The Bankstown Line will be converted to carry single-deck, driverless metro trains. Photo: Simon AleknaCommuters face the closure of Sydney’s Bankstown Line for 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 of a new multibillion-dollar metro train line.
Those closures are in addition to the shut down of the rail line for three to six months towards the end of the construction phase of the project in late 2023.
The extent of the disruptions to tens of thousands of commuters who travel on the 13.5-kilometre stretch of track is detailed in an infrastructure report on the Sydenham-to-Bankstown component of the $20 billion Sydney metro rail line.
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.
Buses are the most likely option for transporting commuters when the line is closed for construction.
The report said track possessions would need to extend beyond Sydenham and Bankstown stations to “facilitate alternative train and bus operational requirements”.
The Sydenham to Bankstown Corridor Alliance, which is opposed to the conversion of the line, said the lives of commuters would be severely disrupted.
“We have a perfectly good rail line already,” spokesman Peter Olive said.
“All the potential benefits of the metro can be delivered by retaining and improving the existing service and Sydney Trains’ network.”
But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government had chosen track possessions during the school holidays to limit disruption to commuters.
“At the end of the day there is going to be pain associated with putting that metro train in. We have been honest and upfront with that,” he said on Monday.
He urged people concerned about the line’s conversion to “look at the bigger picture in terms of the delivery of a metro train”.
“They’re in a corridor of Sydney where there’s going to be 30,000 new apartment dwellings. People won’t be able to get onto trains unless we invest like we are with a new metro service,” he said.
Mr Constance said he had a “clear-cut expectation” that the management team overseeing the project reduce the final possession period from six months to three.
More information on the timing and duration of rail track possessions will be outlined in an environmental impact statement to be released in the middle of this year.
A Transport for NSW spokesman said major works on stations and bridges, as well as earthworks, would be undertaken during the track possession periods.
“We are looking to use quieter travel times, such as nights, weekends and school holidays to impact the least amount of customers,” he said.
The first single-deck trains are due to begin running on the converted Bankstown line in 2024, which will form part of stage two of the metro railway that continues on from Sydenham to the central business district and Chatswood.
An existing 13km line between Epping and Chatswood in Sydney’s north will also be closed for seven months from late next year to allow for completion of the first stage of the metro rail project.
The first section of the new line from Rouse Hill in the northwest to Chatswood is scheduled to be opened in 2019, the same year as the next state election.