"Sydney Terminal Area Reconfiguration Project"
(1) Although not specifically mentioned, is this perhaps a hint at a new set of crossovers from Illawarra Locals to Mains at Erskineville?
(2) If yes, does this imply that the 10-car NIF sets will run on the Locals to separate them from the ex Hurstville all-stoppers?
By my calculations, with 24tph signalling and removal of peak T8 via Sydenham services, this arrangement would provide up to 9 additional paths between Hurstville and Bondi Junction from 8am and 9am. I think only 3 of these could be ex Cronulla/Waterfall due to the existing constraints past Hurstville.
Currently 18tph arriving at BJ between 8am and 9am, 3 of these are ex SCO.
Construction is being estimated at "2 years" so won't be done until mid-2022. Bankstown timetable would only have to fit in around this for a couple more years until the metro conversion is complete.
I'd say emphatically "Yes" to both your questions and it's what I've been expecting all along since the Hurstville Crossover project was approved, in spite of the denials of some. They're complementary projects. The proposed Works Area at Erskineville between the existing ESR Junction and the Illawarra Dive to Sydney Terminal is in exactly the location where a new crossover from the Local to the Main would be built to allow access to the Dive from the Local, which currently isn't possible without crossing to the Main further down the line.
The Hurstville project is also due to start now and is expected to take a year to complete. The Erskineville Crossovers and track reconfigurations are more complex on a busier part of the network and it's expected to take 2 years to complete.
How soon the reconfigured track arrangements will allow a new operating pattern for T4 and SCO services, including ATO, to be introduced remains to be seen. The NIF sets aren't expected to run on the SCO line until 2022, following their earlier rollout to the BM and CCN lines. The full benefits are unlikely to be realised until 2024 when the T3 Bankstown Line is converted to metro operation, freeing up additional capacity on the Illawarra Local.
There could be a transitional period after completion of the crossover projects to allow the existing 3tph SCO services to be separated from the T4 services between Hurstville and the Illawarra Dive to Sydney Terminal by running all the way on the Local. It may be possible to squeeze them in on the Local between Wolli Creek Junction and the Illawarra Dive sharing with the existing 10tph T3 services and 4tph T8 services in the peak via Sydenham, until the T3 is disconnected in 2024. It would help if there is a consistent express pattern between Sydenham and the Illawarra Dive on the Local, with the all stops being shifted to T4 on the Main as I've previously suggested. That seems perfectly logical to me.
Once T3 is disconnected, it's a whole new ball game. With ATO being progressively introduced, there could be as many as 26tph capacity available on the Local between Wolli Creek Junction and the Illawarra Dive in a non-stop express pattern from Sydenham. That's a huge capacity increase which would be shared between T8, SCO and future direct SHL services, as well as long distance Regional services. The Intercity and Regional services would be directed to Sydney Terminal via the Illawarra Dive, with T8 services continuing into the City Circle Inner and Outer branches via the Central flying junctions, similar to the current T3 operating pattern. All T8 all stops and some express services would also continue to operate via the Airport Line to the City Circle Inner at an increased frequency. It's a win/win all round.
I don't agree that T8 via Sydenham services in the peak will be eliminated. In fact, I expect them to be substantially increased throughout the day. It has no relevance to the potential increase in capacity on T4 to Bondi Junction on the Main. It is proposed to increase the Airport Line frequency to 15tph, so in order to significantly increase T8 services, they will also have to run via Sydenham. The only services using the Illawarra Local from Wolli Creek to the Illawarra Dive at Erskineville after the T3 metro conversion, will be T8, SCO, future SHL and Regional trains. There's more than enough capacity to accommodate all of them with increased frequencies in a single express operating pattern and with crossing conflicts substantially reduced.
SCO Intercity services could be doubled to at least 6tph or more and with 10 car NIF sets on some services, that would be a major increase in capacity. They would run in tandem with the T4 express Cronulla and Waterfall services in a single pattern on the Local between Hurstville and Wolli Creek, with the T4 services crossing to the Main at Wolli Creek and continuing to Bondi Junction in an all stops pattern. The T4 Hurstville to Bondi junction all stops services would operate exclusively on the Main with increased frequencies, without crossing over from the Local at Wolli Creek as they currently do.
How the level of increased services for each of the T4/SCO sectors will be apportioned will be constrained by the single track pair between Sutherland and Hurstville. We will just have to wait and see how this pans out.
As much as the "More Trains, More Services" program is welcome, it doesn't go far enough, and this highlights the flawed strategy of the current LNP government in prioritising its metro strategy over a more immediate investment in upgrading the existing network to enable it to operate to its full potential much sooner. By Transport for NSW own admission the existing Sydney Trains' network will continue to provide 80% of rail services in the metropolitan region for the foreseeable future, even after completion of the current metro projects, so it can't be ignored.
The future proposed quadruplication of the Illawarra Line between Hurstville and Sutherland is a case in point. It will undoubtedly be an expensive project, with an additional crossing of the Georges River, through very challenging terrain. Nonetheless, it has to be done, as there is no alternative and sooner or later they're going to have to wake up to that fact. Metro alone can't resolve this problem.