Sydney's CBD and South East light rail project is charging ahead, with work now under way in eight construction zones along the 12km route.
Construction of the $2.1 billion light rail will be completed in 2018 with services to begin running in 2019.
Across the world, major cities are looking to light rail to help meet the transport needs of growing urban populations.
In 2014, nine cities opened a new light rail line, bringing the number of cities with light rail to almost 400 worldwide. And this number is increasing further, with more than 180 networks in the planning stage or under construction.
Laurent Dauby, Rail Director at the International Association of Public Transport (UITP, from the French: L’Union Internationale des Transports Publics) said transport planners around the world are increasingly using light rail as part of an integrated transport solution.
“From the 1950s, many countries dismantled their tram lines to provide space for cars, but since the mid-1980s street rail systems have enjoyed a strong revival,” Mr Dauby said.
“Light rail development has been spectacular over the last few decades and systems can now be found in 53 countries on all continents, moving 215 million people every day."
International cities with light rail include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Tokyo and Toronto.
Mr Dauby said light rail has been so successfully developed because it delivers significant benefits for both customers and cities.
“It has the ability to attract passengers, even among car-drivers, because of benefits including capacity, speed, reliability, regularity, comfort, accessibility and safety,” Mr Dauby said.
“Light rail has also established itself as a popular investment for cities because it offers not only good quality transport, but also further benefits contributing to overall quality of life in cities, including environmental-friendliness.
“Light rail schemes are not only transport projects, but also urban upgrade projects contributing to the regeneration and modernisation of areas served, and to the development of new areas.”
Transport for NSW’s CBD and South East Light Rail, linking Circular Quay via George Street and Central, to Randwick and Kingsford, is under construction and will open to customers in 2019. It will join the Inner West Light Rail, already in service, with light rail projects for Parramatta and Newcastle in the planning stage.
It means that Sydney will be placed in an international league of cities renowned for innovation.
The start of work between Hunter and King streets means George Street is now closed from Circular Quay to the QVB for construction of the CBD & South East Light Rail.
CBD Coordinator General Marg Prendergast said the beginning of construction on George Street near Martin Place (zone 4) represented significant progress for the project.
“Since October last year, we’ve closed five sections of George Street and by mid-July we will have closed almost two kilometres of one of Sydney’s oldest streets," Ms Prendergast said.
“As expected, it hasn’t been without its challenges including utilities and drainage. As light rail construction progresses we continue to find a maze of utilities underneath George Street which need to be removed or protected before new services can be installed.”
Major construction on the 12-kilometre light rail route from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kingsford is expected to be completed in mid-2018, with services operating in 2019.