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Sydney Metro Northwest

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Sydney Metro Northwest is an under-construction rapid transit project in the north-western suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales. Australia, connecting Rouse Hill to Chatswood via Castle Hill and Epping. The project is managed by the New South Wales Government's transport authority, Transport for NSW and will form part of the Sydney Metro system.

Prior to June 2015, the project was known as the North West Rail Link (NWRL). Originally, "North West Rail Link" referred to the section between Epping and Rouse Hill. By June 2015, the name had been extended to cover the route of the original NWRL and the existing Epping to Chatswood railway line, which is being converted to rapid transit standards. In June 2015, it was announced that the entire project would be renamed the Sydney Metro Northwest.[1]

Project history

Planning for the original North West Rail Link was a long and complex affair. The line was announced, cancelled and re-announced several times beginning in the 1990s. There were differing plans as to how the line 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 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.[2] The North West Rail Link was then renamed Sydney Metro Northwest.[3] It is to link to the rest of Sydney Metro at Chatswood.


There were three major contracts for the construction of the North West Rail Link.

In June 2013, the tunnelling contract was awarded to a joint venture involving Leighton Holdings owned Thiess and John Holland, and Dragados.[4] 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.[5] A third and final major contract to build the stations, operate the rail link and build single deck trains was announced at the end of 2014.[5]

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 completion of these tunnels in early 2016 marked the completion of the first stage of Sydney Metro Northwest. The NSW Premier's award recognises "infrastructure projects in the state that make a difference to the local community".[6]

Closure of the Epping to Chatswood railway line

The Epping to Chatswood railway line opened in 2009 as a heavy rail line. During O'Farrell's time as premier, the government announced that the line would be closed and converted to rapid transit standards.

The Epping to Chatswood railway line closed from 30 September, 2018 for around seven months for conversion to rapid transit standards. A temporary bus service is replacing the trains during the closure.


On 14 January 2019 the first driverless Metro train completed the full journey between Tallawong and Chatswood.[7]

Line operation

As of December 2011, the New South Wales Government had not ruled out the possibility of contracting the operation and management of the North West Rail Link to private enterprise as part of a public-private partnership. Les Wielinga, the Director-General of Transport for NSW, stated "We are focused on the longer term rail options. It's got to work as a single network, the whole network, but we are looking at private sector involvement in those as well. And we've got an open mind.".[8]

In May 2013 it was announced that two consortia had been shortlisted to operate the line:[9]

  • Northwest Rapid Transit consisting of John Holland, Leighton Contractors, MTR Corporation, Plenary Group and UGL Rail
  • TransForm consisting of Bombardier Transportation, John Laing Investments, Macquarie Capital, McConnell Dowell, Serco and SNC-Lavalin Capital

The Northwest Rapid Transit consortium was awarded the contract in June 2014.[10]


The project includes the following stations:[11]

Tallawong and Cherrybrook stations are being built as stations in a cutting, open to the sky, but below ground level while Castle Hill, Hills Showground and Norwest stations will be underground, whereas Kellyville and Rouse Hill will be above ground. The twin tunnels between Epping and Kellyville, at 15.5km long,[12] will be the longest rail tunnels in Sydney when they are built.[13] They will also be the deepest tunnels in Sydney; 67m below ground at the deepest point (below the intersection of Pennant Hills Road and Castle Hill Road).[14] Most of the tunnel was bored, although the section at Kellyville was constructed using cut-and-cover techniques.[14][15] Major tunnelling began in 2014.[16]

A new train stabling yard was constructed at in Rouse Hill, with room for 16 train sets. 3,000 new parking spaces will be provided across proposed carparks at Cherrybrook, Hills Showground and Kellyville stations.[12]

Extension to central Sydney

The Sydney Metro City & Southwest project will extend the line to 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 the newly converted railway line towards Bankstown.

Potential western extensions

Previously there were long term plans to extend the proposed heavy-rail North West Rail Link to meet the existing Richmond railway line near Vineyard.[17] However, the location of the alignments were never finalised and further investigation and studies would have been required.

State government documents from May 2011 suggested an intention to eventually extend the line to meet the Richmond line near Schofields, two stations south of Vineyard.[18] A Transport Department report from June of that year suggested an extension of the North West Rail Link beyond Rouse Hill to meet the Richmond line at Schofields, Riverstone, or beyond.[19]

A scoping study into rail investment to service Western Sydney and the proposed Western Sydney Airport was announced by the New South Wales and Australian governments in November 2015.[20] The study's final report was released in March 2018 and included a proposal to extend the Sydney Metro Northwest from Tallawong to Schofields, where it would connect with a proposed "North-South Link" serving the airport and continuing on to Macarthur.[21]

Previous proposals

1998 (original) proposal

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.[22] 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 that 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 — it would not be built until the Parramatta to Chatswood link was completed.[23]

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.[24] In March 2002 a report detailing the preferred route alignment was released.[25] 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. [26][27] 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.[26] 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.[28] It was revealed in August 2003 that RailCorp 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.[29]

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.[30] In 2005 the schedule was revised and a new completion date of 2017 was set.[12] 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.[31] The direct route proposed using the stub tunnels originally built for the deferred Parramatta Rail Link between Parramatta and Epping.[31] 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.[31]

Six new stations were proposed along the North West Rail Link:

  • Cherrybrook (Franklin Road)
  • Castle Hill
  • Hills Centre
  • Norwest
  • Kellyville (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 was originally part of the Metropolitan Rail Expansion Program (MREP) proposed by the Carr Government in 2005.[32] 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.[32][33]

Cancellation and North West Metro

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. On 23 October 2008, the NSW Government announced the CBD Metro instead, a shortened version of the North West Metro which would run from Rozelle to Central station, and the project was submitted to Infrastructure Australia for funding. It was announced that North West Metro may be extended to link from Rozelle to Epping and Macquarie Park in the future if the CBD Metro was built. Then, on 31 October 2008, the NSW Government announced that the North West Metro would be indefinitely deferred due to budgetary cuts.[34]

Resumption of original proposal

On 21 February 2010, two and a half months after Kristina Keneally had become Premier, the NSW Government revealed the cancellation of the Sydney Metro project in its Metropolitan Transport Plan[35][36] and returned to the North West Rail Link proposal. 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.[12]

2011 proposal

Following his victory in the 2011 New South Wales state election, newly elected Premier Barry O'Farrell announced that his first order of business would be to start construction on the North West Rail Link.[37]

When the O'Farrell Government took office, it proposed that the line would form part of the mainline network and would be served by double deck rolling stock, like other rail lines in Sydney. 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.[38][39] 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 line.[40]

The design was changed to a driverless rapid transit line, featuring more frequent, lower capacity single deck trains.[41] All trains would terminate at Chatswood, with passengers required to change to North Shore line trains to continue to the city.

The route proposal put forward in May 2011 by the State Government was a 23km rail route with six new stations, and the possibility of two more to be built at point in the future.[12][18]

Impasse over 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.[42] 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.[43][44][45]

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.[46] Despite this, the Federal Government did not allocate any funds to the North West Rail Link in the 2011 Budget.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49] 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.[50] Infrastructure Australia cited the lack of a completed proposal and lack of information on cost, infrastructure and development as reasons for the rejection.[51] The New South Wales Government vowed to build the line regardless.[51][52]


  • Criticism as been made that double-deck trains would permit more seated passengers to be carried per hour, and that passengers on long trips prefer to be comfortably seated.[53] A rebuttal to this claim has been made that longitudinal seating, which is actually the standard 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.[54]Template:Deadlink
  • The government has announced that the bus services which connect the Sydney CBD with the north-west using the M2 Hills Motorway will be withdrawn when the NWRL opens and be replaced by rail feeder services to stations on the NWRL.[55] Research has shown that trips from most of the north-west will take longer on bus-train combination than on bus alone.[56]


  1. "Funding secured: Sydney Metro to be a reality". Transport for NSW. 4 June 2015. Archived from the original on 23 June 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2015. 
  2. Breaking new ground on Sydney's mega-project as new station design revealed, Transport for NSW, Retrieved 6 August 2015
  3. Funding secured: Sydney Metro to be a reality Template:Webarchive, Transport for NSW, Retrieved 6 August 2015
  4. "Getting on with the job: $1.5 billion Tunnelling Contract on North West Rail Link" (Press release). Transport for NSW. 2013-06-25. Retrieved 2013-06-26. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "North West Rail Link $340 million skytrain contract awarded" (Press release). Transport for NSW. 2013-12-18. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  6. "Sydney Metro receives awards for excellence". Trenchless Australasia. 28 November 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2016. 
  7. Major Milestone As Metro Northwest Completes Its First Full Test Transport for NSW 14 January 2019
  8. Saulwick, Jacob (3 December 2011). "Private operators in the mix for north-west rail link". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  9. Detention company could run new rail link Sydney Morning Herald 2 May 2013
  10. Major milestones reached on North West Rail Link as preferred operator selected Template:Webarchive, Transport for New South Wales, Retrieved 24 June 2014
  11. "North West Rail Link". Transport for New South Wales. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Template:Cite report
  13. "Drillers called for Northwest Rail Link". Hills Shire Times (Castle Hill, New South Wales). 10 June 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Butson, Tyron (6 July 2011). "Northwest rail link tunnel deeper than harbour". Northern District Times. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  15. "Rail link takes shape in Sydney's north-west". ABC News. 27 May 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  16. North-west rail link tunnel carved out by boring Elizabeth, Sydney Morning Herald, Published 18 November 2014, Retrieved 5 August 2015
  17. North West Metro Stakeholder Engagement Briefing and Consultation Forum Outcomes Report. 15 August 2008
  18. 18.0 18.1 Rhys Haynes; Andrew Clennell (27 May 2011). "Let's go forth by North West rail". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  19. Haynes, Rhys (20 June 2011). "Plans to extend North West rail link". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  20. "Western Sydney Airport". Transport for NSW. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  21. "Western Sydney Rail Needs Scoping Study Outcomes Report". Australian Government and New South Wales Government. March 2018. p. 59. Retrieved 7 March 2018. 
  22. "Eight major rail projects for Sydney" (Press release). Carl Scully MP. 23 November 1998. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  23. "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. 
  24. Template:Cite report
  25. "Release of preferred route for the proposed rail link for Sydney's north west" (Press release). Carl Scully MP. 10 March 2002. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 "New studies to progress North West rail link" (Press release). Carl Scully MP. 3 October 2002. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  27. Template:Cite report
  28. Template:Cite report
  29. 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. 
  30. Template:Cite report
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 New South Wales Government, TIDC North West Rail Link - Preferred Project Report Volume 1 May 2007 Template:Webarchive. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Besser, Linton (26 February 2008). "Bye heavy rail, now for a north-west metro". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  33. Besser, Linton (19 March 2008). "Great idea, but white elephants trumpet". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  34. Benson, Simon (31 October 2008). "Northwest Metro rail link officially shelved". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  35. NSW Government. "Metropolitan Transport Plan: Connecting the City of Cities". Archived from the original on 6 April 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  36. Sydney Metro (2010). 2010 Annual Report. NSW Government. Archived from the original on 4 April 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  37. ABC News (27 March 2011). "O'Farrell hails new political landscape". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  38. Haynes, Rhys (6 July 2011). "New northwest rail link more a shuttle". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  39. Saulwick, Jacob (8 July 2011). "Fears of too few services on north-west rail link". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  40. Saulwick, Jacob (16 February 2011). "New north-west line might cause cuts to others, says advice". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 July 2011. 
  41. "Trains on new Sydney line to be driverless". ABC News. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  42. Clennell, Andrew (8 July 2011). "Barry O'Farrell offers Julia Gillard a rail switch". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  43. Jordan, Bev (11 August 2010). "Epping-Parramatta link panned". Rouse Hill Times (Rouse Hill, New South Wales). Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  44. Coorey, Phillip (11 August 2010). "Gillard's $2b transport fix". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  45. Farr, Malcolm (11 August 2010). "All aboard the PM's Parramatta express". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  46. Sikora, Kate (11 April 2011). "Barry O'Farrell ready to rail at Julia Gillard for the North West Rail Link". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  47. Haynes, Rhys (16 May 2011). "Alternate route to North West Rail Link has been rejected by the State Government". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  48. Benson, Simon (5 July 2011). "Northwest link plan misses first stop". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 26 July 2011. 
  49. Willoughby, Sally (29 November 2011). "North West Rail Link: Transport Study". Hills News (Castle Hill, New South Wales). Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  50. Clennell, Andrew; Yamine, Evelyne (7 May 2012). "North West told to Link up with a bus instead". The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, New South Wales). Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  51. 51.0 51.1 Butson, Tyron (8 May 2012). "End of line for North West Rail Link says Treasurer Wayne Swan". Express Advocate (Gosford, New South Wales). Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  52. "NW Rail Link to be built despite funding rejection". ABC News. 8 May 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  53. [1], Independent Public Inquiry, Appendix 3 by Alex Wardrop, Fitness for Duty: The Capabilities of double and single deck rolling stock
  54. "Early community consultation". Transport for NSW. July 2015. 
  55. Saulwick, Jacob (30 October 2012). "Bus services to go when rail link opens". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  56. [2], The North West Rail Link: winners and losers in the locality of the North West area, by Clifton, Hensher and Mulley - ATRF2012.


This article incorporates text from the following revision of the English Wikipedia article "Sydney Metro Northwest":

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