Transportation Planning Casebook/Sydney LRT (CBD and Southeast)


The CBD and South East Light Rail is a 12 km route which takes passengers from Circular Quay through to Central Station then on to Randwick or Kingsford on a reliable and higher capacity service. The stops are designed to service major transport hubs and create easy interchange points with buses, trains, ferries and the Inner West Light Rail. Each Light Rail service will be able to carry around 450 passengers, which is as many as up to nine standard buses. During peak hours, 13,500 commuters will be able to travel each hour using the Light Rail. The rail provides reliable, efficient, turn-up-and-go public transport, with services every four minutes between CBD and Moore Park, and every eight minutes to and from Randwick and Kingsford between 7am and 7pm. This project generates $3 billion in economic benefit for NSW. The CBD and South East Light Rail is expected to complete and begin service in 2019. With Sydney’s population set to increase by another million over the next 10 years, transport capacity needs to grow and flex. Sydney’s Light rail program is part of a plan to modernise and extend a safe, sustainable and reliable way to move people between the places they live, work and relax.[1]

Annotated List of Actors [2]Edit

Stakeholder Groups Members Issues/Interests
State Government Agencies and Departments
  • Department of Education and Communities
  • Department of Family and Community Services
  • Environmental Protection Authority
  • Infrastructure NSW
  • NSW Department of Planning and Environment
  • NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • NSW Health
  • NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
  • NSW Police
  • NSW Treasury
  • Roads and Maritime Services
  • State Transit Authority
  • To show compliance with legislation and to follow the conditions of approval
  • Preparing construction, environmental management and health and safety plans
  • Disrupting services and access
  • Biodiversity, noise and vibration impacts during operations
  • Communicating developments during project to other stakeholders, through meetings, presentations and reports
Elected Representatives
  • Minister for Transport (Andrew Constance)
  • Minister for Roads (Melinda Pavery)
  • Minister for Planning and Environment (Anthony Roberts)
  • Parliamentary Members (Sydney, Balmain, Coogee, Maroubra, Newtown, Wentworth)
  • Local Government Councillors
  • Mayors (City of Sydney, Leichardt, Randwick)
  • To provide information regularly
  • To attend business and community forums
  • Resolving issues and complaints from other stakeholders
  • Consideration of constituents needs
Local Council
  • City of Sydney
  • Leichardt Council
  • Randwick Council
  • Botany Council
  • Local Aboriginal Land Council
  • Consultation with communities
  • Traffic management
  • Environmental and biodiversity plans
  • Health and Safety
  • Disruption of Services
  • Attending business and community forums
Local Community
  • Residents
  • Pedestrians
  • Local Businesses
  • Property Developers
  • Local Aboriginal Groups
  • Disruption of services, noise, dust and vibration
  • Property damage
  • Pedestrian safety
  • Visual and aesthetic impacts
  • Parking impacts
  • Disruption of heritage
  • Impact on business operations
Transport Network Users
  • Light rail users
  • Bus users
  • Train users
  • Ferry users
  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Disruption of services, noise and dust
  • Pedestrian safety
  • Access will be altered so the creation of new routes may disrupt traffic
Educational Facilities
  • University of Sydney
  • University of NSW
  • University of Technology, Sydney
  • High Schools
  • Primary Schools
  • Safety for all students
  • Disruption of services, noise and dust
  • Timing of operations (construction hours)
  • Pedestrian access
  • Sydney Water
  • Electrical (Ausgrid)
  • Telecommunications (Telstra/Optus)
  • AGL
  • Other Services
  • Impact to services
  • Relocating services
  • High risk work during construction

Timeline of EventsEdit

2011: Light Rail Extension Feasibility StudyEdit

The feasibility study for the light rail investigated three high priority corridors: The CBD, the University of Sydney and the University of NSW. The NSW government in consultation with other key stakeholders (Sydney Light Round Table), shortlisted 11 possible route options to be analysed. To find the most feasible route, it needed to meet the key objectives of reducing congestion and optimising the integration with buses. Costs and benefits were taken into account and also the anticipated demand to benefit commuters and visitors. The alternatives CBD route options to George Street consisted of Pitt Street, Castlereagh Street and Sussex Street but were not feasible due to their narrow widths and steep slopes (Northern end of Castlereagh Street). The University of Sydney corridor is set to use Parramatta Road and City Road as it will integrate with the buses very well, the alternative through Cleveland Street was rejected because it is a key traffic link (east to west). The University of NSW corridor aims to take advantage of major activity hubs such as sporting precincts (Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground, Randwick Racecourse), recreation and entertainment hubs (Hordern Pavilion, Centennial Parklands), the University of NSW, Randwick precinct hospitals and high density centres in Surry Hills and Randwick. The alternative routes considered were Green Square, Darlinghurst and Randwick but were all over turned because of how beneficial the UNSW corridor will be.[3] A bus rapid transit alternative was also considered but investigations showed that the it would not cater for the same level of demands as light rail. The demands of congestion and also creating a network system to cater for future growth and network extensions.[4]

2012: Announcement of CBD to Southeast Light Rail ProjectEdit

In December 2012, the NSW government announced a commitment to build the light rail which is to stretch from Circular Quay to Central Station (9 Stops in between), Central Station to Randwick (7 Stops) and Central Station to Kingsford (7 Stops). The project is expected to cost $1.6 billion and will benefit the future transport networking system of Sydney.[5]

2013-2014: Environmental Impact Assessment, Planning Approval, Engagement with CommunitiesEdit

In November 2013, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was published and has been documented to assess the potential environmental impacts during the construction and operation of the project. It is operated in accordance with mitigation measures proposed in the statement, the Minister’s condition of approval and Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (Schedule 2, Part 3). The EIS was assessed with consultation with community and stakeholders to identify the key environmental issues through surveying, data analysis and predictive modelling. The impacts are to be mitigated through the construction environmental management plan and sub plans.[6]

In June 2014, the project had received formal planning approval from the Minister of Planning. The approval looks at key impacts during construction and operation of the project. It hopes to ensure that potential environmental, noise and traffic impacts are managed properly.[7]

In July 2015, the service investigation works was completed, through surveying and trenching. The data recorded from the investigation will help develop the design for the project. It was also stated that the community and local business forums established by Transport for NSW would start. It aims to help prepare and to keep these communities and businesses informed during construction and operations.[8]

2014-2015: Bidder Announced and Start of Major WorksEdit

In February 2014, three consortia were shortlisted to design, build, maintain and operate the project.[9] They consist of:

  • SydneyConnect – Serco Pty Ltd, John Holland Pty Ltd, and Plenary Group Ltd
  • iLinQ – Keolis Downer, Balfour Beatty, McConnell Dowell, Bombardier and Macquarie Capital
  • Connecting Sydney – Transdev Pty Ltd, Alstom Transport Australia Pty Ltd, Acciona Infrastructure Australia and Capella Capital

In July 2014, Balfour Beatty told partners of iLinQ and the NSW government that they were withdrawing from the project, where the main reason was the high risk of the project, especially with the sensitivity of working on George Street. It resulted with only two bidders left for the project.[10]

In October 2014, the Transport for NSW announced that Connecting Sydney (now referred to as ALTRAC) consortium will construct and operate the project. They proposed that they will provide 50% more capacity than the 9000 passengers per hour previously planned and to also reduce the expected length of construction time along George Street, to minimise the disruption to the community.[11] The budget for the project had been increased to $2.2 billion ($600 million more than initial budget), the government claimed that the increase in budget was due to design modifications[12] but a report from the Audit Office of NSW showed that the cause of the increase was because they underestimated costs and overestimated benefits.[13]

In May 2015, the construction timetable was released and the CBD and Southeast light rail line was divided into 31 individual zones to minimise disruption.[14] Also prior to the beginning of construction ALTRAC, would continue with surveys and geotechnical investigations throughout the line.

In October 2015, the construction of the project had begun at the George Street block between king and Market Streets. [15] This led to implementation of new bus routes both to take buses off George Street and to compensate for the changes.

2016-2018: Progressive completion of Major WorksEdit

In October 2017 Testing and Commissioning commenced, involving overhead wiring, electrification and running trams on completed sections. Overhead wiring applies from Bathurst St, while the route north of Bathurst St along George St uses a third rail system for power. [16] [17]

In April, 2018, allegations of a go-slow campaign by construction sub-contractor Acciona were met by Acciona launching legal action against the NSW Government seeking an additional $1.2Bn, naming Transport for NSW as the defendant in an action for misleading conduct. Acciona claimed that it had been misled about the preparedness of utility companies, including electricity supplier Ausgrid, for co-operation and participation in the project, and that significant costs were "hidden". Success in this action could lead to the overall budget rising to greater than $3bn, approximately doubling the initial budget of $1.6bn. [18]

In 2018 the NSW Government published its State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038: Building Momentum, elaborating on current projects including the CBD and South East Light Rail, and further infrastructure development including other light rail projects such as the two-stage Parramatta light rail program. [19] [20] [21]

2019 - : Project CompletionEdit

The project has been scheduled for completion in 2019.

Maps of LocationsEdit

The interactive map provided by Sydney Light Rail, LRT Interactive Map offers a wealth of information about construction zones and traffic restrictions.  


Policy IssuesEdit

Contract Arrangements and CostEdit

Set up as a PPP, the NSW State Government contracted ALTRAC, a consortium, to build the 12 km light rail. Originally budgeted for $1.6 Bn, the budget had increased to $2.1Bn by the time the contract with ALTRAC was signed. In April, 2018, Acciona - a Spanish light right rail contractor working for ALTRAC sued the NSW Government for $1.2Bn in extra costs related to unknown utilities that needed to be identified and moved or replaced. The Government's defence is based on Acciona being contracted to ALTRAC and not itself.[23]

Cost-Benefit of Infrastructure and riskEdit

Early criticism of the proposed project suggested that the benefit of the CBD section would be less than expected due to the slow speed required for safety reasons given the open access to the tracks - as per the pedestrian speed along Hay St (near Paddy's Markets) for the existing L1 Light Rail running from Central to Dulwich Hill. It was also suggested that the cost and risks might be greater than expected in regards to the utility handling. Whatever benefits were predicted, the initial project budget of $1.6bn has become $2.1bn and a sub-contractor is requesting an extra $1.2bn on top of that. As of April, 2018 it is being suggested completion may not happen until 2020 rather than 2019. Direct costs, however, are not the only costs. Indirect costs, whether turnover losses of impacted businesses or extended waiting or journey times to inconvenienced travelers due to street closures, redirected bus services and increased congestion due to reduced capacity during construction must also be considered and weighed against the eventual social benefit. Significant delays tend to increase costs substantially, and as project time and cost are both extended the original cost-benefit analysis that justified the go-ahead may be overtaken by events. Failure to control effectively for risks in projects of this magnitude have direct consequences in monetary terms, but may also produce significant political risks both for individual politicians - in this case tied to Premier Gladys Berkejiklian, who was Transport Minister at the time of contracting Altrac - and for future governments that may wish to avoid such risks which may limit future development.

Community ConsultationEdit

Sydney Light Rail has engaged in extensive community consultation processes. The closing of extensive parts of George St in the CBD created disruption for pedestrians, buses and cars, and concerns for affected businesses. It created both a Community Reference Group and a Business Reference Group to provide active representation, as well as providing services to assist businesses attract new customers.[24]

Looking North on George St from King St

Sustainability PolicyEdit

An Environment and Sustainability policy has been developed to articulate Sydney Metro’s commitment to sustainable outcomes on the Project. It Optimises sustainability outcomes, transport service quality, and cost effectiveness. The policy also develops effective and appropriate responses to the challenges of climate change, carbon management, resource and waste management, land use integration, customer and community expectation, and heritage and biodiversity conservation. To be environmentally responsible, by avoiding pollution, the policy enhances the natural environment and reduces the project ecological footprint, while complying with all applicable environmental laws, regulations and statutory obligations. And, to be socially responsible by delivering a workforce legacy which benefits individuals, communities, the project and industry, and is achieved through collaboration and partnerships.


While being built on highly developed zones in the CBD and Surry Hills, and utilising existing transport spaces along the route there are still environmental concerns to be dealt with. The works create threats to the iconic Moreton Bay Figs along Anzac Parade around near Moore Park. The original EIS had 120 more trees being removed that the current status, and only 23 Moreton Bay Figs will be removed while over 80 remain in place, as just one part of a comprehensive tree plan. [25] Altrac promotes the positive reduction in green house emissions caused by the predicted substitution of car transport for light rail use.

Heavy versus Light RailEdit

Many factors influence choice of mode to assist with a perceived transport issue. Once a preference for a fixed mode such as rail is suggested then options along the rail spectrum need to be considered. One of the drawbacks of the heavy rail option, for example the Sydney Metro, is the need for exclusive carriageways that do not intersect with other modes. This is necessary for the high speeds desired from a transport perspective and, as a consequence, for relative safety. A light rail option provides the possibility of mixed mode use, though with severe speed limitations, as well as level crossings, whether for vehicles or pedestrians. This can be both be both a convenience and a cost factor, though with associated risks - note the car on the tram only carriageway.

This driver proceeds on the tramway thinking it is a street for cars

See the photo of the platforms from Taverners Hill Station - where the platform is little more than a spruced up glorified pavement, for an example of how simple and cheap a light rail rail station might be in comparison to a heavy rail station.

Taverners Hill Station looking Northwards

People can walk over the tracks with little more than a few barriers to reduce the moral hazard. Compared to a standard railway station the cost implications are enormous. Even when elevator access is needed a single elevator services both platforms (either side of the tracks) since customers can cross on a level grade, unlike a regular rail, which once it has more than a double-sided platform would require an elevator for each platform to be fully accessible.

Narrative of the CaseEdit

CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) project starts its light rail extension feasibility study in 2011, and the first quarterly project report was published on government light rail website in 2013.[26] The purpose of building Sydney LRT is to alleviate the traffic congestion in city centre, by reducing the number of bus shifts. CSELR provides a more eco-friendly and convenient way of traveling, which minimize air and noise pollution compare to buses, and it is more punctual than frequently behind schedule buses. CSELR route will connect Circular Quay to two different terminal stations, Kingsford and Randwick, and the total length of the light rail will be approximately equals to 12 kilometres. Across the 12km light rail alignment, more than 48,000 linear meters of single rail will be laid, with a total weight of over 3,000 tonnes.[27] The maximum time need for traveling from two terminals to central station is 24 minutes.

Light rail stations include Circular Quay, Grosvenor Street, Wynyard, Queen Victoria Building, Town Hall, Chinatown, Rawson Place, Central Station, Surry Hills, Moore Park, and then splits to Carlton Street, Todman Avenue, UNSW Anzac Parade, Strachan Street, Kingsford, or the other route from Moore Park to Alison Road, Wansey Road, UNSW High Street, and Randwick. This project is still under construction, and will be opened for traffic in 2019. The first tram was tested on tracks during February, signalling another milestone for the CBD and South East Light Rail.[28] 1.6 billion dollars were invested in CSELR, and expected to make over 4 billion dollars profits and around 10,000 jobs empty. CSELR provides seamless interchange between trains, buses, ferries, and light rail with the use of Opal cards.[29]

Major construction began in September 2015, and expected to complete in mid-2018. Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) conference made many changes about this project, and most of the proposal were from community members and stakeholders. Changes place from two aspects: railway construction plan and environmental improvement. For instance, from community information session, cut and cover tunnel was suggested to build to pass through Moore Park. For surrounding environment, such as Anzac Parade district, a foot bridge over Anzac Parade will be built providing pedestrian access for students of Sydney Boys and Sydney Girls High School.[30] Natural environment was also carefully concerned, each tree has been removed in this project, will be relocated and replaced by planting up to 8 more trees in somewhere else.

New vehicles named as Citadis X05 newest model[31] will be used in CSELR, which maximise safety and accessibility, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[32] Total of 60 vehicles will run on the route. Other technologies are basically related to site construction, such as testing and excavation, welding, building acoustic walls, etc.

Fun Fact or Problem

In the process of construction assignment, historical sites were excavated by construction groups. A small piece of Sydney’s history was discovered in August during utility excavation works in Zone 4, George Street between Hunter and King Streets. Construction works revealed the remains of a drain built with sandstock bricks dating from the early 1800s. These remains provide some interesting information about early Sydney. A detailed record of the brickwork was carried out by the archaeological team, and the bricks removed, before light rail drainage work continued in this location. [33]

Also, some of the old tram tracks discovered under the surface of Anzac Parade will get a new lease of life at the Sydney Tramway Museum after they were salvaged by the team working in Kensington in June 2017. It’s anticipated the historic tracks would be in operational use at the museum within 12 months.[34]


The Sydney LRT (CBD and Southeast) is intended to provide transport infrastructure within 3 of the 11 most densely populated Federal electorates (Sydney, Kingsford Smith and Wentworth, out of 150).

The history of transport along the corridors is well storied. One of the earliest tramways followed a similar path from Circular Quay to Randwick Racecourse, opening in 1880, extended up the hill to High St, Randwick in 1881, and extended to Coogee in 1883. The line was closed in 1960, and the La Perouse line that continued down the rest of Anzac Parade closed in 1961, both replaced by bus services. The edge of Moore Park adjacent to ANZAC parade, and similarly the stretch of Centennial Park adjacent to Allison Road have been swapped between transport modes multiple times in the intervening period, including pedestrian paths, bike-paths and dedicated bus-lanes separated from ANZAC Parade and are now providing the carriageway for the LRT. Aside from the densely populated suburbs of Randwick and Coogee, Randwick Racecourse has been a destination since colonial times - having its first meeting in 1833, and operating more or less on the current site since the 1860s. The important sporting precinct of the historic SCG (1860s) and Sydney Football Stadium, Moore Park, which housed Sydney's first zoo, and the old RAS Showgrounds (partly now the Entertainment Quarter Moore Park) also adjoin the route. Despite the changing specific uses, the Moore Park and Centennial Park precincts along the LRT route have been the destination of tens of thousands of non-residents at a time for leisure activities for more than 150 years. Given the capacities of these venues and their frequent use (hosting teams from four different professional football codes) there has been dissatisfaction with the level of public transport provision since the trams closed. The Moore Park area has suffered from being close enough to the Elizabeth St side of Central Railway Station, the suburban line side, for successive governments not to feel the need to do anything expensive, and yet simultaneously too far and too uphill to be terribly comfortable, especially for the young, elderly and less able.

Other significant sites generating transport demand on the new line include Randwick TAFE, UNSW and Prince of Wales Hospital. The University of NSW was established in the 1950s. The campus now services over 50,000 students, with the LRT's Kingsford line to service the lower campus, and the Randwick line the upper campus. [35] The final Randwick station will also service the Prince of Wales Hospital (PoW) campus. The PoW campus supports over 3,000 staff and includes Emergency, Public, Private, The Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney Children's Hospital and research institutes. [36]

This project, in turning much of George St in the CBD into a car and bus-free zone, has already had a profound impact on the CBD. George Street was the major two-way North-South street in the CBD north prior to its closure from Bridge St, near Wynyard, to Bathurst St, near Town Hall. Scores of bus routes have had to be rerouted, retail businesses have had their business models threatened and the impacts will have been felt for several years before the transit service starts. As seen in the list of actors, this has involved a large number of entities and institutions particularly on the utilities side. One of the points of contention in the legal matters of April, 2018 with Acciona was that the NSW Government was not able to supply in comprehensive detail an inventory of the utilities which would need to be relocated or otherwise dealt with during the construction process. While major projects have been completed in the CBD over the last 25 years, including major building redevelopments, street traffic direction reversals and the Cross City Tunnel no individual project has been as disruptive, nor as potentially transformative as the CBD Light Rail.

Importantly, many of the benefits of the interactions, and the ability of Transport for NSW to implement multiple new independent systems, like the Sydney Metro and Sydney Light Rail, that complement each other as well as long existing transport infrastructure, is the integrated ticketing system known as Opal - see Opal Card. The pre-paid, "contactless" Opal card allows passengers to transfer between both services and modes without the need for multiple ticket purchases. This technology does not strictly enable the "turn-up-and-go" model touted for the Light Rail and Sydney Metro, but it allows it without excess labour devoted to ticket selling using conductors. Opal also develops big data levels of information about passenger usage levels, timings, habits, and crucially, the ability to analyse entire journeys. This assists in developing orbital and connecting bus routes to integrate with the more radial fixed route modes, as well as providing firm information about demand to justify alterations to fixed-route systems, and potential new lines.

In providing high-volume, street-level-access to pedestrians on a system that replicates the North-South heavy rail underground from Circular Quay through Wynyard and Town Hall through to Central the LRT offers potentially significant synergies to the Sydney transport system. It might prove not just to make the CBD a more livable place but to make the heavy rail systems more efficient in their suburban-CBD linking task in reducing their load times in CBD stations, and reducing transfer times. Greater connectivity with multiple existing systems; including ferries (Circular Quay), the LR through the inner-West to Dulwich Hill (Central), the Sydney (heavy) rail system, the future Metro, and efficiently removing thousands of commuters to bus hubs away from the CBD will potentially make many thousands of daily journeys slightly more efficient. To the extent that it duplicates and offers an alternative mode to other systems it will also potentially add significant resilience to CBD transport infrastructure.