3 August 2017

Light rail construction has reached an exciting milestone with crews now occupying the last of the 31 work zones along the 12km route.

Work began in Zone 14 on Friday 28 July and to allow for construction, Chalmers Street is now closed to general traffic between Devonshire Street and Eddy Avenue, with traffic being diverted via Randle and Elizabeth Streets.

Occupying a new zone is no mean feat, with meticulous planning and thorough preparation work taking place behind the scenes well before the hoardings go up, Steve Issa, Sydney Coordination Office Executive Director Planning and Operations said.

“The first signs of construction in a zone are actually the culmination of many months of painstaking planning, investigation and engagement work by an expert team,” he said.

“It’s not a step we take lightly and our commitment to making this process as easy on the community as possible drives our thorough planning in the early stages.” 

Detailed site preparation work is carried out before the major installation stage can begin to ensure the whole process runs as smoothly as possible.

Depending on the location, this can include: substation construction, heritage investigations, vegetation work, excavation and ground stabilisation work, asphalting, relocating footpaths and pedestrian crossings, line marking, removing median strips, kerb and gutter work, sheet piling, traffic signal relocation and rail delivery.

“Every zone is different and presents its own unique challenges, so the type and scope of work needed can vary greatly from site to site,” Mr Issa said.

“We also have a range of important factors to consider every time we carry out a piece of work, with the impact on the community and any potential flow-on effects at the top of our minds.”

Utility investigations are also carried out before installation kicks off in a new zone to ensure crews are armed with as much information as possible about what might be located under the road and pavement surfaces.

Although these exhaustive investigations, including surveying, mapping, potholing and trenching, provide a detailed view of what lies beneath, at times re-design is needed once the road surface is removed, Mr Issa said.

“We always do our homework to ensure we’re across all the available information before digging starts, but on occasion we have come up against unmarked utilities or incorrect diagrams,” he said.

“These discoveries can be challenging and it means we have to go back and re-examine our planning for the area and make adjustments.”

Safety is our top priority and installing temporary barriers, fencing and hoardings and lane closures is also vital for protecting the community and work crews.

Each zone has had unique features crews have had to work around prior to construction starting.

In Zone 14, which takes in Chalmers Street adjacent to Central Station, a huge amount of work has been carried out in the lead up to prepare for new major traffic arrangements in Surry Hills. This includes reconfiguration of the traffic islands, lane markings, signals and signage.

Elizabeth Street becomes a two-way road between Foveaux Street and Cooper Street, and Randle Street traffic has been reversed from southbound to northbound flow.

Pedestrians are urged to take extra care in the area, stay off phones and other devices while crossing and to only cross at pedestrian lights or zebra crossings.

A new campaign is also targeting pedestrians to ensure they are not complacent with their safety or the safety of others.

The campaign will include station announcements, footpath decals and geo-targeted mobile notifications pushed to pedestrians around the intersection to make sure they stop and look both ways before stepping out to cross the street.

Now that work is underway in all construction zones, the project continues to build momentum with almost 9 kilometres of track installed. This month also saw the arrival of the first of a brand new fleet of vehicles for the new light rail, with testing to begin along part of the track later this year.