NSW rail agencies are well placed to manage the forecast increase in passengers up to 2019, including joining the Sydney Metro Northwest to the network at Chatswood, according to a report released this month by NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford.
The report follows an audit of the plans and strategies Sydney Trains and NSW Trains have in place to maintain or improve performance in getting the growing number of suburban and intercity rail passengers to their destinations on time.
While the audit found that both agencies have evidence-based plans and strategies with sound mechanisms for effective implementation, it also found that both rail agencies will find it hard to maintain punctuality after 2019 unless the capacity of the network to carry trains and people is increased.
Significantly, if recent higher than forecast patronage growth continues, the network may struggle to maintain punctuality before 2019, the audit found.
"Transport for NSW has undertaken considerable work on developing strategies to increase capacity and maintain punctuality after 2019, but remains some way from putting a costed plan to the government," Ms Crawford said.
"There is a significant risk that investments will not be made soon enough to handle future patronage levels. Ideally, planning and investment decisions should have been made already."
According to the report, passenger rail punctuality indicators adopted in NSW are good practice, and include measures of train punctuality and customer delay, with 'reasonably accurate' measurements of punctuality but room for improvement. The report also recommends that more information could be published on punctuality performance, particularly the Customer Delay Measure.
In other findings, the report states that the rail network around North Sydney creates punctuality problems for afternoon peak services heading to Western Sydney and to Hornsby via Strathfield. East Hills express services performed well below target during the afternoon peak. The punctuality of intercity trains lags behind suburban trains, and there was an extended period of declining punctuality between 2011 and 2014.