By Paul Hemsley
The New South Wales government has awarded a major contract to two Italian companies to build the so-called ‘skytrain’ section of the long-awaited $8.3 billion North West Rail Link.
The contract valued at $340 million has been awarded to the Impregilo-Salini joint venture to construct the elevated railway line that runs at four kilometres, including a new 270 metre cable-stayed bridge over Windsor Road at Rouse Hill.
The North West Rail Link is scheduled to open in 2019 and is intended to bridge the big geographical gap between Sydney’s northern line and the western line that involuntarily funnels many commuters onto congested highways.
However while there is cross party support for new infrastructure, a fierce debate is still raging between transport advocates over what kind of rolling stock best suits Sydney’s needs.
A big difference between the North West Rail Link service and Sydney’s existing network will be the use of new single deck trains supposed to run more frequently than existing services using double decker cars.
An advantage of the single deck trains is that they have more doors and shorter dwell times than their double decker counterparts that are the backbone of on the rest of the metropolitan railway network.
A result of choosing the single deck trains is that new skytrain line will be built to run only these new trains that are presently in the conceptual phase.
However the plan change in rolling stock has triggered a backlash from the NSW Greens, who are urging the government to retain double decker trains to cater for outer Sydney’s growing population and have taken issue with the construction of a separate class of line rather than integrating existing trains.
Tunnels are a big issue because once they are bored for smaller trains, larger trains will not be able to fit.
NSW Greens MP and Transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi likened the single deck service to a “second monorail” for Sydney.
She claimed that it is “going to be little more than a private shuttle” between Rouse Hill and Chatswood.
Dr Faruqi called for Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian to make adjustments to ensure that double decker trains can run on both the skytrain and the tunnel.
She said that a heavy rail line in the North-West is “long overdue” but it must be compatible with the existing rail network “before it is too late”.
“The people of the North-West deserve double decker heavy rail that is able to meet the needs of this rapidly growing part of Sydney,” Dr Faruqi said.
According to Dr Farqui, no evidence exists of single-deck trains improving journeys for commuters and instead passengers will have to stand up for 40 minutes on the train and then wait on an “overcrowded” platform at Chatswood.
The skytrain contract follows another awarded in June 2013 to the Theiss John Holland Dragados joint venture to start digging subways by the end of 2014.
The third and final contract is still in the early phases where the government has narrowed its choice down to two consortia including the Northwest Rapid Transit and TransForm.
These consortia are presently bidding for the Operations, Trains and Systems (OTS) component of the line in the second half of 2014.
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