Transportation Planning Casebook/Parramatta LRT


Parramatta Light Rail[1]

Parramatta is fast growing city with Sydney, and this is for many reasons with one being the NSW government plan of creating the tri-city Sydney to produce three productive, liveable and sustainable cities. Parramatta is projected be the key link between the other two cities, the new Western Parkland City, and the current CBD Eastern Harbor City. Parramatta will be known as the central River city aiming to multi-project this new Greater Parramatta and the Olympic Peninsula (GPOP) to be focused on developing city, with health, education, administration, finance and business services to drive up the economy[2]. The Parramatta light rail (PLR) has been indicated as a key public transportation necessity for the success of this Central River City, PLR will connect Westmead to Carlingford via Parramatta CBD and Camellia and will consist of a two-way 12km integrated rail line with an expected opening in 2023. It is predicted by 2026, around 28,000 people will use PLR daily and 130,000 people within walking distance of one of the stations[3].

List of ActorsEdit

Stakeholder Groups Members Issue/Interest in project
Local government
  • City of Parramatta Council
  • Cumberland Council
  • Third Party Agreement and DA
  • Traffic management and parking
  • Impacts on local infrastructure
  • Active transport
NSW Government departments and agencies
  • Children’s Hospital
  • RMS, Sydney Trains and Sydney Buses
  • Health Infrastructure NSW
  • Infrastructure NSW
  • Property NSW
  • Department of Planning Industry and Environment
  • Regulatory role
  • Impacts on local road network
  • Provision of land
  • Community engagement
  • Sydney Water
  • Telstra
  • Caltex
  • NBN
  • City of Parramatta Council
  • Others
  • Construction coordination with interfacing projects
  • Integration of future utility requirement along project alignment
  • Environmental aspects e.g. heritage, biodiversity, flooding
  • Community engagement
  • Residents
  • Media
  • Local businesses
  • Transport customers
  • Community housing providers
  • Community services and groups
  • Stop locations
  • Construction impacts
  • Dust, noise, vibration impacts
  • Parking
  • Delivery of government promises in terms of timeframe, budget etc
  • Monitoring of progress of project
  • Service cost and frequency
Education Facilities
  • University of western Sydney
  • Tafe NSW
  • Local High schools
  • Local Primary Schools
  • More improved access to class location for students
  • Pedestrian access during construction and operations
  • Safety considerations from pollution and noise  
  • Disruption to current transportation network during construction
Transportation users
  • Heavy rail users
  • Pedestrians  
  • Bus users
  • Cyclists
  • Disruption of current services including high pollution and noise
  • Safety of pedestrians
  • Alternative routes causing delay in other transportation services


2012: Introduction of Parramatta Light RailEdit

According to the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan, Sydney’s Line Rail Future – Expanding public transport, revitalizing out city, and Unlocking Western Sydney’s Potential with Light Rail: Western Sydney Light Rail Feasibility Study, the Transport for New South Wales (Transport for NSW) is planning to construct a light rail line from Westmead to Carlingford via Parramatta CBD, Camellia, and Sydney Olympic Park[3].

2013-2014: Western Sydney Light Rail Feasibility StudyEdit

In 2013, the former Parramatta City Council (now City of Parramatta) completed a feasibility study to a potential Western Sydney light rail network[3]. The study suggested 15 possible corridors and the first stage of the Western Sydney light rail network should provide two lines, the first line connects the Westmead Health precinct, Parramatta CBD, Western Sydney University at Rydalmere, Eastwood town centre and Macquarie Park, where the second line connects Westmead and Castle Hill via Parramatta.

In 2014, Transport for NSW started the preparation of the Parramatta Transport Corridor Strategy (PTCS), which explored the feasibility of rapid transit, including light rail. The government announced four shortlisted corridors for Western Sydney light rail[3]:

  • Parramatta to Castle Hill;  
  • Parramatta to Macquarie Park;
  • Parramatta to Strathfield via Sydney Olympic Park;
  • Parramatta to Bankstown

In order to run through all four corridors, light rail line from Westmead to Camellia via Greater Parramatta is the core spine of the network.

2015: Announcement of Parramatta Light Rail ProjectEdit

Feasibility assessments stated that Camellia to Strathfield and Camellia to Carlingford section of the Macquarie Park corridor are the preferred solutions as there are significant technical challenges in constructing light rail beyond Carlingford. The preferred solution can offer a better service with the existing T6 Carlingford Line[3].

In December 2015, the NSW government announced the preferred Parramatta Light Rail network, which connect Westmead and Camellia via Parramatta CBD, Strathfield via Sydney Olympic Park and to Carlingford from Camellia.

2017-2018: Finalized stage 1, Environment Impact Assessment and Planning ApprovalEdit

In February 2017, the preferred route of the first stage of Parramatta Light Rail was announced by the NSW Government. The light rail will link the following areas:

  • Westmead
  • North Parramatta
  • Parramatta CBD
  • Rosehill
  • Camellia
  • Rydalmere
  • Dundas
  • Telopea
  • Carlingford

In August 2017, Transport for NSW published the Environment Impact Statement (EIS)[4]. The EIS stated the potential environmental impact to the local communities during the construction and operation of the light rail project.

In May 2018, stage 1 light rail project was approved by the NSW Minister for Planning and Environment[5].

2017: Announcement of the preferred route of Stage 2

In October 2017, the preferred route of second stage of the Parramatta Light Rail was announced by the NSW Government[6], which would allow stage 1 and Parramatta CBD to Ermington, Melrose Park, Wentworth Point and Sydney Olympic Park to be connected. Stage 2 of the Parramatta Light Rail will connect to Sydney Metro West, trains in Parramatta and ferry services at Rydalmere and Sydney Olympic Park.  

2019-: Contracts announced and Project beginsEdit

A CPB Contractors/Downer Group joint venture and John Holland were shortlisted to build stage 1 of the Parramatta Light Rail. There were also three consortia were shortlisted to maintain the infrastructure, operate the services, and supply the rolling stock[7][8]:

  • Connecting Parramatta: John Holland, Alstom and Deutsche Bahn
  • Greater Parramatta: Downer Rail, Keolis Downer, Downer Group, Ansaldo and CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles
  • Great River City Light Rail: Transdev Australasia, CAF and Laing O'Rourke

In 2019, the Parramatta Light Rail began construction after CPB Contractors/Downer Group joint venture and the Great River City Light Rail consortium were awarded to construct and operate stage 1 of the project.

The final budget of the project has been finalized as $2.4 billion, which includes the two major contracts, urban design, active transport links, changes to the bus network, project costs, road network upgrades, and new bridges between 2015-2023. Downer and CPB Contractors in a joint venture has awarded an 840 million major contract to build the light rail system, while the Great River City Light Rail consortium has awarded a $536 million contract for supplying and operating the network and construction of the depot, light rail stops and power systems[9].

Progress on the Parramatta Light Rail in 2021Edit

In April 2021, 25% of the tracks were laid for stage 1 of the project, 38% of Active Transport Link (ATL) were completed[10].


Map of routes for Parramatta Light Rail[11]

Policy IssuesEdit

Benefit cost issueEdit

The strategic business case faced lots of criticism after the complications of the Sydney light rail project having large cost overruns. Many of these problems were addressed more clearly in the procurement of Parramatta light rail project, yet the complication did emerge after the government failed to come to an agreement of the stage 2 part of the Parramatta light rail to Olympic Park, set to begin construction in late 2018[12]. Cost overrun of a new bridge set the project up for failure as stated by the transport minister and risks outlined by this discovery saw the project be cancelled as a light rail system and replace with an alternative trackless tram or rapid transits busses. However, it is clear from list of actors that delays and complication are the priority due to the indirect costs, turnover losses from impacts to the local businesses and the extended waiting or dwelling times of travelers resulting in longer travel times. This can be due to the street closures and the redirection of bus services during construction period. This will need to be considered and evaluated in the benefit cost analysis to ensure that the cost to the society is outweighed by the benefits[13].

Overall the outlined benefits and costs were briefly mentioned and that was considered in the Benefit cost ratio.

Costing issues: The estimates of both direct and indirect costs, this includes: Enabling works, Road infrastructure and utilities infrastructure, Rail infrastructure (including rolling stock), Traffic management, Insurances and bonds, Overheads and profit, Project delivery costs, Property acquisition, Risk and contingency, Escalation and Corporate overhead recovery[13].

Benefits: consisted of three elements, the transport benefits, wider economic benefits, and land use benefits[13].

Impacts on traffic, transport and accessEdit

Construction impactsEdit

Construction would be planned to minimize disruption to businesses, residents and transport customers. However, some impacts are still expected. Examples of impacts include:

  • Decline in the road network and intersection performance, including the impacts on the punctuality of existing bus services and the reduction in road capacity, due to road closures and increase in construction vehicles on the road[14]
  • Temporary relocation or permanent removal of existing bus stops
  • Temporary changes to access for residential and businesses properties around the area
  • Changes in travel modes or commuters that are using the T6 Carlingford Line currently, they would be required to use the bus services instead during construction of the project[3]
  • Traffic impacts, such as congestions, due to the increase in the number of buses resulting from the closure of the T6 Carlingford Line
  • Decline in access and space for pedestrians and cyclists[15]
  • Temporary relocation of parking spaces and loading zones
  • Changes to access to Westmead Hospital and Westmead Children’s Hospital[3]
  • Changes to access other projects that are still under construction, such as Parramatta Square[3]

Operational impactsEdit

The impacts that could occur during the operation of the project include:

  • New/loss of lanes and intersection configurations could affect the road traffic along the alignment or the road network in Parramatta. For example, additional delays could occur at high volume intersections[3]
  • Potential congestions along the alternative roads, as a result of alterations of lanes and intersection configurations[14]
  • Permanent loss of parking spaces and loading zones
  • Permanent changes in lanes for pedestrians and cyclists[15]
  • Permanent changes to access to residential and businesses properties around the area, such as properties along Macquarie Street and Church Street.

Property and land useEdit

The impact on land use during the construction phase is the loss of public open space along the project alignment. Other construction impacts are minor to the public, like disruption to services or relocation of utilities[3]. On the other hand, operational impacts are more significant, such as restrictions or new rules on future development within the corridor and permanent acquisition of some properties in the area. The government purchased a land at 4-6 Grand Avenue, Camellia for a price of $53.5 million in June 2016[16]. This decision was questioned heavily and was even investigated by the ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption), because the land was purchased from a property developer, who bought the land at a much lower price ($38 million) in November 2015[17]. Moreover, the property is also highly contaminated according to Dr Bill Ryall, one of New South Wales's leading contamination experts. Not only it requires at least $48 million to prevent toxic chemicals to spread from the property, the government also needs to spend millions to remediate the land [17] (further details are discussed below).

Impacts on business and economicEdit

Some businesses located around the construction site will experience significant negative impacts during the construction. Impacts such as increased traffic congestion due to construction vehicles on the road, reduced visibility and amenity, loss of open space, disruption to deliveries, access, power and utilities would all ultimately result in loss of customers[3]. Cr Bob Dwyer, Lord Mayor of Parramatta, is concerns about how the construction of the Parramatta Light Rail is going to affect the businesses in Parramatta, and stated that the government should impose measurements to ensure quality of outdoor dining for restaurants during the construction[18]. The council staff reached out to businesses on Eat street, and found out that Transport for NSW has failed to inform 84% of the businesses their plan for future design for outdoor dining . Transport for NSW is jeopardizing the businesses on Eat street by not informing their plan to reduce the capacity for outdoor dining by 70% to the shop owners in advanced[18]. Communications between Transport for NSW and the community were frequent, they have made several recommendations to the government expressing their concerns and idea, including their desired structures of shelter and number of trees in the area. Additionally, the government constantly assured to the community that they will not repeat the mistake they made from light rail construction in Sydney’s CBD, which significantly influence the businesses in the area[18]. The Parramatta Light Rail Development Agreement was signed on 28 March 2018 by the council and Transport for NSW (as the project owner), to ensure that efforts will be made to maintain as much on-street dining space as possible. However, they still failed to deliver their promises. Council has issued a Default Notice since they believe that Transport for NSW did not meet the obligations in the agreement, and a meeting was held on 8th March 2021 to discuss this issue in details[18].

The government has also been postponing stage 2 construction for this project by not providing funds[19]. The Western Sydney Business Chamber is demanding funds from the New South Wales government to begin stage 2 construction for Parramatta Light Rail. David Borger, executive director of the Western Sydney Business Chamber, said that he would like the project to start as soon as possible to minimize the construction impacts to the community[20]. However, government is currently still trying to find alternative routes to replace light rail with trackless tram[21].

Environmental issuesEdit

Lennox Bridge[22]
Dundas railway station[23]

Heritage and archaeology itemsEdit

Physical impacts to heritage and historical archaeology items are most likely to occur during the construction phase[3]. Activities must be carefully planned and calculated to avoid accidents such as crane failure when manoeuvring objects. It is also possible to damage unidentified heritage items and archaeological sites during the construction. On the other hand, visual impacts on the views due to components of light rail such as overhead wires, platforms and catenaries operational would affect adjacent structures, such as the Old Government House and the Government Domain[3] in the operational phase. Additionally, vibrations from the light rail could threaten the structural integrity of sensitive buildings around the area. Vibrations come from both construction and operation of the light rail, different approach to accommodate vibrations in both phases would be required. There are 9 heritage items listed on the State Heritage Register and about 70 locally listed items around the project[3].

State heritageEdit
Rydalmere Hospital[24]
  • Cumberland District Hospital Group
  • St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cemetery
  • Lennox Bridge (Church Street, Parramatta)
  • Robin Thomas Reserve – Ancient Aboriginal and Early Colonial Landscape (corner of Harris Street and George Street)
  • HMAS Parramatta shipwreck and memorials
  • Sewage Pumping Station 67
  • Rydalmere Hospital Precinct (former Female Orphan School, now University of Western Sydney, 2012)
  • Dundas Railway Station group
  • Redstone (The Winter House)
    HMAS Parramatta shipwreck and memorials[25]

Soils, Geology and ContaminationEdit

Soil erosion & Acid sulphate soilsEdit

Excavation will expose the natural ground surface and sub-surface of the construction site. The risk of soil erosion is increased because soil is exposed to water runoff. There are also risks of transportation of exposed soil into surrounding waterways through the stormwater runoff. Additionally, acid sulphate soils are present and may damage the drainage lines and vegetation around the area if it is not properly managed[3].


The government purchased a land at 4-6 Grand Avenue, Camellia, including the Camellia stabling and maintenance facility that is located at 6 Grand Avenue. The facility was identified as a contaminated site that needs to be subjected to remediation before the construction[3]. Exposure of contaminated materials found during the construction will affect receiver such as construction workers, the general public and groundwater bodies. The land purchased is where the main depot and stabling yard of the light rail will reside, hence it is very crucial to the Parramatta LRT project. Dr. Bill Ryall, an expert specializes in contamination, stated that a toxic chemical substance called chromium six is very concerning as it is carcinogenic to humans[16]. The contamination in the property is so severe, Dr. Bill Ryall said no accurate prediction can be made on the duration needed to contain and treat the groundwater, which has been affected by chromium six by approximately 30 years. Government should be prepared to allow at least 50 years to purify the groundwater[17]. The initial estimation of cost for the land and remediation is a little more than $100 million. However, senior project engineer George Silvino came up with a new estimation for the cost of remediation at $65 million not long after, then Daniel Mookley also claimed that he had seen estimates showing that the remediation costs could vary up to $700 million[16].

Noise and vibrationEdit

Land use around the construction site contains a wide range of residential, commercial, recreational and industrial uses, including community facilities such as schools, church, hospitals, medical facilities and childcare centers. Noise and vibration has a great potential to affects individual’s health, especially if it becomes a long-term unresolved issue. The source of noise during construction comes from piling and construction activities along the project alignment. On the other hand, the operational impacts are due to noises and vibration from a wider range, including:

  • Noise from the light rail itself. In particular, the noise produced is significantly larger when tight turns are required (such as at the corner of Hainsworth Street and Hawkesbury Road) and from warning bells or signals[3]
  • Cumulative noise from existing rail network, such as Westmead[3]
  • Airborne noise from stops and substations due to increased number of pedestrians and traffic along the alignment.
  • Vibration impacts such as ground-borne noise from the operating light rail.

Air qualityEdit

Generation of dust from the construction phase is responsible for the influence in air quality. In particular, dusts with aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, also known as PM 2.5, cause the greatest issue[26] because they can get into a person’s lungs and bloodstream. Inhaling small particles constantly will result in short term health issues like irritation of eyes, nose, throat and lungs, which then cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, coughing and shortness of breath. If large amount of PM 2.5 particles are inhaled, it will threaten sensitive groups with pre-existing heart and lung deceases.


Parramatta Light rail (Under construction, the first stage will be opened to traffic in 2023) is the latest infrastructure project launched by the New South Wales Government. The entire project is also part of the $80 billion infrastructure investment by the New South Wales Government[27]. As the second-largest central business district (CBD) in Sydney, Parramatta is expected to have 415,000 residents and approximately 160,000 job opportunities in the entire LGA by 2036. Therefore, the Parramatta Light Rail project is needed to alleviate the growing traffic pressure in the region. At the same time, it connects residential, employment, cultural and educational areas in the region to support the development of the Greater Paramatta to Olympic Peninsula (GPOP) priority area[3].

 In terms of improving the transportation network, the project will provide connections and transfers to the existing train, bus service and other transportation networks in Westmead, Parramatta CBD, Carlingford and Olympic Park[28]. It is estimated that by 2026, about 28,000 people will use the line every day, and 130,000 people will live within walking distance of the light rail station[29]. This will meet the travel needs of more than 40,000 staff and more than 30,000 students in the local government area and reduce the use of private cars in the area[3]. The project will also benefit the regional economy and attract new job opportunities, residents, tourists, and a large amount of government and private investment to provide a driving force for urban renewal. The budget for the first stage project will reach 2.4 billion Australian dollars. The contract included early and enabling works, upgrades to existing roads, urban planning and bus network changes, etc[30]. The entire project is expected to start operation in 2023, providing passengers with a ‘turn-up and go' service every 7.5 minutes during peak traffic periods. The 45-meter vehicle will accommodate 300 passengers[27].

On August 23, 2017, the Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) released the first stage of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and completed the public feedback before October 23, 2017. Finally, Minister for planning and environment approved the first stage of the proposal in May 2018 also announced the project as a Critical state Significant infrastructure[31].

Stage 1  Edit

On February 17, 2017, the NSW government announced the first stage of the Parramatta Light Rail. The two-way track in the first stage is expected to reach 12 kilometres in length, of which 7 kilometres will be built on the existing road corridor and will be separated with general traffic. The remaining 5  kilometres will be transformed through the existing Carlingford Line Heavy rail and Sandown Line, and a total of 16 stations will be set up on the line. The route will connect Westmead and Carlingford through Parramatta CBD and Camellia and contains many important locations along the way include the restaurants and cafés on Eat Street, the health and medical research facilities at Westmead Precinct, the new Bankwest Stadium, the new Powerhouse Museum and Riverside Theatres cultural precinct, Rosehill Gardens Racecourse, and three Western Sydney University campuses[32]. In order to seamlessly integrate with the surrounding environment, the line between Westmead and Cumberland Hospital and between Prince Alfred Square and Tramway will use a ‘wire free’ design for approximately 4 kilometres [33].

 In November 2017, The NSW government chose CPB as the contractor and the first stage of a joint venture with Downer to construct the entire light rail project. The entire contract amount reached 840 million. A contract worth 536 million Australian dollars will be awarded to the Great River City Rail consortium to operate the network, build light rail stations and power systems[34]. At the same time, the contract also included hiring local workers and working at a busy time and at night.  According to the approval of the plan, the first stage of construction began at the end of 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2023.

Stage 2Edit

Project Description (branch to Sydney Olympic Park) 

The NSW government announced in October 2017 that the preferred route for stage 2 would connect to Stage 1, north of Parramatta River, which then runs through the developing suburbs of Ermington, Melrose Park and Wentworth Point to Sydney Olympic Park. The entire route will be 9 kilometres long and have 10 to 12 stations. The journey in Olympic park and Camellia and Camellia takes about 25 minutes. The government is also considering another option that will use the Camelia rail line to reach Rydalmere via the Parramatta River[35]. 

According to media reports, the government is under pressure to provide funding for the second wave of transport projects, which have cost tens of billions of dollars in pledges, including Sydney Metro West and another metro rail line from St Marys to the airport at Badgerys. The latter will be completed in 2026. Taking into account factors such as budget and cost, New South Wales Minister of Transport Andrew Constance said that the second stage of the construction of the entire Parramatta light rail would be suspended, and the use of ‘trackless tram and BRT’ as an alternative to the stage 2 route[21]. 

Parramatta Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer requested the government in October 2020 to fulfil its commitments for the second stage, including the committee and other key groups calling on the prime minister to continue to provide infrastructure for regional population growth and believes that this will play a role in connecting key transportation hubs and subway stations.  According to Council's local Strategic planning statement (LSPS), Bob Dwyer pointed out that Stage 2 will provide many economic benefits, including attracting 29,000 households by 2036 and connecting with employment areas such as Sydney Olympic Park (34000 jobs). At the same time, 110,000 houses will be built in Melrose Park[36]. There is also controversy over the alternative. The NSW government's internal review of trackless trams completed in February 2019 also revealed that the vehicles lacked suppliers and tests [37]. Western Sydney Business Chamber executive director David Borger also stated that alternative solutions might not attract investment like the light rail[21]. 

According to the original plan, the second stage of the business case should be completed by the end of 2018[38]. However, up to now, the New South Wales government is still evaluating the final business case of the second stage and has refused to commit to an additional 9 kilometres route[39].

Discussion QuestionsEdit

  1. What is the purpose of community engagement on large infrastructure projects like Parramatta Light Rail?
  2. What issues can arise (policy or technological) from changing the current transportation network with Light rail?
  3. Why would the government keep developing a project such as Parramatta Light Rail if the benefit cost ratio is less than 1?
  4. Has the implementation of the light rail system impeded the land use of pedestrians, what policies might the government introduce to reduce the negative impact of this land allocation?


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  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Bennett, C. and Edgson, O., (2017). Parramatta Light Rail (Stage 1) Westmead to Carlingford via Parramatta CBD and Camellia State Significant Infrastructure Application Report [online]. Transport for NSW. [Viewed 1 May 2021]. Available from:
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  14. a b Kukkapalli, V. and Pulugurtha, S., (2018). Effect of Road Construction Projects on Travel Time Reliability [online]. Pennsylvania: International Conference on Transportation and Development . [Viewed 4 May 2021]. Available from:
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  36. n.d. Lord Mayor calls for NSW Government to prioritise Parramatta Light Rail Stage 2 | City of Parramatta. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2021].
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