RUNNING from Sydney’s Central station to Wattle Street in Wentworth Park, the 3·6 km light rail route was inaugurated last August. Services are provided by a fleet of seven five-section articulated low-floor cars built by Adtranz at Dandenong in Victoria.
During the start-up phase traffic has been lighter than the Sydney Light Rail Co and operator TNT Transit Systems would have wished, but the reasons are not hard to find. A speed limit of 20 km/h slapped on the street running sections by the city authorities contrasts markedly with the rapid progress of trams through the streets of Melbourne. Journey times are longer than they need be, which is exacerbated by LRVs not having priority at road junctions. Relatively high fares and early problems with ticket machines did not help.
Opening of the Star City casino on November 26 has doubled patronage, but traffic levels are about half those originally forecast. In the long term housing developments along the route will generate business; planners expect the population of Pyrmont to increase by at least 20000 over the next 20 years.
Best advertisement for the service are the attractive cars which have smart, spacious interiors with large windows. Built as a version of the Adtranz Variotram, the three-phase motored design needed major changes to suit Australian conditions. Not least of these were modifications to the articulations to accommodate simultaneous vertical and lateral movement on sharply graded curves on the single track loop serving Central station. Inspection of this part of the line in November revealed that the gauge face of the outer rails is wearing rapidly, suggesting that closer liaison between civil and rolling stock engineers would have been beneficial.
Other changes from the European Variotram design included roof alterations to allow installation of air-conditioning, and use of different materials to meet Australian fire regulations. o