trial”, Mrs Dawson said.

Joan Dawson: President,    Kim Cross: Vice President,

PH: 0408 618 198


Trial Criteria

This document scopes the elements required for a credible trial of alternative transport arrangements for any decision to terminate CityRail rail services west of Newcastle station.

It is suggested that the trial be conducted over weekends (Sat /Sun) to minimise disruption to commuters (e.g. workers / students, people with appointments and business) and to run for a minimum of 10 weekends to adequately reflect passenger load variations under a range of conditions, such as weather and/or events and activities. 

As near as possible, a trial should replicate, monitor and report on:

The location of any proposed new terminus, recognizing that, due to a lack of rail terminating infrastructure at some locations, a trial from the exact location may be impractical, e.g.

  • Hamilton may have to be used instead of Wickham, west of Stewart Avenue
  • Broadmeadow may have to be used instead of locations within the Woodville triangle

Cessation of all RailCorp services at stations proposed to be closed (e.g. toilets, change rooms, ticket offices, etc). Private businesses at these locations would obviously continue to operate.

Any possible changed conditions, such as the closure of Railway St and Beaumont St as identified as a consequence of the proposed Wickham terminus (AECOM 2010)

  • Monitor by undertaking extensive traffic survey including ‘tracking’ displaced vehicles and impacts on alternative road routes

Additional crossings at several locations (e.g.Worth Place, Steel St) (temporary removable structures)

  • Monitor usage of  crossings under typical weekend activity scenarios (Temporary pedestrian crossing most likely due to higher capital cost of vehicle crossings)

The type of bus (make/model) and passenger capacity for all buses to be used as an alternative to trains, including the legal seat capacity, stand capacity, DDA access compliance and number of doors for each bus.

The detailed alternative bus operation plan with full timetable(s) and route map(s) and incorporating

  • The detailed costing of alternative bus operations, including;
    • Labour cost (including on-cost) for all staff (e.g. drivers, cleaners, administration etc.)
    • Other bus operating costs (including fuel, maintenance, wear and tear, non-labour cleaning costs such as detergents, water power etc)
    • ‘Back-up’ bus costs for any additional buses on ‘stand-by’ to account for variable train load conditions

Specific elements of the alternative bus plan should include information such as;

  1. Mono or bi-directional bus route(s)
  2. Applicable bus stops.
  3. Inclusion of any bus priority measures
  4. Duration of service (e.g., whether 24hrs or less)
    • If less than 24hrs, describe arrangements for train passengers outside alternative bus operation times
  5. Whether the alternative bus service will be based on:
    •  A ‘set frequency’ such as a bus every 15-min, 10-min, 5-min etc including any changes to the ‘set frequency’ at different times of the day
    • A ‘dedicated service’ such that buses are only scheduled to meet each train, both inbound & outbound
    • A combination of ‘set frequency’ and ‘dedicated’ services
  6. Whether buses will be dedicated to rail passengers or available to all:
    • If dedicated to rail passengers indicate the process for identification as ‘genuine’ rail passenger, in particular for those outbound from City Centre, who have not yet purchased a ticket and the process for ‘excluding’ others.
    • If available to ALL identify the system to ‘count’ the number of non-rail passengers using the service
  7. System to monitor bus loading and unloading times with varying passenger demand numbers.
    • Monitor difference in loading times between inbound and outbound
    • Full bus with all seats and standing room occupied takes much longer to load and unload compared to partially full
    • Important information for use in detailed patronage impact assessment
  8. System to monitor whether any rail passengers have extended delays due to insufficient bus capacity for each train service. This may vary depending on the type of replacement service (as described above in Pts 4, 5, 6 and 7).