Sydney Light Rail: A $2.9b slow tram to nowhere

Sydney’s $2.9 billion Eastern Suburbs Light Rail Project is a textbook example of Australia’s infrastructure failure.

In 2018, the former head of Infrastructure NSW, Paul Broad, in described the project as a waste of money and a vanity project that should have never been started.

This was immediately followed by a secret report prepared by the NSW State Government’s own experts – the Transport for NSW’s urban domain reference group – which warned the plan for the Eastern Suburbs Light Rail Project was ill-conceived from the outset.

NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford slammed the management of the Eastern Suburbs Light Rail Project, claiming the Government’s failure to conduct a proper business case led to a $500 million cost blowout. RBA Governor, Phil Lowe, also panned the project as a textbook example of poor oversight.

After lengthy delays, sixty businesses and landlords launched a class action lawsuit against the NSW Government, whereas NSW taxpayers were stung $576 million in compensation payouts to Spanish subcontractor Acciona.

Then, when the project finally opened last month, passengers labelled it “too damn slow” and far slower than the bus service it replaced.

Today, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW has labelled the Light Rail Project a “flawed service” with a network speed “among the lowest in the world”:

Sydney’s CBD light rail won’t reach its “wildly optimistic” running targets, according to the transport union, which says its drivers are struggling “under immense pressure” to right the flawed $2.9 billion service.

The union attack comes almost eight years after an Infrastructure NSW report to the O’Farrell government said CBD light rail had “no material speed benefits” and would be “significantly more expensive than bus services”…

“The network speed, among the lowest in the world, is squarely due to design flaws that were not accounted for during the planning stage”…

The 2012 State Infrastructure Strategy: First Things First report said that, while there was merit in investigating the viability of a line between Central and Randwick, it warned any potential service through the CBD could face “significant costs and delays”.

“Light rail is however, significantly more expensive than bus services, has no material speed benefits, is less flexible in traffic and if service reforms to the operation of CBD bus services are implemented, does not offer significantly greater capacity,” the report said.

Long delays. A massive cost blow-out. Slow travel times. What a farce.

Leith van Onselen
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