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Rail versus Road Transport for Western Sydney Airport

Driving to/from WSA, or catching a taxi?

Other posts on this site have dealt with options for “Metro or very fast rail for Western Sydney Airport?” contrasting today’s Metro rail technology, on the one hand, with the latest high speed rail advances out of Germany, China and Japan in the form of Maglev, at the other (fastest today) extreme. In the post headed “Just how fast a rail link between CBD and Western Sydney Airport?” we give actual examples of engineering computations for travel time on hypothetical fast rail link routes using fairly safe performance assumptions.

Now we ask, what would the road transport experience be like, in terms of raw travel times and costs, for passengers arriving or departing WSA who don’t have the choice of a fast or convenient rail link?

We ignore buses as a transport medium as we have no information on plans that the NSW Government might be considering for bus services like Melbourne’s Skybus,  but we note that Tullamarine to Southern Cross station in Melbourne is quoted at only 20 minutes (+ traffic congestion impacts) for a distance of 19-20 kms. That is only about one-third of the distance from Badgerys Creek to Sydney city and about 55% of the distance if Parramatta is the destination. So, the Skybus adult fare of $18 one way, would have to be multiplied by about 3 or 1.8 respectively to get an approximation of the relevant fare for WSA, all other things being equal. Call this $53 and $33 respectively as a crude starting point estimate, but query whether one would have to adjust this for tolls because Sydney’s Westlink M7 and the WestConnex, to our knowledge, have not formally been contracted to favour public transport (assuming privately contracted) with bus lanes, such as occurred with the Hills M2 motorway.

Driving Badgerys Creek to Sydney CBD

The authors have not gone into this subject in great depth but we used Google Maps and Tom Tom Live to make some crude estimates of driving time. This showed the following:

    • WSA area to Sydney CBD: 56 kms in about 49 minutes assuming free flow conditions (sticking to the speed limits, of course);
    • Blowing out to between 63 and 69 minutes on a sample weekday in peak times due to traffic congestion (it can be worse, as readers will know – take your own guess for AM peak times).
    • This compared to 58 and 56 minutes by existing double-deck rail from Penrith and Campbelltown to Town Hall station, respectively, which routes are each almost the same distance as driving from Badgerys Creek into the Sydney CBD.  Of course, the more relevant comparison will depend on how Transport for NSW plans the new rail service past Leppington, particularly whether changes at Glenfield and/or Central are required in future to get commuters into the CBD].

Note that we don’t have the benefit of detailed data from the Business Case for WestConnex in order to assess how much the new Motorways project, due to be complete, before WSA, in 2023, will improve these travelling times. However, we remark that if it does bring about substantial improvement, all other things being equal, one would expect a proportion of passengers to switch off rail into their cars to get the better travel time, which takes us back into that vexed issue of induced demand impacting congestion as usage grows.

Taking a Taxi from Badgerys Creek to Sydney CBD

Here we used the official Transport for NSW taxi fare calculator and compared this with results from a UberX source (just for data).

This showed the following:

  • Both calculators showing  a 56-57 kms trip taking 54-55 minutes, absent traffic congestion;
  • The computed fare costs being between $129 and $155 (one way) in the UberX calculator and $128 to $179 in the official (regulated) version.
  • We don’t have to remind the reader that this creates a high cost barrier for usage of WSA!

Taking a Taxi from Badgerys Creek to Parramatta CBD

  • The calculators showed 36-37 kms trips taking 31-33 minutes, absent traffic congestion;
  • Fares were between $85 and $101 (one way) versus $84 and $117.
  • Nb Parramatta to Mascot Airport was $75 to $106, but surprisingly lower at test time on UberX (so we won’t quote that).

Competitive fast rail

In another future post we shall comment on these results and the message they bring for a business case to have Parramatta, in particular, connected by fast rail to WSA, even despite plans that might extend the Sydney Metro out past Leppington to Badgerys Creek.

Pending that we shall leave further thoughts a mystery and invite public comment.

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