Face Masks on Public Transport?

Recently, the NSW Government has grappled with the question of whether or not to make face masks or coverings compulsory on public transport. At this stage they have made the decision not to require masks or coverings, just to strongly recommend it. Despite this, there are loud calls to make them mandatory in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on public transport.

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Should face masks be compulsory on Public Transport? – Shuttershock
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Signage on the exterior and interior of the bus now encourages wearing a face mask – Transport NSW Blog Collection

Transport for NSW has implemented a large suite of measures in an attempt to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading on public transport. (You can read about those here and here.) Despite implementing these measures, one measure that has been commonly enforced both overseas and in other Australian state is the mandatory wearing of face mask on all services. Initially medical advice did not suggest that wearing face masks was an effect measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but we now know that wearing a face mask significantly reduces the chance of COVID-19 transmission. In May, former Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said wearing masks on public transport “is not an unreasonable thing to do”. Despite this we have continually seen advice from Transport for NSW that suggested masks were unnecessary.

The evidence is now clear in saying that by wearing a face mask, we can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. NSW Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have both updated their advice and now recommend healthy people wear a mask in public where there is widespread transmission and/or in places where physical distancing is difficult. This includes on public transport.

Based on this updated advice, Transport for NSW now states that  “Face masks are strongly recommended on public transport” based on the updated advice from NSW Health. They have rolled out a new advertising campaign with a focus on wearing a face mask on public transport, with posters and signage appearing at stations, wharves and on buses this week.

What is notable about this new advice is the key emphasis across all messaging is that this is a ‘recommendation’ rather than a requirement. Anecdotal evidence suggests that less than a third of all passengers on services are wearing a mask, with many passengers also failing to adhere to social distancing requirements. In addition, many customer facing staff are also not wearing masks, despite Transport ‘supposedly’ providing staff with sufficient face masks to wear during their shifts. This makes a mockery of the new recommendations and demonstrates the lack of commitments to mask wearing at Transport for NSW.

It is clear that by not mandating face masks on public transport, the risk of COVID-19 transmission on Transport for NSW services is elevated. Only time will tell if the current stance is the correct one. What do you think? Should face masks be mandatory on public transport?

Transport NSW Blog endorses the use of face masks on public transport based on the prevailing medical advice from NSW Health and the WHO. We would like to advise that this article is not a substitute for medical advice and the author of this article has no medical training. 

Farewell Qantas 747

Yesterday, Wednesday 22 July 2020, the final Qantas 747 departed Australia for the last time. After 49 years, there are no more 747s in the Qantas fleet.

The last Qantas 747 taking off from Sydney Airport for the final time – 22/07/20 – Transport NSW Blog Collection

VH-OEJ, a 747-400ER, was wheels up from Sydney “Kingsford Smith” Airport at 3:28pm before completing a low level flyover of many Sydney landmarks. The flyover took the plane back over the airport, over Bondi Beach, out to Sydney Olympic Park before the plane dipped its wings to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House over Sydney Harbour. After its flyover of Sydney, the plane headed south to say farewell to the first 747-400, VH-OJA at HARS in Wollongong before heading out over the Pacific. Not done yet, the pilots left behind a Kangaroo in the sky as a fitting final farewell for Australia’s last 747.

The final 747 traced a Kangaroo in the sky off the East Coast before it headed over the Pacific – Transport NSW Blog Collection via FlightRadar24

Qantas took delivery of its first Boeing 747 in August 1971, with the first passenger flight on 17 September 1971 from Sydney to Singapore. In nearly 49 years of service with Qantas, the 747 fleet has flown over 3.6 billion kilometres, the equivalent of 4,700 return trips to the moon or 90,000 times around the world.

Qantas operated 65 747 aircraft over the years, including the 747-100, 747-200, 747-SP, 747-300, 747-400 and the 747-400ER. Each model had specific capabilities the allowed for longer operations carrying more passengers. In 1979, Qantas became the first airline to operate an all 747 fleet (in an era when Qantas was an all international airline).

The 747-400 was perhaps the most revolutionary 747 for Qantas. The first 747-400 delivery flight broke world records when it flew a world first non-stop commercial flight from London to Sydney in 20 hours and nine minutes. The 747-400 allowed for direct flights from Australia to the US and for one stop trips to Europe.

More recently, the 747 has operated on routes where the flagship A380 is too big but where smaller planes don’t have the range to operate. These included flights to Johannesburg, Santiago, Tokyo and Vancouver. The final regularly scheduled 747 passenger flight was operated by VH-OEE, as QF28 from Santiago to Sydney, touching down on 29 March 2020.

VH-OEE arriving from Santiago as QF28 on the final scheduled Qantas 747 arrival – 29/03/20 – Transport NSW Blog Collection

Throughout July, Qantas operated a series of farewell flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra using VH-OEJ. Whilst this wasn’t the big farewell that Qantas has originally planned for later this year, it was only fitting to send off the queen like a queen. The final passenger flight operated as QF747 on 17 July 2020 as a roundtrip from Canberra. The final flight in Qantas colours occurred nearly a week later on 22 July 2020, when OEJ departed from Sydney to Mojave via Los Angeles. Some additional pictures from her departure from Sydney are below.

Electric Bus Trial Comes to State Transit

State Transit has been trialling an electric bus over the past two weeks, in order to determine the suitability of electric buses to the State Transit operation. Transport NSW Blog was lucky enough to spend an evening with the bus as it travelled throughout Sydney’s eastern suburbs. It is understood that the trial is in preparation for an order of electric buses to be made by State Transit.

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The vehicle, a Yutong ZK6131HGE was based out of Waverley Depot for the duration of the trial. It has a range of approximately 300km on each charge, and operates on a fully electric 324kWh motor. The bus was charged using a 150KW DC charger, capable of a 2.5h quick charge. The bus is wheelchair accessible, air-conditioned and has space for two wheelchairs.

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The bus mostly duplicated timetabled services, travelling just ahead of the actual service in order to collect a higher number of passengers. Two drivers from Waverley were specially picked to operate the bus over the trial periods and the drivers were at liberty to determine which trips the bus operated. This has seen the bus operate on a variety of routes regularly operated by Waverley and other Eastern Region depots. This saw the bus operate on route 309, 333, 340, 343, 357, 377, 379, 394, 396, 400 amongst others.

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Despite being based at Waverley, the vehicle had to travel out to STA AMD at Leichhardt each evening to be charged. This is because Waverley depot does not currently have the ability to charge electric buses. If a full order of electric buses is made, Waverley depot will have its gas fuelling facilities converted to electric charging stations to facilitate the fleet.

Transport NSW Blog was highly impressed by the vehicle during the in service trips we joined the vehicle for. The power that the bus produced was impressive for an electric bus. It was quick off the mark and felt powerful. Travelling up Barker Street, Kingsford, on the 400, the bus was able to maintain 40km/h the entire way up the hill. It was very quiet, with only some small sounds made by the motor audible at the very rear of the bus. Suspension was sufficient, dampening all but the worst bumps in the road. Overall, it was impressive for an electric bus.

All photos Transport NSW Blog Collection

 

 

Changes to Opal Prices from 6 July 2020

There will be changes to Opal prices from 6 July 2020. These changes are designed to reward commuters for travelling off peak and help manage social distancing measures during shoulder peak periods.

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There will be changes to Opal fares from 6 July 2020 – Transport NSW Blog Collection

Key Changes Include;

  • A temporary 50 per cent discount for off-peak travel on bus, train, metro and light rail services between July 6 and September 6
  • A new $8.05 all day travel cap will be introduced on Saturday and Sunday.
  • An increase in fares for peak 0-3km bus and light rail journeys to $3.20 (currently $2.24, a 42% increase)
  • Changes to the definitions of peak travel times;
    • 6:30am–10am on Sydney Trains, Sydney Metro, light rail and bus (currently 7am-9am)
    • 6am-10am on Intercity Trains (currently 6am-8am)
    • 3pm-7pm on Sydney Trains, Intercity Trains, Sydney Metro, light rail and bus (currently 4pm-6:30pm)

Currently, shoulder peak and Sunday services make up some of the most crowded services on the network. By increasing the cost of services at these times, the government hopes to shift travel patterns and smooth the level of loading across the entire off peak period.

The 50 per cent off-peak discount will remain in place for 3 months. After this, a permanent 30 per cent discount for off-peak travel will be introduced on bus and light rail for the first time, in line with current off-peak fares for train and metro.

 

Sydney Metro Western Sydney Airport Ready for Takeoff

Sydney Metro Western Sydney Airport has been given the go ahead for a 2026 opening alongside the airport after the Federal Government committed $1.75 billion alongside an initial $3.5 billion in State funding for the new line. The jointly funded project will cost $11 billion and will connect the new Western Sydney Airport to the existing rail network at St Marys.

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A new Metro line will connect the new Western Sydney Airport with the rail system at St Marys

The line will consist of six stations. A station at St Marys will allow for seamless connections to the Sydney Trains network. Stations at Orchard Hills and Luddenhma will allow for new town centres and urban development. Stations at the new International Business Park and Aerotropolis will service the new major commercial centres in the region, whilst a station will also be located at the airport itself.

The line will now enter the detailed planning stage, ahead of construction beginning in 2021. The line is expected to open alongside the airport in 2026.

More Buses to allow for a COVID-Safe Trip

The NSW Government has confirmed that they will be adding extra bus services along key corridors from this week. These extra services will allow for better physical distancing on public transport, and ensure that limits of 12 people per bus are more easily maintained.

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Extra bus services will be added to key routes, such as the 309x, to allow for physical distancing aboard services – Transport NSW Blog Collection

An extra 110 trips each week will be added to key corridors on the regular bus network during peak periods. This is in addition to regular shuttle buses between new overflow car parking at Moore Park and Central. These services will all be operated by State Transit.

Extra services will run on the following routes

  • 1 – Moore Park to Central EXPRESS
  • B1 – Mona Vale to City Wynyard via Dee Why
  • 202 – Northbridge to City Gresham Street via North Sydney
  • 246 – Balmoral Heights to City Wynyard via Spit Junction
  • 247 – Taronga Zoo to City Wynyard via Spit Junction
  • 285 – Lane Cove West to City Wynyard via Freeway
  • 309 – Banksmeadow to Railway Square via Green Square
  • 309X – Banksmeadow to Railway Square EXPRESS
  • 324 – Watsons Bay to City Walsh Bay via Edgecliff
  • 372 – Coogee to Railway Square via Randwick

At this stage no extra services will be operated by private operators. Bus NSW director Matt Threlkeld suggested that private buses “could be deployed to increase service levels in Greater Sydney during peak periods if issues relating to fare collection, destination signage, real time apps and accessibility can be overcome.”

Against the ‘Privatisation’ of Transport

Please support efforts to keep public transport in public hands. Sign the petition at https://ourtransport.org.au/take-action/

Public transport is a public service that needs to be run for the public good, not the private profit. The privatisation of public transport is an ideological obsession of the right, which consistently makes baseless claims in order to further this ideological agenda. Privatisation consistently fails to live up to the hype of its proponents and typically does not provide any benefits for the travelling public or the taxpayer. It is purported that the privatisation of services will deliver benefits such as a more reliable and innovative service delivery as well as better value for money for taxpayers. None of these things are true. Instead, a decrease in services, higher costs, and poorer outcomes for workers and commuters alike are the only things that are realistically achieved by the privatisation of public transport. 

This is currently a major issue in New South Wales. The New South Wales State Government has plans to privatise the state owned State Transit Authority, and contract out its services to private bus operators. This comes despite the fact that previous sales of State Transit operated services under the current government failing to deliver on their promises. Across bus and ferry services in Sydney and Newcastle, private operators replacing State Transit have not been able to provide a better service, and in many cases, have actually delivered worse outcomes than those achieved by State Transit.

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Privately run transport services are worse than government delivered ones – Transport NSW Blog Collection

Continue reading “Against the ‘Privatisation’ of Transport”

Updated COVID-19 Measures for Transport

From Sunday 17 May 2020, Transport for NSW has implemented new measures in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in light of the increased freedoms as restrictions on movement are eased. This include new restrictions on capacity in order to ensure physical distancing.

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Green “Sit here” dots have been installed across buses, trains and ferries to encourage social distancing – Transport NSW Blog Collection

Continue reading “Updated COVID-19 Measures for Transport”

State Transit Privatisation Timeline Announced

A timeline for the privatisation of State Transit, the state government owned bus operator, has today been revealed. The first tenders will go out next month and the process is expected to be complete by April 2022.

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All State Transit bus services will be privatised by 1 April 2022 – Transport NSW Blog Collection

Each region will be tendered separately, with Region 8 (Lower North Shore and Northern Beaches) being the first put out to tender next month. This will be followed by Region 7 (North West and Upper North Shore) and then Region 9 (Eastern Suburbs and Inner City).

The indicative timeline for the tender and privatisation is as follows;

Region Request for Tender Tender Awarded Operator Commences
Region 8 (North)

(Brookvale, North Sydney and Mona Vale depots)

May 2020 May 2021 October 2021
Region 7 (West)

(Ryde and Willoughby depots)

August 2020 August 2021 December 2021
Region 9 (East)

(Port Botany, Randwick and Waverley depots)

November 2020 November 2021 April 2022

The new operators will begin services in Region 8 by 1 October 2021, Region 7 by 1 December 2021 and Region 9 by 1 April 2022.

The decision to tender all three regions separately, instead of at the same time, came after market sounding determined that privatising all regions at once was far too ambitious. Further, with the impact of COVID-19, potential operators wanted more time to consider their bids in order to be in the most competitive position. With Region 8 attracting the most interest from potential operators, it was decided that it would be the first to be privatised.

At this stage, there is no firm sign of which operators will be tendering or control of these regions. Despite this, it can be reasonably assumed that all major players would be interested in these lucrative contracts. Potential tenders include Busways, Comfort Del Gro Corporation (as CDC), Deutsche Bahn (as Arriva), Kinetic, Keolis Downer, Sea Link Travel Group (as Transit Systems) and Transdev.

It had previously been announced in October 2019 that the government had intended to tender out all regions other than Region 6 in 2020 for new contracts taking over on July 1 2021. This included all the State Transit regions. As the State Transit tenders have been spilt, it will likely also mean changes to the tender process for other regions as well.

 

 

L3 Kingsford Line to open 3 April 2020

Finally, despite delay after delay, the L3 Kingsford Line is slated to open tomorrow Friday 3 April 2020. This comes after the government failed to meet its most recent opening target or “March 2020”.  The first service is expected to be at 10am.

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The L3 Kingsford Line will open at 10am on 3 April 2020 – Transport NSW Blog Collection

The line, as part of the CBD and South East Light Rail project, will operate between Circular Quay and Juniors Kingsford. It shares the same corridor through the CBD to Moore Park as the L2 Randwick line, before branching off and operating through Kensington and Kingsford in the median of Anzac Parade.

The line has been greatly delayed. The line was originally supposed to be finished in early 2018 for a mid-late 2018 opening. Due to construction delays and a legal battle between construction company Acciona and the government, this was revised to “some time in 2019”. Upon the start of testing in August 2019, it was revealed that the opening of the Kingsford branch had been further pushed back to March 2020. This was to allow for more time for testing and landscaping works. After missing the March 2020 date due to travel slowdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a soft opening will instead take place on 3 April 2020.

The opening will be a ‘soft opening’. This means no press release or promotion of the new services in order to try and reduce the patronage on the line, which must open for contractual reasons. This ‘soft opening’ is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which people are being encouraged to stay at home and not travel unnecessarily.