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Rapid bus routes in Sydney

Rapid bus routes in SydneyDescription : Rapid bus routes form a network of high-capacity cross-regional bus routes in Sydney, Australia. Eleven rapid routes were identified within the existing bus network as part of the New South Wales Government's Sydney's Bus Future plan in 2013. Two further routes, described as "growth centre rapid routes" were promised to commence as new-release residential areas and town centres developed. In the longer term, these two routes (Rouse Hill–Marsden Park–Blacktown and Liverpool–Leppington–Campbell... Page:r132

Rapid bus routes
Bus icon
OwnerTransport for NSW
LocaleSydney, Australia
Transit typeBus / Bus rapid transit
Number of lines11
Began operation2013
  • Hillsbus
  • State Transit
  • Transdev NSW
  • Transit Systems

Rapid bus routes form a network of high-capacity cross-regional bus routes in Sydney, Australia. Eleven rapid routes were identified within the existing bus network as part of the New South Wales Government's Sydney's Bus Future plan in 2013. Two further routes, described as "growth centre rapid routes" were promised to commence as new-release residential areas and town centres developed. In the longer term, these two routes (Rouse Hill–Marsden Park–Blacktown and Liverpool–Leppington–Campbelltown) may be upgraded to bus rapid transit.

Sydney's Bus Future describes the rapid routes as "the backbone of the new bus network, offering fast, reliable bus travel for customers between major centres ... which are not linked by trains or light rail." Rapid routes feature:

  • stops spaced 800 to 1,000 metres apart – about double the spacing of conventional bus routes
  • significant bus priority infrastructure, including busways, bus-only lanes, off-street interchanges and traffic light 'head starts'
  • a high-frequency, 'turn up and go' service level.

Rapid routes will run every five minutes during the day on weekdays and every eight minutes during the day on weekends.


The 1968 Sydney Region Outline Plan, which guided the city's growth for close to 20 years, encouraged the decentralisation of employment in Sydney. As more people and jobs moved to the outer suburbs, the existing public transport network, based on buses feeding passengers into a City-centred rail system, did not keep pace.

In 1998, the Carr Labor government released a transport policy document called Action for Transport 2010, which envisaged 90 kilometres of new bus rapid transit routes, dubbed 'T-ways'. The document promised that by 2010, the T-way network would reach from Parramatta, the centre of Western Sydney, to Blacktown, Castle Hill, Liverpool, Mungerie Park (an area now called Rouse Hill), Penrith, Strathfield and Wetherill Park. The first stage, to Liverpool, opened in 2003, followed by lines to Rouse Hill and Blacktown in 2007.

The T-ways run in their own alignment for much of their length, with grade separation at certain intersections and light rail style stops, some of which feature commuter parking and 'next bus' indicators. Most "T-way" routes include sections on surrounding streets, however.

In 2004, former premier Barrie Unsworth concluded his review of the metropolitan bus system. He called for a new network of fast, high-frequency bus services along 43 "strategic" corridors, along with targeted investment in bus priority measures such as bus lanes and traffic signal priority. This vision was realised with the establishment of so-called 'Metrobus' routes across much of the city, starting with route M10, from Leichhardt to Maroubra in 2008. By 2011, 13 Metrobus routes were in operation, many of them following the corridors identified by Unsworth.

Mona Vale to City

The Mona Vale to City corridor, along Pittwater and Military roads, is the main public transport spine for Sydney's Northern Beaches district. It forms part of bus region 8, for which State Transit holds the contract. State Transit operates a number of routes within the corridor, of which the E84 and L84 offer the most direct service.

From 1913 until 1939, an electric tramway operated between Narrabeen, four kilometres south of Mona Vale, and Manly. Citybound commuters could change at Manly for ferries to Circular Quay. Bus services from the Northern Beaches benefited from several major roads projects:

  • a bridge over Middle Harbour at the Spit, completed in 1958
  • conversion of the Harbour Bridge tram tracks to road, in 1958
  • Burnt Bridge Creek Deviation, a motorway-standard bypass of Balgowlah, completed in 1985
  • introduction of Australia's first bus lane, on the Harbour Bridge in 1992

In order to boost capacity on the corridor, the then Urban Transit Authority introduced Sydney's first (and, until 2005, only) articulated buses on Northern Beaches routes. Thirty Mercedes-Benz O305Gs operated in the district between 1981 and 2012.

The corridor was identified as strategic in the Unsworth report and listed among the six most constrained in the 2011 Long Term Transport Master Plan (LTTMP). Investigations into a bus rapid transit system for the Northern Beaches led in 2015 to the announcement of a dedicated BRT link from Mona Vale to the City, to be known as the 'B-Line'.

North Bondi to City

The North Bondi to City corridor, along Bondi Road and Oxford Street is one of the two public transport spines for Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. It forms part of bus region 9, for which State Transit holds the contract. State Transit operates a number of routes within the corridor, of which the 333 and 380 offer the most direct service.

Steam trams operated along Bondi Road and Oxford Street to the City from 1894, with electric vehicles taking over the service in 1902. Bus route 380 replaced the tram line in 1960. From 1979, train services from Bondi Junction to Martin Place and Town Hall supplemented the buses, easing pressure on Oxford Street buses. A consortium led by Lend Lease and Macquarie Bank proposed to extend the line to the beach in 1999, but the idea was rejected by the Government two years later.

The corridor was identified as strategic in the Unsworth report. Two years later, the corridor was selected for a trial of a new, high-capacity bus service using articulated vehicles and - to reduce dwell times at stops - a ban on cash fares. The new "PrePay Only" 333, known colloquially as the Bondi Bendy, commenced in October 2006. Route 333 services were in addition to the existing 380, 381 and 382 routes.

The LTTMP identified the corridor as an 'intermediate' strategic transit corridor. Transport for NSW has since indicated that it is considering bus rapid transit for this corridor.

Castle Hill to Liverpool

The Castle Hill to Liverpool corridor runs from Castle Hill in Sydney's Hills District, along Old Northern and Windsor roads to Parramatta's central business district, then south-west along a dedicated busway to the centre of Liverpool. At present, the corridor is served by two services: the Hillsbus-operated route M60 north of Parramatta, and the Transit Systems-operated route T80 south of Parramatta. The M60 forms part of region 4, while the T80 is within region 3.

A private tramway between Parramatta and Castle Hill, generally following the Windsor Road alignment, opened in 1910. Purchased by the Government Railways in 1919, the line was first converted into a railway and then closed after less than a decade in operation. Unlike closed tramways elsewhere in Sydney, however, the Department of Government Transport did not asset exclusive rights to the corridor. Harris Park Transport provided services along Windsor Road until 2004. Hillsbus, formed as a joint venture between Westbus and National Express to provide services on the newly-completed M2 Hills Motorway, operated route 600 from around this time.

A new Metrobus route, M60, was introduced in March 2010, effectively replacing the 600 – though the new route continued past Castle Hill, along the Cumberland Highway to Hornsby. As a Metrobus service, the M60 offered higher frequencies and higher-capacity vehicles to meet growing demand.

For much of the 20th century, land use planning in Sydney restricted development to corridors within a short distance of the existing railway lines. This discipline broke down in the 1980s, however, when planning minister – and future premier – Bob Carr released new areas for development far from existing rail lines. Within 10 years it was clear new mass transit infrastructure would be required in Western Sydney, and the government, now led by Carr, responded with a program called Action for Transport 2010.

For the newly-developed areas west of Liverpool, Action for Transport promised a new bus rapid transit line, the Liverpool–Parramatta T-way. For most of its length, the T-way was to occupy existing utility and transport reservations so as to minimise buses' interactions with other traffic and reduce journey time. The line opened in 2003, and a new division of State Transit, Western Sydney Buses, was formed to service it. In 2013, the sole T-way route, T80, was rolled into the surrounding region 3 bus system contract and put out to tender. The successful bidder, Transit Systems commenced operations in October.

The combined Windsor Road/T80 corridor was considered as a potential line in the Parramatta light rail network. No announcement of light rail for this corridor has been made, however.

Victoria Road

The Victoria Road corridor connects the Sydney and Parramatta central business districts via the Inner West and the northern bank of the Parramatta River. The road route was completed with the construction of the Gladesville and Iron Cove bridges in 1881 and 1882. Twenty years later, a tram line was added, reaching West Ryde in 1914. Although Victoria Road grew in significance throughout the mid-20th century, private bus operators were barred from competing with trams. As a result, services in the corridor were divided at West Ryde: privately-operated feeder bus services to the west; government operated trams to the east. This division survived the demise of the trams – progressively scaled back on the corridor between 1949 and 1953 – as the Department of Government Transport stepped in to provide bus services from West Ryde to the City.

Between 1955 and 1967, the main bridges were replaced and the road was widened to six lanes. Public transport services remained divided between Parramatta-Ryde Bus Service's route 540 in the west and the Department's 500 and 501 in the east. From 1981, Parramatta-Ryde and North & Western Bus Lines ran a "Red Arrow" cross-regional route numbered 333 between Parramatta, Top Ryde, Lane Cove and Chatswood.

Both operators were acquired by State Transit in 2000, making a single Victoria Road service possible for the first time. This was assigned the route number 520 (a limited-stops service called the L20 also operated).

Unsworth identified the 520 as a strategic bus route in 2004. Services on the corridor were increased when the Metrobus route M52 commenced operation on 8 August 2010, replacing the L20.

The 3.5-kilometre Inner West Busway was constructed along Victoria Road, opening in January 2011. The busway consists of dedicated bus lanes for State Transit services between Drummoyne and Rozelle. The busway project, which also included a new moveable median strip and duplication of the Iron Cove Bridge, was built by an alliance of the Roads & Traffic Authority, Lend Lease, Hyder and Manidis Roberts.

Later that year, the LTTMP identified the corridor as one of the city's most congested and concluded that bus rapid transit (BRT) should be considered there within the next 10–20 years. In 2013, Sydney's Bus Future included the Victoria Road corridor as one of its rapid routes and listed it as a candidate for future BRT or light rail.

Parramatta Road

Parramatta Road runs between Broadway, at the southern end of Sydney's central business district, to Parramatta in Western Sydney. Ten kilometres from the City, Parramatta Road intersects with Burwood Road, the main street of the suburb of Burwood. It is along this corridor that State Transit operates route 461, as part of contract region 6.

The tram line along Parramatta Road only extended as far as Leichhardt, with suburbs to the west better served by the railway and, in Burwood, by the isolated tram system that connected Burwood Station to Mortlake, Cabarita and Enfield. Burwood began to grow in significance as the main commercial centre for the Inner West, with Westfield Burwood opening on Burwood Road in 1966.

The corridor between Burwood and the City was, for much of the 20th century, dominated by industrial land uses and low-density housing. As factories and warehouses decamped to greenfield sites on the suburban fringe, the opportunity to redevelop inner-city suburbs as high-density residential centres meant that local transport needs grew. Unsworth identified the corridor as strategic in 2004.

Parramatta Road was bypassed for much of its length by the M4 Western Motorway (completed to its current termination point in 1993), City West Link (2000) and Anzac Bridge (1995). Though this infrastructure alleviated pressure on the road, particularly in the inner city, a crucial section between Concord, Burwood and Haberfield remains part of Sydney's main east-west traffic artery.

In 2008, the NSW Government announced West Metro, a new rapid transit railway line from the City to Sydney Olympic Park, with stations at Sydney University, Camperdown, Leichhardt, Five Dock, Burwood and Strathfield. Though the project won $91 million in federal funding and some geotechnical investigations were carried out, the project was quickly abandoned. Also announced in 2008 was the first Metrobus route, M10, which runs along Parramatta Road between Leichhardt and the City.

In 2012, the Long Term Transport Master Plan and State Infrastructure Strategy were released. Both called for a new motorway called WestConnex, which would complete the bypass of Parramatta Road. A critical element of the WestConnex scheme was the benefits available from rejuvenating Parramatta Road. Removing through traffic from the road would free up space for wider footpaths, bus lanes and potentially light rail. Sydney's Bus Future, released the following year, named Burwood–City as a rapid bus route in the short term and a potential light rail route in the longer term.

Anzac Parade

State Transit operates routes M10 and 393-9 from Maroubra Junction to the City via Anzac Parade. This corridor was listed as strategic in the 2004 Unsworth review and considered a key intermediate transit link in the 2012 Long Term Transport Master Plan. Metrobus M10 commenced along the corridor in October 2008, extending to Maroubra in 2009. The section of the corridor north of Kingsford will be served by the CBD & South East Light Rail from 2019. These services form part of State Transit's contract region 9.

Parramatta to Macquarie

The Macquarie Park Employment Area was established on semi-rural land at North Ryde in the 1960s, with the new Macquarie University at its heart. The intention was to spur development of a high-tech industry cluster, modelled on Palo Alto, California, which grew up around Stanford University. Though the area was far from the rail network, it was served by two high-quality roads: Ring Road 3(today's A3) and Epping Road, from Epping to Lane Cove. In 1971, Epping Road was widened to six lanes between the University and Terrys Creek, improving access to the north.

A number of private bus companies offered services from the University to nearby railway stations, including Harris Park Transport, North & Western and the Glenorie Bus Company.

A 1920 plan to build a railway through North Ryde came to nothing, but the idea was resurrected in 1998 as part of Action for Transport 2010 – though passengers were to wait another decade for trains to arrive. Though the new Epping to Chatswood rail link improved journey times to the City, a planned extension to Parramatta did not eventuate. Though the Parramatta–Macquarie patronage did not justify new railway tunnels, it was sufficient to be considered a strategic bus corridor in the 2004 Unsworth review. State Transit replaced its 548 service with Metrobus M54 in October 2010. The M54 offered an increase in service frequency, from 385 to 840 services per week.

Hurstville to Macquarie

Responding to growing demand for cross-regional journeys, the Department of Main Roads proclaimed Ring Road 3, from Mona Vale to Blakehurst, in 1964. The ring-road provided access from the newly-established Macquarie University at Marsfield to the Northern Beaches, the Inner West and the St George area.

Direct bus services were not provided: the central section between the Ryde district and Strathfield ran parallel to the Main North railway line. Services from the university to nearby railway stations were provided by North & Western Bus Lines. Lakemba-based Red Top Transport operated a route 450 service between Hurstville and Strathfield, selling it to Punchbowl Bus Company in 1998.

In 1998, the NSW Government announced its Action for Transport 2010 plan, which included a promise to build a new railway line from Strathfield, due south to Hurstville, to be completed by 2014. Three years later, this idea was scotched by the Christie report, which concluded that the corridor was "unlikely to need to be provided as [a] heavy rail link until the long term, if at all. The Hurstville–Strathfield link would instead be developed first through the provision of high-quality cross-regional bus services" with the potential for future bus rapid transit. Unsworth's 2004 review concurred, including Macquarie Park to Burwood and Burwood to Hurstville among his strategic bus corridors.

The Government held onto the idea of a north-south railway line, however, including it in stages 8 and 9 of its ill-fated Sydney Metro plan. "Line 3" would have linked Macquarie Park and Olympic Park by 2033, extending south to Hurstville three years later.

While the railways did not eventuate, the cross-regional bus services did. Metrobus M41, operated by State Transit, commenced in December 2010. The route was included among the "intermediate" strategic routes in the 2012 Long Term Transport Master Plan and confirmed as a rapid route in Sydney's Bus Future the following year.

Rouse Hill to Hurstville

North of Parramatta, the corridor follows route T65 – the North-West T-way – from Rouse Hill to Parramatta. Route T65 is operated by Hillsbus and commenced with the opening of the T-way in 2007. South of Parramatta, the corridor follows route M91, which runs from Parramatta to Hurstville via Bankstown, and commenced on 7 February 2011. The M91 service replaced the 910 and 948 services. Sydney's Bus Future commits to a long-term program of bus priority upgrades for the route south of Parramatta. A route between Parramatta and Bankstown was also considered for inclusion in the Parramatta light rail network.

A Parramatta–Bankstown service, branded as "Red Arrow" and with the route number 320, was trialled in 1980 and 1981. The buses were operated by Parramatta-Ryde Bus Service.

Castle Hill to City

The Castle Hill to City corridor runs from Sydney's Hills District to the central business district via Old Northern Road, the M2 Hills Motorway, Warringah Expressway and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is currently served by Hillsbus-operated route M61 as part of contract region 4.

Following the closure of the short-lived railway line to Castle Hill in 1932, public transport options for the area's residents were limited. Glenorie Bus Company offered services to Pennant Hills Station, from which passengers could change for services to the City. But as urban sprawl changed the district's character from semi-rural to suburban – a transition marked by the opening in 1982 of Castle Towers shopping centre – the lack of direct City services became untenable.

Westbus introduced the 610 'City Express' service from Castle Hill to the City via Victoria Road in 1994 – only the second private bus service to be afforded entry to the CBD since 1930. When the M2 was completed three years later, the service was re-routed to take advantage of the motorway's dedicated bus infrastructure.

In 1998, the Government's Action for Transport 2010 plan promised a railway line to the City. Like bus rapid transit to Parramatta, the proposal did not progress. It was not until the election of the O'Farrell government in 2011 that this project got underway. The line – Sydney Metro Northwest – will not be completed until 2019, and until then the corridor remains among the most highly-constrained in Sydney. Sydney's Bus Future named it as a 'rapid route' in 2013.

Hornsby to Blacktown

The Hornsby to Blacktown corridor runs the upper North Shore along the Cumberland Highway, through the Hills District and onto the North-West T-Way. East of Castle Hill the main bus route is the M60, part of the Hillsbus-operated region 4. To the west is the T70, part of the Busways-operated region 1.

The 1948 County of Cumberland planning scheme established a green belt around Sydney, with what is now the Cumberland Highway as its eastern boundary. The Glenorie Bus Company ran feeder services from Pennant Hills Station to Castle Hill and Hornsby, but true cross-regional bus routes were not contemplated. Though the green belt concept was swiftly abandoned, development of the 15-kilometre-wide rural area between the Cumberland Highway and the Richmond branch line was slow at first: there were more promising sites to be had closer to existing railway stations. Nonetheless, Castle Hill emerged as a major commercial centre in the early 1980s.

Within a decade, plans were advanced to improve Castle Hill's connections with the City. The 2004 Unsworth review, which formed the basis for much of the Carr Labor government's thinking on cross-regional bus services, did not consider a northern east-west link between Hornsby and Blacktown to be a priority. In 2007, the completion of the North-West T-way made possible a faster journey between Blacktown and Old Windsor Road. Westbus (since replaced by Busways) began to operate the T70 to Castle Hill. In 2010, the former Glenorie routes – now operated by Hillsbus – along the highway were combined into a new high-frequency Metrobus service, the M60. Three years later, Sydney's Bus Future determined that in future, the two should be combined into a single 'rapid route'.

External links

  • Public transport timetable and fare information
  • Transport for NSW: B-Line project information
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