Existing rail system shouldn't be forgotten in rush to shiny new train lines

If the first two days are any guide, Sydney's travelling public has spoken – they want more frequent and reliable train services.

A staggering 140,000 people travelled on a new 36-kilometre metro line between Chatswood and Rouse Hill in the city's north west on the opening day on Sunday, forcing the private operator to quickly put on more trains to clear crowds.

A day later, 21,000 commuters chose to hop on driverless trains on the $7.3 billion Metro Northwest line in the first five hours, significantly higher than the 15,000 to 17,000 forecast.

It left wide smiles on the faces of Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her closest transport advisers such as Rodd Staples, the NSW Transport Secretary and architect of the metro project.


The new line finally offers an option to many people in the north west who have long relied on their cars or buses to get around.

But it does not alleviate many of the increasing stresses on the existing heavy rail network, nor parts of the city starved of public transport options.

With a fast-growing population, the public's response to the new line will embolden the Premier to accelerate ambitious plans for a mostly underground metro train line between the central city and Parramatta known as Sydney Metro West.

Yet it is important that the existing heavy rail system is not forgotten in the rush for shiny new train lines. Sydney Trains' suburban rail network, some of which is about 160 years old, will carry the bulk of the city's rail commuters for decades to come.

It is under acute pressure from surging patronage, and will need all the care – and funding – it can get. And its success is as important, if not more, for much of the travelling public than new metro lines.

With the city's next metro line due to open by 2024, it is imperative that it and those that follow are integrated into the existing rail network in a way that results in improved services overall.

Commuters want a quick and reliable public transport system. Favouring one form of rail service over another will not achieve that outcome.

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