SMH - Town Hall: danger station right off the rails

Town Hall: danger station right off the rails

Jordan Baker Transport Reporter
May 15, 2007

TOWN HALL station, one of Sydney's busiest, is a dangerous place: severely overcrowded, accident-prone and it does not meet basic emergency safety standards.

Reports obtained under freedom of information laws reveal continuing concerns about safety at Town Hall, a 75-year-old station built to a 1916 design and based on a 1890s concept.

They reveal even RailCorp management considers congestion levels unacceptable on several platforms, and show accidents - such as 17 falls from platforms in less than three years - are rife.

Another RailCorp document, posted on its tenders website, says Town Hall's emergency doors are below par, while emergency exit options "fall short of the fire and life safety guidelines".

Town Hall is the second busiest CityRail station, after Central Station. It handles around 140,000 trips per day.

Demand is well beyond the original design capacity, the reports say, and lack of platform space leads to severe congestion. But by 2021, it will have to handle around 178,000 trips a day.

The Government has spent $7 million on widening the main concourse by removing shops. Last year it expanded the number of ticket gates from eight to 16 at the QVB end to improve access.

The Government has said a bigger overhaul is needed, but has given no details.

But a tender document, released in 2005, said the stairs and escalators are not wide enough, so "current emergency egress provisions fall short of the fire and safety guidelines".

It said a preliminary master plan for an overhaul of the station found emergency exit doors were also substandard, and a total reconfiguration of stairs and escalators was essential.

It said one of the only ways to create more room was to excavate rock at the northern ends of platforms. The cost of doing so was estimated at around $171 million over 10 years.

Another report, dated November 2006, said congestion was a major problem on platforms during the afternoon peak. It was worst on platforms one, two and four, which did not meet RailCorp standards.

On platform two passengers waited in uncomfortable, crowded conditions, it said, and warned that pressure on that platform would increase when the Epping to Chatswood line opened next year.

The report, put together by consultants Translawcom, said the RailCorp standard on the Fruin level of service, a crowd level indicator, "is not currently achieved at Town Hall station".

Another internal report, based on a 2005 risk management workshop with a consultancy, compared safety incidents at Wynyard and Town Hall, and found the rate at Town Hall was much higher.

Town Hall had just 40,000 more passenger movements a day, but from January 2002 to September 2005 it had 529 incidents, compared with 148 at Wynyard. There were 230 falls, compared with 56.

Each of the eight falls blamed on crowding happened at Town Hall, which was also the site of 33 striking incidents, compared with just four at Wynyard. Of eight fires, six were at Town Hall.

RailCorp figures from 2005 and 2006 said there were 11 crowding complaints at Town Hall and five at Wynyard.

The Opposition transport spokeswoman, Gladys Berejiklian, said Town Hall was facing rapid growth but there had been no indication of what the Government was intending to do about it.

RailCorp's general manager of service delivery, Rob Mason, said the reports were put together to identify and manage risks.

He said the corporation was looking at ways to make space and reduce platform clutter, including moving some storage areas, and that the station was structurally sound.
Oh What a Gasser! Rex Mossop.
Yet another Failcorp failure.

Could they close this station and build a new one ? This is what they tend to do on the London Underground.
"It shocks me that Huggies has had a good idea for once in his dim-witted life!" - Jason Roberts, A.T.D.B.

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