Sydneysiders urged to take caution around light rail after terrifying near misses

Sydneysiders urged to take caution around light rail after terrifying near misses

Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in Sydney are flirting with death with many failing to recognise light rail traffic signals, prompting the Transport Minister to issue a new warning.

“What we’re seeing is unacceptable,” Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said.

“Almost every day we are seeing some really risky behaviour around our light rail vehicles.”

As part of an educational campaign, the NSW Government released new footage today that shows drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all failing to adhere to traffic signals with motorists even caught driving along the light rail tracks.

The timing of the new warning aligns with the idea more people will be moving across the city as workers return to the office in the coming weeks and even days.

On average a tram travels up George Street every four minutes, or two minutes if you consider both directions, and it takes at least 15 metres for them to come to a stop.

“To save yourself a few seconds by running a tram light is just not worth it, you could end up dead,” Mr Constance said.

“They’re big machines and you will come off second best.”

Speaking alongside the Transport Minister, Transport for NSW chief operations officer Howard Collins acknowledged because trams were super efficient, they were also very quiet.

He encouraged people to have their wits about them and is still shocked about what motorists do around light rails, attributing incidents to panic and unawareness.

“There seems to be a bit of a panic attack when they (motorists, pedestrians and cyclists) get into the area of the trams. And they seem to think they’re a tram. Or they’re driving around the network not looking at the basic traffic signals,” he said.

“Take a breath, look, check where you’re going.”

More than 30,000 people use the tram network in Sydney each day, and there have been hundreds of near misses because people simply are not paying attention.

Mr Collins said pedestrians were the number one offenders but motorists had been caught “doing some crazy things”, noting that unlike Melburnians who have been living with trams for years, Sydneysiders need educating.

The main problem areas include South Dowling St and Anzac Parade.

“We will continue to look at this (pain points), particularly South Dowling St, and one or two other locations,” Mr Collins said.

The light rail system has been criticised for being slow. For instance, the journey from Randwick to Circular Quay takes about 50 minutes by tram compared with 30 minutes by bus.

But Mr Collins argued there were now sub-40 and 30-minute journeys on some lines, with trams available every four minutes.

The debate around whether NSW residents should be wearing masks on public transport continues to deliver mixed messages.

Mr Constance said it was a question for the Health Minister but noted commuters should be patient, like waiting for the next service rather than joining a packed train.

“If everybody continues to work like they have for the last two months then we can minimise the risk of community transmission due to mass transit on public transport. That will be an incredible outcome in NSW when we get through the pandemic.”

Hefty fines of up to $344 and three demerit points apply for disrupting the light rail service.