A 17km light rail line from Westmead to Macquarie Park would be the first stage of a light rail network centred on Parramatta that would support an additional 50,000 homes and 180,000 jobs by 2031 according to a proposal by Parramatta City Council. This would be followed up by a line to Castle Hill, with lines to Bankstown and Olympic Park/Rhodes as potential further extensions (zoomable street map available here). Parramatta Council has been pushing for light rail since the NSW Government dumped plans for the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL) shortly after the 2011 election. Both lines are designed to link up Parramatta to Macquarie Park.
The main advantage of the light rail option is the cost, coming in at $919m versus $4.4bn which was the most recent figure available for the PERL. (This works out to $54m/km, compared to $31m/km for the Dulwich Hill light rail extension or $133m/km for the CBD and South East light rail.) The study envisages trams running every 10 minutes during peak hour, with 15 minute frequencies during the off-peak. As the Castle Hill line will share track with the Macquarie Park line in the Parramatta CBD, this should result in 5 minute and 8 minute frequencies, respectively, in the core of Parramatta.
Much like the CBD and South East light rail currently about to begin construction, this new line would connect up a hospital (Westmead), a stadium (Parramatta), a CBD (Parramatta), a racecouse (Rosehill), and a university (UWS) with a frequent and high capacity transport service.
The majority of the alignment also provides for trams to run on an exclusive right of way. These include the Carlingford Line alignment, where the study finds that there is space for both light rail and the Carlingford Line (including a potential PERL in the future); the median on Kissing Point Road; and the reservation for the never built Country Road at Marsfield. In addition, work currently planned for James Ruse Drive for an overpass at Camellia would allow the light rail to travel under James Ruse Drive and avoid this busy intersection.
The Parramatta CBD portion would run mostly along Macquarie St, which is one block North of the main transport interchange centred around Parramatta Station. This could prove problematic if it makes transfers from bus/train to tram or vice versa more difficult. Alternatively, if Parramatta continues to grow, then Macquarie St could also become an extension of the existing transport interchange, catering for future growth.
The proposal is now in the hands of the state government, which mentioned in the Sydney Light Rail Future document that a Western Sydney light rail network centred on Parramatta is something it is considering (p. 20). This is by no means a guarantee that any of these lines, let alone the full network, will get built. But Parramatta Council has put forward the right project at the right time, and that makes the possibility of this being built some time next decade a better than 50:50 likelihood.