Bus versus rail: Sydney

A stark choice has emerged for the future Sydney City’s main artery: bus or rail

Bus versus rail: Sydney
Bus versus rail: Sydney face off

By Sean Muir | November 20, 2012

A bit of ‘argy-bargy’ has broken out over the future of Sydney’s public transport, with Transport for NSW, Infrastructure NSW (INSW), and the City of Sydney council all proposing different ways to fix commuter woes.

There are three major plans currently on the table to fix Sydney's transport problems: council’s Connecting our City transport strategy; Transport for NSW's Draft NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan; and INSW's First Things First - The State Infrastructure Strategy 2012-2032.

From the three strategies a stark choice between bus and rail has emerged for the future of the city’s main artery, George Street.

A council spokesperson says while council and Transport for NSW support light rail, INSW has recommended a bus-only tunnel.

"There is a bit of argy-bargy going on there," she says.

Council held a forum last night at Sydney Town Hall to lobby support for the light rail option, which it believes will improve the city centre while reducing congestion.

"Council just think light rail is a better option with the reconfiguration of George Street," the spokesperson says.

Further complicating the plot, BusNSW has expressed support for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in line with INSW's proposal.

BusNSW Executive Director Darryl Mellish says mode selection should follow a functional analysis of what transport tasks are required on a corridor.

"BusNSW believes that, in most cases, at the point when mode selection is to be considered, the greater flexibility and lower cost of buses and BRT will result in
it being preferred over trams and light rail," Mellish says.

Mellish says investing in bus related infrastructure will generate the biggest community benefit over the next twenty years.

He says BRT has lower capital cost than light rail, lower operating costs than light rail, is generally faster than light rail, is more flexible than light rail, can be phased in, and can act as an interim system.

BusNSW has also expressed concern the introduction of light rail in George Street will force commuters to transfer from bus services.

"There are both physical and psychological barriers to using multiple transport modes to complete a journey," Mellish says

"The biggest barrier is the customer preference to complete journeys using a single mode" he says

Council unanimously endorsed its transport blueprint on Monday night.

The Connecting our City blueprint plans to:

  • Reduce bus trip kilometres in the City Centre 30 percent by 2030
  • Reduce peak hour traffic by 33 percent
  • Increase public transport capacity by 33 percent
  • Increase cycling by 200 percent over the next 20 years
  • Increase walking by 100 percent

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook