CityRail Clearways Project
The CityRail Clearways Project is a $1.8 billion program of public works on Sydney's CityRail (now Sydney Trains) suburban railway network to "untangle" the excessively intertwined and complicated rail network. The disparate projects are located at pinch points throughout the suburban network and are designed to increase capacity and improve reliability. All projects were delivered by the Transport Construction Authority until November 2011, when TCA was subsumed by Transport for New South Wales. Following the introduction of a new timetable in October 2013, the project is largely complete.
In the mid-2000s, the Government of New South Wales suffered heavy criticism for its perceived mishandling of the Sydney rail network - which had very poor on time performance following the Waterfall train disaster in January 2003. The safety regime introduced after this crash required drivers to stick to the speed limit, which often caused delays due to the expectations of the timetable for higher speeds. A new slower timetable was introduced in September 2005, which significantly improved on time running. The clearways plan was intended to be the next step in improving on time performance.
The Clearways project aimed to divide the network's fourteen metropolitan rail lines into five independent "clearways" reducing the heavily interwoven nature of the Sydney system. This was intended to isolate incidents to one part of the network so other clearways would still run as scheduled, increasing on time performance. The clearways feed the existing lines through the Central Business District.
As the Carlingford Line does not run through the CBD, it is not included in any of the clearway routes. However, a Carlingford Line upgrade was included in the clearways project before being cancelled in the November 2008 Mini-Budget. The Cumberland Line is spread across Clearways 4 and 5. Intercity lines were not included in the project but may incur fewer delays as trains pass through the suburban area and benefit from the improved reliability of suburban services.
The five clearways routes are:
Clearway 1: Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra
This route did not change from the pre-clearways Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line. The projects undertaken on this route have increased capacity.
Clearway 2: Bankstown
After the Airport line was opened in 2000, most East Hills line trains used the new line to approach the city, easing congestion on the line between Sydenham and Erskineville, where tracks are shared with the Bankstown line. As of 2006 almost all East Hills trains run via the Airport - a situation which continues in 2013. New dedicated tracks for the Bankstown line between Sydenham and Erskineville were to be constructed to allow the 'Campbelltown express' trains from the south west to again run via Sydenham. St Peters and Erskineville railway stations were expected to continue to be served by the Bankstown line and would have required new platforms. This plan was cancelled in November 2008.
A second project involved the construction of a new turnback platform at Lidcombe, separating the Bankstown line's operations from the former Inner West line (now part of the Airport, Inner West & South Line). This works in concert with the Homebush turnback project, which provides a terminating point for all stations trains on the Airport, Inner West & South Line. This separation was enacted in the October 2013 timetable.
Clearway 3: Campbelltown Express and Clearway 4: Airport and South
The Campbelltown Express Clearway would have separated the section of the East Hills line west of Revesby from the inner section that line by quaduplicating between Kingsgrove and Revesby and sending express services through to the City Circle via Sydenham. This was to allow more frequent express services to the City, relieve pressure on other parts of the network and improve the distribution of passengers.
On the Airport and South Clearway, limited stops services would have begun at Glenfield and made their way through Liverpool, Cabramatta, Granville, Lidcombe and Strathfield stations to the City Circle, while all-stations services to the City started at Homebush. After passing through the City Circle, trains would have headed south-west via the Airport to Revesby (running parallel with the Campbelltown Express line from Wolli Creek to Revesby).
In the October 2013 timetable these two clearways were merged to create the Airport, Inner West & South Line. Differences from the original plan include via Revesby and via Granville services sharing tracks between Glenfield and Macarthur and all stations and limited stops services via Revesby sharing tracks between Revesby and Central. In the 2013 timetable most trains from Macarthur via Revesby use the local (pre-existing) tracks between Revesby and Wolli Creek and make a number of stops along the route. These trains approach the City via the Airport. The route via Sydenham and the express tracks between Wolli Creek and Revesby are only used by a limited number of peak hour services.
Clearway 5: North West
The North West Clearway provides an independent corridor for the North Shore, Northern & Western Line to improve reliability and capacity. Trains from the west start from the Richmond, Penrith or Epping branches, meet up at Strathfield and travel through the city to Chatswood. Here trains split, either continuing up the North Shore line to Berowra, or via the Epping to Chatswood line to Hornsby.
Many infrastructure upgrades need to be completed in order to implement the Clearways plan. These projects include upgrading stations, adding extra tracks, stabling facilities, or upgrading junctions. The projects include:
|Berowra third platform||North West||Allows through trains to pass terminating suburban trains||October 2006|
|Bondi Junction turnback and stabling sidings.||Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra||Improves terminating capacity and provides more space for trains to be stabled in off-peak periods||July 2006|
|Carlingford Line passing loop at Rydalmere||N/A||Would have provided a passing opportunity on the single track section between Rosehill and Carlingford||Cancelled November 2008|
|Erskineville-Sydenham six tracks||Bankstown
|Would have created a new track pair for Bankstown line trains, allowing Campbelltown Express trains to have their own track pair||Cancelled November 2008|
|Homebush Turnback||Airport and South||Breaks the Bankstown loop by giving Inner West line trains a place to terminate where six tracks reduce to four||March 2011|
|Hornsby fifth platform||North West||Allows through trains to pass terminating suburban trains||March 2009|
|Kingsgrove-Revesby Quadruplication||Campbelltown Express
Airport and South
|Allows express trains to overtake and remain separate from all stops services, in conjunction with existing four track section between Wolli Creek and Kingsgrove||April 2013|
|Lidcombe Turnback||Bankstown||Breaks the Bankstown loop by giving Bankstown line trains a place to terminate||November 2010|
|Liverpool Second Turnback||Bankstown||New platform for through trains, allowing conversion of existing through platform and side turnback into two centre turnbacks||Under construction|
|Macarthur fourth platform and upgrade||Campbelltown Express||New platform for through trains, allowing conversion of existing through platform into centre turnback||Stage one (upgrade): December 2010
Stage two (new platform) deferred 2013
|Macdonaldtown Turnback||Airport and South||Allows trains to layover close to the city||December 2005|
|Macdonaldtown Stabling||Airport and South||Extension of Macdonaldtown Turnback||November 2007|
|Quakers Hill-Vineyard Duplication||North West||Improves capacity to support new suburbs in North-Western Sydney||Schofields - Vineyard deferred Oct 2008
Quakers Hill - Schofields: October 2011
|Revesby Turnback||Airport and South||Replacement of side turnback at East Hills with more efficient centre turnback||December 2008|
|Sutherland-Cronulla Duplication||Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra||Duplication of single track sections between Sutherland and Gymea and between Caringbah and Cronulla to improve capacity||April 2010|
- Sefton - completed Jan 2006.
- Oatley-Sutherland-Cronulla - completed April 2010.
- North Sydney-St Leonards
Other projects of the era which are not part of the Rail Clearways program but will also improve the suburban passenger network include:
- Epping to Chatswood Line - opened 2009.
- South West Rail Link - includes an additional platform at Glenfield and a flyover at Glenfield North Junction - under construction.
- Southern Sydney Freight Line by the Australian Rail Track Corporation - gives freight services their own dedicated line through southern Sydney - opened January 2013.
- Northern Sydney Freight Corridor - a series of projects to increase capacity for freight and non-suburban passenger services.
Cancelled projects included:
- Redfern to Chatswood line - announced in 2005 cancelled in 2008.
- CBD Relief Line - announced in 2010 cancelled in 2011 following a change of Government.
- "CityRail Yearly on time performance". Archived from the original on 1 September 2007. Retrieved 6 August 2007.
- NSW Minibudget p.25 NSW Government. Retrieved 23 July 2009.
- CityRail - News & Media
- CityRail - News & Media
- "Rail Clearways Program - Completed Projects". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- CityRail Rail Clearways Plan Official info on the Clearways Project
- Photo gallery showing construction of Rail Clearways projects