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Q. WHAT IS CITY TRANSFORMATION?

City Transformation aims to unlock the City Centre’s potential so it becomes a place people will want to go; a place that welcomes everybody. The initiative comprises a combination of programs and civic improvements (capital works) which will help Sydney become a more liveable, vibrant and connected city.

Crucial to this is the introduction of light rail in George Street which will dramatically improve City amenity, particularly in and around George Street. This project, to be delivered by the NSW Government, in consultation with the City, will increase space for pedestrians, reduce the amount of bus and car traffic in the City Centre and associated noise and pollution, as well as provide the opportunity to introduce street trees, furniture, and outdoor dining areas, and improved lighting and artwork in George Street, creating a major civic ‘spine’.

We are also working to attract small businesses to further activate our streets and lanes, and are continuing a program of laneways upgrades and revitalisation. We have already been successful in advocating for changes to licensing laws to allow small bars and restaurants which are reshaping Sydney’s nightlife. City Transformation also includes the future delivery of major public squares at Town Hall, Railway Square and Circular Quay and revitalising our network of laneways.

Q. WHY DO WE NEED LIGHT RAIL?

The NSW Government has determined light rail is a viable transport option for Sydney. In reaching this decision, the NSW Government reviewed the growing pressures on Sydney including population growth, the impacts of congestion on the economic competitiveness of the city and on its amenity and livability, and the improvements needed in the existing radial network of the City’s public transport system.

The light rail route, as announced in December 2012, would take 180 buses out of the City Centre, while additional bus network changes would bring this to a total of about 220 fewer buses entering the City Centre in the morning peak hour. Many buses will also terminate at designated interchanges, allowing passengers to transfer to light rail. This will create a more attractive, accessible and safer environment for pedestrians, who make up about 90 per cent – or one million – of the trips within the city each day. It will assist in retaining Sydney’s economic competitiveness by moving people quickly and efficiently, encouraging businesses to remain/locate in the City Centre and support economic activity.

The light rail will service short trips within the City Centre for business, shopping, tourism and recreation, commuter trips from the south-east suburbs to the city, students travelling to NIDA and UNSW as well as others travelling to Moore Park, Royal Randwick Racecourse and Randwick Hospital. It will also provide connection to the existing light rail servicing Lilyfield (currently being extended to Dulwich Hill).

Q. WHAT IS THE LIGHT RAIL ROUTE AND HOW WILL THE SYSTEM OPERATE?

The NSW Government’s Sydney’s Light Rail Future details a route that travels through the City Centre from Circular Quay along George Street and onwards to Randwick and Maroubra.

The approved route within the City's local government area runs from north to south along Alfred Street to George Street, and then turns into Rawson Place, Eddy Avenue and Chalmers Street, before following Devonshire Street through Surry Hills. The light rail system is a ‘turn-up-and-go’ system running every four minutes in peak hour. This means there is no need for timetables. Each light rail vehicle can carry up to 450 people - the same as nine standard buses or 90 cars. Light rail services will move up to 13,500 passengers every hour. The system will use modern light rail technology that will remove the need for overhead wires from Circular Quay to Town Hall, reducing the visual impact in this busy part of the CBD.

Tickets for the light rail will be covered by the new Opal Card, and it will be available at ticket outlets or on board the light rail.

Q. WHAT IS THE CITY OF SYDNEY’S ROLE IN THE LIGHT RAIL PROJECT?

The planning, design and construction of the light rail project will be led by Transport for NSW on behalf of the NSW Government. The City has contributed $220 million to the public domain elements of the project and is a major stakeholder.

A development agreement between the City and NSW Government will ensure the City’s vision and high design standards are delivered along the route within the local government area.

The City is also contributing resources to work with TfNSW to provide specialised expertise in the fields of traffic operations, sustainability, service relocation, design, project management and stakeholder engagement.  

The City will also continue with its plans to revitalise the laneways and other public places that relate to the use of George Street, and to provide policy direction in relation to events, ongoing management of George Street and potential improvements such as the introduction of street cafés.

Q. WHICH PART OF GEORGE STREET WILL BE PEDESTRIANISED AND WILL IT BE CLOSED TO ALL TRAFFIC?

The City supports the use of George Street for light rail as part of its vision to create a world-class boulevard befitting a global city. Transport for NSW have announced that George Street will be pedestrianised between Bathurst and Hunter Streets, with the light rail continuing through the middle of the pedestrianised area. General traffic will still be able to access the other 60 per cent of George Street, with one lane in each direction to the north and south of the pedestrianised area. Emergency vehicles and property owners will retain access to the pedestrianised zone on George Street. The NSW Government will examine how taxis and hire cars could have access to the pedestrianised area, particularly at night.

The City is strongly advocating for an extended pedestrianised section from Bridge Street to Liverpool Street.

All east-to-west streets will remain open to traffic, with the traffic and bus systems to be redesigned. It is expected that there will be changes to the current direction of some streets, and signalling and phasing changes.

Q. WHERE WILL THE STOPS BE?

Eight light rail stops have been approved in the city centre between Circular Quay and Central Station, and one stop in Surry Hills. The NSW Government has announced stops at:

  • Chalmers Street, near Central;
  • Eddy Avenue at Central;
  • George Street, near Hay Street;
  • George Street, near Town Hall;
  • George Street, near Market Street;
  • George Street, near Wynyard;
  • George Street, Bridge Street;
  • Alfred Street, at Circular Quay; and
  • Near the intersection of Crown and Devonshire streets, Surry Hills.

Q. WILL GEORGE STREET HAVE DEDICATED BIKE LANES?

There is no dedicated cycleway proposed in the pedestrianised section of George Street. Bike riders are encouraged to use the growing network of dedicated city cycleways including the dedicated cycleway in Kent Street for north-south journeys through the city centre.

Click here for more information about the CBD cycleway network.

Q. WILL THE LIGHT RAIL HAVE OVERHEAD WIRES?

Transport for NSW has announced that there will be a wire-free operation of light rail between Town Hall and Circular Quay.

The City has strongly advocated for wire-free light rail in the pedestrianised areas, to ensure the streetscape is of the highest quality.

Q. WHEN WOULD CONTRUCTION START AND HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO BUILD?

Construction will take place in stages, with the city streets closed in sections to minimise disruptions to residents, businesses and commuters. The City of Sydney will join with Transport for NSW to work out ways to support business during construction. Main construction is not expected to begin in George Street until September or October 2015 and there will be no changes to bus routes until this time. Construction is expected to finish at the end of 2018, with customer services to start in early 2019.

Q. NEXT STEPS?

Transport for NSW has provided the following timeframes:

Milestone

Timeframes

Complete Definition Design

 Mid 2013

Business Case Gateway Review

 Quarter 4 2013

EIS public exhibition

 Quarter 4 2013

Planning Approval

 Quarter 2 2014

Early works

Main construction  

 Quarter 4 2014

 After ANZAC Day 2015 to 2018/19