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UNSW Students Celebrate 5 Year Anniversary of Light Rail Construction

By Jimmy Wiseau

A happy UNSW student celebrates the ongoing construction.


Thousands of UNSW students have gathered to celebrate, swap well-wishes, and have even taken to Moodle forums to express their joy at the recent five-year anniversary since the CBD South East Light Rail (CSELR) was approved for construction.

Students of the university were reportedly impressed and overcome with emotion at the most recent announcement from the NSW Government in May 2019, that the line is going to be opened only a short 14 months late.

This announcement has come hot on the heels  of the similarly joyful news of the out-of-court settlement between the Government and the Light Rail’s primary contractor, Acciona the $576 million dent taking the total construction cost to $2.7 billion, a bill thankfully picked up by eager, community-minded taxpayers.

“I for one am so so happy that my tax dollars are being used to pay the contractor the settlement for the lawsuit” says one student waiting for a Central express bus that will never appear.  It wasn’t the Government’s fault they purposely omitted a significant amount of detail from the contract!”

“Acciona simply should have known that the NSW Govt would have done this, what do they expect? Look around Sydney at all the other ‘well planned’, ‘city-building’, ‘non-controversial’ major infrastructure projects currently underway. The system works!”.

Another student we caught leaving the inexplicably named “Nucleus Hub” at UNSW’s  Main Library after a relaxing 35 minutes wait and 2 minutes of assistance, stopped to share with us their favourite design flaws of the rail line.

“My favourite design flaw of the network would have to be… the fact it can’t ever be integrated with the existing Inner West Light Rail line… actually, I think it’s that the light rail vehicles will be 67 meters long… or actually that it won’t even have the same capacity as the buses it was designed to replace… or that the Federal Government body Infrastructure Australia refused to contribute any funding because it was economically non-viable? Oh god there’s just too many to choose from! 

The length of the new CBD Light Rail carriages has been highly anticipated by students and smugly flaunted by  the Government, clocking in at 67 meters, they will be the longest in the world; far above the global average of 27 meters, and will travel at speeds of up to 70km/hr on inner city streets, above the world average of 35km/hr. According to the Government, this is an obvious indication that the rail will be best in the world, as soon as it is finally unveiled.

“Size matters”, said a Sydney Light Rail spokesperson, “… and no, we aren’t compensating for anything at all, I don’t know why you would even ask that”.

“I have been told by many satisfied light rail riders that the faster it goes, the quicker they can get off and get on with their days”.

For size comparison, a standard Sydney bus is 12.5 meters, the current Inner West light rail vehicles are 30 meters, and a standard suburban rail carriage is 20 meters.

As June 4 marks the fifth anniversary of the approval of the CSELR for construction, we thought we would take a trip down memory lane to mark the  latest key milestone along the long journey of this highly anticipated project.

  1. Not quite a milestone, but a worthy first mention – in May 2015, the Government announced a potential December 2018 opening date, boldly declaring  the latest possible opening date March 2019.
    *Checks calendar* 
  1. Major construction started in the city on George St in October 2015, slowly ramping up early into 2016 across the alignment.
  1. January 2016 marks the beginning of a widespread tree removal program – the end for hundreds of historic trees across central and eastern Sydney. Over 40 trees estimated to be 100 years old were pulled down along Allison Road, near the Randwick Racecourse. January and February also saw the destruction of 17 fig trees along Anzac Parade at Moore Park, thought to be from the 1870’s, some planted in  the 1910’s to commemorate the ANZAC’s contribution to World War 1. Lest we forgot…whoops.

    By mid-2016 the tree cutting contractors set their eyes on UNSW, and the 14-meter-tall “Tree of Knowledge” on the corner of Wansey Rd and High Street in Randwick, cut down branch by inconvenient branch. Crowds gathered to watch the 150-year-old tree, with a canopy the size of a quarter acre block, being removed.
  1. August took a turn for the worst for the now very highly contentious project when along George Street in the city, hundreds of previously unknown utilities and services were uncovered. Over the years, these hundreds turned into thousands and would become one of the primary causes for the overall project delay. At the George/Market Street intersection alone, works that were supposed to take two weekends ended up taking dozens. 

    Let us break it down: NSW Government says that Ausgrid will deal with it; Ausgrid has no plans to deal with it; Acciona must deal with it; $576 million lawsuit settlement later and we’re on our way to success, baby!

  1. Jump to early 2018, construction on the line had come to almost a complete standstill and it really begins to hit home that the line’s cost and delivery timeframe have ever so slightly blown out of control. With the scheduled opening less than a year away, not a single work zone was complete, and workers revealed left, right, and centre to the media that Acciona was using go-slow tactics as a result of the escalating lawsuit.
  1. Uh-oh, skeletons! In November, human remains were found at Central Station adjacent to the former Devonshire Street Cemetery and Acciona announced they had been removed respectfully. Only three days later, a scathing video from a worker showed the bones being removed, thrown from the hole by a cranky supervisor, who joked, “looks like a hip, anyone need a hip replacement, only used once”. Although the supervisor was most likely fired, he won the “Best Dad Joke Award” at the Acciona Christmas party.
  1. Fighting…against the little people? On top of the out of court settlement this month, the Government is also fighting local mum and dad business owners in court – a $400 million class action lawsuit comprising of over 150 business owners along the alignment whose businesses have been forced into liquidation or onto the edge of financial collapse. Luckily forTransport for NSW, they have the NSW Civil Liability Act 2002 to fall back on, preventing government agencies to be sued as a result of major infrastructure projects.

We caught up with another student who grew up in Guangzhou in China.

“At first, I thought that the construction was for an underground metro line, but then I saw them putting track on the road? I was so confused. New metro lines are built in China every year, but 5 years for tracks on the road? Huh, I’ll be graduating before this shit show is finished.”

Arguably the most offensive part of Sydney’s new love of constructing metro rail everywhere except for in the eastern suburbs that is you can use “Macquarie University” and “World Class” in the same sentence – for their public transport access.

Thankfully, due to the widespread success and unwavering public support for the light rail line, the government has committed to two further lines in heritage sensitive and busy pedestrianised areas around Parramatta, traversing world heritage sites, one of NSW’s biggest hospitals and closing some of Parramatta’s most popular streets, for hopefully no more than a decade.

No doubt the inevitable heritage and archeological finds, small business owners, and environmental concerns of these up-and-coming lines will be treated with the same nuanced sensitivity that has seen such success throughout the development of the CSELR line. Welcome to the future, Sydney!


I think private life should be private life, the professional life should be the professional life, and that’s where I stand, and I have right to do that. Whilst details of my personal life remain unverified, I can admit that I study within the Built Environment faculty, that I am in my final year, and that I love trains.