Origin of problem
In 2013 Sydney Trains improved the South Coast commuter express services to/from Sydney by a few minutes. This faster service was delivered in part by;
Using Helensburgh as an interchange Station.
Dropping passengers on the feeder trains on Thirroul’s platform 3 and requiring them to walk over the pedestrian bridge to platform 1
This led to several unfortunate consequences. Most commuters who previously caught the train from Austinmer and Bulli now drive to Thirroul. Thus most available parking in Thirroul now fills up before 9am. Now local residents have difficulty finding a parking spot. This has had a significant effect on local traders.
There is increased traffic in/out of Thirroul, which with a mostly single lane means slower trips for everyone. A steadily increasing population from the new housing developments in Bulli and Thirroul will add to this load whilst new car parks at local stations remain empty. The Governments solution is to implement a new 150 car commuter carpark 450 metres from the Station.
Issues with Carpark
This solution does not seem to consider the following problems.
The shortest route from the carpark, for those running late, will involve crossing busy Lawrence Hargrave Drive at a location with poor visibility. We feel that this could lead to a tragic incident.
Also pedestrian access to/from the carpark is across a hill. This is not ideal for the aged, disabled and those with prams. A pedestrian tunnel under the road bridge will resolve these two issues.
There are concerns with safety given that the carpark is a considerable distance from the station and homes. Lighting will need to be of a high quality.
According to Google maps, commuters will be faced with a 450 metre walk across two and possibly three roads depending on the route. This will at a minimum require;
footpath upgrades to all weather surface
improved street lighting and road marking
new pedestrian crossings.
Obviously early commuters will still occupy the street parking closer to the station unless parking time restrictions are introduced within 500 metres of the station. We believe that residents should be exempt from these time restrictions therefore, there are issues such as:
How many permits per house?
Who bears the administration cost?
Who issues and enforces permits?
We are concerned that any public transport policy that requires increases to the -
• use of private cars,
• distance that these private cars are required to be driven,
• allocation of public land to additional car parks,
Whilst newly-built car park areas are being left empty, it is a policy that is seriously flawed. Would it not be more cost effective for the Minister for Transport to address the problems which have caused these issues?
Other outstanding issues
We seek the Minister’s consideration of the following suggestions.
Unsafe interchange location. Helensburgh is unsafe as an express transfer station. At night, the remote location of the station has significant safety issues. Single woman travelling from Sydney to destinations between Thirroul and Wollongong find themselves isolated and are refusing to change trains at Helensburgh. They stay on the express service, leaving them with an unacceptably inconvenient eighteen minute wait to connect at Thirroul. This is also unsafe. Please designate Waterfall as the interchange Station.
Speed up the Trains. Please investigate speeding up the trains in lieu of completion of the installation of concrete sleepers and welded rail over three years ago. We have been advised that the trains can run considerably faster and all that is required is an appropriate engineers report. This is long overdue.
Establish Bus/train interchange. As Thirroul is now considered a transport hub we believe there should be better connectivity between trains and buses. At the moment the nearest bus stop is over 100 metres from the Station. As suggested in the Wollongong City Council 2004 DCP for Thirroul, please build the 80 metre single bus lane on spare land from Wrexham Road. This will allow local bus companies to connect to the Railway Station.
Fix service degradation There have been three significant downgrades of service for commuters.
Travel time from Thirroul to Sydney was once 67 minutes. The fastest time is now 76 minutes.
South coast express services needs to be returned to the same service level as express trains from Katoomba and Newcastle. Services from these locations do not stop at minor Sydney stations, and only set down at the major stops. This was once the case for services from Wollongong. Oatley should not be a stop for express services from Wollongong.
Please drop off and pick up commuters at the same platform. Commuters are now required to walk from platform 3 up, across and down the bridge to platform 1. This is reduced level of service is unpleasant especially on windy winter mornings. The patron’s comfort is more important than the short amount of time this supposedly saves.
Expand existing parking. Use spare railway land adjacent to the station for parking. An unused section of NSW Rail property between Thirroul Station and Gibson Park should be handed over to WCC for parking space. This is also suggested in the 2004 DCP.
Use existing Commuter Parking. Express trains again need to alternately stop at Bulli and Austinmer, to utilise the new 100+ parking spaces recently provided by NSW Government at Bulli and Austinmer. These car parks are currently empty. The time can be made up by not stopping at Oatley.
We hope that you will accept the substance of our concerns in good faith and give due consideration to the proposed alternatives.
13th May 2015