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Artist’s depiction of Citadis X05 Light Rail Vehicle. Image: Sydney Light Rail <>.


Light rail construction work, showing turnout junction, corner of George Street and Hay Street, Sydney. The existing line in Hay Street is in the foreground and heads towards Central station to the right. The turnout links to the new line in George Street, 14 July 2018.


Central station, Sydney, looking over Eddy Avenue with light rail construction work in progress, Saturday 14 July 2018.

Light Rail into the Future

David Matheson

1 August 2018


Five light rail projects are planned or under construction in Australia. Three are in New South Wales: CBD and South East Light Rail in Sydney, Newcastle Light Rail, and Parramatta Light Rail. Canberra Metro is under construction in the Australian Capital Territory, and extensions are planned for Queensland’s Gold Coast Light Rail. Two other light rail projects that have been proposed, but for which there are no current plans for their implementation, are Perth Light Rail in Western Australia and Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail in Tasmania. A recommendation was also made in 2014 for a light rail route between Darwin and Palmerston in the Northern Territory, but the Northern Territory Government considered it not viable at the time.


CBD and South East Light Rail

The Sydney CBD and South East Light Rail light rail route will extend from Circular Quay via George Street and Central to Randwick and Kingsford. Light rail services in the CBD will run every two to three minutes in peak times and slightly less frequently in off-peak. The section through the CBD between Circular Quay and Central will be 3 km in length, include nine stops, and provide a journey time of 15 minutes. There will be interchanges with heavy rail at Circular Quay, Wynyard, Town Hall and Central railway stations.

The light rail line will extend from Central station to Nine Ways at Kingsford along a route of 6 km in length, include seven stops, and provide a journey time of 24 minutes. It will incorporate a junction at Moore Park with another light rail line extending to Randwick and Prince of Wales Hospital. From Central station to Randwick the route will be 6 km in length, include six stops and provide a journey time of 20 minutes. A total of 60 new Citadis X05 Light Rail Vehicles to be numbered 2125–84 are being built by Alstom at La Rochelle in France. The CBD and South East Light Rail route is scheduled to be operational in 2020.


An interactive map showing the route of the new light line route can be viewed at <>.


Newcastle Light Rail

The Newcastle light rail project will provide a light rail line from Newcastle Interchange through the CBD along the former heavy rail corridor, and continuing to Pacific Park. Six stations will be built along the 2.7 km line: Newcastle Interchange, Honeysuckle, Civic, Crown Street, Market Street and Pacific Park. Part of the line will be along the former heavy rail corridor. There is potential for future expansion of the network to include a loop through Hunter Street mall, and for extensions to suburbs such as Mayfield, Merewether and Adamstown. Newcastle has a population of around 440,000, which is expected to grow by up to 15 per cent in the next 20 years.


Downer EDi will design, build and commission the line. The Newcastle light rail line will not have overhead wires. Trams will have on-board energy storage, which can be recharged at stations. Six new Urbos 3 Light Rail Vehicles are being built in Spain to operate services. Services will operate every 7.5 minutes during peak hours. A stabling and service facility is being built at Newcastle Interchange, on the site of the former Wickham heavy rail station. Construction work is ongoing and the line is planned to open in 2019.


Parramatta Light Rail

Parramatta Light Rail will eventually connect Parramatta, Westmead, Olympic Park, Carlingford, Camellia and Strathfield with light rail. Stage 1 of the project is planned to link Westmead and Carlingford via the Parramatta CBD and the existing Carlingford heavy railway line between Camellia and Carlingford. The double track line will be 12 km in length and include 16 stops. A light rail depot will be built adjacent to Rosehill Racecourse, near the former Sandown freight railway line. Construction is expected to begin in 2018 and services are planned to commence operating in 2023. Stage 2 of the Parramatta Light Rail project will connect Camellia to Strathfield via Olympic Park.


Canberra Metro

Canberra Metro will bring light rail to the nation’s capital in late 2018. Stage 1 of the project will connect the city to Gungahlin via a 12 km route along Northbourne Avenue, the Federal Highway, Flemington Road and Hibberson Street. The route will include 13 stops. Service frequencies of six minutes during peak hours and 10–15 minutes at other times are anticipated. The depot and control centre will be located in Sandford Street, Mitchell. A fleet of 14 Light Rail Vehicles, each with five modules and similar to the Urbos 3 vehicles currently in service in Sydney, will be built by Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles. Construction commenced in 2016 and Stage 1 is expected to be completed later this year.


Light rail is an issue that has divided opinion in Canberra. Criticism focused on the cost and the route for Stage 1, which will only service a limited part of the city’s population. The Liberal opposition pledged to cancel the project if they won government, but the Labor party retained power in the Australian Capital Territory and light rail is set to become a reality. Planning is underway for future extensions from the CBD to Woden via the Barton Parliamentary Zone and Deakin Centre. Further extensions could reach Canberra airport and Belconnen. Canberra’s population is currently around 400,000, and this is expected to grow to 500,000 in the next 15 years, providing ample opportunity for light rail to serve its purpose.


Footage of Canberra’s new Light Rail Vehicles can be viewed on the Transport Canberra website <>.


Gold Coast Light Rail (G:link)

Planning has begun for further extensions of the Gold Coast Light Rail line from Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads, with the eventual aim of the line running to the Gold Coast Airport at Coolangatta. Broadbeach South to Burleigh Heads will be around 7 km in length, and from Burleigh Heads to the airport and Coolangatta would be around 15 km. Consideration could also be given to extending the network further inland to Robina, Nerang, Bundall and Biggera Waters. The Gold Coast currently has a population of around 550,000, and this figure is projected to reach 800,000 by 2031 and 930,000 by 2038. In addition to the 12,000,000 tourists visiting each year, the Gold Coast Light Rail line will be a vital part of the city’s ongoing public transport needs.


Transport @ 3.5 Million (Perth)

Transport @ 3.5 Million was a transport plan for Perth that was released in July 2016. It provided a long-term plan for Perth’s transport infrastructure for when the city reaches a population of 3.5 million people and then beyond this time. It included details for a flexible transport system that meets the needs of passengers and freight. One feature of the plan was that by the time the population of Perth reached 2.7 million the city would see the opening of Perth Light Rail. It would operate between the University of Western Australia, Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre, Perth CBD and Curtin University. Before the population of Perth reached 3.5 million the light rail line would extend to Canning Bridge, including a depot near Curtin University. Various parts of the Transport @ 3.5 Million plan are being implemented in the Western Australian Government’s Metronet plans for public transport, but light rail is not included.


Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail

Construction of a light rail line between Hobart and its northern suburbs has been proposed for many years. Although there has been no commitment to the project, the Tasmanian Government has agreed to preservation of the former railway corridor between Hobart and Granton for potential use by light rail in the future. Advocates propose battery-operated Light Rail Vehicles travelling between Hobart and Brighton over a single-track line. Services would operate at 12 minute intervals during peak times, with a total travel time between Hobart and Brighton of 28 minutes.



Canberra Light Rail Project <>.

Canberra Metro <>.

CBD and South East Light Rail <>.

‘Connecting Canberra’, Tramways & Urban Transit, no. 964, April 2018, pp. 136–7.

G:link <>.

GoldLinQ <>.

‘Going for gold’, Tramways & Urban Transit, no. 964, April 2018, pp. 134–5.

Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail <>.

Keys, E, ‘Light rail development in Australia, 2012–2016’, 2016 Australian Transport Research Forum papers, 2016.

Newcastle Light Rail <>.

Parramatta Light Rail <>.

‘Sun, sand and light rail’, Tramways & Urban Transit, no. 964, April 2018, pp. 138–9.

Sydney Light Rail <>.

‘Systems factfile no. 126: Sydney, Australia’, Tramways & Urban Transit, no. 964, April 2018, pp. 142–8.

Transport @ 3.5 Million <>.


Light rail station under construction on the Federal Highway in the Canberra suburb of Downer, 18 July 2018.

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Map showing Stage one of Canberra Metro between Gungahlin and the city. Image: Canberra Light Rail Project <>.



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