These Sydneysiders will save an hour off their commutes

New train, Waratah gets its first run for Cityrail on the Bankstown line. Passengers board at Central station. SMH News. 01 July 2011. Photo by Simon Alekna.
New train, Waratah gets its first run for Cityrail on the Bankstown line. Passengers board at Central station. SMH News. 01 July 2011. Photo by Simon Alekna.

The state government has released details of the multibillion-dollar upgrade of western Sydney's Bankstown line and spruiks commuter time savings of up to an hour a week and station upgrades as the pluses of a project that will bring months of disruption a year to tens of thousands of commuters.

More than 13 kilometres of track on the Bankstown train line in Sydney's west will be closed for between three and six months to allow for a major overhaul of a 120-year-old rail corridor to be converted to carry single-deck metro carriages from 2024.

But on Wednesday morning Premier Gladys Berejiklian was promising commuters that the overhaul would be worth it for commuters who can expect travel time savings of up to an hour and improved stations, according to the project's environmental impact statement which was launched today.

"Work starts from next year to make big improvements to the stations, including making them fully accessible, with all stations to have level access between the platform and trains," Ms Berejiklian said.

The Premier said the upgrades would be rolled out progressively from 2020, or four years before the mega-project is completed.

But Opposition Leader Luke Foley described the overhaul as a mere "property play" that would bring in 100,000 new residents to the accompanying development area in the Sydenham to Bankstown corridor, something he said that was behind swings against the state government's poor performance in local government elections.

"People don't get a new rail line," he said. "Residents get their existing rail line shut for 16 months and 100,000 new residents. The point of rail upgrades should be to add to the rail network.

"This is so unpopular with residents."

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the project would bring upgraded entrances, new plazas and a new concourse connecting the Metro Project to the Dulwich Hill light rail station.

But the state government is projecting that capacity on the new line will bring commuters on some parts of the line savings on their travel time in excess of one hour every week.

Currently the line runs eight services per hour at major stations during the morning peak - a time when as many as 25,000 commuters use the line - and as little as two per hour on nights and weekends on some stations, the state government said.

"Customers will have a new fully air-conditioned metro train every four minutes in the peak," Mr Constance said.

When the overhaul is complete in 2024 every station will run 15 trains an hour, according to the state government's projections.

But commuters are facing major disruptions on the line of up to two months each year for five years from 2019 and more than the usual number of shut downs at weekends to allow for construction.

A recent report revealed the extent of the disruptions to tens of thousands of commuters who travel on the Sydenham-to-Bankstown

The report said track possessions - when trains would not be running - would occur during each of the December-January school holidays between 2019 and 2024, as well as the two-week holidays in July of each year during the period.

As well as more weekend possessions than the typical four a year, multiple tracks through Sydenham Station - a major junction on the rail network - would be impacted during night times and "in some instances continuously for some days at a time".

The report said the track possessions at Sydenham Station would affect trains on the East Hills, Bankstown and Illawarra lines.

The Sydenham-Bansktown upgrades are the second component of the broader $20 billion Sydney metro rail line that continues on from Sydenham to the central business district and Chatswood.

The Sydenham to Bankstown Corridor Alliance, which is opposed to the conversion of the line, has argued that the lives of commuters will be severely disrupted for the complete reconfiguration of what it has described as a "perfectly good rail line" which should be retained and improved not overhauled.

The Environmental Impact Statement will be open for public feedback until 8 November 2017.

This story These Sydneysiders will save an hour off their commutes first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.