Parramatta Light Rail

The Parramatta Light Rail (often unofficially referred to as the Western Sydney Light Rail) is a project for a twelve kilometre light rail line in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, which is currently under construction. The line will run from Westmead to Carlingford via the Western Sydney centre of Parramatta. The initial announcement of the project also included an eastern branch from Camellia to Strathfield. Plans to construct this branch were deferred in February 2017, and in October the original plans were replaced with a redesigned and truncated route to Sydney Olympic Park. The project will add to light rail in Sydney but the new line will be completely separated from the existing and under construction lines. It is being managed by Transport for NSW.[1]

Parramatta Light Rail
The routes serve Parramatta, the largest centre in Western Sydney
Overview
StatusUnder Construction
TerminiWestmead railway station
Carlingford (stage 1)
Sydney Olympic Park (stage 2)
Stations16 (stage 1)
Services2
Websitewww.parramattalightrail.nsw.gov.au
Operation
Planned opening2023 (stage 1)
OwnerTransport for NSW
Operator(s)Transdev Australasia
Depot(s)Camellia
Rolling stock13 Urbos 3s
Technical
Line length12 kilometres (stage 1)
9 kilometres (stage 2)
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Route map

Design

The routes will begin at Westmead before proceeding east to Camellia or Rydalmere via North Parramatta and the Parramatta CBD. At Camellia/Rydalmere the two routes split. The stage 1 route goes north to Carlingford, while the stage 2 route continues east to Sydney Olympic Park.

Stage 1 (main route through Parramatta and branch to Carlingford)

The stage 1 route was announced on 17 February 2017. The stage 1 route runs between Westmead and Carlingford via North Parramatta, the Parramatta CBD, Camellia, Rydalmere, Dundas and Telopea. It includes sixteen stops along a twelve kilometre route. The stops are:[2][3]

NameSuburbPlatform
arrangement
Notes
Westmead StationWestmead1 Island, 1 sideIncludes 3 platforms.
Terminus of Western Sydney Stadium special event services.
Westmead HospitalWestmeadSide
Children’s HospitalWestmeadIsland
Cumberland HospitalNorth ParramattaSide
Factory StreetNorth ParramattaSide
Fennell StreetParramattaSide
Prince Alfred SquareParramattaSideServes Western Sydney Stadium.
Eat StreetParramattaSide
Parramatta SquareParramattaSideServes Parramatta railway station.
Terminus of Western Sydney Stadium and Rosehill Racecourse special event services.
Harris StreetParramattaSide
Tramway AvenueParramattaSideDesign changed from an island platform to side platforms in February 2018.[4]
CamelliaCamelliaSideServes Rosehill Racecourse
Terminus of special event services to the racecourse.
RydalmereRydalmereSide
DundasDundasSide
TelopeaTelopeaSide
CarlingfordCarlingfordSide

Stage 1 includes two wire-free sections - one between Westmead and Cumberland Hospital and another between Prince Alfred Square and Tramway Avenue.[5] The maintenance and stabling facility will be located east of Rosehill Racecourse. Trams will access the facility via a short branch line that uses the alignment of the Sandown railway line.[6][7]

The Environmental Impact Statement for stage 1 was released in August 2017.[8] Planning approval was granted in May 2018.[9]

Stage 2 (branch to Sydney Olympic Park)

The second branch of the light rail continues east to Sydney Olympic Park.

There are two options being considered for the connection to the stage 1 route. The first option would utilise the Carlingford railway line (and stage 1) corridor over the Parramatta River to Rydalmere, where it would then branch. The second option would leave the main stage 1 route at Camellia and utilise the branch line built to provide access to the tram depot. It would continue via the Sandown railway line corridor and Grand Avenue, then cross the Parramatta River just east of Rydalmere ferry wharf. Both versions of the route then continue via Ermington and Melrose Park, cross back to the south of the Parramatta River, pass through Wentworth Point and terminate at Sydney Olympic Park. The stage 2 route is around nine kilometres long and will include ten to twelve stops.[10][11]

The original plans for this branch followed a route similar to that taken by Grand Avenue through Camellia before crossing the Duck River, passing through Newington, crossing Haslams Creek, serving Sydney Olympic Park and terminating at the major transport hub of Strathfield.[12]

Construction

In November 2017, a CPB Contractors/Downer Group joint venture and John Holland were shortlisted to build stage 1. At the same time, three consortia were shortlisted to supply the rolling stock, maintain the infrastructure and operate the services:[13][14]

The winning bidders were announced in December 2018. The CPB/Downer joint venture will build the majority of the infrastructure, while Great River City Light Rail will build the depot, light rail stops and power systems, supply the vehicles and operate the network. The total budget for stage 1 is $2.4 billion.[5][15]

Construction began in 2018, with the line expected to open in 2023.[16]

In July 2018, work commenced on site remediation at the Camelia depot site.[17] Major construction will begin in June 2020.[18]

Traffic changes

A number of traffic changes will be implemented surrounding the light rail alignment prior to construction of the light rail.[19]

Church Street

Church Street between Macquarie Street and Market Street will become a pedestrian-only zone in February 2020 prior to the start of major construction in June that year.[18] This includes 'Eat Street', a section of Church Street between George Street and Lennox Bridge where restaurants and outdoor tables and seating are located. The NSW government previously stated that work on 'Eat Street' will not start until 2020.[20][21][22]

During construction, outdoor dining infrastructure along 'Eat Steet' will be removed and construction hoarding will be erected. However, between November 1 to January 31 each year, 'Eat Street' will benefit from a construction 'grace period', when construction hoardings will be removed and outdoor tables and seating will be temporarily reintroduced.[23] This is to ensure that business owners, diners, tourists and shoppers do not experience constant construction works during the busy holiday season. Transport for NSW will also work with local businesses to deliver activities and events to attract people to the Parramatta CBD during these months.

George Street

On 29 November 2019, George Street between O'Connell Street and Harris/Macarthur Street was converted from the existing one-way eastbound configuration into two-way traffic.[24] The parking and the travel lanes along the southern side of George Street were temporarily removed one week prior, to allow eastbound motorists to get used to travelling on the northern side of George Street. The conversion of George Street to two-way traffic is to offset the loss of westbound lanes on Macquarie Street, which is along the light rail alignment.[19]

Railway line closures

The northern branch to Carlingford will reuse most of the Carlingford railway line, which will close on 5 January 2020.[25] The closure includes Rosehill railway station, located between Clyde and Camellia, which will not be served by the light rail project.[12][26]

The Carlingford line is single track for most of its length, has shorter platforms than other lines in Sydney and has long been seen as under-utilised. Patronage declined from 446,000 journeys in 2001 to 260,000 journeys in 2014.[27] 2016-17 patronage figures based on Opal card tap on and off data recorded 511,000 journeys on the line during the year. This placed the line last among all train lines in the Opal network.[28] Various modification schemes to revitalise the line had been proposed. Action for Transport 2010, a New South Wales Government plan released in 1998, included the Parramatta Rail Link; a heavy rail line from Parramatta to Chatswood that would have utilised the Carlingford line between Camellia and Carlingford. As part of the CityRail Clearways Project announced in 2004, a passing loop was to have been built at Rydalmere, enabling a more frequent service.[29][30] Neither scheme came to fruition.

The Sandown railway line was officially closed in June 2019 and removal of the line and tracks began in July 2019.[31][32] This 1.5 kilometre line branched from the Carlingford line at Camellia and ran close to the southern bank of the Parramatta River. Passenger services had ceased in January 1992, while freight trains ceased in June 2010 when trains from the Clyde Refinery last ran.[33][34] The western end of the Sandown railway line will be used by the light rail to provide access to a tram stabling and maintenance facility.[7]

Operation

Transdev will operate the network for eight years, with a possible extension of up to an additional ten years.[35]

A document produced by Transport for NSW in February 2017 stated services would operate every 7.5 minutes throughout the day.[16] However, a press release from December 2018 said services would operate every 7.5 minutes during peak periods, with frequencies at other times left unspecified.[5]

Fleet

Stage 1 will be operated by a fleet of thirteen Urbos 3 vehicles built by Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF).[35] Urbos 3 vehicles are also already in operation on the Dulwich Hill Line (Inner West Light Rail). However, unlike the Dulwich Hill Line, the Urbos 3 vehicles on the Parramtta Light Rail will operate in 7 modules and are 45 metres long.[36][35]

History

Parramatta - Duck River tramway

Between 1883 and 1943, a tramway, operated by Sydney Ferries Limited, ravelled from the Parramatta Park end of George Street to the mouth of the Duck River, where it originally connected with the company's Parramatta River ferry services to Sydney.[37][38][39] The connecting ferries ceased in 1928; the line then primarily carried freight until it closed in March 1943.[40][41][42] The Parramatta Light Rail will run via a similar route including via Tramway Avenue in Parramatta - named after the original line.

Route investigation

In 2013, Parramatta City Council published a $1 million feasibility study into a proposed Western Sydney Light Rail Network, designed to improve transport links throughout Western Sydney and meet the challenges posed by the projected rise in population in the region in the coming decades. The study found that a light rail system was a viable solution to address the growing transport needs of Parramatta and Western Sydney. The report estimated $20 million in funding was required to undertake a detailed investigation and to prepare a business case.[43] It proposed that construction of the network would take place in several stages, the first of which comprised a route from Macquarie Centre to Castle Hill via Eastwood, Dundas, Parramatta and Baulkham Hills, with a branch from Parramatta to Westmead. Further extensions were proposed from Parramatta to Bankstown and Rhodes.[43]

As part of its 2014/15 budget, the New South Wales Government announced Transport for NSW would investigate ten potential light rail routes in Western Sydney. The government allocated $400 million to ensure funds for detailed planning and construction of an initial project would be 'ready to go', should the investigations prove favourable.[44] Six of the ten routes being investigated were eliminated from contention in October 2014.[45] The routes investigated were:

RouteStatusNotes
Parramatta to BankstownNot selected
Parramatta to Castle Hill via Old Northern RoadNot selected
Parramatta to Castle Hill via Windsor RoadEliminated in October 2014Based on the route proposed by Parramatta City Council
Parramatta to Liverpool via the T-wayEliminated in October 2014
Parramatta to Macquarie Park via CarlingfordParramatta - Carlingford section selected
Parramatta to Macquarie Park via EastwoodEliminated in October 2014Based on the route proposed by Parramatta City Council
Parramatta to Strathfield/Burwood via Sydney Olympic ParkStrathfield option selectedRoute extended from Sydney Olympic Park to Strathfield/Burwood in October 2014
Parramatta to Sydney CBD via Parramatta RoadEliminated in October 2014
Parramatta to Rouse HillEliminated in October 2014
Parramatta to Ryde via Victoria RoadEliminated in October 2014

Of the final four routes, the Macquarie Park via Carlingford and the Strathfield via Olympic Park options were perceived as the frontrunners to be selected.[46] The Macquarie Park route was supported by Parramatta, Ryde and The Hills councils.[47][48][49] The Strathfield route was supported by The WestLine Partnership, a lobby group consisting of businesses and organisations with a presence in the area.[50] Auburn and Canada Bay councils were later joined by Strathfield Council as members of the group.[51][52]

The Strathfield route passes through industrial areas of Sydney and the potential for these areas to generate funding and patronage was a key point of contention during the lobbying period. The WestLine Partnership suggested the Strathfield route could be partially financed via value capture. Property developers building urban renewal projects along the line would provide a financial contribution to the government.[53] The group also suggested building a branch from Newington to Rhodes and indicated its funding model could allow a route to Carlingford to be built as well.[54] Supporters of the Macquarie Park route argued the needs of that corridor were more pressing and the Strathfield route would be poorly utilised in its early years.[55][56]

Official announcement

The Parramatta Light Rail scheme was officially unveiled on 8 December 2015, when the government announced it had selected the Strathfield route plus a truncated version of the Macquarie Park route that ends at Carlingford.[57] The two routes were proposed to converge at Camellia and proceed through Parramatta to Westmead.

The government's announcement included a $1 billion contribution towards the project. The government will also adopt the value capture approach advocated by The WestLine Partnership, by instigating an infrastructure contribution on new residential developments along the route. The revenue raised by the levy will be used to help fund the light rail and other infrastructure for the area.[57] The government's investigations into the value capture process held up the announcement of the preferred route but would reportedly have allowed the two lines to be built together.[53] The state government will also explore funding contributions from the federal and local tiers of government.[57] The convenor of The partnership stated that the light rail project's funding model would be used as a test case for funding future infrastructure projects.[52]

Construction of the lines was expected to commence in late 2018 but there was no announcement of an expected completion date or a total budget for the project.[58][59] An early estimate from January 2016 put the total cost at $3.51 billion.[60]

Deferral and redesign of the eastern branch

In August 2016 Transport for NSW noted the project could be delivered in stages.[61] A new metro line between the Sydney central business district and Parramatta was announced in November 2016.[62] The metro would adopt a similar route to the Strathfield branch of the light rail; media reports indicated the metro project would most likely cause the deferral of construction of this branch.[63] This was confirmed in February 2017, when it was announced that the Westmead - Camellia section and the Carlingford branch would be built as stage 1 of the light rail project.

Despite the deferral of construction, planning work for the Strathfield via Sydney Olympic Park branch continued.[16] Media reports indicated the route could shift from running to the south of the Parramatta River to the north of the river and that the section from Sydney Olympic Park to Strathfield could be dropped.[64][65]

The preferred stage 2 route was announced in October 2017. The changes reported on by the media were confirmed. The redesigned route runs from either Rydalmere or Camellia to Sydney Olympic Park via Ermington, Melrose Park and Wentworth Point. No details about the project's cost or construction dates were announced. As at October 2019 the final business case for stage 2 is still being considered.[10][66]

Major construction of Stage 1 will begin in June 2020.[18]

References

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