Newcastle Light Rail is a 2.7km track that runs from Wickham Transport Interchange through the central business district to Pacific Park in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It includes six stops and a stabling and maintenance facility.

The light rail project is developed by the NSW Government as part of the $510m Newcastle Urban Transformation and Transport Programme. Transport for NSW manages the project on behalf of the NSW Government.

Newcastle Light Rail project background

Consultation on the route options for the Newcastle light rail project began in February 2014. The NSW Government announced the preferred route in May 2014 and engagement with key stakeholders began in 2015. The Review of Environmental Factors (REF) for the project began in April 2016.

Transport for NSW revealed the community response and stakeholder feedback on the REF in the submissions report in August 2016. A number of improvements to the light rail project plan were made based on REF, including removing the raised tracks in Hunter and Scott streets, revising the track alignment at Worth Place, and addition of a track-slab west of Worth Place to replace the ballast.

Proposed improvements to the light rail project in Newcastle also include delivering a new pedestrian crossing over the light rail track at Cottage Creek, relocating the light rail eastern construction compound to open up more of the corridor, reconfiguring the electrical supply, and future-proofing light rail by adding a second track across Stewart Avenue.

Rolling stock for Newcastle Light Rail line

Spanish manufacturer CAF was contracted to supply six Urbos trams for operations on the Newcastle line in June 2016. The light rail fleet has the capacity to carry up to 600 passengers an hour each way.

The 100% low-floor rolling stock includes fully accessible, air-conditioned vehicles featuring facilities that can accommodate luggage, prams and surfboards. Trains are operated at a frequency of every ten minutes during peak times.

The trams are also equipped with event recorder, CCTVs, fire detection system, audio and visual information system, station announcer, train control and diagnostics system.

Construction timeline

Pre-construction works for the Newcastle Light Rail, including the geotechnical investigations on Hunter Street, Scott Street, King Street, Stewart Avenue, Hannell Street and surrounding streets began in August 2016.

Initial works on site involved network mapping thorough a survey vehicle along Hunter and Scott streets and the surrounding road network, which was followed by digging test pits along the road network and drilling bore holes into the road and certain footpath surfaces to undertake investigations.

The initial works on the site also included removing the pedestrian footbridges at Argyle Street, Perkins Street and east of Wolfe Street. The Queens Wharf pedestrian bridge was also removed.

The concept design for the light rail track commenced in mid-2016, while the main construction work on-site began in 2017. The light rail operations commenced in February 2019.

Benefits of Newcastle Light Rail project

Newcastle Light Rail  provides a high-capacity transport system and helps in reducing the congestion. It operates vehicles with a capacity to carry approximately 1,200 passengers an hour.

The light rail network is facilitated with Opal ticketing, which is designed to provide ease and convenience for customers.

The project helps to create new in the city centre. It also provides improved street-level interaction between transport users, and helps connect the main activity precincts, as well as the city centre with the harbour.

Contractors involved with the Newcastle light rail project

Downer EDI was selected as the managing contractor to deliver light rail in Newcastle in August 2016. Work included design, construction and commissioning of 2.7km of light rail track, six light rail stops, and a stabling and maintenance facility. It also included road works and associated precinct works.

Aurecon delivered comprehensive design, engineering and management services. WSP provided specifications for component, including alignment and civil works, six stops and depot, power supply, TCS and communication systems.

Laing O’Rourke was responsible for designing and constructing Wickham transport interchange, which is a part of integrated transport solution.

Workfast was subcontracted by Downer to perform track and precast concrete installation, and electrical wiring. Rhomberg Rail Australia (RRA) installed special tracks equipment, including turnouts, crossovers and insulated rail joints.

SYSTRA Scott Lister served as the independent safety assessor (ISA) for the project.

Other contractors involved in the project are GRC Quantity Surveyors, Mos Urba, SMEC, and MCE.