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Rail travail

A leading public transport academic questions why NSW continues to go down the rail road when the answer could be bus

March 7, 2011

The focus on rail leading up to this month’s NSW election doesn’t consider value for money or quicker travel times for passengers, a leading Sydney public transport academic claims.

University of Sydney’s Chair in Public Transport Professor Corinne Mulley says network designers must focus on where people want to travel and how many people want to make these trips before deciding on rail, light rail or bus as the best mode.

“Why is it that everyone is fixated with rail projects?” Mulley asks.

“Although research indicates people see rail infrastructure as fixed and more likely to be reliable because it runs on its own tracks, it is very expensive to build.”

Mulley says instead of thinking in terms of particular transport modes, policy makers should first and foremost consider the basics of how to optimize passengers’ desired destinations.

“This might take into account a number of transport modes,” she says.

“Rail seems to be politically popular but it doesn’t necessarily offer the best answers.”

Mulley questions why there is a growing call for a light rail to be built on the Parramatta Road transport corridor when a less costly bus system would carry the passenger load.

She says public transport policy should pay greater heed to what changes are needed to the overall network of different modes connecting people from A to B instead of obsessing on isolated links such as the Parramatta to Epping rail link and the Western Express.

“Bus rapid transport corridors can really improve networks quickly, like the one successfully implemented in Brisbane,” Mulley says.

“Buses can run on their own ‘tracks’ if dedicated space is provided for them and are cheaper to provide and more quickly in service than a rail based service in the same corridor, especially if existing road space can be used.”

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