Sydney rail network capacity

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Sydney rail network capacity
High Priority Initiative
Sydney, NSW
Fast-growing cities
Urban Congestion
Problem/Opportunity timeframe
Near term (0-5 years)
Proposed By
NSW Government
Date added to the IPL
26 March 2018


Rapid growth in demand for rail transport in the Sydney Basin is leading to passenger crowding and displacement on major parts of the Sydney rail network. In 2017, Sydney’s one-hour peak passenger rail demand was approximately 190,000, after growing an average of 3.5% per year from 2006 to 2016. Rail patronage is expected to continue growing by at least 3% per year over the next 10 years.

Current forecasts predict that demand on the North Shore, Inner West & South, Airport and Illawarra lines will exceed capacity in peak times by 2021. The Western Line is expected to reach capacity in peak times by 2031.

Without significant additional capacity, crowding during peak periods will substantially impact on the reliability of the key lines by the mid-2020s.

In addition, signalling systems are reaching the end of their effective life, with unsustainable maintenance costs and high risk of asset failures, which could lead to passenger and operational disruption. Long travel times due to worsening congestion and reduced reliability will result in nationally significant losses in productivity.

Proposed initiative

Potential solutions to accommodate the strong future growth in rail patronage could include significant investment in new services, advanced signalling, infrastructure upgrades and additional fleet.

Next steps

The business case is currently under assessment by Infrastructure Australia (Stage 4 of Infrastructure Australia’s Assessment Framework)