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Sydney Metro Northwest

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Sydney Metro Northwest was a rapid transit project in the north-western suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It covered the construction and conversion of a line from Rouse Hill to Chatswood via Castle Hill and Epping. The project was managed by the New South Wales Government's transport authority, Transport for NSW and the Sydney Metro Authority. The infrastructure forms what is currently known as the Metro North West Line. The project opened on 26 May 2019.

The project grew out of the North West Rail Link (NWRL); an on-again, off-again proposal to build a conventional railway line to serve Sydney's developing north-western suburbs. The project gained renewed impetus following the election of the Barry O'Farrell-led state government in 2011. Plans were changed to see the line built as a metro that would operate independently from the existing railway system. The existing Epping to Chatswood railway line would also be converted to metro standards as part of the project. The "North West Rail Link" name was then applied to the whole route from Rouse Hill to Chatswood. In June 2015, the NWRL project was renamed Sydney Metro Northwest.[2]


Planning for the project was a long and complex affair. Beginning in the 1990s, plans to build the North West Rail Link were announced, cancelled and re-announced several times. There were differing plans as to how the project would integrate into the rest of Sydney's transport system. The following proposals were endorsed at one time or another by the government:

  • Main line rail connecting to the Main Northern line near Beecroft, with trains accessing the city via either Rhodes (using the Main Northern line) or Macquarie Park (using the Epping to Chatswood line).
  • Main line rail connecting directly to the Epping to Chatswood line at Epping, with trains accessing the city via Macquarie Park.
  • Rapid transit line from the north west to the city via the Inner West, dubbed the North West Metro.
  • Rapid transit line connecting to a modified Epping to Chatswood line at Epping. Trains would terminate at Chatswood, with an extension to the city proposed for the future. This was the design that was ultimately selected.

By June 2015, media releases from Transport for NSW used the name “North West Rail Link” to address the whole section between Rouse Hill and Chatswood and not just the unbuilt part.[3] The North West Rail Link was then renamed Sydney Metro Northwest.[2]

The new section of the project consists of twin tunnels between Epping and Bella Vista, at 15.5km long,[4] were the longest rail tunnels in Sydney when built.[5] They were also the deepest tunnels in Sydney; 67m below ground at the deepest point (below the intersection of Pennant Hills Road and Castle Hill Road).[6] Beyond Bella Vista station, the line runs above ground, mostly on a viaduct.

The project included the construction or modification of the following stations:[7]

Project history

1998-2008: A conventional railway

The North West Rail Link was originally announced in November 1998 as part of an $2.6 billion package of eight major rail projects due for construction by 2010 dubbed Action for Transport 2010.[8] At the time, the proposal was for a $360 million heavy rail connection from Epping to Castle Hill, with potential extension to Mungerie Park and Rouse Hill after 2010.

News reports from March 2001 suggested cost estimates for the Action for Transport 2010 plan had blown out so much that the scope of the plan was now reduced to an Epping to Chatswood rail link due for completion in 2008. The completion date for the Parramatta to Epping section of the original Parramatta to Chatswood link was unspecified, which meant that the North West rail link proposal was effectively deferred indefinitely as it would not be built until the Parramatta to Chatswood link was completed.[9]

A 2002 NSW Treasury report mentioned the North West rail link, and that it was "under development or investigation", but no estimate of cost or start date were provided.[10] In March 2002 a report detailing the preferred route alignment was released.[11] The 19km route was proposed to run from Epping to Mungerie Park at Rouse Hill via Castle Hill. The cost of construction was estimated at $1.4 billion. [12][13] On 3 October 2002, the Minister announced a feasibility study for an extension of the proposed route beyond Rouse Hill to meet the existing Richmond railway line.[12] Various studies in support of the Epping to Castle Hill link were made during 2003; most of this work related to the proposed alignment of the route.[14] It was revealed in August 2003 that RailCorp, the operator of Sydney's rail network, was considering a new $6 billion rail link that would connect Hornsby with Campbelltown via the Sydney CBD and that the North West rail link could form an extension to this route.[15]

The New South Wales Government announced the Metropolitan Rail Expansion Plan (MREP) in June 2005, an $8 billion plan to add three new railway lines to the suburban network over the following 15 years. The North West Rail Link was one of the proposed lines, the other two being the South West Rail Link and the CBD Rail Link.[16] In 2005 the schedule was revised and a new completion date of 2017 was set.[4] In November 2006, the government announced a staged plan for the North West Rail Link with train services to Castle Hill and Hills Centre in 2015, two years ahead of the original completion date of 2017.

Proposed route

The original North West Rail Link route proposal was planned to be 22km in length, consisting of a 16km underground section from Epping to the proposed Burns Road Station, followed by a 4km section above ground from Burns Road Station (now Kellyville Station) to Rouse Hill. A train stabling facility was proposed to the north west of Rouse Hill Town Centre.

The latest version of the original proposal proposed to connect the North West Rail Link alignment to the Epping to Chatswood railway line via a tunnel between Epping and Franklin Road (now Cherrybrook) stations, whereas the earliest version of the original proposal had the route alignment connect with the existing Main Northern railway line north of Cheltenham.[17] The direct route proposed using the stub tunnels originally built for the deferred Parramatta Rail Link between Parramatta and Epping.[17] New stub tunnels for the Parramatta Rail Link were to be constructed so that if the Epping to Parramatta line were completed, trains from Parramatta would have also been able to link into the Epping-Chatswood Line.[17]

Six new stations were proposed:

  • Franklin Road
  • Castle Hill
  • Hills Centre
  • Norwest
  • Burns Road
  • Rouse Hill

The line was scheduled to open in two stages: the first stage from Epping to Hills Centre Station was scheduled for completion by 2015 (originally 2017), and the second stage from Hills Centre to Rouse Hill Station was scheduled for completion by 2017. Construction was scheduled to begin in 2010. The original proposal called for off-peak rail service of four trains per hour, with six to eight trains per hour in peak periods. The route was expected to carry six to eight million passengers per year.

The line formed part of the Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program (MREP) proposed by the Carr Government in 2005.[18] The MREP included the South West Rail Link, North West Rail Link and the CBD Rail Link and was intended to augment transport links between the major new growth and employment areas of the Sydney metropolitan region. The route proposal was abandoned in 2008 by the Iemma Government in favour of the development of a metro-style rapid transit system.[18][19]

2008-2010: First metro proposal (via Gladesville)

In March 2008, the Government changed the project to a metro line dubbed the North West Metro and expanded the line to run all the way to the Sydney CBD via the suburbs of Ryde, Gladesville, Drummoyne and Pyrmont. By October, the New South Wales Government acknowledged it would not have the funds to complete the North West Metro and announced the CBD Metro instead. This was a greatly shortened version of the North West Metro which would run from Rozelle to Central station. The CBD Metro project was submitted to the Australian Government body Infrastructure Australia for funding. The government stated the North West Metro could be extended to link from Rozelle to Epping and Macquarie Park in the future if the CBD Metro was built, although the North West Metro was indefinitely deferred due to budgetary cuts.[20]

2010-2019: Switch back to a conventional railway and second metro proposal

On 21 February 2010, two and a half months after Kristina Keneally had become Premier, the New South Wales Government published its Metropolitan Transport Plan. This saw a return to the older North West Rail Link proposal and the cancellation of the entire Sydney Metro project.[21][22] At the time, construction was anticipated to begin in 2017. In August 2010 the State Government applied to Infrastructure Australia for funding to accelerate the delivery of the project, but no funding was granted.[4]

Starting construction on the North West Rail Link was a key promise made by then-Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell in the run up to the New South Wales state election held in March 2011.[23] When the O'Farrell Government took office, the line was proposed to form part of the mainline network and would be served by double deck rolling stock, like other rail lines in Sydney. The route proposal put forward in May 2011 by the government was a 23km rail route with six new stations, and the possibility of two more to be built at point in the future.[4][24] A report released in July 2011 indicated that upon opening of the line, four to six trains per hour would connect Rouse Hill station with Chatswood station via Epping.[25][26] Of these, only as few as 2 trains per hour would be able to continue from Chatswood to the CBD due to capacity constraints on the North Shore railway line.[27]

The design was changed to a driverless rapid transit line, featuring more frequent, lower capacity single deck trains.[28] All trains would terminate at Chatswood, with passengers required to change to conventional trains to continue to the city. This decision was controversial. Criticism was made that double-deck trains would permit more seated passengers to be carried per hour, and that passengers on long trips prefer to be seated.[29] Transport for NSW justified the decision by saying that longitudinal seating, the form of seating on most metro trains around the world, allows for ease of access for transient "hop-on, hop-off" passengers, and particularly for those with prams or trolleys. In the instance of journeys in which many people will be hopping on and off, longitudinal seating allows for people to stand and exit from their seat easily, as well as providing more standing or walking room along the carriage.[30]Template:Deadlink

Attempts to secure Federal funding

The Gillard Federal Government refused to commit any funding to the North West Rail Link because it favoured completion of the Parramatta to Epping section of the Parramatta to Chatswood route.[31] The refusal dated back to a promise made during the 2010 Federal election campaign, when Gillard's Australian Labor Party announced the federal government would fund 80 per cent ($2.1 billion) of the construction of the Parramatta to Epping rail link if it were re-elected at the 2010 Australian federal election.[32][33][34]

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell asked Gillard to divert the federal funds allocated to the Parramatta to Epping rail link to the North West Rail Link project.[35] Despite this, the Federal Government did not allocate any funds to the North West Rail Link in the 2011 Budget.[36] At least part of the reason for the snub, apart from the Federal Government's transport priorities, is the fact that the O'Farrell State Government did not submit a project proposal for the North West Rail Link to Infrastructure Australia.[37]

Results of a cost-benefit analysis released in November 2011 indicated that the North West Rail Link would be three times more beneficial to New South Wales than the Parramatta to Epping extension.[38] The report also indicated that the cost of constructing the Parramatta–Epping line would cost $1.78 billion more than initially expected.

Infrastructure Australia formally rejected Infrastructure NSW's request for $2.1 billion in funding in May 2012, saying the project is “not the highest priority” transport project for Sydney. Instead, Infrastructure Australia suggested an expansion of the bus network and better transport links with Parramatta.[39] Infrastructure Australia cited the lack of a completed proposal and lack of information on cost, infrastructure and development as reasons for the rejection.[40] The New South Wales Government vowed to build the line regardless.[40][41]

Construction and delivery

There were three major contracts for the construction of the North West Rail Link. The tunnelling contract was awarded to a joint venture involving Leighton Holdings owned Thiess and John Holland, and Dragados in June 2013.[42] In December 2013, the skytrain and surface construction contract was awarded to a joint venture between Italian firms Impregilo and Salini. The $340 million contract included a 270-metre cable-stayed bridge over Windsor Road at Rouse Hill.[43] A third and final major contract to build the stations, operate the rail link and build single deck trains was awarded in June 2014 to the Northwest Rapid Transit consortium, consisting of John Holland, Leighton Contractors, MTR Corporation, Plenary Group and UGL Rail.[44]

Major tunnelling began in 2014.[45] Most of the tunnel was bored, although the section at Kellyville was constructed using cut-and-cover techniques.[6][46] The tunnels were completed in early 2016. In November 2016 the John Holland Group, Dragados and Transport for NSW were awarded the 2016 NSW Premier's Award for Building Infrastructure for the 15 km twin-tunnels between Bella Vista and Epping, which are the longest tunnels constructed in Australia. The NSW Premier's award recognises "infrastructure projects in the state that make a difference to the local community".[47]

A train stabling yard and depot was constructed beyond Tallawong station.

The Epping to Chatswood railway line closed from 30 September, 2018 for conversion to rapid transit standards. Substitute bus services operated during the closure.

By 14 January 2019 the project was sufficiently complete to allow the first metro train to complete the full journey between Tallawong and Chatswood.[48] Following months of testing, Sydney Metro Northwest opened on 26 May 2019. Services were branded as the Metro North West Line.[49] Until late 2019, a replacement bus service will run every night from around 9.30pm between Sunday to Wednesday to allow additional works to be completed.[50][51][52]

Extension to central Sydney and Bankstown

The Sydney Metro City & Southwest project is extending the Metro North West Line through the Sydney central business district and on to Bankstown by building a tunnel from just south of Chatswood station via North Sydney and under the Sydney Harbour towards Central station and Sydenham, before joining a converted section of the Bankstown railway line towards Bankstown. Tunnelling commenced in October 2018.[53]


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  3. "Breaking new ground on Sydney's mega-project as new station design revealed". Transport for NSW. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Template:Cite report
  5. "Drillers called for Northwest Rail Link". Hills Shire Times. 10 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
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  8. "Eight major rail projects for Sydney" (Press release). New South Wales Government. 23 November 1998. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  9. "Castle Hill rail line becomes the missing link" (Press release). Michael Richardson MP. 6 March 2001. Archived from the original on 17 March 2003. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  10. Template:Cite report
  11. "Release of preferred route for the proposed rail link for Sydney's north west" (Press release). New South Wales Government. 10 March 2002. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "New studies to progress North West rail link" (Press release). New South Wales Government. 3 October 2002. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  13. Template:Cite report
  14. Template:Cite report
  15. Kerr, Joseph (12 August 2003). "The fast track - $6bn plan to unlock the rail grid". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 8 December 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  16. Template:Cite report
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "North West Rail Link - Preferred Project Report Volume 1". Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation. May 2007. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Besser, Linton (26 February 2008). "Bye heavy rail, now for a north-west metro". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  19. Besser, Linton (19 March 2008). "Great idea, but white elephants trumpet". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  20. Benson, Simon (31 October 2008). "Northwest Metro rail link officially shelved". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
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  25. Haynes, Rhys (6 July 2011). "New northwest rail link more a shuttle". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  26. Saulwick, Jacob (8 July 2011). "Fears of too few services on north-west rail link". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  27. Saulwick, Jacob (16 February 2011). "New north-west line might cause cuts to others, says advice". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
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  29. "Independent Public Inquiry, Appendix 3 by Alex Wardrop, Fitness for Duty: The Capabilities of double and single deck rolling stock". 
  30. "Early community consultation". Transport for NSW. July 2015. 
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  34. Farr, Malcolm (11 August 2010). "All aboard the PM's Parramatta express". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  35. Sikora, Kate (11 April 2011). "Barry O'Farrell ready to rail at Julia Gillard for the North West Rail Link". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  36. Haynes, Rhys (16 May 2011). "Alternate route to North West Rail Link has been rejected by the State Government". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
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  38. Willoughby, Sally (29 November 2011). "North West Rail Link: Transport Study". Hills News. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  39. Clennell, Andrew; Yamine, Evelyne (7 May 2012). "North West told to Link up with a bus instead". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 Butson, Tyron (8 May 2012). "End of line for North West Rail Link says Treasurer Wayne Swan". Express Advocate. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
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  44. "Major milestones reached on North West Rail Link as preferred operator selected". Transport for NSW. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014. 
  45. "North-west rail link tunnel carved out by boring Elizabeth". The Sydney Morning Herald. 18 November 2014. 
  46. "Rail link takes shape in Sydney's north-west". ABC News. 27 May 2011. 
  47. "Sydney Metro receives awards for excellence". Trenchless Australasia. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  48. "Major Milestone As Metro Northwest Completes Its First Full Test". Transport for NSW. 14 January 2019. 
  49. "Sydney Metro is open". Transport for NSW. Archived from the original on 26 May 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2019. 
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This article incorporates text from the following revision of the English Wikipedia article "Sydney Metro Northwest":

External links