NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and tram enthusiasts have celebrated the opening of the light rail service, but incidents and delays have left many frustrated.
The fanfare around the opening of Sydney’s $2.9 billion light rail soon turned to frustration, as technical faults, wrong turns and slow trips left passengers frustrated.
The long-anticipated opening of the Circular Quay to Randwick service on Saturday attracted plenty of passengers keen to try out the alternative form of transport through the heart of the CBD. But despite months of testing, it was a rocky ride. “Driver error” was blamed for a tram that briefly travelled down the wrong line. It stopped suddenly near Haymarket and was able to reverse and correct its path.
A medical emergency also caused delays, while trams were halted between Circular Quay and Central for more than an hour as authorities tried to move a broken down tram in that section.
One passenger on a tram stopped due to a power outage told SBS News said the project had been a waste of money.
“There’s so much more important things that money should have been spent on like schools and hospitals and not to shut down our city like it has. It’s just been a disgrace all round.”
Another passenger said she was disappointed.
“We came into the city just to ride the tram. We’ve been looking forward to it for so long, but we’re stuck here. With the time they’ve spent on it, you’d think they would have got it right.”
Other passengers vented their frustration on social media.
Grant Doyle said it would be “quicker to walk” after waiting 15 minutes at Central without moving and no explanation.
Even those that managed to make it to their destination without incident, complained of long travel times.
Passengers reported the first trip from Circular Quay to Randwick took 58 minutes, about 30 minutes longer than a bus would have taken to complete the journey.
Transport for NSW has advised the longer travel times are to be expected while the network “beds down” over the next few months.
Federal Labor member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek said while she was usually a big fan of public transport she could not get execited about “a tram which is slower than a bus”.
Earlier, the NSW Government celebrated the opening of the project, which has been plagued by cost blow-outs and significant delays.
The 15 kilometre tram service means a return of a light rail network in Sydney for the first time since 1961.
“It’s changed the city forever and it’s going to be a phenomenal project for so many, over many generations to come,” Transport Minister Andrew Constance said at an opening ceremony on Saturday.
“The trams should have never been taken out – everyone is nodding – so we put them back in.”
Frank Ayrton, an 83-year-old who worked as a conductor on the old network, was among the select few able to ride the first service with Mr Constance and Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
“I started on the Waverley depot in 1957, they were not like these (trams),” he told AAP.
“We had the footboards. My job was to walk along the outside and get the fares.
“One hand was for the money, the other hand for the tickets and all you had to hand on with was your elbow.”
The branch line to Kingsford isn’t expected to open until March.
A coupled tram holds up to 450 passengers, the equivalent of nine buses.
Some 200,000 kilometres of tram testing has already taken place while the 100 drivers have each undertaken 190 hours of training.
The new network is predicted to move up to 13,500 commuters an hour during peak time in both directions, the state government said.
Additional staff will be on hand throughout the weekend, while traffic controllers and police officers will be on the ground to deal with higher than normal numbers of commuters.