PICS: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, transport minister Andrew Constance and Sydney’s lord mayor Clover Moore officially opened the L2 Randwick Line light rail service from Circular Quay to Randwick early on Saturday morning.
Rail Express was in attendance to travel on the first tram down George Street, Sydney CBD’s main boulevard, since trams last travelled the route in 1958.
By Sunday afternoon 115,000 customers had used the service which operated on average every 6-8 minutes, according to Transport for NSW. These patronage figures are about three times the daily patronage of the Inner West Light Rail.
“The trams should never have been taken out! So we’ve put them back in, but there’s no footboards on this one, so there’s no riding them on the side,” minister for transport Andrew Constance said.
Frank Ayrton, who had worked as a conductor on the old network which was ripped up by 1961, was among the the first to ride the first service down George Street, alongside Constance, Berejiklian and Moore.
He told Rail Express his job included walking along the outside of the trams to collect fares from those riding on the footboards.
“One hand was for the money, the other hand for the tickets and all you had to hang on with was your elbow,” Ayrton said.
Berejiklian took the opportunity to address the delays to the project: “I just want to say to everyone in the community: thank you for your patience. The people of NSW, whether you live, work or come to visit Sydney, you’ve been extremely patient with us, so thank you.”
“Literally thousands of men and women have spent many hours assiduously over the years to make this a reality, they’ve started a major network and made a network which is changing our city and transforming our state, and I’m excited to see the light rail form a broader part of our transport network. The young people here today they’ll grow up knowing that we had a city that’s integrated, that’s modern, that’s looking to the future,” Berejiklian said on Saturday morning.
Secretary of TfNSW Rodd Staples also addressed the challenges. “Whether you’ve been involved in the original conception of this service, whether you’ve been involved in building it, whether you’ve been a community member or a business member, whether you’re a tram spotter, while you’ve had a long way – it’s fantastic to be here with you today to celebrate the commencement of this service.”
“The city has been a construction zone over the last couple of years…and something that you won’t know though is that during construction, I found out that we had a secret helper. Gladys’s father, Mr Berejiklian, would quite often go into the city and find a construction zone and talk to the workers, and then report back to the premier about how things were really going,” Constance joked.
The ALTRAC consortium – Alstom, Transdev, Acciona and Capella – delivered the integrated system. The 12km network was delivered under a turnkey PPP model, which included the design and supply of 60 Citadis X05 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs), power supply equipment including over two kilometres of twire-free ground-based power supply, energy recovery substations – HESOP, signalling, communications, depot equipment and a 19-year maintenance agreement.
The 60 LRVs will be able to move up to 13,500 commuters per hour (6,750 in each direction) during peak times once fully operational, according to Alstom.
As part of the contract, the consortium has also taken over the operations and maintenance of the existing Inner West Light rail (IWLR) that connects Sydney’s inner west with the Pyrmont peninsula, Darling Harbour and the southern CBD.
“This new Light Rail system will transform Sydney and provide a step change in the city’s public transport capability and reliability while protecting the aesthetic appeal of the CBD and improving sustainability of the overall transport network,” managing director for Alstom in Australia & New Zealand Mark Coxon said.
Opening day issues included a driver braking suddenly, with one man falling down on the packed tram. The service was briefly delayed while the driver was replaced. A tram also lost power later in the afternoon, which necessitated all trams be stopped for thirty minutes.
In response, ALTRAC held a conference in the afternoon to address the issues, saying additional customer resource officers were deployed on the ground, stops were being monitored on CCTV and crowd management crews, heavy tows and police were stationed throughout the network.
“It’s been a bumpy day,” chief officer light rail operations Transdev Australasia Brian Brennan said.
“Tram failures do occur, it’s reality, but it has been an outstanding success today.”
More than 200,000 km of testing has been carried out on the line during testing while the 100 drivers have each undertaken 190 hours of training, however introducing customers on real journeys presents different challenges.
As capacity grows on the network and customers become more accustomed to the system, journey times will further improve as the L3 Kingsford Line opening approaches in March 2020, according to the state government.
Frank Ayrton, conductor before Sydney’s original tram network was torn up in the 1960s.
Trams were packed on the first day of services.