A brief introduction to FastLink
FastLink is HSR technology adapted for efficient and cost effective city access.
The first adaptation is that the FastLink rolling stock is configured in metro style. That means longitudinal seating and three wide doors per carriage. This creates short dwell times and allows FastLink to operate with only two platforms per station. Conventional HSR uses airline style seating and can have dwell times of several minutes at major stations, which then requires more platforms. This is why previous HSR studies baulked at true CBD access and instead stopped at Central.
The second adaptation is that FastLink trains are limited to 240m (12 car) in length, whereas conventional HSR intercity services can require 300m platforms or longer. This also constrains cost and further contributes to FastLink’s ability to have underground stations.
The third adaptation is that FastLink typically operates below 250Km/hr. This factors into tunnel sizing. It also means high frequencies are possible. This is important because the route between Parramatta and the CBD will eventually demand very high capacity – over 40,000 people per hour in one direction.
Having said this, FastLink is still HSR technology. Its trains would share a common design, common vendor and common maintenance with the East Coast HSR line. The main delineation is that FastLink runs on a quite separate track pair, physically separate from the East Coast HSR line. The reason that FastLink and HSR share a tunnel (from Olympic Park through Prospect) is to save on overall cost.
There are two HSR interchange stations in Sydney. One is at Olympic Park. The other is in western Sydney near the M7. These sites are chosen in part for having sufficient space to build a full HSR interchange at a reasonable cost. Although an inter-capital journey would require interchange at one of these stations, this interchange can be made seamless through both a well designed station and a high frequency connecting service (which is FastLink). Moreover, FastLink can deliver people to underground platforms in the center of the CBD or the center of Parramatta. This isn’t possible for a conventional HSR line. A conventional HSR design simply forces interchange at Central instead. The FastLink CBD station would offer direct interchange with Town Hall station and Sydney Metro Pitt Street station as well as easy access to the CBD light rail line.
In order to keep to a 12 minute schedule from Parramatta to the CBD, only two intermediate stops can be supported. One of those is at Olympic Park, which also interchanges with the Parramatta to Strathfield light rail line. The other stop would be at White Bay, creating a 90 second transfer from White Bay to the CBD and also interchanging with an extended inner west light rail line and Victoria Road buses.
The western end of FastLink would terminate at Western Sydney (Badgerys Creek) airport. That would create an interchange with the conventional rail line from the south and southwest, thus allowing faster journeys from the south and southwest to Parramatta in particular. The western Sydney FastLink/HSR station would become a satellite of the airport and attract airport related commerce, being only a few minutes from the terminal via FastLink. This station would also serve as a transport hub for the Western Sydney Employment Area.
Click here for maps that illustrate the construction process step by step for this particular plan.
Author: Russel Lunney