Sydney, Australia

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Milsons Point station at the north end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Photo by Todd Glickman.


Sydney, Australia has a wonderful public transportation network, including suburban rail ("CityRail"), buses, a light rail line, a monorail, and a ferry network. CityRail is a hybrid metro/commuter rail, with a zone-based fare system. Within the city center, fares are AUD2.20 one-way, AUD2.60 return, AUD6.00 bus/train day pass, AUD13.00 bus/train/ferry day pass, and AUD28.00 bus/train/ferry week pass. Higher fares apply for access to outer zones. Magnetic stripe fare cards may be purchased from touch-screen based vending machines, or ticket windows. Cards are sent through readers (similar to DC Metro) upon entry and exit. A recend extension to the airport has met with wide approval, and was well-utilized during the 2000 Olympics. In addition, a spur off the western line was built to reach the Olympic Village; some trains run through, and at other times one can take the "Olympic Sprint" (a one-stop shuttle train) that runs every ten minutes during peak hours, on weekends, and when events are taking place.

Trains run on overhead catenary, and are all "tri-level" carriages, similar in layout to the new LIRR cars. Double doors are placed offset from car ends at platform height, and car centers have a lower and upper level. Seats on the upper and lower levels are reversible (two by three). Older carriages are not air-conditioned, but newer ones are. Two, four, six, and eight car trains are run. Cars can be either powered (cab control) or unpowered (trailer). Two car trains are C-D (Olympic Sprint and some Wollongong locals, as well as some Newcastle-Gosford runs).

Four car trains are C-T-T-C; six car trains are C-T-C-T-T-C or C-T-C-C-T-C, and eight car trains are C-T-T-C-C-T-T-C. The newer Tangara cars are D-N-N-D and D-N-N-D-D-N-N-D. The reason that C cars are required mid-train, is that the guards (conductors) are in the cabs of the control cars to operate the doors. Guards have a full height door and actually step out onto the platform at longer station stops. When ready to proceed, they announce over the (legible!) PA, "Stand clear; doors close." Then they blow a police-style whistle to signal door closing. Drivers (that's what the motormen are called) blow one short whistle before departing the station. Cars are numbered with one letter and four numbers. Older cars are prefixed with C (control) or T (trailer). Newer cars (with slant ends, called Tangaras) have prefixes D (driver-trailer) on the cab cars, and N (motor-non-driver) on the trailers; all new cars are four-car permanently married units that can be paired to create eight-car trains. Pantographs are on the "inside" ends of the cars at the end of sets, whether the car is powered or non-powered. The above prefix system dates back to the introduction of electric operation in the 1920s. An "O" in front of any of the designations indicates "Outer Suburban," and includes luggage racks and at least one toilet per four-car set.

Stations have video monitors that display the next train (time until arrival), plus all subsequent stops. The next two trains' destinations and arrival times are also displayed. When trains arrive a (legible!) automated PA announcement tells the train's destination and station stops; it's done in a female voice using concatenated speech.

The light rail system is short, and runs from city center to Darling Harbor (tourist area). CityRail tickets/passes are NOT vailid on the light rail. Single low floor, three section articulated cars run in the street, and are powered by overhead. The monorail system is relatively short, and also does not accept CityRail tickets/passes (fare is $3). The monorail is Disney-style, and used mainly by tourists.

The ferry system, which has a hub at Circular Quay (near the Opera House and other tourist attractions), provides frequent service to many suburbs. Fares start at AUD4 for the closest zone. Ferries have LCD signs that display stops.

Thanks to SubTalk readers from the aus.rail newsgroup for additions and corrections!

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By Todd Glickman.

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