Opportunity to link the newly planned Buckland Park subdivision to Adelaide City

There’s been a lot of talk recently about ensuring that the newly developing communities near the boundaries at the edge of suburban Adelaide are adequately served by infrastructure – education, health and transport among the most pressing of the issues. So far, a lot of attention in the media has been towards the expansion of Mt Barker, but very little attention to date has been given towards the planned development at Buckland Park in Adelaide’s north.

Location of Buckland Park, circled in red (Source: Nearmap)

Buckland Park is located about 25 km north of the Adelaide central business district on the western side of Port Wakefield Road and south of the Gawler River. Its planned population is 33000 residents when it is completed in 2036. It all sounds good for creating housing in Adelaide’s growing northern suburbs, except that it just seems to be more urban sprawl and there is no decent public transport proposed for the area. Mt Barker at least has express buses to the city and bus services to other surrounding areas as well as the existing South Eastern Freeway. The map below shows the proposed bus network within the development.

Proposed bus routes within Buckland Park and other destinations (Source: Walker Corporation)

Three bus routes is hardly sufficient in serving 33000 people within the development. With the three routes only running to Munno Para, Elizabeth and Salisbury, the development will still be mostly isolated from the rest of the city with city bound commuters (not driving) forced to change to trains at either Elizabeth or Salisbury, resulting in a long detour and inconvenient travel pattern as well as a car-centric community that should be discouraged.

However, not all is lost. Buckland Park is close to an existing rail line owned by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) which runs through nearby Virginia to the east. This corridor is currently a single standard gauge track which only carries freight trains as well as the Ghan and Indian Pacific trains to Darwin, Perth and Sydney. This corridor joins the existing commuter train line between the city and Gawler at Salisbury, and could be utilised as a new extension to the suburban rail system. In addition to this, the freight and interstate passenger trains will be redirected to the Northern Connector Corridor between Virginia and Dry Creek when it is built, rendering the existing ARTC track via Salisbury redundant.

In the map below, the new ARTC corridor is marked by the blue and purple, the existing suburban train line in use is orange, while the existing ARTC corridor via Salisbury is marked in red. The corridor I suggest could be converted for suburban rail services is the one marked in red.

Planned route for the road and rail corridor of the Northern Connector. Virginia and Buckland Park are just off to the left of the map (Source: DTEI)

Upgrading existing rail corridors for suburban passengers has been done in numerous instances in other Australian cities. In Melbourne, an existing rail corridor in Melbourne’s north was upgraded to extend the former suburban operations from where they previously terminated at Broadmeadows to Craigieburn by building several new stations along the line and providing the infrastructure to allow electric train services to run where only the diesel train intercity rail services could once operate.

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as simple as building a few stations and whacking up a few poles and wires on the corridor between Salisbury and Virginia. The existing suburban rail system uses broad gauge tracks – it isn’t currently clear as to whether they will eventually be converted to standard gauge or not – while ARTC tracks are standard gauge. New trains would also need to be built to serve the new line and two tracks would need to be provided to allow frequent services.

Beyond the technical challenges, the corridor is owned by the Federal Government through the ARTC and would need to be transferred to the hands of the State Government to make the conversion possible – a factor currently making decisions on the upgrade of the Belair train line in Adelaide’s south difficult. In addition to this, much of the corridor between Salisbury and the proposed Buckland Park development is currently sparsely populated, although as Adelaide expands north the corridor will be surrounded by more residential and industrial estates.

Providing direct services between the centre of Adelaide and Buckland Park also poses issues for the existing suburban line between Adelaide and Salisbury. Providing a new line to Buckland Park would also result in more trains using this corridor, potentially congesting the line with trains and resulting in more delays at level crossings for road traffic. Providing a frequent 15 minute service to both Buckland Park and Gawler would result in crossings being down up to 16 times an hour – and this would be outside peak hour! Upgrades may also be required along this existing corridor to allow for these changes and increases in traffic, including making use of the third track currently used by ARTC.

It should be noted that this is not an official proposal, it is merely an idea and vision for making better use of rail infrastructure to serve newly planned communities that could potentially be isolated from the rest of the metropolitan area of Adelaide.

Sources:

Walker Corporation – Buckland Park

DTEI – Northern Connector

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2 Responses to “Opportunity to link the newly planned Buckland Park subdivision to Adelaide City”

  1. Bringing Adelaide’s suburban rail network into the city « Urban Rediscovery: Creating Better Communities Says:

    […] including tunnels as part of Adelaide’s north-south corridor to replace South Road, and a new suburban line to the proposed Buckland Park development from Salisbury. The next vision I have is the expand the existing suburban rail network into the […]

  2. neil hamilton Says:

    ARTC is Managing the NSW & Victorian railways. Both of those states are running Intercity Fast Transit Trains. In S.A. we are sitting back.
    In the time of Albanese as the Minister I wrote suggesting duplication of S.A. ARTC track Keswick to Dry Creek. The signed reply from the Head of the Federal Department was that it was up to the SA minister of transport to make the business case. COAG eventually does this kind of funding.
    SA Metro could easily run standard gauge commuter trains from Two Wells to Dry Creek and have a rail-rail interchange at Dry Creek.

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