Light rail makes history in 2019

20 December 2019

A message from Transport for NSW Coordinator General Marg Prendergast

2019 has been a year for our city’s transport history books.

It’s a year that has seen the CBD and South East Light Rail shift from construction project to passenger services, officially joining Sydney’s extensive public transport network.

Delivering the city’s newest and most exciting public transport project has been rewarding, challenging and thrilling in equal measure.

We began the year with a small number of trams testing along parts of the alignment, and finishing works to be completed.

As we wrap up 2019, I am proud to have witnessed customers hopping on board L2 Randwick Line trams as part of their journey through the city between Circular Quay and Randwick.

Not to say getting to this point was easy, or that the work is finished. But this historic milestone is truly worthy of celebration, as are the many people who got us here.

We’ll have even more reason to celebrate in March 2020 when passenger services begin on the L3 Kingsford Line where trams are currently undergoing testing day and night.

If I could send one message out into the community as the year rolls to a close, it is to please take care of yourselves and look out for each other.

Safety is our absolute top priority here at Transport for NSW and I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to be mindful and avoid distractions while out and about near the light rail alignment.

Our Heads Up! Play It Safe Around Light Rail campaign has been spreading the word about staying safe around trams with simple and important advice for all road users.

Drivers should keep an eye out for changed road conditions, always follow traffic signals, and avoid queuing across intersections. Pedestrians and bike riders need to be aware of their surroundings, ditch the distraction, and cross the tram tracks safely.

With many about to head off on summer holidays, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the milestones reached throughout 2019.

One of the year’s earliest and most visually impressive achievements was the installation of the pedestrian bridge over Anzac Parade in Moore Park. Using a 750 tonne crane, two enormous steel girders weighing 68 tonnes each were hoisted into place during a weekend in February. That same bridge, named in honour of former Sydney Girls High School student Dr Agnes Bennett Footbridge, is now giving students, sports fans and eventgoers a safe and convenient means of accessing the Moore Park light rail stop.

A group of transport enthusiasts with a passion for trams were given a sneak peak of the Light Rail Maintenance Depot at Lilyfield in February. The facility is a vital part of the light rail network and is the site where trams are serviced and maintained.

To coincide with night time tram testing expanding to Randwick early in the year, we launched our important “Be aware, there’s a tram there” campaign to spread the word to road users about safely interacting with trams.

Excitement stirred in April when tram testing got underway during the day in Randwick and into Moore Park, giving the community a look into the future of light rail in the area.

May saw a landmark moment for light rail with the first tram rolling into the Central Chalmers Street stop, marking the first trip into Surry Hills through the Moore Park tunnel and along Devonshire Street to Central.

We racked up yet another tram testing milestone in June with the first tram to operate along George Street in 61 years making its way to Town Hall during the night. Just a few days later, a tram made its first daytime appearance outside Town Hall, giving passing pedestrians a chance to take a look while also raising awareness about safety.

We enlisted the help of NRL legends past and present to launch our Heads Up! Play It Safe Around Light Rail campaign mid-year to spread the message about avoiding distractions and staying alert around light rail.

Circular Quay was the next stop on the tram testing milestone schedule, where the first of many arrived in July.

Weekend tram testing began in Randwick during August as vehicle testing and driver training ramped up in readiness for passenger services.

Also in August, we saw the first daytime test to Circular Quay, marking the first time a Citadis X05 tram travelled the length of George Street during daylight hours. This moment also signalled the start of daytime testing along the entire length of the L2 Randwick Line, paving the way for a possible December opening date.

In September we caught up with the Sydney Tramway Museum at Loftus where old tram tracks excavated during Sydney Light Rail works have been given a new lease on life and reinstalled along the scenic old rail corridor into the Royal National Park.

I had the great privilege of visiting Bourke Street Public School in September to meet Year 1 students who were getting a first look at tram safety material which is now up and running on NSW’s Safety Town road education website.

We reached a turning point in Kensington and Kingsford in October with night-time testing starting in the precinct, closely followed by daytime testing in early November.

November also saw a moving installation of large red poppies blossom in High Cross Park, commissioned by Randwick City Council and Transport for NSW to commemorate Remembrance Day.

From 1 December, new speed limits were introduced to improve safety for all road users ahead of the first CBD and South East Light Rail passenger services.

What better way to wrap up a year of big news than with the start of passenger services on the L2 Randwick Line. The official opening day on 14 December marked a special moment in Sydney’s transport history, returning a beloved mode of public transport to George Street and improving public transport links between the CBD and south east.

Opening weekend was not without a few teething issues, but these are lessons we can take away and learn from to make light rail an even better experience for our customers.

Over the coming months we'll be bedding in services and fine tuning our operations.

I would like to thank everyone impacted by the changes along the light rail alignment for their patience during construction and vehicle testing, particularly in the Kensington and Kingsford precinct where tram testing and finishing works are in full swing.

I encourage Sydneysiders and visitors to the city to hop on board and embrace the CBD and South East Light Rail and be part of this exciting era for our city.