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Metro or very fast rail for Western Sydney Airport?

A fast rail link for Badgerys Creek airport

The authors have done some computations with assistance of qualified engineers, on the various choices referred to in the post Just how fast a rail link between CBD and Western Sydney Airport?. Sydney is introducing faster Metro style services with its North West Rail Link and the extension of its Sydney Rapid Transit concept, now to be called simply “Sydney Metro”. Absent the full details of operating characteristics of those train sets, we have made some assumptions about acceleration and top speed between stations and drawn on comparisons with airport rail links in Hong Kong & Tokyo. By way of contrast we show just how fast the latest SC-Maglev technology from Japan could be.
From WSA to Parramatta by Metro
We took an example using a route covering a distance of 35 kms (northerly then easterly) with selected stops along the way.

  • We computed a travel time of 22-24 minutes to Parramatta.
  • This compared with a travel time of 24 minutes for the same distance on Hong Kong’s Airport Express.

From WSA to Sydney CBD via Parramatta plus one other intermediate stop, by Metro
For this example the route covered a distance of 56 kms with one stop between Parramatta and Sydney (Homebush Bay/Olympic Park or the Ryde area being options that were suggested to us).

      • For this we computed a travel time of 36-38 minutes to a central spot in Sydney.
      • This compared with a travel time of 36-41 minutes for the same distance on the Keisei Skyliner express rail between Tokyo and Narita Airport.

As you can see the results are broadly comparable to those for the benchmark overseas cities. We say that is a function of the technology used.

Comparison with fastest current rail technology (Maglev) – WSA to Parramatta

The most direct routes we used assumed 28 kms to Parramatta and 49 kms to the Sydney CBD. This involved minimising stops to maximise average speed. However, we also tested times using routes and stops comparable to the assumed Metro distances (above) of 35 kms and 56 kms respectively.
Here are our results:-
From WSA to Parramatta by Maglev

      • We computed a travel time of 7-9 minutes to Parramatta using the more direct option.
      • We computed a travel time of 17-19 minutes to Sydney CBD using that same route option, extended east with the additional stop.
      • The results were therefore a virtual halving of travel time to Sydney and about a two-thirds reduction of travel time to Parramatta, versus our Metro examples.

But what if we make Maglev stop at more stations & takeĀ a less direct route?
We have played around with some choices here, such as a more northerly route, an additional park-and-ride station to collect drivers from the western part of the M4 who want to bypass road congestion, also having more station stops, particularly Blacktown being of importance in order to service patrons of the Blue Mountains, Penrith and Richmond who are prepared to interchange so as to hop onto a faster link to the City. So we got a range of results, as follows:-
Range of times for Badgerys Creek to Parramatta, with these modifications

  • From 10 minutes for 31 kms (including Blacktown), to 15 minutes for 35 kms involving route changes and extra stops.

Range of times for Badgerys Creek to Sydney CBD, with these modifications

  • From 21 minutes for 52 kms (including Blacktown), to 25 minutes for 56 kms involving route changes and extra stops, west of Parramatta.
  • Note that this latter case is still some 12-13 minutes faster than our Metro examples for exactly the same route, distance and stops.

What the results point to is that there is a choice between speed of technology, but also a choice between designing for more or less stops. It is really up to our best engineers to work out how to get the best combinations of non-stop, skip stop, and multiple stops service. We talk about market aspects of that dilemma in another post on the type of travellers that might use the WSA and a fast rail link.

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