A light-rail network for Sydney?

Back in the day, I got a little carried away about public transport utopia for Sydney. With all that money being wasted on the Metro scheme, it didn’t seem like the normal level of rigour was necessary!

But we all grow up (NSW Labor excepted) and our ambitions narrow. Below is an interactive map of what I believe to be a realistic and affordable option for a light rail network in Sydney, which follows transport corridors, serves activity centres, links to other transport forms and uses existing under-utilised infrastructure. It would cost less than the Metro would have too!

(Drag the map to move around, use buttons to zoom for detail)

Firstly, Sydney’s transport priorities appear to be the South West and North West heavy rail extensions. These are growing areas, and generate much of the car and bus congestion in the city approaches and CBD streets. In addition, if it goes ahead (the Libs plan to pull it), the CBD relief line (currently in planning) needs to be connected through to Chatswood, to allow for the extra capacity of the new lines.

Most of the evidence for this plan comes from the same sources listed in the earlier post. The updates from the previous post are significantly influenced by two things. It has come to my attention that a reserve exists along the old light rail corridor through Randwick and Coogee, and this would form most of the Coogee extension line. Secondly, Ecotransit and ACF have released a plan for an East-West TransLink, which is largely incorporated into the new map.

The components of the network, in order of the Joel-mandated construction timeline, are:

Inner West Light Rail

The extension to the inner west line to Dulwich Hill is already underway, well progressed through planning and consultation stages.

To avoid creating a light-railway to nowhere, the ultimate success of Sydney light rail relies on the…

CBD Loop

It appears that a line down Sussex St will be the first CBD route to open, however I’m guessing that it will be delayed until the sods start turning on the Barangaroo development. The likely closure of the loop will head up George St, in spite of the reports that the City of Sydney have received from their engineering consultants, who favour the Castlereagh St corridor. However, this may prove prescient if I am right about the need for an Inner West CBD Extension (see below).

South East Line

This line is begging to be built. ANZAC Parade has a reserve up the middle where the historical light rail route once ran. Not only that, but a line through to Maroubra Junction would pass Oxford St, the Sydney Football Stadium and Sydney Cricket Ground, Randwick Racecourse, UNSW, Kingsford (commercial/retail/medium density apartments) and Maroubra Junction (commercial/retail/medium density apartments). This route creates a lot of bus traffic into the CBD, requiring lay-overs and causing bus bunching.

Similarly, a branch line through Randwick and Coogee could be built along the existing reserve, also a historical route. This is again a large source of buses into the CBD. The old route could however be amended to create a light rail/bus interchange at the Belmore Road commercial precinct.

East-West Line

This comes almost straight out of the Ecotransit proposal that I’ve linked to above, and follows part of the Greensquare route in my earlier post. It would further break down of the east/west nightmares that Sydney throws up (why is transport Sydney so north/south oriented!?!), and Ecotransit claim that it would help eliminate the need for $4.5 billion duplication of the M5 motorway, in conjunction with other measures. More money available for public transport!

This line would essentially close an outer loop passing Dulwich Hill, Kensington and the CBD.

I now find it difficult to support light rail for Greensquare, given the existing train line in the middle of the area already. It would help if they built dedicated bus lanes in the area, but I have difficulty seeing a Greensquare light rail line fitting into a wider network. (Ecotransit have also proposed an additional heavy rail station at Doody St, Alexandria, which would fit into this plan well.) If the commuter numbers eventually supported it, the busway could be later turned into a light rail loop connecting to the East West and South East lines.

Inner West – Balmain extension

When White Bay is developed, there will need to be better links to the city. This will be the case whatever is built, be it a ferry terminal and corporate space or medium/high-density residential. A branch line from the bottom of Annandale through to Balmain should do it.

Gary Glazebrook has floated the idea of a bypass tunnel skipping Pyrmont, and this would benefit commuters from the extended Dulwich Hill line by saving around four stops and a couple of kilometers.

Inner West CBD Extension

I suspect that with this number of lines and branches ultimately running trams every seven minutes (at least in peak times), the CBD loop would become congested. My quick calculation has more than a tram every minute, which would be near impossible to timetable once intersections and stations are added to the mix.

In this case we would need an additional line through the CBD, and the Castlereagh St route seems the most appropriate, assuming George St was used for the original loop.

And there you have it

Admittedly, I have ignored the need for tram sheds, maintenance depots and other supporting infrastructure, but this was never intended to be an engineers report. Hope you had fun. I did.


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