Sydney's existing light rail service from Central to Wentworth Park (opened 1997, then extended in 2000 to Lilyfield and in 2014 extended again to Dulwich Hill) is suffering from overcrowding. The number of trams has not kept up with the lengthening track and nor has the capacity kept up with the growing demand. For much of the day there are only four or five trams per hour each way. While that might be acceptable for the Dulwich Hill end, there is often heavy passenger traffic between Star City and Central. This results in unpleasant conditions for standing passengers crammed into the aisles. Some extra services were added in January 2016 and a few more in August 2017 but the problem persists.
The vehicles used in Sydney could have been specified with more doors but this would have reduced the available seating. However it would have allowed faster loading and unloading especially when services are heavily loaded.
The obvious solution is to increase the number of trams. Two more have been ordered but are still many months away. Certainly service frequencies should be raised between Central and Star City. There is less need for more frequent services beyond Wentworth Park. The authorities should consider running a suitable mix of services, all starting from Central. There will be conflicts at George St with the CBD & South-East light rail when it opens, but that should be manageable for the first ten years of CSELR when services are set at 15 trams/hour.
Granting priority over general traffic to trams at traffic signals would cost little but would provide an immediate worthwhile time saving to passengers. The traffic signals in Hay St at the intersections with Castlereagh St, Pitt St, Sussex St and Darling Drive should all be adjusted so that most trams get a green light without needing to stop. Unfortunately, CBD traffic is governed by policies that don't recognise the importance of trip time to public transport passengers.
In the longer term, it would be desirable for Dulwich Hill trams to bypass the Pyrmont area altogether. Planning should commence now for a short tunnel under Harris Street which would permit Dulwich Hill trams to get to Wentworth Park more quickly than at present and would clear the line through Star City to allow more trams there. The benefits of such a scheme would be quicker trips for many passengers, extra capacity, improved passenger comfort and better vehicle utilisation.
It looks impossible for there ever to be direct trams between sports at Moore Park or Randwick and the inner west. This is because the George/Hay junction can't turn trams that way. The turn requires a trip up to the Bathurst St scissor crossing, which would make the trip take longer than a change of vehicle would. An additional complication is the incompatible technical standards of the inner west and south-east systems. We understand that IWLR tram wheels have thicker flanges than CSELR, with the result that IWLR trams cannot use CSELR tracks without causing damage to the track. Also, CSELR trams on IWLR tracks are at risk of derailment at every point or crossing.