With an extra million people expected to live and work in Sydney by 2030, the CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) forms a critical part of the city’s transport future and urban renewal. The 12km light rail system will provide reliable transport between key destinations, to support a vibrant and connected inner city. 

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) engaged Arup in 2011 to help it achieve its strategic vision for the Sydney Light Rail network. Our engineering, light rail systems and urban design experience put us in the perfect position to lead a team in collaboration with HASSELL as technical advisors for the planning, definition design, procurement and construction stages of the project.

The new line runs through the heart of the city from Circular Quay to Central Station, past two high schools and towards the major sporting and entertainment facilities at Moore Park, including the Sydney Cricket Ground. It then branches, with one line connecting Centennial Park, Randwick Racecourse, Randwick TAFE College, the University of NSW and the Prince of Wales Hospital. The other line runs to Kingsford past the ES Marks Athletics Field and the National Institute of Dramatic Art. 

International rail expertise

Drawing on our international expertise, the Arup team of technical specialists worked with TfNSW to develop the preferred alignment and support the procurement and construction stages of the project. Our engineering and operational input incorporated global best practice into the project’s design and delivery. George Street now features one of Australasia’s first ‘wire free’ operations, delivering a visually clean path achieved by de-cluttering the aesthetic of the route through the city centre by removing overhead power wires and poles. 

Collaborative design to identify the best route

Arup held collaborative workshops with local stakeholders using innovative geographic information systems (GIS) to map potential routes and constraints. GIS technology provides a spatial analysis of the project, with different levels of data being able to be shown graphically to aid planning for the final result and offer options for design.

A shortlist of options was developed with input on engineering and urban design outcomes. This feasibility design informed the NSW Government’s strategic plan and identification of a preferred route.

Front view of two light rail trains
With a capacity of 13,500 passengers an hour in both directions, CSELR provides an easy and reliable service with greater connectivity between new and existing transport modes across Sydney.
Learn more about light rail

Geographic information systems clash detection

Using the inherent flexibility of GIS, we developed a GIS-based utilities clash detection system which streamlined the utilities impact assessment on the route options by automating the interaction of the proposed infrastructure and existing underground utilities. This was particularly important on the George Street section which serves as a major utility artery. The system took inputs of over 100,000 individual underground utilities, combining source material from a wide variety of formats, and translating them into a single utilisable reference.  

Intermodal connectivity

With a capacity of 13,500 passengers an hour in both directions, CSELR provides an easy and reliable service with greater connectivity between new and existing transport modes across Sydney. The new routes feature light rail to bus interchanges at Randwick, Kingsford and Rawson Place, and integration with heavy rail at Circular Quay, Wynyard, Town Hall and Central stations. Passengers can transfer to the Inner West Light Rail in Chinatown, at Rawson Place and at Central, with the Circular Quay terminus providing direct access to ferry wharves. The integration will be further enhanced when the Sydney Metro City and Southwest stations commence operating in 2024.