From blowouts to botch jobs – Sydney light rail opening date finally announced

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Following a staggering blowout to $2.9 billion and close to a year of delays, Sydney’s new light rail is finally here.

The NSW government confirmed on Thursday the first of two tram lines of the troubled project will open to the public on Saturday, December 14.

Passengers will be able to travel between Circular Quay and Randwick on the first weekend free of charge, Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced.

The Circular Quay to Kingsford line won’t open until next year, with an unconfirmed date in March pencilled in for its unveiling – a full 12 months after its initial completion date.

The new light rail in Sydney will open to the public on December 14. Source: AAP

"The CBD and South East Light Rail is a big step towards revitalising our city and will transform the way we live, work and go out," the premier said in a statement.

"The new network will move up to 13,500 commuters an hour during peak time in both directions, replacing the conga line of buses which used to sit in traffic on George Street."

A coupled tram holds up to 450 passengers, the equivalent of up to nine standard buses.

How much will the light rail cost?

According to Transport for NSW, light rail fares are capped at $4.80 for a single ride for Opal card and contactless payment adult users.

Journeys between three and eight kilometres will cost $3.73 for adults and trips under three kilometres will cost $2.24.

For children under 16, journeys are capped at $2.40 for over eight kilometres, $1.86 for between three and eight kilometres and $1.12 for under three kilometres.

The same prices apply for concession trips.

Where are the light rail stops?

There are 19 light rail stops altogether, 15 operating on the Kingsford line and 14 on the Randwick line.

The route includes Circular Quay, just minutes from the Opera House, five stops on George Street, Central station, Surry Hills and Moore Park, which services the SCG.

The route then divides, either heading to Kingsford along Anzac Parade or to Randwick via Royal Randwick Racecourse.

A full list on where specific stations are located is available here.

When will Sydney light rail trams run?

The light rail will operate seven days a week between 5am and 1am.

During daytime hours, 7am to 7pm on weekdays, Transport for NSW guarantees services will run every four to eight minutes between Circular Quay and Central, and every eight to 12 minutes between Central and Randwick.

Service patterns will slowly be bedded in during the first six months of operation.

From blowouts to botch jobs: The problems light rail project has faced

The project has been plagued by its controversies, most notably its overspend of $1.3 billion and court action brought against the state government by subcontractor Acciona while other complications with ALTRAC who were awarded the contract to design and build the light rail.

"No one is denying the light rail project has been a difficult build," Transport Minister Andrew Constance said last month.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance have continuously defended the project. Source: AAP

Such complications led to the project facing a series of delays pushing back the finish date by over a year. In a bid to have trams running before Christmas, the Randwick line was prioritised over the Kingsford line.

The delays prompted disdain from Sydneysiders over the disruption while local businesses lining the light rail routes brought a class action against the state government in search of compensation over “poor” planning of the project.

Constant scrutinisation of workers accused of idle behaviour on the job while a series of mistakes only heightened the pressure building on the government.

While Mr Constance defended the project, NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay branded the project “bad management.”

How drivers and pedestrians face hefty fines over the light rail

Safety has been a major concern of Transport for NSW, with an initial trial period operating the trams leading to the discovery many pedestrians, cyclists and drivers failing to heed safety warnings.

Endless safety campaigns have been rolled out online to ensure Sydneysiders can safely co-exist with the new trams, with Transport for NSW Coordinator General Marg Prendergast urging all pedestrians to put phones away, remove headphones and keep vigilant when walking in light rail areas.

“Safety is our number one priority and we’ve introduced a lot of measures to educate the community about being safe around trams including our ‘Heads Up, Play it Safe around Light Rail’ campaign and regular engagement with community groups and schools,” Ms Predergast said.

In a bid to ensure pedestrians are behaving appropriately, NSW Police have ramped up their patrolling of routes, with 162 people fined $76 in a three-week period for crossing light rail tracks at the wrong location.

“As the light rail network expands, pedestrians are urged to be safe and alert at all times when near the light rail network,” a NSW Police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia.

Pedestrians are being warned over-crossing light rail tracks. Source: AAP

NSW road rules state pedestrians can only cross a road either at a designated crossing, or at their own discretion 20 or more metres away from a crossing. If found to have breached the rule, pedestrians will cop a $76 fine.

Transport for NSW has reminded pedestrians light rail tracks must be treated exactly the same as roads.

Drivers can also face a handful of fines if they don’t adhere to road rules surrounding trams.

Driving into the path of a tram or failing to move out of the path of a moving tram will see drivers fined $344 while receiving three demerit points. Driving in a tram lane will see motorists fined $268 and handed three demerit points.

Not giving way to pedestrians at a stopped tram will incur a $191 fine and two demerit points.

A full list of tram-related fines can be found here.

Cyclists are urged to remain vigilant when around tracks and to cross them at an angle to avoid getting wheels trapped which could potentially cause injury.

Trams force slower speed limit for key Sydney roads

In a bid to reduce the dangers facing pedestrians and road users, Transport for NSW has also revised vehicle speed limits along the two routes, with large stretches of road subject to a reduction in speed limit.

The changes apply to trams also.

Notably, the stretch of Anzac Parade from Kingsford to Moore Park has been lowered to 50km/h from 60km/h.

Areas of Surry Hills have been lowered to 40km/h to remain consistent with the changes along the track.

- with AAP

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