Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tour Down Under 2011: SYDNEY Tram & Monorail

The reintroduction of trams in Sydney was rather an anecdotical event, as still today the only existing line is hardly present in the people's minds. It is not integrated with other transport modes, and for the short distance it travels, rather high fares are charged (the line is even divided into two fare zones!). It is certainly a good option for residents in Lilyfield and Glebe to get into the city centre, and for some visitors to go from the Central Station to the Convention Centre or Darling Harbour. Other destinations like Paddy's Market or Chinatown can easily be reached from the railway station on foot. The section actually newly built for the tram is quite short, the largest part being a disused freight line going to the former docklands. The stops have proper light rail platforms, but lack other standard elements like next-tram indicators (they only run every 12-15 minutes), ticket machines (they exist but are out of order and tickets are sold by an onboard conductor). There are two stations that are sort of underground, Pyrmont Bay and Star City, but both are not too pleasant, more like tram stops in the basement of a building. John Street Square stop lies in a deep cutting and like the neighbouring Fish Market is accessible via a lift or steep stairs. Most other stops are accessible via ramps, with passengers crossing the tracks. There are no level crossings for motorised traffic west of the point where the old freight line begins near the Paddy's Market stop. The line is planned to be extended along a still used freight line to Dulwich Hill, so there will be mixed service. There has been talk about extending it on the city end down to Circular Quay, but unless this is combined with a drastic reduction of buses running along George Street or Elizabeth Street, there is not much point in doing so. Even before the Dulwich extension, the existing line needs to be integrated into the overall transport network, then it can become the backbone for good transport in the inner western suburbs.

The tram is operated by Veolia as “Metro” light rail, and this company also runs the Sydney Monorail, which is a mere tourist attraction (and couldn't cope with normal passengers anyway in case it was integrated). The fact that a combined day ticket is available for tram and monorail and that both are shown on a joint “metro” map makes you think that the tram is also rather a tourist attraction.

Metro Transport (Light Rail & Monorail)

Much more useful as normal public transport than the tram are the frequent Sydney ferries, which are also very popular among tourists as unlike the tram they offer splendid views of the harbour, the Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the city skyline. These are included in the MyMulti tickets or offer inexpensive single fares.

All in all, it appears that NSW politicians are far less convinced than their colleagues in Victoria that providing good public transport is not only a necessity but an essential element for a city which claims to have a high living standard. It is not enough to cover the basic needs, instead a lot more needs to be invested to convince people that living in a big city without a car can actually be possible.


  1. HAHAHAHA the Sydney monorail! what a joke!

  2. This blog needs a bit of an update from 5 years ago.
    The monorails' now gone, the trams have been extended to Dulwich hill and they're constructing another for the CBD.

  3. Russell, a blog never needs an update, at least this one is rather like a diary, so it describes the situation as observed in 2011. Certainly I would be happy to return to Australia to escape another of our Europan winters and then would indeed write a follow-up story. You're welcome though, to use the comment option to provide more details on recent developments, although these are normally also given on my related website http://www.urbanrail.net/au/sydney/sydney.htm


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