Some time ago the State Government announced a $2 billion investment in public transport. It included converting the metropolitan railway network from broad to standard gauge, electrifying it and extending the Glenelg tramline into a coast to coast network. That involved extending it as far as the Entertainment Centre (which is complete) from where it would join the Port Adelaide railway line and travel along that line to branches to West Lakes and Semaphore. Also, using Federal Government money, the Noarlunga line is being extended at long last down to Seaford to serve the thousands of people living there.
Now I support any investment in trams and trains if for no other reason than it gives me a new place to go and watch trains go by.
Having said that, I have never been entirely convinced by the extension to the Entertainment Centre. The tram stop there is about 80m away from Bowden railway station. I would have thought a walkway to an upgraded station would have done the trick. If you want to spend money on new tram ways do it by all means but put them where there is no route already. The new Royal Adelaide Hospital looks like it would definitely be built. Why not have a line going along North Terrace and linking the new hospital with the Adelaide University Medical School? From there, it is not much further to extend it along the Parade to Norwood and ultimately to Magill.
Electrifying the railway line is arguably a good idea. The argument behind it is apparently to increase patronage. Perth is the example. I remain unconvinced that simply electrifying what you already have will attract more passengers.
These are just the random thoughts of a closet train nerd but if you ask me the first step should be to increase as far as possible the catchment area of the network. Two stations illustrate the problem - Dudley Park on the Gawler line and Marion on the Noarlunga line. Dudley Park is just off Churchill Road though you would never know it. There is not a single sign pointing to its existence. Marion is exactly the same. It is a short walk from Marion Road but again you would never know. Both stations just sit in the middle of suburbs. You cannot of course just turn them overnight into Transport Oriented Developments but increasing the catchment area is actually quite easy I think. At Mawson Lakes a new transport interchange was opened recently. The only problem with it of course is that it is on the opposite side of the development from all of the action like the shops and university. This can easily be fixed though - with bicycles. With cycling infrastructure must be set up so that it leads to places like railway stations, shopping centres and so on. Ideally, it would have its own set up signposts. The point is, the infrastructure should make it easy to get to those places by bike.
I lived in northern Germany for a while. The capital of the State is Kiel with a population of a little over a quarter of a million. Other major towns in the State are Lübeck (215,000), Flensburg (88,000) and Neumünster (77,000). Not the best comparison then. Their State capital is a quarter the size of Adelaide population wise but even the smallest of its other major towns is three times the size of Mount Gambier. Nonetheless, it is the most sparsely populated German State.
This map (taken from the LVS website) shows the railway routes and the various operators. Some are quite small. For example, the Nordbahn (the grey one) runs between Neumünster and Bad Oldesloe and covers a distance of 45 kms with 10 stops. In other words, not dissimilar to the Port Adelaide line only longer. They use diesel trains called Coradia Lint made by Alstom
The rail network covers a number of very small towns and villages. A good example to illustrate the point I am trying to make is the village of Harblek on the line between Husum and Bad St.Peter-Ording (the blue branch line to the west of the map). Here is a picture taken from a website with a strange name (shlink) that describes with pictures these various routes. The description of Harlek says there are only two houses next to the station but it serves the nearby village. The station is a request stop. Note in the picture that even on a station this quiet is a covered bike rack.
Some of the larger stations have great facilities. This is from Flintbek. The platform is just in the background:
That is what you need here.
The next thing that would encourage people to take the train, although it is much more expensive, is to have trains running every 15 minutes through the day so that people know they will not have to wait on average for longer than 7½ minutes. What would make it even better would be to have a clock that tells passengers how many minutes there are before the next train. The wait seems much shorter than when you have no idea.
It's a pretty good system and we could perhaps copy some of the ideas. A nice touch is the blog that keeps people informed about construction work, when things aren't working and general news.