How important are Australia’s urban railways in our big cities?
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics looked at this question in a 2012 paper, which had some very interesting findings.
Melbourne had the biggest network (496 km, across both passenger and freight rail), then Sydney (370 km), Brisbane (301 km), Perth (290 km) and Adelaide (180 km).
Patronage was highest in Sydney (295 million passenger journeys in 2010-11) followed by Melbourne (229 million.) Brisbane (55 million), Perth (59 million) and Adelaide (9 million) had much lower patronage.
As a share of total journeys to work, rail’s share is highest in Sydney (14.5%), followed by Melbourne (10.1%), Brisbane (7.2%), Perth (5.1%) and Adelaide (2.5%).
Rail usage is growing, particularly in Perth and Melbourne. Between 2001-02 and 2010-11 usage in Perth rose 90 per cent and in Melbourne over 70 per cent.
Growing rail usage in the last couple of decades is the reversal of the trend seen in the previous twenty to thirty years, when rail usage was flat or falling. In turn, this reflects changing population and employment patterns.
It also reflects growth in the passenger rail networks in a number of our cities. Between 1990 and 2012 Sydney’s network grew by 27 kilometres, Brisbane’s by 63 kilometres, including the 49 kilometre Gold Coast line, and Perth’s network more than tripled – from 66 kilometres to 169. Growth is continuing, with the Moreton Bay Rail Line under construction in Brisbane and Sydney Metro Northwest being built in Sydney.
The signs are good for rail to continue to grow – and for our networks to continue to improve.