In the past ten years, more than 50 cities around the world have built new or expanded light rail projects. Australia is now part of this global trend: new or expanded light rail projects are being planned or in construction in the Gold Coast, Canberra, Newcastle, Parramatta and the Sydney CBD.
Due to start operating in early 2019, the CBD and South East Light Rail will add to the existing Inner West line with a new light rail service from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kingsford. The route will follow George Street from Circular Quay to Central Station, through Surry Hills via Devonshire Street and under Moore Park to emerge on the eastern side of Anzac Parade with a stop for the sporting and entertainment precinct.
The route then branches. One branch goes to the Randwick town centre and the health precinct via Alison Road, the other follows Anzac Parade to Kingsford via Kensington and the University of New South Wales lower campus.
The flat floor vehicles with multiple wide, level entries will each accommodate 450 passengers, including families with prams and people with disabilities or mobility impairment.
Cross-platform bus connections will be provided at Rawson Place and Kingsford for intermodal connections. All suburban stops will have space for bicycle parking; the terminus stops of Randwick and Kingsford will offer Opal-activated secure bicycle storage. The project will also provide new or replaced bicycle paths impacted by the light rail route, including around Centennial Park and through Surry Hills.
Design excellence is a key driver for the project. Grimshaw has responsibility for all built elements of the project including the stop architecture, substations and two bridges. Aspect Studios are responsible for the public domain: 24 km of urban design and interface with neighbouring sites over a 12 km route.
Much design effort has gone into achieving perhaps the hardest challenge for infrastructure in existing places: simplicity.At each stop, the various rail and customer elements that are usually disparate objects will be consolidated into a single integrated services cabinet.
The light rail system will use wire-free technology in the 1.2 km pedestrian area of George Street between Hunter and Bathurst Streets. Boarding areas will be flush with wider footpaths for a more enjoyable and quieter walking experience.
Granite paving throughout the public realm will continue the city centre palette and, with level street crossings, will reinforce George Street as a people-first boulevard.
Trees will add shade to a more legible spine with a consistent new suite of street furniture offering ‘staying places’ and outdoor dining. Multifunction poles will contain the light rail and street infrastructure; smart lighting will provide a distinct night-time identity.
Tanya Vincent is principal manager for Urban Design, Transport for NSW