by Systematiq staff

As Australian cities continue to grow and expand, they require smart and sustainable public transport networks. With a collection of tram networks across the country, Australia is no stranger to the benefits of adopting Light Rail. However, what are the challenges facing Australian cities implementing Light Rail and how can we overcome them?

Effective transport planning can make or break a city. As our cities continue to expand and urban density increases, we are challenged to efficiently and sustainably transport our citizens. Light rail offers an opportunity to provide a transport solution without the cost and complexity of heavy rail or metro systems. 

The benefits for Australian cities, manufactures, and the public

  • Reducing vehicle traffic

Australian cities continue to battle with the issue of road congestion as our population density rapidly increases. Light Rail can reduce the number of vehicles on the roads, offering residents an alternative to private vehicle use. 

The Australasian Railway Association’s The Renaissance of Light Rail research paper has found that in comparison to buses, Light Rail provides greater capacity to move passengers and greater land use and placemaking potential. 

The Parramatta Light Rail project aims to address its own issues of population density by introducing Light Rail to the region. By 2026, they estimate around 28,000 people will use Parramatta Light Rail every day and a further 130,000 people will be living within walking distance of the stops.

  • Increasing land value

The construction of Light Rail has also resulted in the increase of land value. A report by Major Projects Canberra had found an increase in land value due to the implementation of Light Rail in the CBD. 

The report stated that “from 2014-2018, average house prices increased by 17 per cent across the whole of the ACT but were higher in the regions incorporating the light rail corridor.” As the Light Rail project in Canberra commences Stage 2, the trend will surely continue as the corridor connects the City to the South of Canberra. 

  • Connection to facilities

With the ability to provide suitable stop frequency and reliable services which are accessible for all users, there is no wonder that the Australian public are becoming more receptive to Light Rail. This mode of transport connects people to the cultural, educational, employment and lifestyle attractions in a city easily. According to data from the Transport for NSW, since 2012 over 90 per cent of customers have been satisfied by the Light Rail services in the State.

As the Australian Government invests $110 billion over a ten-year period to deliver land transport infrastructure, there has never been a better time to consider investing in Light Rail. As the Former Australian Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack said about the announcement of Canberra’s Light Rail Stage 2 “This is what the Australian Government’s $110 billion investment pipeline is all about – getting Australians home sooner and safer whilst boosting local economies as we bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • Future proofing through scalable networks

Through scalable networks, Light Rail provides the opportunity to continue expanding its existing infrastructure and can adapt to growing demands in the future. The Melbourne Next Generation Tram (NGT) project will drive Australian manufacturers to take an innovative approach to tram design. The new fleet of trams will prioritise passenger experience by providing sufficient space and catering to accessibility requirements as well as reducing environmental impact. 

Recent Light Rail projects such as Canberra Metro and Gold Coast Light Rail are testaments to the benefits of scalable networks. Through their multiple stage development, the incremental implementation of the Light Rail has enabled the networks to respond to demand and adapt to existing transport infrastructure. The Gold Coast Stage 4 will extend 13km south from the existing network, and will link Burleigh Heads to Coolangatta via the Airport. This extension will support the growth of the Gold Coast, increasing network efficiency and reducing peak hour congestion. 

Overcoming the obstacles of Light Rail

Of course, the implementation of Light Rail isn’t without challenges. Light Rail can be expensive to construct with its need for embedded track, and excavation works can create short-term disturbances to the local community and businesses. 

Considering risk management and safety assurance is vital as the majority of Light Rail operates on roads shared with cyclists, vehicles and trucks. With the Melbourne trams operating on 75 per cent of a shared network, there is no wonder that Yarra Trams Chief Safety Officer, Josef Brennan has reported an average of three vehicle and tram collisions a day. With long planning and project development lead times as well as significant safety considerations, it can be difficult to sustain support and enthusiasm for Light Rail projects.

Fortunately, Rail Consulting and Project Management experts Systematiq have a proven track record in assisting with the delivery of major rail programs. Reducing and managing the complexity and risk of Light Rail projects, Systematiq keep projects moving forward. 

When Yarra Trams needed to ensure System Engineering compliance, they approached Systematiq. To tackle Yarra Trams’ problem, the team at Systematiq began by conducting an audit of the current Systems Engineering Management Plan (SEMP) and developed an Engineering Competency Framework. Systematiq also compiled a series of technical guidelines which mapped the delivery of systems engineering deliverables from the requirements phase to operate and maintain. 

By utilising Systematiq’s systems engineering and technical writing expertise, Yarra Trams could demonstrate compliance with the ISO/IEC/IEEE 15288 to the Victorian Department of Transport. Due to Systematiq’s attention to detail and expertise, Yarra Trams was able to continue delivering essential, safe and reliable Light Rail services to their customers. 

Systematiq’s Director of Service Delivery and the task lead on the Yarra Trams project, Richard DeNardi, said “Our team have responded to a complex environment with methodical and logical solutions that add value to Yarra Trams’ project management framework.” 

Future possibilities 

As we continue to search for effective transport solutions to suit our rapidly changing needs, Light Rail continues to be a viable option for Australian cities. Providing accessible and flexible transport services to the public, the addition of Light Rail to current transport infrastructure contributes significant benefits to Australian cities, residents and manufacturers. 

Systematiq’s partnership with Yarra Trams is a great example of how consulting firms can work effectively to form a trusted partnership in order to boost capacity, solve a business problem, or help create certainty. Get in touch with Systematiq to see how they can move your company forward.  

¹Transport for NSW, 2019, Customer Satisfaction Index, November 2019.


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