Sydney’s Old Rail Network – Why we face constant delays and how to fix them.

As you no doubt have noticed, it has been a shocking start to the year on Sydney’s railways, which many instances of delays lasting for multiple days. These delays were cause by a major incident on a single line somewhere on the network which snowballed into ongoing delays due to a lack of ability to recover from delays. This has lead Transport for NSW to write a report on how to reduce the amount of delays caused when incidents occur on the network.

Our rail network is very old, with most parts now approaching 100 years old and it’s stretched to its limit with many rail lines over capacity even when everything runs to plan. Unfortunately there is no quick fix to the problem of constant indefinite delays other than rebuilding our entire rail network, but this is too costly. The report has some ideas on band-aid solutions, but the network won’t be fixed until the Western Metro to Parramatta opens in the late 2020s at the earliest.

The report found that the network is too complex for it’s age, with many line criss-crossing at confusing junctions. Many parts of the network are running at full capacity even if trains are all on-time, so even just one late train can cause compounding hold-ups with no room for returning trains back to the normal schedule. There was also the suggestion that the communications and signalling systems were outdated and needed improvement to ensure that trains maintain on-time running.

The report also pointed out a shortage of drivers, which in some cases led to less staff being on-duty than the number of trains required in the network. This lack of drivers occurred multiple times in January. Concerningly, drivers were being made to work overtime 11 out of every 14 days and work 13 out of every 14 days.

The changes being made in light of the report include;

  • Reviewing strategies for dealing with high impact network events in a complex, tangled network;
  • Providing extra capacity for incident recovery by using post implementation reviews of the timetable to look for opportunities to adjust any non-peak services that are used by an extremely low number of customers;
  • Accelerating recruitment of new drivers;
  • Working with unions to help simplify changeovers for crew;
  • Bringing in an independent rail expert to find ways to improve the systems and tools to put the right number of crew where we need them;
  • Updating support and IT systems to ensure better communication and crowd management.


Train Disruptions – RBTU Industrial Action


Due to planned legal industrial action being taken by the RBTU and Sydney Train Drivers, major disruptions are to be expected on the rail network from Thursday 25 January to Monday 29 January.

Please see below a list of all the planned disruptions by date.

Thursday 25 January 

  • Most Sydney Trains and all Intercity services will operate to a Saturday or reduced timetable.
  • NSW Regional Trains will operate as normal.

Friday 26 January 

  • Most Sydney Trains and all Intercity services will run to a Sunday or reduced timetable.
  • All T5 Cumberland Line and T6 Carlingford Line services will be CANCELLED
  • Trains to Revesby will instead terminate at Kingsgrove. Macarthur services will make extra stops.
  • Trains to Richmond will instead terminate at Blacktown. A limited shuttle will operate between Blacktown and Richmond
  • NSW Regional Trains will operate as normal.

Saturday 27 January 

  • Most Sydney Trains and all Intercity services will operate to a Saturday or reduced timetable.
  • All T5 Cumberland Line and T6 Carlingford Line services will be CANCELLED
  • NSW Regional Trains will operate as normal.

Sunday 28 January 

  • Most Sydney Trains and all Intercity services will run to a Sunday or reduced timetable.
  • All T5 Cumberland Line and T6 Carlingford Line services will be CANCELLED
  • All NSW Regional Services are CANCELLED

Monday 29 January

  • ALL Sydney Trains, Intercity and NSW Regional Services are CANCELLED. No passenger rail services will operate in NSW.

Please do be aware that further disruptions beyond those envisaged may be possible. Allow for significant extra travel time and plan alternative routes.

This is due to the actions of our state government and its Transport Minister, who refuse to agree on a fair wage and conditions for our train drivers. We should support our train drivers and condemn this current government for its heartless treatment. If a fair agreement can be made, much of this disruption will be averted.

Some schools (including SACS) have announced that they will not be opening on Monday 29 January if the strike goes ahead. Please check with individual school for more information.




XPT, Xplorer Replacement announced

Recently the government announced that there would be replacing the entire regional rail fleet with new rolling stock, to be delivered from the early 2020s.

This will see all of the existing XPT, Xplorer and Endeavour rolling stock replaced with a a single uniform new model of train. A total of 110 carriages will be ordered which mean it will be a one for one replacement as there are 110 regional carriages currently in service.

It is understood that these new trains will have their main service centre and maintainace hub in Dubbo, whilst maintaing a smaller maintain centre and layover in Sydney. This is part of the government’s plan to increase rural jobs.

More Trains, More Services – Massive boost to Western Sydney train services

Customers travelling to and from Western Sydney and the Inner West can look forward to a boost of more than 300 extra weekly train services and better connections when the new train timetable is introduced later this year.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance today announced key improvements to both the T1 Western Line and T2 Inner West Line.
“This is a massive win for Western Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said. “We are making it more convenient for customers to travel between Western Sydney, the Inner West and Sydney’s CBD.”
“By simplifying and modernising parts of the network we are able to achieve far better services for customers.”
Key improvements to the Sydney Trains network include:

  • More than 250 express trains every week between Parramatta and the Sydney CBD, including 20 express trains during peak hours.
  • A new direct link between the Inner West and Parramatta on the T2 Line on weekdays for the first time.
  • T2 Inner West customers travelling to and from Sydney’s CBD will see peak services boosted from 15 minutes up to every 6 minutes at many stations.

“We know that customers travelling longer distances want faster services and those closer in want to just turn up and go – we can achieve this,” Mr Constance said.
“These are the some of the busiest lines on the network. By simplifying the way the lines operate it will create additional capacity and reliability for customers.
“Today, we also unveil a refreshed network map so customers can begin to understand the changes ahead. They include the T2 Line extending to Parramatta and also to Leppington in the South-West. We’re also extending services on the T5 Line to Leppington and Richmond, along with re-badging the Airport Line to the T8 to distinguish this popular service for tourists and visitors,” Mr Constance said.
“With total rail trips to and from Western Sydney set to grow by 20 per cent by the early 2020s, it’s critical we get on with it and act now.”
Other key changes for T1 Western Line and T2 Inner West customers include:

  • Harris Park, Granville, Clyde, Auburn, and Lidcombe will be served by T2 Inner West services during some periods of the day. Customers will have direct access to Parramatta as they do today, and receive a similar frequency of service to the Sydney CBD in the AM Peak, now via the T2 Inner West.
  • Burwood will receive more services via the T2 Inner West, with direct access to Parramatta and,
  • Late night services to and from the Sydney CBD to Penrith will be doubled on the T1 Western Line. To deliver this increase, some Richmond customers will need to change trains at Parramatta.

This is the next step in the ‘More Trains, More Services’ program – a capital investment of over $1.5 billion to provide an urgent uplift in customer service on Sydney’s rail network.

SkiTube Railway

This week I’m actually skiing in Perisher! To celebrate, this week on Train Talk Tuesday, we will be looking at Perisher’s SkiTube!

SkiTube Alpine Railway is a standard gauge single track electric rack railway. It is located within the Kosciuszko National Park and has stations at Bullocks Flat, Perisher Valley and Blue Cow along its 8.5 kilometre length. It services the Perisher Ski Resort and only operates during ski season. It is 5.9 kilometres from Bullocks Flat to Perisher Valley, 2.6 kilometres above ground 3.3 kilometres underground on a 12.5% gradient. It is a futher 3.4 kilometres to Blue Cow. A passing loop is provided at the tunnel entry and at Perisher Valley Station.

The SkiTube was bulit during the large scale development of the Thredbo and Pershier Valleys for ski fields. Various options were explored for how to efficiently get guests up the mountain without roads. Other considered modes included a funicular railway and a gondola. It was decided at a rack railway was the best option, with a single track being comnsidered sufficent as Kosicuzizko Road is passable in Winter.

Construction commenced in October 1984, with tunnelling commencing in 1985. The line opened between Bullocks Flat and Perisher Valley on July 26 1987, with the line between Perisher Vallet and Blue Cow opened on March 31 1988.

The journey to Perisher Valley from Bullocks Flat takes about 11 minutes, and about 6 minutes from Blue Cow. Trains run between Bullocks Flat and Perisher Valley between 5am and 1am daily and between Perisher Valley and Blue Cow between 7am and 6pm. On Thursday through Saturday trans run all night. Services operate every 20 minutes between 7am-11am and 3pm-6pm, every 30 minutes between 6am-7am and 11am-3pm. An hourly service is provided on only request after 6pm. On Friday through Sunday, Luggage is prohibited on trains between 8am-10am and 3:30pm-5pm.

Services on the SkiTube are very popular, and passengers are advised to arrive well before the train departure time. Doors are closed to the Platforms at Bullocks Flat 1 minute before train departure. In some instances, passenger displacement has occured, particularly between Perisher Valley and Blue Cow on weekends and during school holidays and between Perisher Valley and Bullocks Flat on the last train before luggage is prohibited and the first train after the prohibition is lifted as well as on weekends when there is good snow.

Two SkiTube trains at the passing loop in the snow (Photo: Perisher)
A SkiTube train at Bullocks Flat Station
View of Blue Cow SkiTube station, with Mt Blue Cow in the background


The interior of an empty SkiTube train


The interior of a SkiTube train suffering from Overcrowding (Hi Hugo!)

Train Talk Tuesday 13

This week we will be looking at the Cronulla Branchline. 
It is 10km long and runs between Sutherland and Cronulla with 6 stations on the line. The stations are located at Kirrawee, Gymea, Miranda, Garingbah, Wooloware and Cronulla.
The Cronulla Railway line oriinated as a tram line between Sutherland and Cronulla along the Kingsway. It was very congest and only single track and by the 1930s had outgrown its use. After its closure in 1932, planning for a rail line began. Various delays ensued but it finally opened on 16 December 1939. It was initally a single track with passing loops, and was depicted between Gymea and Caringbah in the 1980s. The rest of then line was duplicated in the early 2000s as part of the Clearways program.
Today trains run on the line as part of Sydney Trains T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line using T-Sets based at Mortdale depot.

Train Talk Tuesday 11

Welcome to another Tuesday of Train Talk. This week, we will be looking at the money given to our train network in today’s NSW budget. The 9.8 billion dollars pledged to rail our network in this year’s budget will be spent on both new rolling stock and new network. However not all of this money is being slept this year, with the funding anncounments for Sydney Metro City and Southwest actually being a four year commitment.

New Trains

  • $658 million on new upgraded Waratah style trains
  • $253 million on new intercity trains
  • $25 million for investigative studies for new XPTs

New Network

  • $4 billion for Sydney Metro Northwest
  • $4.9 billion for Sydney Metro City and Southwest
Waratah Train like the ones being ordered

Train Talk Tuesday 10

Welcome to another Train Talk Tuesday, today we will be looking at the Richmond Branchline. It is a branch of the Main Western Railway Line. It runs from the main line at Blacktown, 25 kilometres to Richmond.

Initally opening in 1864, the line was extended to Kurrajong in 1926, with the extention closing in 1952. From the 1980s onwards, the line has been progressively electrified, with electrification reaching Richmond in 1991. The line was duplicated as far as Quakers Hill in 2002, with the line futher duplicated to Schofields in 2011. A planned extention of the duplication to Vineyard has been deferred.

Today the Richmond Line is served by two Sydney Trains lines. These services are proved by either A set, K set pr T set trains.

  • T1 North Shore, Northern and Western Line (Whole length of the line)
  • T5 Cumberland Line (Blacktown-Schofields only)

Train Talk Tuesday 9

This week for Train Talk Tuesday we will be discussing the latest part of the More Trains, More Services program the NSW government is currently rolling out. 

The Blue Moutains will recive a large boost to services with major capacity upgrades. Starting from the July school holidays, six weekend services will be increased from 4 to 8 carriages. These changes will be further helped with even more extra services start later this year. New express services will reduce travel times by 20-30 minutes and provide better connection times and reliablity.



Train Talk Tuesday 8 

Welcome to another Train Talk Tuesday! This week we will be looking at the Eastern Suburns Rail line (ESR). The line runs between Redfern and Bondi Junction and has 5 immediate stops locatedat Central, Town Hall, Martin Place, Kings Cross and Edgecliff.

Various plans were made throughout the early 1900s for a line to the Eastern Suburbs including as part of the Bradfield Plan in 1926 which had the line run around the City Cirlce and then under Oxford Strret to Bondi Junction and also a 1947 post war plan which included two lines, one via Kings Cross to Bondi Beach and one via Taylor Square to Kingsford with the potential for an extention to Coogee.

A 1967 plan was devisied following the basis of the 1947 plan via Kings Cross but included  extending the line to Kingsford via Randwick instaed of it being a separate line. A 1976 review suggested truncating the line to Bondi Junction, reducing the station amenities and finish qualities, removing Woollahra Station and integrating the line with the Illawarra Line.

The line was opened by Neville Wran in 1979, 53 years after being first proposed and after 31 years of construction work. At the time it was the only Sydney Railway line that used solely Double-Decker trains. It iniatally ran as a shuttle between Bondi Junction and Central before being integrated with the Illawarra Line in 1980. In 2006 the capacity of the line was upgraded from 14 to 20 trains per hour as part of the Rail Clearways.

Today the line operates as part of the T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line and also the South Coast Line with services running form Bondi Junction to Redfern and onwards to Cronulla, Hurstville, Kiama, Port Kembla, Waterfall and Wollongong. Services run at least every 5 minutes at peak times and a least every 10 minutes off peak and on weekends.

All services are operated using either T Set (Tangara) or H set (Oscar) trains operating out of Mortdale depot, with the line operating seperate to the rest of the network.