You can tell it's election time. The Federal government has announced the Epping-Parramatta Rail Link is back on the agenda with work to start next year. If all goes to plan it will be complete in 2017.
Frankly, I'll believe it when I see it. I'd love to think it will actually happen. The State Government went ahead with the Epping-Chatswood part of the rail link and to date it's been reasonably under-utilised. A key factor in that is that is doesn't go all the way to Parramatta. You still end up with a rail bottleneck at Epping to get anywhere else.
If you want to get to Parramatta from North Ryde by rail you change at Epping AND Strathfield, and hope the connections are favourable and the trains are running on time. It takes 48 minutes, apparently, for the journey. Is it easier, and in fact faster, to take the car? In most cases, ie outside peak hour, it is. I've done it by rail and car outside peak hour and car wins hands down; in peak hour I'd prefer the train I think. Let the traffic be someone else's problem.
Actually having a through service from Parramatta WILL get used, I believe. It's a truly viable alternative to sitting in peak hour traffic. The entire journey from Parramatta to Chatswood via the rail link will shave 25 minutes off the current journey via rail. Right now if you want a direct train that does the journey it takes almost an hour and goes through the Sydney CBD.
I haven't seen the projected figures today on how long it will take to get from Parramatta to North Ryde, but it has to be a heck of an improvement on 48 minutes. If you had to drive down the M2 it could take you an hour if there are holdups. There are currently bus services from the Hills area that only take 30-40 minutes in peak time, but the buses are apparently packed like sardines. So when the rail link is in place it's probably worth making your way to Parramatta station and jumping on the train.
This is something the rapidly growing Macquarie Park area desperately needs. Epping Road, Lane Cove Road and Victoria Road are daily bottlenecks. Employers are urging their staff to use public transport to get to and from work, but if the buses are stuck in traffic you may as well just drive. Having a rail link from the west, a lovely direct link, will make the area more attractive to prospective employees and corporations seeking a home. This area is one of the biggest business precincts in NSW and growing day by day. It's criminal that the State Government ditched the Epping-Chatswood part of the link in the first place.
Now I love my car. I love having the freedom and convenience of my own personal transport, of not having to sit next to someone fat/smelly/noisy/talkative who is a complete stranger enroaching on my personal space. But if I have to go into the Sydney CBD, for example, I'll take the train 9 times out of 10 (unless it's nighttime). I can sit back with a book and an iPod and relax, strangers permitting. It's quicker, or just as quick, as driving. Usually if I'm in the North Ryde area I'm running errands from Hunters Hill and Henley through central Ryde and up to North Ryde, and using public transport isn't really an option as it would add literally hours to my journey. Either that or I'm carrying banners and bags and boxes; again not ideal on public transport. But for single meetings - using a fast rail link makes sense.
Sprawling Sydney desperately needs improved public transport, particularly rail and light rail which is capable of mass transportation. Will the Government keep its promise if it's elected? We have to remember that the Epping-Parramatta Rail Link will run through Bennelong, which at the moment is a very marginal seat. The state Labor government has steadfastly cancelled or postponed rail plans for the Sydney Hills and northwest region as it's blue ribbon Liberal territory. I do get cross that we have to put up with inadequate transport because of politics. Like sport, it should be above politics.