Metro Trains Melbourne to operate Sydney's North West Rail Link

The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday that the Baird Government in New South Wales has selected Metro Trains Melbourne - the consortium made up of MTR Corporation, John Holland and UGL which operates and maintains the entire Melbourne metropolitan network - to operate the North West Rail Link.

The North West Rail Link project consists of twin 15 kilometre tunnels and four kilometres of elevated track from Epping on the city's main northern trainline to Sydney's North West outskirts at Rouse Hill. The project in a way winds back the clock for Sydney (albeit not necessarily in a bad way), as the new tunnels will only cater for single deck trains, and the Chatswood-Epping link will be retrofitted to allow North West Rail Link trains to run all the way from Rouse Hill to Chatswood.

Trains running on the new line and through the retrofitted Chatswood-Epping corridor will be fully automated being centrally controlled with no train drivers. This will be a first for Australia.

The New South Wales Government also outlined plans to convert the existing Bankstown line and build a second Sydney Harbour crossing to allow the new North West Link to form a part of a complete rapid transit line.

The ultimate goal of having one long rapid transit line from Sydney's North West through the Central Business District and out to South West is very similar to the goal in Melbourne, of running Pakenham and Cranbourne trains in the South East through the Melbourne Rail Link to Sunbury (and when electrified) Melton. And as various documentation released by the Victorian Government and Public Transport Victoria has alluded to, the new high-capacity signalling system - to be rolled out as part of the Dandenong corridor project - will be a precursor to allowing Melbourne trains to head down the automated path as well.

Given the same consortium will be building both the North West Rail Link and the Dandenong Corridor project in and around the same timeframes, it will be interesting to see how much of the same technology will be applied in both cities.

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