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It's been defined by budget blow-outs, business closures, and major disruption but the people of Sydney can finally decide if the wait was worth it as the CBD light rail is officially open for business.
"What we have is a start of a major network, which is transforming our city," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said shortly before passengers were being loaded onto the city's first service at Circular Quay.
She said it had been a difficult project but was thrilled as the "vision becomes reality".
"It was a stressful time … I've never been involved in a major project that hasn't had its challenges," she said.
"But when you're digging up the main street in the nation, the busiest street in the nation, of course it's going to have its challenges."
The Premier said "teething" problems were expected as residents learn to use the new network.
Ron Dawes was one of the thousands of passengers who boarded the light rail on Saturday morning. He was also on the last service before the tram lines were ripped up on November 22, 1958.
"I've lived to see this thing being reborn. It's unbelievable," the 83-year-old said.
Mr Dawes could barely contain his excitement as the service took him towards Sydney's eastern suburbs.
"It's been a great, great day and it's wonderful to still be here and reliving the days of riding on the trams."
A troubled developmentThe final price tag of the light rail is $2.96 billion — more than $1.3 billion over its initial cost.
The project was first mooted by former opposition leader Barry O'Farrell and then shadow transport minister Gladys Berejiklian ahead of the 2011 election.
When it was officially announced in 2012 after they took office, the project was set to cost $1.6 billion.
That figure became $2.1 billion in 2014 — an increase the Auditor-General found to be the result of "mispricing and omissions in the business case".
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Then, when contractor Acciona took legal action against the Government for misleading and deceptive conduct in 2018, it settled for $576 million which added more to the Government's spend.
But it is not just the budget that has blown out, so too has the timeline, as the project was supposed to open ahead of the March election this year.
In total, it has taken four years and two months from the start of construction to today.
The finer detailsThe new track runs 12 kilometres and has 19 stops.
In the east there are two starts to the line — one at Kingsford which travels via the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Kensington, while the other is at Randwick and goes via the Racecourse.
The fork meets at Moore Park and the light rail travels through Surry Hills to Central Station and then down George Street to Circular Quay.
But for now, only the Randwick to Circular Quay section will open as the line from Kingsford via UNSW is not ready for operation until March.
A trip from Randwick to Circular Quay is expected to take 50 minutes — which is 10 minutes longer than originally forecast.
The aim is have the travel time down to 38 minutes, but that's expected to take months to "bed down".
Over this opening weekend trams will run every six minutes, while during the week they will turn up every four to eight minutes.
And the cost will be about on par with other forms of public transport on the Opal system.
For example, the journey from UNSW to Central will cost around $3.70 whether you're travelling by bus or the light rail.
Bus services in Kingsford and Kensington, where the light rail now operates, are expected to be altered but not for at least six weeks.
So almost six decades after passengers took Sydney's last tram from George Street, they can do so once more.
Class action loomsThe original Sydney tram lines ripped up between 1957 and 1961 followed much of the same route which has now been rebuilt.
George Street was where the very first electric tram operated in 1899 and at their peak, services departed every eight seconds.
But bringing trams back to Australia's oldest street was messy, disruptive and slow.
Despite Saturday's opening, there is still one issue looming for the Government — a class action brought by businesses, including those on George Street, affected by construction.
They are seeking millions in damages and the case is expected to go before the Supreme Court next year.
The long-anticipated light rail will be privately operated and maintained by the ALTRAC consortium which designed and built the project after being awarded the contract in 2014.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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