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Crush and load: life on a peak-hour train

| 01.06,09. 12:25 PM |

Crush and load: life on a peak-hour train


June 1, 2009
EVERY major Sydney rail line other than the Eastern Suburbs line is overcrowded in morning and afternoon peaks. Five other lines are operating on or near the "crush load" capacity of 135 per cent every morning.

RailCorp survey figures show that of 110 trains in the morning peak measured, 73.6 per cent had a load of more than 100 per cent of seating capacity. In the afternoon, 52.6 per cent of 93 afternoon trains were over 100 per cent capacity.

The figures, released under freedom of information laws to the Opposition, show trains travelling south are operating at 145 per cent between 8am and 9am; main north trains are operating at 140 per cent between 7.30am and 8.30am, and the western line is operating at 125 per cent between 5 and 6pm.

The fact many passengers are going without seats during peak hour and trains are so packed was described by the state Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, yesterday as a sign the Labor Government had failed "to plan for growth on the rail network".

But the Government said it showed "an increasing number of people are choosing train travel".

The situation appears worse in morning peaks, during which the southern line operates at an average load of 145 per cent, the North Shore line and Illawarra lines at 130 per cent (all between 8 and 9am) and the Bankstown line 130 per cent between the survey times of 7.58 to 8.58am.

In the afternoon, after the western line at 125 per cent, the worst lines are the South line (125 per cent), Illawarra at 110 and Main North at 110 (all between 5 and 6pm).

One aim of the western metro project is to relieve congestion on the western line. But the metro looks likely to take decades to get off the ground, if it ever does, after the Federal Government provided just $91 million in the budget for it.

The only line which consistently seems to escape the crush is the Eastern Suburbs line to Bondi Junction, which operates at 60 per cent in the morning and 55 per cent in the afternoon.

Mr O'Farrell said the figures proved how incompetent the Government was with its 2005 decision to introduce a new timetable with "2000 weekly train services" axed to achieve better "on-time running".

"It's a further demonstration that [Premier] Nathan Rees has the wrong priorities and it's the people of NSW who are paying the price," he said.

"Getting to and from work shouldn't be a daily struggle for commuters - all they want are safe, clean and reliable services - and Labor has shown it's incapable of delivering it.

"And the bad news for long-suffering commuters is the additional carriages due on the tracks last year may not even arrive until 2011 and they are already way over-budget."

The Transport Minister, David Campbell, said more people were "choosing train travel as their preferred method of transport".

"The international standard of four people per square metre on a train is the equivalent to a load factor of about 160 per cent of seated capacity on CityRail's carriages," he said. "It's important to point out that the load capacity of 100 per cent refers to seated passengers only.

"Nonetheless, we recognise that crowding on our trains is an issue and this is why have recently delivered new outer suburban train carriages and introduced an additional service and extra carriages on the western line in the peak hour."

SMH



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