Sydney Metro’s First Driverless Trains
The highly anticipated Sydney metro spun its first turnstile on Monday 27th with an overall positive response. The flashy new driverless trains effortlessly kept up with the Monday morning demand frenzy with just 16 trains in motion. In light of Sunday’s soft opening, there were relatively no hiccups with trains running smoothly. On average, trains ran between five or six minute intervals despite the higher than anticipated 21,000 passengers. For now, the beneficial impact only extends out to commuters between Tallawong and Chatswood but construction is underway to extend the line all the way to Bankstown.
Keeping up with Demand
Put into perspective, Sydney’s population is expected to increase to 6.2 Million by 2036 as a result increasing network demand by around 41% by 2026. With the obvious growing strain on public transport, the long awaited northwest metro line surpassed expectations on its first day of operation. Government officials pessimistically expected 17,000 passengers to use the new rail; however 21,000 commuters tapped on their Opal cards on Monday between 4.45am and 10am.
The surplus in customers didn’t hinder efficiency with tweets like “(The train) has saved me 20 minutes on my way into work, very modern and fresh” and “normally have to get 3 buses… Heaps quicker than bus”. Figures showed that Chatswood was the end or interchange point with 9425 customers alighting from there, followed by Macquarie University (5875) and Epping (2368).
In light of the aforementioned soft opening on Sunday, customers were concerned when one train slightly overshot the Cherrybrook platform. Considering that on Sunday the same glitch occurred which caused 20 minute delays, Monday’s malfunction only lasted a couple seconds.
Defending the competence of the system, Transport Minister Andrew Constance stated that “This is the same with every system around the world”. Trains are “doing exactly” what that should, being “designed to make sure the doors align” he said. Nonetheless, the frequency of the trains offset the issue and denotes the “power of the system” when they were able to “add more trains quickly” to clear the waiting customers proclaimed by Transport for NSW Secretary Rodd Staples.
Conversely, commuters experienced platform congestion especially at Epping due to the influx of passengers using the line. Congestion however, is attributed to the design of the platform and train station. The escalators tend to funnel passengers to the centre of the platform creating a choke point until customers spread out. Again, this is of no fault to Sydney Metro and is completely offset by the prowess of the system.
Platform congestion around 8am for metro services at Epping station.
Sydney Metro Costs
A lot more than blood, sweat and tears of 20,000 workers went into the construction of the new Northwest train line. The Government injected $7.3 billion since 2013 to complete the 36-kilometer line linking Tallawong to Chatswood. However at the beginning of construction, $8.3 million was budgeted for construction. This makes the New South Wales Government’s Sydney Metro programme the biggest public transport project in Australia. Taking all this into consideration, it is conventional to believe that there were high expectations on the efficiency and accountability of the new line. Costs are set to continue with the future expansion of the line; however this has been generally sanctioned by the majority of the public given the results so far.
The introduction of driverless trains is just the beginning of modernisation, computerisation and a contactless experience. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union released a statement providing insight into “the very near future” of plans to remove customer service representatives altogether. Not only streamlining customer experience on the new line, it will also reduce the ongoing outlay to the customer service representatives. Moreover, Mr Staples said “we will have a customer attendant on board until we are comfortable”.
Sydney Metro has been proactive in ensuring minimal impact to the community and environment and social benefit coexist. Sydney Metro’s sustainability report highlights that construction wise, they avoided “22,000 garbage trucks worth of landfill” with 95% recycled construction and demolition waste and reused “6.5 million tonnes of 100% clean soil”. Socially, Sydney Metro took a collaborative approach with the community by holding industry briefing events in November 2017 and April 2018. These events acted as meetings to keep the industry updated on upcoming procurement activities, knowledge of the project and provide a feedback platform to “help refine processes”.
By Nicholas Psaltis
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