Sydney planning chaos: New Planning Review makes no provision for light rail at Epping station (part 1)

A planning review for Sydney’s suburb of Epping which started in 2016 contains an interim traffic report with a focus on cars and parking.

No land or road space is set aside for a light rail terminus at Epping station which is needed to continue the proposed light rail Parramatta – Carlingford to Epping. Nor is provision made for a 4th above ground track through Epping station which is necessary for a full quadruplication from Strathfield to Hornsby. All this despite an IEA warning there will be an oil supply gap around 2020.

The need for a rail connection between Epping and Parramatta was identified almost 20 years ago (1998!) in the plan “Action for Transport 2010”

as part of a rail link starting in Chatswood. It was promised for completion in 2006.

PRL_planned_train_services_1999_for_2006Fig 1 Parramatta Rail Link original EIS (p 5) March 2000

The original idea was to divert Western trains away from the Strathfield – CBD corridor which at the time of the EIS was estimated to reach capacity by 2016. Commuters west of Parramatta working in the corridor North Sydney – Chatswood have to go through the CBD.

The Chatswood-Epping tunnel was built and opened in 2008 but when treasurer Costa came to office he cancelled the Epping – Parramatta leg (PERL) because he thought that an initial 16,500 passengers would not be sufficient to justify the expenditure. The real reason was that he did not like rail because “any person who steps on a train costs me money.”

PERL became a political football in the 2010 federal election and it was never built.

The result is that west bound trains in the evening peak are filling up before reaching the CBD to continue to Parramatta, just as predicted. Thank you Mr. Costa.


Fig 2: Standing only at Wynyard

When a new NSW government came to power in March 2011, the focus shifted to planning the Epping – Rouse Hill rail tunnel. But the original planning for the ubiquitous Sydney double deckers was changed to single deck automatic trains. The Parramatta stubs were moved 500 m north but the tunnel has a smaller diameter now so that double deckers cannot use it.

The original North West Rail Link has now been rebadged into a metro although the distance between stations was designed for heavy rail – while a genuine metro stops every 1,000 m or so and would usually run through a high density area. But what does not exist can be created – by building high rise residential towers around all stations like what is happening in Castle Hill:


Fig 3: Australians do not want to stay in high rise flats and cannot afford them anyway

Automatic trains were introduced for ideological reasons (union bashing) and the signals in the Epping-Chatswood tunnel for conventional trains are proposed to be removed in 2018. The loss of operational flexibility is mind-boggling. The whole rail planning Parramatta – Chatswood has now been irreversibly botched.

Sydney mismanages transition to driver-less single deck trains (part 2)

Sydney plans to dismantle rail infrastructure built just 6 years ago (part 1)

All this will be bitterly regretted in the coming oil crisis when trains will be full to bursting if only 10% of motorists try to catch trains.

Parra_light_rail_alignmentFig 4: Parramatta light rail alignment

Current planning is for a light rail from Parramatta to Carlingford. That is easy as it involves converting and duplicating an existing heavy rail line.
But the hard part is Carlingford-Epping. At a public meeting in August 2016 we were told that the continuation is a State matter. As if it is not the State government which forces population targets onto Councils which then have to deal with the consequences.

The light rail proposal Parramatta – Carlingford is the final nail in the PERL coffin. It is basically a low floor tram. And since the North West “Metro” does not connect to the Richmond line at Schoefields the bottleneck for western trains will continue. An unbelievable strategic blunder of the 1st order for the whole rail network of Sydney.

A proper mass transit light rail which could somehow be considered to replace a heavy rail link must be up to 100 m long trains in peak hr as they are used in Frankfurt.


Fig 5: Frankfurt (700K population) running light rail trains up to 100 m in peak hr.

Anyway, let’s see how we could continue to Epping:

The location of the Carlingford station on the LR map seems to suggest that there is no intention to continue on Pennant Hills Rd (steep hill and sharp 90 degrees intersection with Carlingford Rd). That is promising because at least a short tunnel is needed up to Carlingford Court shopping centre (under the car park corner Carlingford Rd – Rembrandt St) which should be the next stop (that was forgotten in the original PERL EIS)


Fig  6: Carlingford station

However, flats with underground car parks have already been built near or over the alignment of such a tunnel, forcing it to be lower than preferable for the level of a station under Carlingford Court. This is another example of botched planning.

Carlingford_station_end_lineFig 7: View north: end of the line at Carlingford


Fig 8: In the original PERL EIS, Carlingford station was underground, and no station under the shopping centre, also an inexcusable omission.

Fig 9: Plan of the original PERL EIS between Carlingford and the shopping centre.

The Baulkham Hills Council had a precinct plan.


Fig 10:  This is an excerpt from the Carlingford precinct plan on page 9. Who approved this tunnel alignment? It is definitely not that of the Original PERL EIS. It seems Councils do their own rail planning

See Part D Section 12
part_d_section_12_-_carlingford_precinct.pdf from:

They had a completely different alignment for a rail tunnel between Keeler St and Carlingford Rd.

This block is now full of flats with deep underground car parks

How can you build a rail tunnel under these foundations?  The location is already in a valley.

Fig 11: Embankment collapse in Keeler St due to cheap and hasty construction

Fig 12: The black line shows a possible alignment under the Carlingford Court car park which is just 100 m long. The only problem is Rembrandt St. Traffic lights would have to guide the safe access of rail cars to and from the underground station.

Fig 13: How do we connect Carlingford Court station with Epping station? Ramps could come out from the shopping centre station but on one side the flats are too near with all their own ramps. That should never have been approved. When I presented the flawed traffic reports to the Hornsby Council I was told that Council only rubberstamps what the NSW government tells them to do. The proper planning would have been an internal access road between the 2 rows of flats connecting to Carlingford Rd at the traffic lights with Rembrandt St.

No space for public transport was set aside, not even a bus-bay. Bad, car oriented planning everywhere.

There would be following solutions on Carlingford Rd:

Fig 14: Light rail vertical alignment options

The LRT solution on Carlingford Rd will definitely mean the end of car oriented planning. Traffic lights ahead of moving trains would clear the road.

A variant to the LRT layout would be to run the LR on the outer lanes. There should be at least one stop, at West Epping Public school.

In the 2nd part we are looking for light rail terminus sites at Epping station (Beecroft Rd) and the Council car park in Rawson St.

To be continued in part2