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Light rail in Sydney

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The Sydney light rail network (or Sydney Light Rail) is a light rail system serving the Australian city of Sydney, New South Wales. The network consists of two 12.8km lines with 37 stations.

A third line is under construction and is scheduled to be completed in 2020. The first stage of a light rail network serving Western Sydney has received planning approval.

The network is controlled by the New South Wales Government's transport authority, Transport for NSW, and is part of the authority's Opal fare system. Day-to-day operation of the network is contracted to Transdev. In the year ended June 2018, 10.3 million passenger journeys were made on the network.


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Sydney developed an extensive tram network, which grew to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and second largest in the Commonwealth after London. 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 on 25 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 was built to link the line to Central railway station. The line was set up as a public-private partnership. It opened in August 1997, running between Central station and Wentworth Park, Pyrmont.

The private owner soon made proposals for a western extension continuing along the disused goods line, plus a new line through the central business district from Central to Circular Quay.[1] The western extension opened in 2000, terminating at Lilyfield, but the company was unsuccessful in its attempts to develop a CBD line, which saw development of light rail stagnate for the remainder of the decade.

By contrast, the 2010s have seen major expansion and reform of light rail in Sydney including the announcement and delivery of multiple new infrastructure projects, integration of ticketing with the city's other transport modes, the introduction of new trams and the transfer of the network to full public ownership. The extensions announced during the decade total almost 40km. If all projects are completed, the network would expand in size from 7.2km at the start of the decade to approximately 50km.

Ownership and operation

Public-private partnership

In March 1994 the Sydney Light Rail Company (SLRC) was formed. SLRC was awarded a 30-year concession to operate the light rail system until February 2028 when ownership would pass to the New South Wales Government.[2] The contract gave the company significant control over the commercial arrangements relating to future extensions or interconnecting lines.[3] Operation of the line was contracted to TNT Transit Systems, which also owned the Sydney Monorail.

The SLRC purchased the monorail in August 1998 as part of a joint venture with French transport company CGEA Transport.[4] This resulted in CGEA Transport taking over the light rail operating contract. CGEA Transport and its successors have operated the inner city light rail network ever since.[5]

In early 2001, Connex (renamed from CGEA Transport in 1999) sold its share of the monorail to the SLRC, bringing the monorail and light rail under unified ownership and leading to the formation of Metro Transport Sydney.[6][7]

The New South Wales Government purchased Metro Transport Sydney in March 2012, and the company was placed under the control of Transport for NSW.[8] The purchase removed the contractual restrictions on expanding the light rail network and allowed the government to dismantle the monorail, assisting its plans to redevelop the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.[9][10]

Government ownership

From 1 July 2013, the Metro Light Rail brand was phased out as part of a broader rebranding and reorganisation of public transport services in New South Wales.[11] The process of shutting down Metro Transport Sydney and transferring assets to Transport for NSW was completed in September 2014.[12]

Following the announcement of the CBD and South East Light Rail, the government decided to group the contract covering construction of the new line with the operation and maintenance both lines of the inner city network. In December 2014, Transport for NSW awarded the contract to the ALTRAC Light Rail consortium. This sees Transdev Sydney, the operator under the previous contract, continue to operate and maintain the network as part of the consortium.[13] The operating contract commenced on 1 July 2015 and runs until 2034.[14][15]

After taking control of the Inner West Light Rail and announcing the CBD and South East Light Rail, the government also moved to establish a separate network centred around the Western Sydney suburb of Parramatta. Transdev will also operate the Parramatta network as part of the Great River City Light Rail consortium. This contract runs for eight years from construction completion, with a possible extension of up to an additional ten years.[16]



L1 Dulwich Hill Line

The Inner West Light Rail – branded as the L1 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 railway station in the city and Wentworth Park, Pyrmont in August 1997.[17] 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.[18][19]

L2 Randwick & L3 Kingsford Lines

The CBD and South East Light Rail - branded as the L2 Randwick Line and L3 Kindsford Line - runs 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 was built to reduce bus congestion in the CBD and provide higher capacity public transport to the New Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground, Randwick Racecourse and University of New South Wales, which were previously served only by buses. In contrast to the Inner West Light Rail, the route is mostly on-street and follows a similar path to routes used by the former tramway network. Major construction began in October 2015.[20] The line was originally projected to open in early 2019.[14] However, construction of the line was significantly slower than anticipated. The line ultimatly opened in stages. The L2 line from Randwick to Circular Quay opened in December 2019, with the L3 Kingsford branch to follow by March 2020.[21]

Planned extensions

Parramatta lines

Parramatta Light Rail is the name given to two planned lines that converge on the Western Sydney centre of Parramatta.

The first line runs from Carlingford to Westmead via the Parramatta CBD. It includes the conversion of most of the existing heavy rail Carlingford line to light rail standards. Construction is expected to begin in 2018 and be completed by 2023.[22][23]

The preferred route for the second line was announced in October 2017. This line branches from the first line at Rydalmere and travels through Ermington, Melrose Park, Wentworth Point and on to Sydney Olympic Park events precinct.[24]

The lines will have no connection to the Inner West or CBD and South East lines.

Rolling stock

Two classes of trams operate services on the network. All vehicles to have operated on the system have been articulated, low floor and bi-directional. The system uses standard gauge track and 750 volt direct current electrification.

Urbos 3

Inner West Light Rail

Following the 5.6 km extension of the Inner West Light Rail to Dulwich Hill, more rolling stock was needed to support services and run alongside the Variotrams that had been providing services on the line since the first section opened in 1997.[25] A tender for six Urbos 3s was awarded to Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) on 16 August 2012.[26] The first unit arrived in Sydney on 19 December 2013 and entered service on 24 July 2014.[27][28] All were in service by August, allowing the leased Urbos 2s to be returned to Spain.[25]

On 11 October 2013, the Government announced an order for six additional Urbos 3s to replace the Variotrams.[29] All Urbos 3s from the additional order had entered service by the end of June 2015.[13][30]

The Urbos 3s are approximately 33 metres long and feature two double and two single doors on each side. The seats on the first batch are generally in the transverse configuration – at 90 degrees to the sides of the vehicle.[31] The second batch replace some of the transverse seats with longitudinal seating, providing more standing room. Digital voice announcements and internal dot-matrix displays provide information about the next stop. They have a standard capacity of 206 passengers and a crush capacity of 272.[32] The vehicles are numbered 2112, 2114–2124.

Parramatta Light Rail

Stage 1 of the Parramatta Light Rail will be operated by a fleet of thirteen Urbos 3 vehicles. Each tram will be 45 metres long and consist of 7-modules.[16] These vehicles will support wire-free operation using batteries, which will be utilised on the on-street sections of the line around Parramatta and Westmead.[33][34]

Citadis X05

As part of the winning consortium to build and operate the CBD and South East Light Rail, Alstom supplied sixty Citadis X05 trams to provide the services.[35] Each vehicle consists of five-sections. The trams are coupled together to operate in pairs of two.[36] Original plans for the line intended for the trams to be approximately 45 metres long and operate as single units. Wire-free operation in a section of George Street between Bathurst Street and Circular Quay was to be achieved via battery storage.[37][38] In December 2014, it was announced that Alstom's proprietary Aesthetic Power Solution ground-level power supply technology would be used in place of batteries. The length of the trams would also be reduced, but they would now operate in pairs, giving each pair a total length of approximately 67 metres.[39]

The first unit was completed in May 2017.[40][41] The first six were manufactured in La Rochelle, France, the remaining 54 in Barcelona, Spain.[42] They are numbered 001-060.

New trams for Inner West Light Rail

Four new trams are likely to be ordered for the Inner West Light Rail due to unexpectedly strong patronage growth. These will come from one of the existing models (Alstom's Citadis or CAF's Urbos), but, as of July 2019, no decision had been made on which supplier would be chosen. The vehicles are likely to be in operation no earlier than 2021. There are also suggestions the Citadis trams will be deployed on the Inner West line at some point, subject to "contract limitations" being overcome.[43]



The network's original rolling stock was the Variotram which was introduced with the opening of the first section of the Inner West Light Rail in 1997. Seven German-designed vehicles were manufactured by Adtranz in Melbourne.[44] The Variotram design is modular and was extended for the Sydney system. The capacity of the vehicles was 217 passengers, of which 74 were seated.[45] The first was damaged in an accident near Tarcutta while on its delivery run and had to be returned to Melbourne for repairs.[46] On tests up to three trams were coupled together allowing a maximum capacity of 600 passengers if required.[44] They were numbered 2101–2107, continuing the Sydney trams sequence that finished at 2087 with the last Sydney R1-Class Tram.

The vehicles had a floor to rail height of 30 centimetres and the bogies had no axles between the wheels and were powered with hub motors.[44] The design weight was reduced to compensate for the addition of climate-control air-conditioning equipment. Each was fitted with three double doors each side which had enhanced safety systems with obstacle detection interlocked with the traction system.[44] Seats were 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 were no internal displays. The last Variotram was withdrawn from service after operating overnight between Central and The Star on 27/28 May 2015.[47]

After sustaining damage in a derailment at Glebe on 7 October 2013, Variotram number 2106 was scrapped.[48] The remaining six Variotrams were withdrawn during the first half of 2015. One tram, 2107, has been preserved at the Sydney Tramway Museum.[49] The remaining five (2101-2105) were scrapped in early 2018.[50]

Urbos 2

Four leased Urbos 2 trams were introduced on the Inner West Light Rail in 2014. They entered service to coincide with the extension of the line to Dulwich Hill, supplementing the Variotrams and ensuring service frequencies on the line could be maintained. The four trams had previously operated in Spain. Three units (2108–2110) were from Vélez-Málaga, where they operated between 2006 and 2012.[51] The other tram (2111) was from Seville. The first Urbos 2 arrived in Sydney on 4 September 2013.[52] Delivery was completed in November. The trams entered service on 22 March 2014, five days before the opening of the extension to Dulwich Hill.[53] Following the introduction of the Urbos 3 trams in July 2014, the Urbos 2s were withdrawn and returned to Spain.[28] The Urbos 2s were unpopular with passengers and attracted complaints.[54]

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 vehicle's body. Digital voice announcements and internal dot-matrix displays provided information about the next stop.


The following table lists patronage figures for the network during the corresponding financial year. Australia's financial years start on 1 July and end on 30 June. Major events that affected the number of journeys made or how patronage is measured are included as notes.

Sydney light rail patronage by financial year
Year 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
[lower-alpha 1]
4.0 4.2 3.9
[lower-alpha 2][lower-alpha 3]
[lower-alpha 4]
9.7 10.0
[lower-alpha 5]
10.3 9.9
[lower-alpha 6]
References [55] [56] [57] [58] [59] [60]
Sydney light rail total patronage by financial year.png
  1. Partial integration with main Sydney ticketing system in June 2011
  2. Services suspended for much of October 2013 after double derailment
  3. Dulwich Hill extension opened in March 2014
  4. Opal introduced in December 2014
  5. Non-Opal tickets discontinued in August 2016
  6. Figures from 2018-19 based on Opal tap on and tap off data.
2018-19 patronage of Transport for NSW's
Sydney services by mode[61]

Sydney PT patronage by mode last financial year.png

Ticketing and fares

The light rail network uses the smartcard-based Opal fare system, which was introduced to the network on 1 December 2014. Opal is also valid on bus, metro, train and ferry services but separate fares apply for these modes. Opal's light rail fares are the same as those for buses but the fares are not combined when interchanging between the two modes. This was due to change once the CBD and South East Light Rail opens; all light rail passengers interchanging with buses would only pay one fare, calculated from the start of their trip on one mode to the end of their trip on the other.[62][63] However, this was not implemented when the new line opened; a $2 transfer discount when changing modes had been introduced in the interim.

Some light rail stops feature Opal top-up machines; these also sell Opal single trip tickets. The single trip tickets are more expensive than the standard Opal fare. They are only valid for travel on light rail and must be used on the day of purchase.[64] The following table lists Opal fares for reusable smartcards and single trip tickets as of 24 June 2019:[65]

Bus or light rail 0–3 km 3–8 km 8 km+
Adult cards & contactless $2.24 $3.73 $4.80
Other cards $1.12 $1.86 $2.40
Adult single trip $2.90 $4.60 $6.00
Child/Youth single trip $1.40 $2.30 $3.00

When it first opened, the Inner West Light Rail used its own paper-based ticketing system. Paper tickets were originally sold from ticket machines on stop platforms but were later issued by conductors on board. During the 2010s this system gradually merged with the broader Sydney ticketing system, culminating in the introduction of Opal and the withdrawal of all other tickets. This process was completed on 1 August 2016.[66]

Potential extensions

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

Anzac Parade

The New South Wales Government's 2012 policy document entitled Sydney's Light Rail Future proposed investigating an extension of the CBD and South East Light Rail along the southern Anzac Parade corridor.[67]

By 2014 an initial investigation had commenced. Three potential options were examined; a 1.9 kilometre extension to Maroubra Junction, a 5.1 kilometre extension to Malabar and an 8.2 kilometre extension to La Perouse.[68]

The government's 2018 Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan included a proposal for an extension to Maroubra Junction. The extension wouldn't be developed for at least 10 years.[69]

The Bays Precinct

The Bays Precinct is a large waterfront area to the west of the Sydney CBD being proposed for urban renewal by the New South Wales Government. The southern part of the precinct is served by the existing Inner West Light Rail. A planning document released by the government in October 2015 suggested light rail could be extended to the northern part of the precinct, possibly utilising the Glebe Island Bridge.[70]

The government's 2018 Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan included a proposal for a new line from Leichhardt North to Pyrmont via The Bays Precinct and the Glebe Island Bridge. It would connect with the existing Inner West Light Rail at both ends. The line wouldn't be developed for at least 10 years.[69]

Parramatta Light Rail extensions

The New South Wales Government's 2012 policy document entitled Sydney's Light Rail Future proposed investigating a Western Sydney light rail network.[67] This led to a number of corridors being investigated in the early planning stages of the Parramatta Light Rail project. The final corridors selected for development were announced in 2015.

In early 2017 Transport for NSW had begun an investigation into an extension of the Parramatta Light Rail from Carlingford to Epping.[71]

The government's 2018 Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan proposed investigating unspecified extensions to the network. The extensions wouldn't be developed for at least 10 years.[69]

Green Square

In 2012 the City of Sydney Council recommended construction of a light rail link from the city to Green Square. The line would service the commercial and residential developments being built in the area, which is expected to become Australia's most densely populated precinct. The council has spent more than $30 million buying land for a light rail corridor.[72][73][74] In July 2015, New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance stated that the area was likely to be served by a light rail link in the future.[75] This led to a decision in October by the City of Sydney to allocate $445,000 to develop plans for a light rail line from the city to Green Square. The council estimated a link would cost $350–500 million to build.[73]

See also


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  61. See Public transport patronage in Sydney by mode for sources
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  75. Saulwick, Jacob (28 July 2015). "Green Square needs light rail, Transport Minister says in break from past". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 28 July 2015. 


This article incorporates text from the following revision of the English Wikipedia article "Light rail in Sydney":