Posts Tagged ‘station’

Remember this idea?

November 22, 2011

Readers of this blog may recall a long term vision I imagined for bringing Adelaide’s suburban rail system into the heart of the city in the same way many of the rail systems in other Australian cities do.

Yesterday the SA Government announced investigations to undertake a study into a similar plan to the one I envisioned in linking the northern (Gawler) and southern (Noarlunga) lines of the network and providing a continuous north-south rail corridor across the city.

There are a few differences of course. The route would have new stations under Pulteney Street/Rundle Mall and Victoria Square (east-west) rather than Gawler Place/Grenfell Street, KWS South and Wayville as outlined in my version of this vision. The line would reconnect to the Noarlunga line north of Keswick rather than at Goodwood. Estimates of the cost of building the project are put at between $2 billion and $5 billion.

Also, it is worth noting that this would be a long term project, as it does not make sense in building it while the rest of the system continues to be improved and electrification completed, as it is not feasible to run diesel trains in deep level tunnels such as the ones discussed.

See the video below for more thoughts and details.

Advertisements

Railway stations as destinations instead of just transfer points

May 27, 2011

The Japanese railway systems have always impressed me which is why I refer to them quite often in some of my posts. One aspect of their networks that stands out in my mind is how they utilise the spaces at their railway stations.

In most cities, the railway stations are simply nodes where people from nearby areas converge to travel on trains to and from other areas of the city. They serve as transfer points where people come and go on their way to other places.

In Japan, the thinking is very different. The stations themselves are part of the individual experience that goes beyond moving from A to B via C. They are more than just a collection of platforms, tracks and concourses. They are designed as part of an integrated component of the urban fabric of Japanese cities, rather than just connections to it.

How, you ask?

There’s three things I believe that make Japanese railway stations stand out from those of other countries:

  • Interesting architecture
  • Interesting public spaces
  • Interesting shops and restaurants

Interesting Architecture

Interesting architecture in train stations is not all that uncommon across the world. New York has Grand Central, Paris has Gare De Lyon and London has St Pancras. Even Sydney Central Station, Flinders Street in Melbourne and Adelaide Station could be classified as interesting. There is something in common to all of these stations I’ve just mentioned. They all have grand masonry facades as they were constructed prior to the 1930s.

Japanese stations are also grand, yet many of them were rebuilt for various reasons. Some of them were bombed in wars such as Tokyo Station, which is only now having its dome restored to its original condition over 65 years later. Others such as Kyoto and Osaka have become outdated or overcrowded and have been completely rebuilt.

At Kyoto Station, as part of the new millennium celebrations a new train station was built with large open spaces and a large spanning roof.

The exterior of the new Kyoto Station, from the north side.

At Osaka Station, work on rebuilding the station is under way and nearly complete. Part of the rebuild includes a new office tower, a large roof spanning the station and new concourses.

The recently redeveloped Osaka Station, with new roof, entrances and office building. (Source: GORIMON on Flickr)

Interesting Public Spaces

This is where the Japanese stations are very clever with their designs. Since many of the stations are completely surrounded by other buildings and structures, open spaces adjacent to the stations are often not feasible. Instead, they’ve opted to use the space within the footprint of the station to provide the open public space.

At Kyoto, the public spaces extend upwards from the lower levels of the station. One of the most intriguing features of Kyoto Station is the large bank of escalators that gradually allow the public to reach the top of the station, where the views over the rest of the station and Kyoto are amazing.

Kyoto Station looking down to the lower levels as seen from the upper roof area.

At Osaka, the public spaces are numerous and are located in different areas of the station. The redevelopment of the station features eight new public spaces This includes a rooftop area inspired by a Spanish patio (Sun Plaza) and a number of other plazas and rooftop gardens.

The new rooftop patio on Osaka Station. (Source: GORIMON on Flickr)

At the new Central Gate entrance to the station is also an interesting piece of street art, in the form of a computer controlled waterfall display which displays the time and cascading images of cherry blossoms.

More photos of the nearly completed Osaka Station redevelopment can be seen here and here. (This site is in Japanese)

Interesting Shops and Restaurants

For the Japanese railway companies who own these stations, not only does adding space for shops and restaurants encourage more activity in and around the stations, these are also a key component of their business which encourage commuters to use their railways.

This photo below comes from Kyoto Station, an important station in the historical city and is located on the Tokaido Main Line (JR Kyoto Line and JR Biwako Line) and the Tokaido Shinkansen Line which cross Japan from east to west. There are stations adjacent to the north gate (in image below) as well as the underground passageways which criss-cross the station.

The north gate of Kyoto Station, there are shops at the ground level and under the station (not seen here).

In Kyoto’s case, they have added more than just shops and restaurants. The station also a hotel (seen in the first photo of Kyoto Station in this post) as well as offices in the building above the station.

An Example of a Missed Opportunity

While some cities and suburbs in Australia are taking advantage of their key locations adjacent to major railway stations, often through property developers independent of the publicly-owned railway systems rather than through the railway companies themselves, others are building railway stations that turn their back on the very communities they are meant to serve.

In Adelaide, one of the biggest missed opportunities is at Mawson Lakes. The new station at Mawson Lakes on the Gawler Line was completed in 2006, but the community it serves commenced development in the late 1990s. The station was a late add-on to the development and sits on the edge of the community rather than near the middle of it. Rather than having a main street or significant residential or commercial property development near the station, it is instead surrounded by a large car park. As a result, most people who use the station drive there rather than walk, cycle or go by bus.

The station at Mawson Lakes is a fair distance from the main street or many of the residential areas it was built to serve. The station is marked by the red circle and the main street by the green line. (Source: Nearmap)

Although Mawson Lakes is one of Adelaide’s busiest stations, there are only people around when there are trains arriving and departing. For much of the time, it is a deserted space that really should have been better integrated into planning with the town centre about a kilometre away.

Access between both sides of the station is difficult because there is only one place to cross – at the northern end – which is even further away from the town centre. Ideally, there should also be a second place to cross the tracks at the southern end of the station in the form of a footbridge. This would also improve pedestrian access between the residential areas on the western side of the tracks and the town centre on the eastern side. It would also serve to discourage individuals from illegally crossing the tracks such as in this incident in April 2011, where an express train narrowly missed a teenager. Fortunately, there is space to do this should it be decided upon in the future.

Summary

With public transport becoming an ever increasingly important part of improving the sustainability and liveability of our cities, it is imperative that railway infrastructure is not simply provided as an alternative to driving but that is also integrated into the existing urban landscape respectfully rather than as an ungracefully dropped add-on. The Japanese model has successfully demonstrated over many years that a modern railway service can be provided as a key component of the urban environment and done so profitably at no expense to taxpayers.

The private railway companies have done this by combining real estate and development opportunities at their railway stations with their railway operations and thus created entire sustainable communities around their railway systems. It also makes for better and more efficient planning as the well-being of the community is much in the interests of the railway companies if they are to remain profitable.

Bringing Adelaide’s suburban rail network into the city

March 10, 2011

Previously I’ve made comment about some potential transport infrastructure projects that I believe are worth considering 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 heart of the city.

Adelaideans who are well familiarised with the layout of central Adelaide will know that the main train station is located on North Terrace. So isn’t the city centre already served by the railway network? I don’t believe it is.

There are a lot of key destinations in the city centre that are a long walk from Adelaide Station. These include the Central Markets, Victoria Square and the East End. While it’s possible to connect to the free tram service outside Adelaide Station to reach some of these destinations, doing so is hardly convenient. In fact, it’s often quicker to take a bus to some city destinations than a train from certain railway stations, and the trams aren’t exactly quick either. It is this lack of accessibility by rail that often results in commuters choosing the bus over the train when given the choice. At the same time, it is also difficult to undertake cross suburban travel as all trains start and terminate at Adelaide Station, while many buses run suburb to suburb.

As Adelaide’s city centre and the number of commuters heading to the city centre grows, its single station will become ineffective at serving the city if patronage grows significantly when electric trains are introduced to the network. Adelaide railway station is to the metropolitan rail system what a hinge is to a door. If the hinge breaks down or has issues, the door malfunctions. A single derailment, signal malfunction or other incident around the station is all it takes to create delays or cause the entire network to shut down.

The Melbourne rail network is a perfect case of a vulnerable system with a hinge with every line running through the same city stations. On July 27 2010, an incident on Melbourne’s City Loop caused the entire Melbourne rail system to shut down for several hours, caused by a snapped wire above tracks between the city’s two busiest stations – Flinders Street and Southern Cross. See this footage for more about the incident.

If the experience of Perth’s electrification in the early 90’s is any indication of how patronage might grow, it may double within a few years. In Perth’s case, patronage increased from 7 million trips per year in 1992 to 30 million in 1997, although much of this growth resulted from the opening of a new line into Perth’s northern suburbs. Currently, Adelaide railway station serves over 40,000 movements a day. Following electrification, this may more than double. However, without other improvements to the rail system including improved accessibility to the city, electrification alone may not see the dramatic jumps in patronage experienced by Perth’s system.

To improve access to the city by rail, an underground line between Adelaide Gaol to Goodwood via the city could be constructed to provide new stations in the city, increase capacity and improve connectivity and flexibility to the operation of the rail system. The line would consist of two twin deep level tunnels with underground island platforms at Adelaide station (Central), Gawler Place, King William Street south (South Adelaide) and Wayville. Goodwood station would also be upgraded as part of the project and the junctions at Goodwood and North Adelaide reconfigured.

A scheme for building tunnels to improve rail accessibility to the city centre and improve flexibility of operations.

In regular service, this underground line would be served by the extended Seaford line, Tonsley line, Gawler line and the Buckland Park line which I suggested in a previous post. However, in emergencies or other circumstances, the tunnels could also be reached by the other lines. The Belair line would continue to serve Keswick and Mile End which would be bypassed by other lines. Trains would run through the tunnels and city without terminating, allowing for cross-suburban services from Seaford and Tonsley all the way to Gawler and Buckland Park, and vice versa.

The underground platforms at Adelaide station would be located under North Terrace, just east of Morphett Street. Exits would be to the existing Adelaide station, to Hindley Street and the Convention Centre. The line then swings around and follows Gawler Place heading south before reaching Gawler Place station, located between Grenfell and Pirie Streets. Exits here would be to the plaza adjacent the Grenfell Centre, Rundle Mall and Pirie Street. The line then travels diagonally through to Victoria Square and follows King William Street, reaching South Adelaide, located at the corner of Halifax and King William Streets. Exits would be built here and at Victoria Square. Wayville station would be located under Rose Terrace at Goodwood Road and would serve the Wayville Showgrounds, replacing the temporary station presently used.

Goodwood Station would be rebuilt with four platforms, each allowing cross-platform interchange between the Belair line and the tracks for the Seaford and Tonsley lines. In addition, platforms would be built on the tram line above the station to provide improved connectivity and a key transport interchange to Adelaide’s inner southern suburbs.

Finally, the junctions at Goodwood Station and the River Torrens near North Adelaide would need to be altered to remove conflicts between suburban trains on the TransAdelaide network and interstate trains on the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) network at these locations through grade separation to improve the movement of freight across the ARTC network, which is currently in planning.

It should be noted that this is not an official proposal, it is merely an idea and vision for improving the accessibility and flexibility of operations on Adelaide’s rail system, particularly in central Adelaide. This plan would also benefit the greater metropolitan rail network.

Sources:

Transperth Patronage