Re: Sydney Metro

I took a ride on the metro today immediately after returning from Perth, so
was able to do a back to back comparison of Australia's two rapid transit
systems. Apparently the Metro has already reached its first million riders
after a mere two weeks. I boarded at North Ryde and went to Tallawong and
return. The trains were massively packed unless you got one that followed a
previous one by a few minutes. Many people are using it locally, for
shopping at Castle Hill or Rouse Hill rather than to the city. Many
including whole families are quite obviously happy to stand even when seats
are available. The demand is extraordinary. It's an absolutely
transformational service for its region.

I was most impressed by the quietness, both on the trains and the
completely screened-off platforms - none of the roaring and screaming
noises typical of underground stations. Pity they didn't do the same on the
stations through North Ryde.

The acceleration/deceleration of the trains, although far better than that
of the double deckers, has definitely been "detuned" for "local
expectations" compared to metro performance overseas. From familiarity with
this syndrome with local trams, this is a process of dumbing down whereby
the bureaucrats and engineers decide that the travelling public is
accustomed to the lethargic pace of, in this case, the traditional suburban
trains and it is felt that they shouldn't be subject to being frightened by
being accelerated at warp speeds (which I'm sure they wouldn't be because
it's smooth electric traction, but the bureaucrats think they will).

Without having access to the figures, I deduce this by direct experience of
back to back performances. The last European metro I rode was the very
zippy Prague metro and, soon after, I was able to ride the Perth system.
Although Perth had many similarities, I found that the
acceleration/deceleration was markedly slower than that of the Prague
metro. So since I was in Perth the last few days and rode the Sydney metro
immediately upon return, I found straight away that the
acceleration/deceleration of the Sydney metro trains is a tiny bit slower
than that of the Perth trains. So from this I deduce that the Sydney metro
is being operated quite leisurely compared to its overseas metro
counterparts. I'm sure that could get a minute or two off some runs if they
didn't spare the horses so much. Nevertheless, this shouldn't overshadow
the fact that it moves along much quicker than its double deck companions
and this is a significant achievement on its own.

To go further into the Perth performance comparisons, I can say that the
Fremantle-Midland line, built in the 1880s with typically 1 to 1.5 km
station spacings, is directly comparable with the early inner Sydney lines
that have similar stop spacings, including the Bankstown line. The Armadale
line in Perth, built in the 1890s in a more rural environment, has average
stop spacings of 2 to 3 km which is directly comparable with the Sydney NW
metro. The north-south line in Perth has stop spacings of 4 km + and thus
higher average speeds and has no direct metro counterpart in Sydney yet. So
the most presently relevant comparisons I can present here are thus:

Perth-Mosman Park (13.5 km): 11 stops, 21 minutes

Sydney Metro:
Sydenham-Bankstown (13.4 km): 9 stops, 21 minutes (projected time)

Sydney Suburban:
Sydenham-Bankstown (13.4 km): 9 stops, 25 minutes

Beckenham-Armadale (16.2 km): 7 stops, 20 mins

Sydney Metro:
Tallawong-Cherrybrook (16 km): 6 stops, 18 mins)

Sydney Suburban:
Parramatta-Quakers Hill (16.7 km): 7 stops, 25 mins

So in the case of the Bankstown line, the metro isn't anticipated to do
quite as well as the Fremantle line. In the case of the NW line, the metro
does a tiny bit better than than the Armadale line. Once Sydney Metro gets
its little operational issues sorted out (and perhaps tune up the
acceleration a bit), it will be performing as well as the Perth legacy
lines. This smashing of the tyranny of distance with a rapid transit system
(that also does this while maintaining the convenience of stopping at all
stops) is a great breakthrough for Sydney.

I found today that, as others have noted, the aircon is too cold and fanned
at too high a speed (for winter) and the announcments are too loud. They
need to do a far bit of fine-tuning of their various systems. I was also
surprised to find that the door threshold/platform gaps actually seemed a
little larger than they are in Perth, in spite of Sydney Metro blowing its
horn about being the first fully accessible line in Australia. When I was
riding the Armadale line the other day, a bloke in a somewhat large
mobility scooter (complete with overhead sun canopy!) roared aboard the
train, motored down the carriage and roared out the next door at his stop
which had a ramp to the street (Perth either has lifts or ramps
system-wide). When you ride around Perth you realise that its not just the
north-south line that's accessible, it's the whole system.

The Sydney metro trains are basically the same as the Perth B series - the
extra door would make them the same as the upcoming C series. The bum space
is the same as in Perth. though the padding is not quite as wide with those
plastic gaps in betwen seats. In Perth the upholstery is continuous and is
also better moulded to body shape. The bottom line is that they're both
rapid transit systems with the same type of train but the benefits of
technology progress (more than a decade apart in design) give an obvious
advantage to Sydney - the automation and the quietness. On the stations,
the platform screens - and particularly those stations with sound-deadening
full-height bulkheads, creating an airport-lounge feeling like Perth
Busport) give Sydney something special that nobody else in Australia has.

If I'd never been to Perth I'd be awestruck, but having been to Perth I'd
rate it right up there alongside. With our distances, rapid transit (with
the convenience of all stops) is definitely something that AUstralian
cities need. My wife also gave it the tick which is really something. Tens
of thousands of Sydney northwest residents are obviously over the moon
about it, lucky bastards.

Tony P