George Street could be free of overhead wires when trams run down the CBD’s civic spine at the end of this decade, according to an industry briefing on the CBD and South East Light Rail Line provided by the government earlier this week. The slides that accompanied the briefing, posted on the Transport for NSW website, list catenary free operation as “potential in the CBD area” (page 11). The City of Sydney council has been pushing for no overhead wires in the portion of George Street which is to be pedestrianised as part of the new line. While this does not commit the government, it is the first evidence that it is at least seriously considering this as an option.
These changes will not come pain free, and the Herald reports that George Street in particular will see 2 years of work starting in mid 2014 in order to relocate major services such as electricity and water. This follows a similar timetable to the light rail line currently under construction on the Gold Coast, and if it is anything to go by then these 2 years will provide the most significant disruption during the construction process.
The new line will operate 45m long trams with a capacity of 300 passengers per vehicle. This compares to 30m long trams that have a smaller capacity of 200 passengers per vehicle, or to existing buses, the longest of which are the bendy buses and have a capacity of 110 passengers per vehicle.
The briefing also includes a map showing that the University of NSW stop will be on UNSW property itself, whereas the current bus stop layout requires passengers to cross the road either when they arrive or depart the university. It also shows the light rail line running along an extended version of the bus road that currently parallels Anzac Parade and Alison Road. This bus road currently ends at Doncaster Avenue on Alison Road, but according to the map light rail will continue in a separate right of way until it reaches Clovelly Road.