Transportation Planning Casebook/Sydney Metro (Northwest)


Sydney Metro Northwest, also known as the North West Rail Link is the first stage of the Sydney Metro Project which is Australia's biggest public transport project. Major constructions of the Sydney Metro Northwest are underway and the metro will open to the customers in the first half of 2019. This $8.3 billion project will deliver eight new railway stations and 4000 parking spaces for the growing population of Northwest Sydney and trains will run every 4 minutes during the peak hours. The deployment of fully-automated transit system brings more train and faster services.

The idea of constructing a rail link for North West Sydney was first introduced in the 1990s. This idea was announced, cancelled and re-announced several times. In 2008, the Government announced the North West Rail Link project whose initial intention was only to build a connection between Epping and Rouse Hill but the project was abruptly cancelled due to budget cuts. The NWRL project was re-announced in 2013 and a detailed proposal was released. The name of the project changed to Sydney Metro Northwest in 2015 after getting the funding. The proposed link of the transformed project was extended to Rouse Hill to Chatswood via Castle Hill and Epping.

As a new subway route in Sydney, Sydney Metro Northwest combines the concept of sustainable development as well as providing transportation for people. The whole project will improve the environment, society and economy, including waste management, overall planning for the community and the future, integration of land use, biodiversity conservation, labor and local industry and project rating.

List of ActorsEdit

The Northwest Rapid Transit Consortium is made up of MTR Corporation, John Holland, CPB contractors, UGL services and Plenary Group. The roles of different stakeholders involved in this case are outlined in the following.

The following table showed the three major awarded contracts during 2013 to 2014. Delivery and operation are the main contents for operating Sydney metro northwest project. [1]

Contractor Awarded time Awarded funding Responsibility
Northwest Rapid Transit 15 September 2014 $3.7 billion Operations, Trains and Systems
CPB and John Holland Dragados (CPBJHD) 24 June 2013 $1.15 billion Tunnels and Stations Civil works
Impregilo-Salini 17 December 2013 $340 million Surface and Viaduct Civil works

MTR Corporation: MTR corporation leads the railway operation and construction in this project. As a member of the Northwest Rapid Transit Consortium, their major responsibilities are rolling stock procurement, testing, operating the rapid-transit system and managing the customer services.[2].

CPB and John Holland: John Holland with its venture partner, CPB completed the tunnels and civil works for Sydney metro Northwest. Four custom-made, double-shielded, hard-rock Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) are provided by them for the tunneling contract of Sydney Metro Northwest.[3] They are responsible for designing and constructing the tunnels, these include excavation and civil works to deliver five new stations and two service facilities. They are in charge of the management of the tunnels in Cudgegong Road in Rouse Hill and delivery of the eight new railway stations, together with car parking facilities and operation (mechanical and electrical) systems. [4].

UGL Rail Services: This railway company is in response to designing and delivering infrastructures of the Metro project. They have engaged in the construction and maintenance contract of tunnel system over a 15-year period commencing in 2019. [5].

Plenary Group: They act as the financial sponsor and capital manager of the SMNW consortium. They researched equity investment from other parties, which include three major banks in Australia (ANZ, National Australia Bank and Westpac) together with some international banks (Standard Chartered, HSBC Holdings, ING)[6].

New South Wales government: The NSW Government is the contract holders and it is responsible for monitoring the impact of the project. They performed a feasibility survey on this project and based on this, they decide whether this project is worth to run. The environmental protection department will focus on the environmental assessment and planning. They will maintain the residents living environment and conserve biodiversity during operation. The government would not completely be as a spectator; they will intervene the construction if necessary. Fares for the metro line will be planned and controlled by Transport for NSW. [7].

Other transport mode users: the other users would concern about whether the new metro way would bring a more convenient transport mode. The new metro way is possible to restrain other transport usages. If they cannot be adjusted very well, the transport efficiency would go worse.

Surrounding council and community: these divisions are generally the beneficiary along the metro line of the project. Although the decision of this project is made by the government, their attitude would significantly dominate this project. This is because some of them will concern about the temporary change of surrounding environment when the project is undergoing, such as construction waste and noise which would bring annoyance to the local occupants. However, since the benefits from the project are enormous to improve the local traffic condition, they also support to conduct the project. According to the perspective composed by the planner, the railway between CBD-Northwest suburb would provide an alternative transport which is faster than driving. In addition, in terms of the drawbacks, local council would take measures to protect rights and interests via negotiation. The primary aspects involve the damage on building, residents’ health, safety and local market development.

Public service companies: to guarantee the stability when in operation, the new metro station requires a new arrangement for water and electrical supply, as well as cleaning services and communication equipment. This may affect the existing supply system and result in an underground work.


Recent NewsEdit

Transport Minister announced on 7th April that 30th September would be the date of Epping to Chatswood train closure. This closure will last for seven months whilst major upgrade for the existing Epping to Chatswood line would take place. During the construction period, buses will replace train and this might become a cause of chaos for the commuters in peak hours.

Ever since its opening, the traffic on neighbouring Pennant Hills Road and other local roads, including the M2 Hills Motorway.

Investigation reveals 'disappointing' failures in Skytrain constructionEdit

The project director of Sydney Metro Northwest said that the construction contractor uses an inappropriate method of construction, resulting in part of the Skytrain section buckling. Before the report was published, the New South Wales State Transport Committee had investigated the incident and announced that the problem was caused by errors in the construction process. According to the report, the failure is due to inadequate strength of concrete and improper filling agent.The temporary clamping pressure is not enough for connecting the two concrete segments and these parts were pulled apart when the segments colled overnight. The damaged light rail part was demolished and will be replaced soon.[8]

Modifications for Sydney Metro Northwest cabling work after community feedbackEdit

A 5.2-kilometre cabling project was commenced in 2017 to supply power for Sydney Metro Northwest. This project After listening to the feedback from local residents, New South Wales's transportation department has modified the project in a way that minimizes the impact about the traffic on the surrounding area and reduces the noise. [9]

Skytrain updateEdit

In mid-September, the damaged light rail part was demolished near the corner of Kellyville's Windsor and Old Windsor road. It will be replaced soon.

The report found that the damage was caused by the following reasons:

   1. The temporary clamping pressure is not enough for connecting the two concrete segments of light rail deck. As the structure cooled overnight, these parts were pulled apart.
   2. The strength of concrete added to the site
   3. The technology and type of epoxy resin for fixing this concrete connection crack.

These factors alone do not cause partial damage. The damage is due to the process of adding two concrete parts at the scene, which is not related to the concrete part itself or its manufacture.[10]

Timeline of EventsEdit

The project for the North West Metro is called the North West Rail Link before June 2015. This project is used to connect the Rouse Hill and the Epping, passing by the  Chatswood and  Castle Hill. However, in June 2015 the project finally renamed as the “ Sydney Metro Northwest “.

Many proposals and the plan of connecting the Sydney Metro Northwest to the original metro line has been announced.  And the proposals are being announced and cancelled for several times.

Event Time Detail
The first proposal 23rd November 1998 The original design for the North west Rail Link is a cost of 360 million, used for connecting Epping to Castle Hill

And the railway will extend to Rouse Hill after 2010. In the original plan, the project would be completed by the year 2017[11]

The announcement of the MREP 9th June 2005 The state government decided to star MREP ( Metropolitan railway express plan), costing 8 billions to improve the Sydney metro network. The northwest metro line is one of the railways in this plan.[12]
Change of metro route March 2008 The government change the  route of Northwest Metro line, extending the metro to CBD
Project cancellation 31st November 2008 Because of the budgetary cuts, the projected was cancelled by the government[13]
Reannouncement of the project 21st February 2010 After Kristina Keneally being premier, the government focus on the northwest metro again and the construction was planned to start in 2017
Project tender 15th May 2011 On 15 March 2011, the traffic minister put the Sydney northwest metro out to tender[14]
The original proposed stations May 2011 The original metro line is passing by " Epping, Cherrybrook, Castle Hill, Hills Center, Northwest 1, Northwest 2, Rouse Hill, and Cudgegong Road.
Final proposal 2013 The government decided to extend the line to city by adding some stations, such as Macquarie University and Chatswood[15]
Change of project name June 2015 The Transport for NSW renamed the metro as " North West Rail Link "
Scope study November 2015 The government performed a scope study and the final report will be finished before March 2018.
Completion of Skytrain 2017 The Skytrain in Sydney is 4km from Rouse Hill to Bella Vista and eight other stations will be constructed, which will be finished by 2017.[16]
Completion of tunnelling works 2018 The Sydney twin tunnel is the longest tunnel in Australia, (15 km from Bella Vista to Epping and 13 km from Epping to Chatswood). the tunnel will be finished this year.
Temporary closure for Epping to Chatswood line 30th September 2018 The line from Epping to Chatswood will be closed for 7 months for the council decided to change it to rapid transit standard.
Metro opening May 2019 Sydney Metro Northwest opened to customers in the month of May in 2019

As the Schofield road is the main road connecting Riverstone and Rouse Hill, running from east to west. The government plans to construct an expansion of Sydney Northwest Metro to Schofield.

Policy IssuesEdit

Statutory BodyEdit

Transport for New South Wales is the statutory body of the NSW Government. The major purpose of Transport for NSW is to manage transport services including planning and procurement. The Sydney Metro Authority is an authorized agency established by Transport NSW for designing, building and operating the new metro system. Also the intention of establishing the Sydney Metro Authority was to manage the public-private partnership contract.[17]

Government Strategic PolicyEdit

The project has been developed to address the NSW Government strategic directions set out in Sydney’s Rail Future, an integral part of the NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan. These goals include improving the quality of public transport experiences for the customer, improving the efficiency of the public transport system and introducing the new rapid transit system. [18] The project also meets the objectives of other strategies such as creating more jobs and increasing the public transportation capacity to meet the population growth in Sydney, supporting economic growth and productivity, building on Australia’s global competitive advantages, increasing the liveability of cities, reducing social disadvantage and improving sustainability, as outlined in NSW 2021, NSW State Plan, State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014 A Plan for Growing Sydney and the TfNSW corporate objectives. [19]

Type of ContractEdit

The Sydney Metro contract was delivered through a public-private partnership, which is the largest ever awarded in NSW. A $3.7 billion contract was signed by the government in September 2014.[20] The intention of the contract holder, the government, was to control the quality of the metro and its services. The private sector operator was paid to run the Sydney Metro Northwest including building the metro system (constructions work is not included), operating the metro according to the specifications outlined in the contract, maintaining operational system and handing back the assets to the government at the end of the contract period, which is 15 years. [21][22] One highlighted point for the operating contract is that the private operator should maintain the high reliability of the metro train, that is, the train will run at 98 percent on-time running. The private operator will not make money from the metro fares which are set and controlled by the State Government.[23] [24]


This Australia's biggest public transport project is fully funded by the NSW government with a budget of $8.3 billion. The NSW Budget will allocate $5.8 billion for Sydney Metro Northwest over the next four years. $1.3 billion will be spent in 2016/17 to continue work on the Metro Northwest. [25].

Operations Trains and SystemsEdit

According to the site of Sydney Metro, the contract of Operations trains System include the update of the joining of railway between the existing stations including Epping, Macquarie Park, Macquarie University, North Ryde and Chatswood station. The connections in the railway in Chatswood is also being modified for the connection to Crows Nest station opened in 2014. It also include the changing of the service in stations and along the rails such as electrical wiring, signal control, the emergency excavation units and ventilation machineries in existing stations. The track laying is also included in the project in the tunnels, trains, the handover works of the track laying in Skytrain from the surface and viaduct civils works and new built stations of Bella Vista and Cudgegong Road. The after construction fitting works such as the railway services, carparks, bridge structures and road works together with elevator and escalators are included in the new built stations of Cudgegong Road, Rouse Hill, Kellyville, Bella Vista, Norwest, Showground, Castle Hill and Cherrybrook Stations.

Project DesignEdit

According to the site of Sydney Metro, the Sydney metro planned to complete the signalling works, overhead works, the covering Sydney together with the construction of railways stations are included in the contract for CPB and John Holland Dragados. The construction and surveying works also taken placed. According to the deployment of Sydney metro, the 120 segments of the bridge structures, spine bridge, cable stays and tower pier 112 and 113 in Windsor is constructed. This also include the production 1127 segments of the rails and the parapet installation of the skytrain. Works also include landscaping and finishes architectural works. The soil transport is included in the planning of the contract. There are several new technologies will be used in this system for the first time in Australia, such as the platform screen door which protects passengers and allows the train getting into the platform in a higher speed.

Deployment of Automated Rapid Transit SystemEdit

Sydney Metro is Australia’s first fully- automated metro railway, delivering more trains and faster services across Sydney. The Sydney Metro Northwest is the first stage of this world-class infrastructure project. It is said that this new railway system will deliver a higher level of reliability, safety and customer service to the public. The deployment of automated rapid transit system reduces the number of labourers required to run the train and the probability of human errors. The labour cost of having a driver sitting on the train is the dominant cost of train operation and to reduce the cost, train services will be cut. But by deploying the driverless train, the labour cost can be decreased and more train services can be provided to the customers.

Estimation of Metro FaresEdit

The table below shows an estimation of the fare for the existing north-west train line. It is expected that the fare of the metro will be at a similar or slightly higher pricing as the train fare. Also, opal card and its benefits (transfer and off-peak discount) can be used on Sydney metro.



Regulation of NWRL in Castle Hill and Bella VistaEdit

Castle Hill

As the high and rapid rise is not invisible to Castle Hill, so there is a need for a medium density transition with a no more than 400 meters station. It is set by the council that two additional sets of traffic lights are required for safety concerns. Rezonings should be timed to occur in line with commencement of operation of the North West Rail Link, so that the traffic congestion won't be increased. Besides, along Castle Hill Rd, the grade is required to separate the bike and the pedestrians. Hills Shire Council expanded a higher density to the west and the south-east. The proposed overall dwelling growth is 4400, while the actual dwelling growth is 4910. Bella Vista

The council made the lands north of Balmoral Rd and west of Elizabeth Macarthur Creek (used to be business parking) has changed to mixed use. The Park north of Balmoral Rd (west of Elizabeth Macarthur Creek) which was used for business has been changed to mixed-use area. Being opposite to the Castle Hill, the actual dwelling growth (3510) is lower than the planned growth (4400). The Valentine Sports Park and open space at Date Grove Glenwood were identified as low density residential. And after the construction, the commercial area could accommodate 20-25 stories as planned, while the area could accommodate up to 16 stories for mixed use.[27]

Narrative of the CaseEdit

Sydney Metro Northwest aims to tackle the issue of rising population and increasing automobile usage in Sydney northwest. This project includes 8 stations linking up north-western suburbs starting at Rouse Hill all the way to Chatswood. According to The Department of Planning and Environment, northwest Sydney has a plan for development which will have approximately 250,000 people to move in over the next decade. Thus, public transport connecting northwest Sydney to CBD region is essential to meet the needs for the population growth.[28] Furthermore, Sydney northwest region is considered to be one of the regions with highest car ownership rate. The upcoming metro system is believed to resolve the issue for current and future transport faultiness. It is the first stage of the Sydney Metro which have 16 construction sites on progress. This is also designed to be one of the highest frequency trans/metro line, it is assumed to run every 4 minutes in peak hour with fully-automated metro rail system.[29] Metro system is one of the best option for Sydney as it can transport in high volume at a time and the rail road will not congest will other transport alternative. This special characteristic allows trans to travel without congestion at all time including peak hour. Additionally, metro system can be highly integrated with existing transport network and helps enhance accessibility.

This northwest metro is the first stage of the whole Sydney metro project and the ultimate goal is to connect all the metro lines and have the northwest line connected to CBD directly and have 2 minutes per train frequency. Sydney metro is a project that considered to be the biggest public transport construction in Australia. For this stage (northwest line), this line is a 36km long, 8 new stations line which will emerge with five already existed train station. $8.3billion have been invested for both the track and the station construction. The line will have 8 stations including Cudgegong Rd, Rouse Hill, Kellyville, Bella Vista, Norwest, Showground, Castle Hill and Cherrybrook. These stations are combined with different engineering construction techniques like elevated, fully underground and cut in construction.[30] The construction is expected to be completed and open to service in the first half of 2019. According to news, the first train has arrived Sydney and has sent to Rouse Hill maintenance depot while 21more trains is coming.[31]

This northwest line has along with a Rouse Hill headquarter and depot for all the train maintenance and storage. It is an important part of the system as there will be 22 metro trains only for the northwest line and a depot can have all of it service (safety check, clean, maintenance). Also, this line has the first on curved cable-stayed railway bridge in Australia. On top of that, it contains Australia’s longest railway tunnels between Bella Vista and Epping.[32] Total of 4000 associated car parking spaces are provided with the station. Operations Control Center is going to monitor and signal the automated trains and constantly check the track safety. All the construction is featured with sustainable design which is low waste and low energy consumption.

However, it has raised a lot of concerns since this is the first stage of the system. It is discovered that serve problems have already occurred during the construction including the bridge faulty and power shortage in tunnel. Beside the construction, studies also find that the timetable which scheduled 4 minutes gap is not enough for recovery if any delay in the early time, which implies that the whole schedule will be postponed for the day. There is also an augment that the overlapping line to the existing train network is not efficient. Automated metro (driverless) is also in discussion as this is new to Sydney and safety is a concern. To tackle the safety issue, metro system has hundreds of cameras in the tunnel and other methods have been applied.


  1. What are the benefits and limitations of this project?
  2. Why not building on the existing train network but constructing a new metro railway?
  3. What are some safety concerns of this project?
  4. Why are the tunnels designed only for single-decked trains, not double-decked trains?
  5. What are the reasons for deploying automated transit system?
  6. How do Sydneysiders think about this project?
  7. Does the majority of the surrounding residents support this project?


  12. Sinclair Knight Merz (April 2006). North West Rail Link Project Application and Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PDF) (Report). Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation. Retrieved 22 July 2011.