Light rail in Sydney

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This article is about the modern light rail system in Sydney. For the city's historic tram system, see Trams in Sydney.
Light rail in Sydney
Light rail Hop logo
Metro Light Rail Convention Stop.jpg
Locale Sydney
Transit type Light rail
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 23
Annual ridership 3.9 million in 2013-14[1]
Began operation 31 August 1997
Operator(s) Transdev Sydney
System length 12.8 km (8 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 750V (DC) overhead line
Dulwich Hill Line, in blue

Dulwich Hill Line map 2015.svg

Light rail is one of the four major public transport modes serving the city of Sydney, Australia, the others being train, bus and ferry. The network presently consists of a single 12.8-kilometre (8 mi) line of 23 stations.[2][3] Early works have commenced on a second line.


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Sydney developed an extensive tram network, which grew to be one of the largest in the world. The increasing rate of private car ownership and the perception that trams contributed to traffic congestion led to the progressive replacement of tram services with buses, with the final section of the tram network closing in February 1961.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the inner city areas of Darling Harbour and Pyrmont were the subject of an urban renewal program. In 1988 the Sydney Monorail opened, connecting Darling Harbour to the Central Business District. With poor integration between the monorail and other transport modes, and the increasing redevelopment of the Pyrmont peninsula - including the establishment of Sydney's first legal casino - it was decided to convert a disused section of the Metropolitan Goods railway line into a light rail line. A section of track between Pyrmont and Haymarket was upgraded and a new on-street section constructed to link the line to Central railway station. The line opened in August 1997 as the Sydney Light Rail.

The line was set up as a public-private partnership, with the Sydney Light Rail Company awarded a 30.5 year concession, allowing it to operate the line until February 2028, when ownership would pass to the Government of New South Wales.[4] The contract gave the company significant control over the commercial arrangements relating to future extensions or interconnecting lines.[5] In August 1998, the owners of the light rail purchased the Sydney Monorail.[6] The company owning the light rail and monorail became known as Metro Transport Sydney and the systems were renamed Metro Light Rail and Metro Monorail.

The Government of New South Wales purchased Metro Transport Sydney on 23 March 2012 for $19.8 million, and the company was placed under the control of Transport for NSW.[7] The purchase removed the contractual restrictions on expanding the light rail network and allowed the government to dismantle the monorail, assisting their plans to redevelop the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.[8][9] The monorail closed on 30 June 2013.[10] From 1 July, the Metro Light Rail brand was phased out as part of part of a broader rebranding and reorganisation of public transport services in NSW.[11] The process of shutting down Metro Transport Sydney and transferring assets to Transport for NSW was completed in September 2014.[12]

Operation of the service has been contracted to Transdev Sydney and its predecessors since August 1998.[13][6] In December 2014, the contract to construct and operate the CBD and South East Light Rail was awarded to the ALTRAC Light Rail consortium, consisting of Alstom, Transdev, Acciona Infrastructure & Capella Capital. The contract also covers operation and maintenance of the Dulwich Hill Line. The operating contract commences in mid 2015 and runs until 2034.[14][15] Prior to August 1998, the system was operated by TNT.[6]


L1 Dulwich Hill Line[edit]

Main article: Dulwich Hill Line
Emergency Station signage

The Dulwich Hill Line is the network's original line. It connects the Inner Western suburbs with the Pyrmont peninsula, Darling Harbour and the southern end of the Central Business District. The line operates along a former freight railway, with a short on-street section at the city end. The route opened between Central and Wentworth Park in August 1997.[16] The line was extended west from Wentworth Park to Lilyfield in August 2000 and then south-west from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill in March 2014.[17][18]

Planned extensions[edit]

CBD and South East line[edit]

The CBD and South East line is a future line, announced in 2012. It will operate from Circular Quay at the northern end of the Central Business District to Central station at the southern end, then continuing to the south-eastern suburbs. The line is being built to reduce bus congestion in the CBD and provide higher capacity public transport to the Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground, Randwick Racecourse and the University of New South Wales, which are currently served only by buses. In contrast to the Dulwich Hill Line, the route is mostly on-street and follows a similar path to routes used by the former tramway network. Major construction is due to begin after Anzac Day 2015.[19] The line is projected to open in early 2019.[14]

Extension proposals[edit]

Several transport corridors have significant potential to allow for the growth of the network beyond its current route structure.

In December 2012, the State Government released a policy document entitled Sydney's Light Rail Future. The document identified the following priority corridors for investigation by Transport for NSW:[20]

Western Sydney Network[edit]

In 2013, Parramatta City Council published a feasibility study into a proposed Western Sydney Light Rail Network, designed to improve transport links throughout Western Sydney and meet the challenges posed by the projected rise in population in the region in the coming decades. The $1 million study found that a light rail system was a viable solution to address the growing transport needs of Parramatta and Western Sydney. The report proposes that an estimated $20 million in state and federal support is required to undertake a detailed investigation and to prepare a business case.[21] It proposed that construction of the network would take place in several stages, the first of which comprises a route from Macquarie Centre to Castle Hill via Eastwood, Dundas, Parramatta and Baulkham Hills, with a branch from Parramatta to Westmead. Further extensions would operate from Parramatta to Bankstown and Rhodes.[21]

As part of the 2014/15 NSW Budget, the State Government announced Transport for NSW would investigate ten potential light rail routes in Western Sydney. The government allocated $400 million to ensure funds for detailed planning and construction of an initial project would be 'ready to go', should the initial studies prove favourable. In October 2014, the list of routes was narrowed to four:[22][23][24]

The Western Sydney routes under investigation are focused on Parramatta - the largest centre in Western Sydney

The six routes eliminated from contention in October were:

  • Parramatta to Liverpool via the T-way
  • Parramatta to Rouse Hill
  • Parramatta to Ryde via Victoria Road
  • Parramatta to Sydney CBD via Parramatta Road
  • Parramatta to Macquarie Park via Eastwood (as proposed by Parramatta Council)
  • Parramatta to Castle Hill via Windsor Road (as proposed by Parramatta Council)

Anzac Parade[edit]

Transport for NSW is investigating an extension of the CBD and South East line along the southern Anzac Parade corridor. Three potential options are being examined; a 1.9 kilometre extension to Maroubra Junction, a 5.1 kilometre extension to Malabar and a 8.2 kilometre extension to La Perouse.[25]


The Waverley Municipal Council advocates the extension of the light rail network to link the current infrastructure to Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach.[26][27][28] The council has commissioned AECOM to undertake a feasibility assessment of the reintroduction of light rail on the corridor between Bondi Beach and Bondi Junction (Stage 1) and onto the CBD (Stage 2) to achieve mass transit of passengers and has formally requested Transport for NSW consider the CBD to Bondi Beach corridor as a priority route in the Sydney Light Rail Plan.[29] The assessment, published in 2013, recommended the construction of the light rail along a 3.9 km route from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach along Bondi Road. It investigated three potential connections to the existing light rail network, via Randwick, via Moore Park Road and via Oxford street but recommended that a more detailed feasibility assessment was necessary to select the route.[30]

Green Square[edit]

The City of Sydney Council has recommended that a Light Rail link be built from the city to Green Square, to service the commercial and residential developments currently being constructed in the area.[31]

Tram fleet[edit]

There are two classes of trams in the fleet. All trams are articulated, low floor and bi-directional. The system uses standard gauge track and 750 volt direct current electrification.


Two-tone blue tram with doors open
Variotram at Capitol Square in Sydney/Metro Light Rail livery
Interior view
Variotram interior

The network's original rolling stock is the Variotram which was introduced with the opening of the system in 1997. Seven German-designed vehicles were manufactured in Dandenong, Victoria by Adtranz.[32] The Variotram design is modular and has been extended for the Sydney system. The capacity of the vehicles is 217 passengers, of which 74 are seated.[33] On tests up to three trams have been coupled together allowing a maximum capacity of 600 passengers if required.[32] They are numbered 2101-2107, continuing the Sydney trams sequence that finished at 2087 with the last Sydney R1-Class Tram.

The vehicles have a floor to rail height of 30 centimetres and the bogies have no axles between the wheels and are powered with hub motors.[32] The design weight was reduced to compensate for the addition of climate-control air-conditioning equipment. Each tram is fitted with three double doors each side which have enhanced safety systems with obstacle detection interlocked with the traction system.[32] Seats are generally in the transverse configuration - at 90 degrees to the sides of the vehicle. In 2014, the original external destination rolls were replaced with dot-matrix displays and digital voice announcements were installed. There are no internal displays.

Urbos 3[edit]

To service the Dulwich Hill extension and increase service frequencies, six Urbos 3 trams were ordered from Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), which was awarded the tender on 16 August 2012.[34][35] The first tram (2112) arrived in Sydney on 19 December 2013.[36] The first three tram vehicles (2112 to 2114) entered service over a three day period from 24 July to 26 July 2014.[37]

On 11 October 2013, the Government announced an order for six additional trams to replace the Variotrams.[38] All trams from the additional order are expected to enter service by the end of June 2015.[39]

The trams are approximately 33 metres long and feature two double and two single doors on each side. Seats are generally in the transverse configuration - at 90 degrees to the sides of the vehicle.[40] Digital voice announcements and internal dot-matrix displays provide information about the next stop.

Future trams[edit]

Citadis X05[edit]

As part of the winning consortium to build and operate the CBD and South East line, Alstom will supply thirty coupled pairs of Citadis X05 trams to provide the services.[41] The trams were originally intended to be approximately 45 metres long and use batteries to offer wire free operation in a section of George Street between Bathurst Street and Circular Quay.[42][43] In December 2014, it was announced that the trams would be lengthened to approximately 67 metres and that Alstom's proprietary Aesthetic Power Solution ground-level power supply technology would be used in place of batteries.[44]

Withdrawn trams[edit]

Urbos 2[edit]

Pair of Urbos 2s passing each other.
Pair of Urbos 2s on the Dulwich Hill Line

As part of the contract to provide six new Urbos 3 trams, an agreement was reached to lease four Urbos 2 trams. The additional trams would supplement the Variotrams and ensure service frequencies could be maintained after the extension to Dulwich Hill opened. The four leased trams had previously operated in Spain. Three units (2108-2110) were from Vélez-Málaga, where they operated between 2006 and 2012.[45] The other tram (2111) was from Seville. The first tram arrived in Sydney on 4 September 2013.[46] Delivery was completed in November. The trams entered service on 22 March 2014, five days before the opening of the extension to Dulwich Hill.[47] Following the introduction of the Urbos 3 trams in July, the Urbos 2s were withdrawn and returned to Spain.[37] The Urbos 2s were unpopular with passengers and attracted complaints.[48]

The trams featured four double and two single doors on each side. The seats were unpadded and were generally built in the longitudinal seating configuration - running parallel to the sides of the tram body. Digital voice announcements and internal dot-matrix displays provided information about the next stop.


A single ticket
A single ticket
Receipt upon presentation of a MyMulti ticket
Receipt upon presentation of a MyMulti ticket

When it first opened, the light rail network used its own ticketing system. The network operated on a proof-of-payment system, with ticket vending machines provided at all stops. By the time the Lilyfield extension opened, the machines had been switched off and replaced with conductors on the trams. The light rail's ticketing system has gradually been merging with the broader Sydney ticketing system. The network currently has two separate ticketing systems, a traditional paper-based system and a smartcard-based system. The paper-based system will eventually be phased out, achieving full ticketing integration with other public transport services in Sydney.

Paper-based tickets[edit]

Single and return tickets are available with fares based on two zones. Flat fare day and weekly tickets are also available, some of which also included travel on the monorail prior to that system's closure.

Several tickets are recognised on the light rail but are not sold on trams. A "TramLink" ticket which allows travel on Sydney Trains and the light rail is available from Sydney Trains stations.[49] From 27 June 2011, all MyMultis, the Pensioner Excursion Ticket and Family Funday Sunday have also been recognised.[50] This improved integration with the broader Sydney ticketing system led to a 30% to 40% increase in patronage on the line in the first months after introduction.[51]


From 1 December 2014, the Opal card has been accepted for travel on the light rail network. Light rail fares are the same as bus fares. Once the CBD and South East Light Rail opens, all light rail passengers interchanging with buses will only pay one fare, calculated from the start of their trip on one mode to the end of their trip on the other.[52][53] The Opal validators are located at stops, contrasting with the system for paper tickets, which must be purchased or presented on the trams. Patronage increased in the months following the introduction of Opal on light rail services.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Transport for NSW 2013/14 Annual Report" (PDF). Transport for NSW. 4 April 2014. p. 45. 
  2. ^ "Sydney Light Rail Extension - Stage 1 - Inner West Extension Preliminary Environmental Assessment" (PDF). Transport for New South Wales. July 2010. p. 10. Retrieved 2014-07-05. 
  3. ^ "The Light Rail Network - Sydney Fish Markets, The Star Casino, Darling Harbour and Chinatown are all on the list of destinations easily accessible by Sydney Light Rail". Transdev. Retrieved 2014-07-05. 
  4. ^ "Sydney Light Rail Extension – Stage 1 Inner West Extension Product Definition Report" (PDF). Transport NSW. July 2010. 
  5. ^ Mills, Gordon (1997). "Light Rail in Sydney: Some Privatisation Lessons" (PDF). Agenda 4 (4): 435, 438. 
  6. ^ a b c Stock Exchange Announcement Australian Infrastructure Fund 11 August 1998
  7. ^ Cosgriff, Stuart; Griffiths, Emily (5 July 2012). "Light rail strategy for Sydney". Clayton Utz Insights. Clayton Utz. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Campion, Vikki (23 March 2012). "Last stop for Sydney Monorail". The Daily Telegraph. 
  9. ^ Tan, Gillian (23 March 2012). "Australian Infrastructure Fund sells Metro Transport stake". The Australian (from The Wall Street Journal). 
  10. ^ van den Broeke, Leigh (1 July 2013). "Sydney monorail makes its last loop after 25 years of service". The Daily Telegraph. 
  11. ^ Saulwick, Jacob (18 April 2013). "All together now: Sydney's public transport united under one 'brand'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "Transport for NSW 2013/14 Annual Report" (PDF). Transport for NSW. pp. 329, 344. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "Light rail in Sydney". Transdev. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "CBD and South East Light Rail contract awarded with earlier delivery date". Transport for NSW. 18 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "Transdev consortium achieves financial close on Sydney Light Rail PPP" (Press release). Transdev. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  16. ^ "Sydney's new light rail system". Railway Digest. September 1997. p. 14. 
  17. ^ "Sydney's Tram Extension Opens". Railway Digest. September 2000. p. 4. 
  18. ^ "Inner West Light rail extension now complete". Transport for New South Wales. 27 March 2014. 
  19. ^ "George Street intersection works to prepare for CBD and South East light rail construction". Transport for NSW. 23 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "Sydney's Light Rail Future". Transport for NSW. 13 December 2012. p. 20. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  21. ^ a b "Western Sydney Light Rail Network". Parramatta City Council. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  22. ^ "Parramatta light rail: $400 million reserved to transform travel to Sydney's second CBD". Transport for NSW. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2014. 
  23. ^ "Four Western Sydney corridors shortlisted for Parramatta Light Rail". Transport for NSW. 27 October 2014. 
  24. ^ Parramatta Light Rail Transport for NSW 5 November2014
  25. ^ "2014 State Infrastructure Strategy Update" (PDF). Infrastructure NSW. p. 40. 
  26. ^ "Waverley Transport Plan". Waverley Municipal Council. December 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  27. ^ "Call for Light Rail Welcomed by Waverley – But Bring it to Bondi!". Waverley Municipal Council. 4 October 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  28. ^ Paperny, Daniel (11 October 2012). "Light rail on track for Bondi". Alternative Media Group. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  29. ^ "Urgent Business for Consideration" (PDF). Waverley Municipal Council. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  30. ^ "Waverley Light Rail Report" (PDF). Waverley Municipal Council. AECOM. Retrieved 11 April 2014. 
  31. ^ "Light Rail". City of Sydney. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. 
  32. ^ a b c d "Sydney Light Rail Construction and Extension". Railway Technology. 
  33. ^ "Technical Details and All That Stuff..." (PDF). Metro Transport Sydney. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  34. ^ "Contract awarded for delivery of new light rail vehicles". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 16 August 2012. 
  35. ^ "Sydney's Light Rail Future". Transport for NSW. 13 December 2012. p. 12. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  36. ^ O'Rourke, Jim (20 December 2013). "Sneak peek at Sydney's new trams". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  37. ^ a b First new light rail vehicle on the tracks as customer trips pass 1.5 million, Transport for NSW, Retrieved 23 July 2014
  38. ^ "Six more new light rail vehicles for Sydney". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  39. ^ a b "Inner West Light Rail extension celebrates first year as new light rail vehicles go into operation" (Press release). Gladys Berejiklian. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  40. ^ "Sydney Tram". CAF. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  41. ^ "Alstom to deliver to Sydney Citadis X05, the latest evolution of its tram range" (Press release). Alstom. February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  42. ^ Dean, Emma; Moore, Adam; Bunting, Kathleen (Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia) (21 June 2013). "CBD and South East Light Rail - State Significant Infrastructure Application Supporting Document" (PDF). Transport for NSW. pp. 4, 23. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  43. ^ "CBD and South East Light Rail - Industry Briefing Session" (PDF). Transport for NSW. 9 April 2013. p. 11. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  44. ^ "CBD and South East Light Rail – Modification Report" (PDF). Transport for NSW. pp. 25, 66. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  45. ^ "Sydney to lease Velez-Malaga LRVs". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  46. ^ Walker, Ian (4 September 2013). "Early morning tram delivery brings George St to a halt". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  47. ^ Inner West Light Rail Extension opens next week Transport for NSW 21 March 2014
  48. ^ "Transport for NSW 2013/14 Annual Report" (PDF). Transport for NSW. 4 April 2014. p. 45. 
  49. ^ "Light rail". Transport Info. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  50. ^ Berejiklian, Gladys (14 June 2011). "Pensioners, families big winners in light rail ticket changes" (Press release). Minister for Transport. 
  51. ^ Saulwick, Jacob (23 March 2012). "'Once-in-a-generation' opportunity to fix transport". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  52. ^ "Opal to go live on light rail months ahead of schedule". Transport for NSW. 24 November 2014. 
  53. ^ Opal rollout extends to light rail Transport Info NSW 25 November 2014

External links[edit]