Bondi View

A light rail ramble

Light rail from Randwick to Circular Quay takes approx 44 mins by tram or 38 mins by bus. Photo: Jackson Simon


There has been withering criticism of Sydney’s new light rail line from Randwick to Circular Quay. Many claim that it’s too slow and unreliable, so Jackson Simon travelled on the service to find out more.

Trams -v- busses
The journey from Randwick to Circular Quay typically takes around 38 minutes by bus, whereas the trams arrive in about 44 minutes. From Wansey Road (between the University NSW and Prince of Wales Children’s Hospital), it takes 20 minutes to Haymarket, or 30 minutes to Queen Victoria Building (QVB) station.

Although the new system may take longer than traditional buses, it is capable of transporting 450 passengers per tram (nearly nine standard busses), which equates to approximately 13,500 commuters per hour, 6,750 in each direction.

In addition, it seems to be a more pleasant experience, with little noise and a smooth ride. Jan O’Neill, on her way to a meeting at the University of Technology Sydney, expressed that the light rail was “beautiful” compared to busses as it was clean and people were not crammed inside.

But what do these added benefits and an enhanced user experience mean in context of a slower transportation system?

The NSW Government identifies the tram drivers as the cause of the long travel times but the Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW states that drivers have little control over the time.

As a result of the dispute, the question then becomes: Is the light rail as an alternative transportation option sustainable, and will people continue to use it if it takes longer to arrive to the CBD?

When asked, one stated that “it’s got potential,” and that his use of the system will depend on whether they increase the speed or not.

Additionally, Nina Ferrer, on her way into the city, stated that the train “feels like you’re just walking.” But because the regular and consistent running times help with time management, she believes she will continue using the service.

From a non-commuter point of view, Don Langanis, an Australian on holiday, expressed that “speed is not an issue” in the CBD, due to the number of cars and bikes on the road. He conveyed that increasing the speed limit would only be a hazard and that he will continue to ride the $2.9 billion system when he is back in town.

However, the $2.9 billion project admittedly needs serious improvements.

There have been several instances in the short period since the light rail began operating, when commuters were trapped on the tracks between lines of advancing vehicle traffic, because they had to evacuate carriages after boarding.

Ms Ferrer revealed that she boarded a light rail carriage when the driver told her that it was not running and passengers needed to get off.

Is the new light rail system as amazing as the NSW government claims it to be? The answer is still very unclear, but time will surely tell.

For City Hub’s previous coverage of Sydney’s new CBD and Southeast Light Rail System: CBD and South East Light Rail

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