Transportation Deployment Casebook/2018/Sydney Light Rail Systems

Light Rail Transport in SydneyEdit


1. Describe the mode. What are its essential technological characteristics, its main advantages, and its main markets.Edit

Light rail transport in Sydney has existed in two forms: a now-defunct tramway system and the current light rail system. Whilst different transport modes, these two systems operate with distinct technological similarities. The defining feature of light rail transport is its integration into urban environments, creating efficient interchanges in highly trafficked areas. While existing in mixed transport settings, light rail carriages run on tracks, separated from general road traffic from automobiles and buses. Light rail is purely for passenger travel and currently services areas not accessible by heavy rail lines and saves time when compared to travel by automobile or bus. The light rail system is a public transport option which promotes a reduction of usage of automobiles. Society benefits from this change in travel as light rails are powered by the electric grid which reduces local vehicle emissions and their associated externalities.

In Sydney, the current market is limited by the size of the existing light rail network, only servicing suburbs in the Inner West. Any person wishing to travel to this area is able to access this network and with extensions currently under construction, this market will grow.

2. Set the scene prior to the advent of the mode. What other modes were available? What were their limitations? How were markets for transportation evolving? How did these factors stir interest in new possibilities?Edit

Light rail in Sydney have always been used as a mode of passenger transportation. Throughout its history and even prior to its deployment, light rail has competed against other alternatives such as buses, automobiles, and heavy rail. At the advent of tramways, the heavy rail network was primarily developing to connect distant suburbs to the central business district (CBD) of Sydney. This continued to be true as the network expanded west, south, and north, whilst the tramway grew in the CBD and in the eastern suburbs. These two railway systems serviced different markets in both location and purpose; the heavy rail was more optimised to service freight carriages. This allowed tramways to specialise in passenger transportation and grow its network until bus and automobile travel became more popular.

As the technology matured, travel by tramway was considered a convenient mode but was soon overtaken by alternatives. Buses and automobiles existed during the initial rollout of trams, however they were limited in terms of their fleet size. The bus network expanded quickly as did private automobile ownership, which resulted in added congestion on the roads. Of these three competing transport means, tramways were blamed for the slow road conditions and ridership on tramways slowly declined.

After the decline of tramways, there were several decades until another successful light rail system was developed. In this modern transportation scene, buses and automobiles were both mature technologies that dominated road travel. This led to congestion and commuters seeking alternative options. The current light rail system met the needs of this market, operating on its isolated network and servicing the residents of the Inner West.

3. Describe the invention of the mode / technology. What different types of technological expertise were brought together? How? How was the shift from the initial design altered in the face of early experience? Describe the shift from the initial technology to the predominant technology. Remember that technology refers both to hardware (physical artifacts) and software (the way the artifacts are used to produce transportation).Edit

The birth of light-rail technology took shape as horse-drawn trams. These were modified carriages that ran on tracks that protruded from the road surface. Sydney’s first tram was built in 1861 and serviced a route from the old Sydney railway station to Circular Quay along Pitt Street. At the beginning, these horse-drawn trams carried passengers and were also used to haul freight wagons. This scope of service changed as the modified tracks for hauling freight caused too much damage to the wagon wheels of competing omnibus services.

In 1879 steam tramways were established, and the old horse-drawn trams were phased out. The steam trams used a Baldwin steam motor, imported from the established steam railways in the United States of America.

Two decades later in 1898 the electrification process had begun and by 1910 most of the system had been converted. Similar to the introduction of steam engines, the electrical power supply system was adapted from technology used to build the New York City subway electrical equipment.

After the closure of the tramways, the rebirth of the light rail introduced more technologically improvements. From the old tramways, the footboard carriages which were a danger to conductors, were replaced; all current rolling-stock are articulated and bi-directional. The system continues to operate on a standard gauge track and 750 volt direct current electrification. Yet further advancements were still to be made in the hardware of both the system and rolling-stock. A wire-free section of the network was created in a section of George Street and was achieved through Aesthetic Power Solution’s ground-level power supply technology; reducing the possibility of overhead interference. Between two generations of light-rail carriages, the seating arrangements were adjusted to provide more standing room. Furthermore, software updates to add digital voice announcements and internal dot-matrix displays to provide information about the next stop improved the travel experience for passengers.

4. Describe early market development. What were the initial market niches? What roles did functional enhancement (serving existing markets better) and functional discovery (serving new markets) play in market development?Edit

The first heavy railway was constructed in 1855 , prior to the first tramway. This first line was a route for passengers to travel between Sydney and ‘Parramatta Junction’ (west of the modern Granville Railway Station). By comparison, early tramways were deployed on existing roads in the central areas of Sydney. A lower construction phase was required for tramways, as tracks were relatively easy to install into roads, as opposed to the construction of an entire railway. This allowed tramways to rapidly expand its network and develop its market niche in the areas not serviced by heavy rail lines. Whilst in its infancy, tramways transported both passengers and cargo, it soon specialised in only passenger travel. Functional enhancement of light rail systems occurred in the form of technological upgrades; from horse-drawn, to steam powered to electrification. After the closure of the tramways, the reopening of the light rail was targeted at serving the Inner West market. The system benefited from the inefficiencies of other services, as heavy rail lines didn’t service all the areas lying on the Inner West Light Rail, and buses and automobiles experienced significant congestion travelling to these areas.

5. Assess the role of policy in the birthing phase. Describe how policies from precursor models were borrowed, and how other policies were innovated. Identify policies that were embedded and policies that were imposed or sanctioned by government. Identify policies that were “locked in” during this time.Edit

Light rail transportation in Sydney has experienced two distinct birthing phases: tramways and the modern light rail system. There were no policies related to the development of the early tramways. However, the New South Wales Government issued a policy document in 2012 entitled Sydney’s Light Rail Future, which proposed investigating an extension to the CBD and South East Light Rail the southern Anzac Parade Corridor; an extension that is currently under construction. This planning of extending the light rail network was further shown in the government’s 2018 Greater Sydney Services and Infrastructure Plan as more unspecified extensions were proposed.

6. Describe the growth of the mode. What roles did the public and private sectors play in the growth? What policy issues arose, and how were they resolved? How did the policy environment influence policymaking in this period.Edit

The tramway network expanded from primarily servicing the city and the eastern suburbs to establishing lines for commuters in the west, south-west and northern suburbs. At one stage the Sydney tramway network was one of the largest in the world, with a maximum street milage of 291km in 1923 and servicing 405 million passengers per year.

The system peaked in the 1930s, in part to the Transport Act 1930. Then-Premier Jack Lang introduced this policy to protect the tram system from the competition of private bus routes. This policy was a failure though, as the network began to experience a decline in patronage, resulting in closures of many of its lines.

The light rail system is still in its ‘birth’ stage but future plans for extensions to the network show promising indications of growth.

7. Describe development during the mature phase of the mode. Describe attempts to adapt the mode changing markets, competitive conditions, and policy values. Describe how "lock-in" has constrained these adaptations. Identify any opportunities you see to "re-invent" the mode so that it can better serve the needs of today and tomorrow.Edit

The Sydney tram network experienced a fast decline after achieving growth. There was no evident ‘mature’ phase for this system as it had reached its maximum extent by the 1920s and then began closing lines by the mid-1930s. The transport market had changed in the 1930s and the physical ‘lock-in’ of the tram network led to its downfall. The tram system faced competition from the heavy rail network, buses and private automobile ownership.

Whilst the tramway network was extensive, it couldn’t operate at the same scale as the heavy rail network. The heavy rail network serviced more suburbs of the greater-Sydney region. It also travelled on its own infrastructure, so it did not face congestion that was experienced on roads due to the mixed transport modes. In conjunction, the growth of bus ridership and automobile travel led to further reductions to tram patronage. These alternative transport modes were better suited to adjusting their routes to optimise travel times, a feat not achievable by the tracks that trams used. The decline of the tramway system was finalised, when overseas transport experts were asked to advise the city on its post-war transport issues. They concluded that the recommended solution would be the closure of the tramway system. This solution was implemented, with the final line concluding service in 1961.

It is still too early to comment on how the modern light rail network will develop. However, with systemic differences of market, technology, and government policy, it is possible to predict that this modern network will not experience the same decline as the tramway system.


The following data was collected from the Australian Government's Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics' 2017 Yearbook and analysed to fit an S-Curve to visualise periods of 'birth', 'growth' and 'maturity'.

K 10 Intercept -204.878 -156.874 -141.098 -133.262 -128.595 -125.509
b 0.102588 b 0.102588 0.078193 0.070088 0.066019 0.06357 0.061934
Rsquared 0.752932 Rsquared 0.752932 0.764924 0.76823 0.769771 0.770662 0.771243
t0 1997.088 t0 1997.088 2006.25 2013.155 2018.525 2022.872 2026.504
Financial Year Passenger Movements (M) Predicted Passengers K 10 15 20 25 30 35
1989 3.5 3.037009351 -0.61904 -1.18958 -1.5506 -1.81529 -2.02438 -2.19722
1990 3.5 3.258210421 -0.61904 -1.18958 -1.5506 -1.81529 -2.02438 -2.19722
1991 3.4 3.487453314 -0.66329 -1.22723 -1.58563 -1.84892 -2.05714 -2.22938
1992 3.4 3.723916227 -0.66329 -1.22723 -1.58563 -1.84892 -2.05714 -2.22938
1993 3.4 3.96664684 -0.66329 -1.22723 -1.58563 -1.84892 -2.05714 -2.22938
1994 3.4 4.214574369 -0.66329 -1.22723 -1.58563 -1.84892 -2.05714 -2.22938
1995 4 4.46652618 -0.40547 -1.0116 -1.38629 -1.65823 -1.8718 -2.04769
1996 4.7 4.721248501 -0.12014 -0.78458 -1.18029 -1.46306 -1.68324 -1.86359
1997 5.4 4.97743056 0.160343 -0.57536 -0.99462 -1.28913 -1.51635 -1.70138
1998 5.8 5.233731173 0.322773 -0.46135 -0.89538 -1.19705 -1.42849 -1.61631
1999 6.2 5.488806676 0.489548 -0.3502 -0.80012 -1.10931 -1.34514 -1.53583
2000 6.7 5.741338962 0.708185 -0.21415 -0.68566 -1.00479 -1.24635 -1.44075
2001 6.3 5.990062396 0.532217 -0.32277 -0.77685 -1.08797 -1.32493 -1.51635
2002 6.2 6.233788451 0.489548 -0.3502 -0.80012 -1.10931 -1.34514 -1.53583
2003 5.1 6.471427091 0.040005 -0.66329 -1.07212 -1.36148 -1.58563 -1.76862
The data is poorly modelled by a S-Curve with an R^2 value of 0.75. The graph indicates that the system did not progress past the 'growth' phase before experiencing an early decline.
K 15 Intercept -1445.46 -666.618 -556.584 -508.833 -481.956 -464.693
b 0.330905 b 0.718426 0.330905 0.276013 0.252138 0.238669 0.229999
Rsquared 0.797388 Rsquared 0.733018 0.797388 0.804218 0.806796 0.808131 0.808943
t0 2014.529 t0 2011.98 2014.529 2016.512 2018.075 2019.346 2020.411
Financial Year Passenger Movements (M) Predicted Passengers K -0.70819 -1.26567 -1.62149 -1.88339 -2.09074 -2.26239
2010 3.3 2.7394036 -0.24116 -0.87925 -1.26567 -1.54369 -1.76099 -1.9394
2011 4.4 3.558942032 -0.57536 -1.15268 -1.51635 -1.78246 -1.99243 -2.16587
2012 3.6 4.533011187 -0.44731 -1.04597 -1.41784 -1.6883 -1.90096 -2.07623
2013 3.9 5.64220499 0.447312 -0.37776 -0.8236 -1.13087 -1.36559 -1.55555
2014 6.1 6.845309754 3.476099 0.604419 -0.06002 -0.45573 -0.7385 -0.95868
2015 9.7 8.083353043 3.178054 0.575364 -0.08004 -0.4726 -0.75377 -0.97299
2016 9.6 9.290216885
The data has a below-average fit to a S-Curve model with an R^2 value of 0.80. The graph indicates that the system is still in its 'growth' phase and more data is required to accurately model its future trends.

From the data source, there was an unexplained gap between 2003 and 2010. Data prior to 1989 was unavailable or invalid as values of passenger movements could only be estimated. As stated previously, light rail systems in Sydney have never progressed into an extended 'mature' phase and this is reflected in the S-Curves. Whereas previous technologies declined and eventually closed, the modern light rail system shows promising signs of successful progression from the 'birth' stage.


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