Light Rail

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Investment in light rail is increasing as cities around the world realise its potential as a viable, cost-effective and essential addition to their urban transportation system. The mode can fill the void between heavy rail and buses through greater accessibility, improved mobility and barrier-less entry. GHD provides services for feasibility assessment, planning, design, and construction support through an integrated team of experienced designers and analysts.

We’ve got extensive experience in all facets of tram infrastructure planning and design, including tracks, overhead wiring, power feeders, accessible tram stops, and tram depots. We also have the capability to address the ancillary elements of design including risk analysis, safety, street lighting, traffic modelling, geotechnical investigations, urban design, architecture, environmental assessments, planning and stakeholder engagement.

Our clients are looking for sustainable, cost effective and community-enhancing light rail solutions. GHD appreciates and understands light rail projects from planning imperatives, including heritage implications, to preparation of constructible infrastructure designs that comprehend the requirements of all stakeholders.


  • Track design - formation, straights, curves, crossings, crossovers and drainage
  • Electrical design - overhead wiring including poles, wall bracket and wiring associated with the new tracks; feeder distribution works
  • Tram stops - design of accessible platform stops complying with the Disability Discrimination Act
  • Depots - tram maintenance depots including access logistics and internal movements
  • Traffic integration - for on-road tram track design, we assess impact on road traffic using micro-simulation techniques and design alterations to traffic infrastructure
  • Multi-mode integration - design of multi-mode transport facilities integrating trams, buses and bicycles whilst addressing the needs of pedestrians and passengers
  • Tram priority treatments - examining, assessing and implementing tram priority measures; traffic signal design
  • Business case analysis - evaluation of physical and economic feasibility of projects
  • Audits - risk workshops, road safety and accessibility audits

For further information, contact:

John Portwood
Service Line Leader, Light Rail – Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East
T: +61 7 3316 3158
E: John Portwood

Mark Murphy
Service Line Leader, Light Rail – North America
T: +1 501 224 1926
E: Mark Murphy

Gold Coast Light Rail, Queensland


GHD was commissioned by Translink to undertake the planning and design of a light rail system for the Gold Coast This system will be developed in two stages, from Broadbeach to Helensvale and from Broadbeach to Cooloongatta. In total the system will be over 30 kilometres long.

GHD’s scope included the following:

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Harbour Esplanade, Victoria – tram infrastructure


GHD was engaged by VicUrban to prepare the detailed design of new light rail track in Harbour Esplanade, Melbourne. The design was prepared in close collaboration with the tram operator, Yarra Trams. The project involved the functional and detailed design of the light rail tracks, track crossover, track drainage, electrical overhead works, underground electrical feeder works, and two pairs of Disability Discrimination Act compliant accessible platform tram stops.

As well, there were the requirements to transition the new tram tracks to the existing light rail network, with curves and crossings at two major intersections (Bourke Street and La Trobe Street), incorporate urban design features, interface with existing roadway and coordinate traffic signal remodels and installation of signalised pedestrian crossings.

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Isle of Man Railways - Snaefell Mountain Railway Track Renewals


GHD provided design and programme management services for the Snaefell Mountain Railway track renewal programme. Opened in 1895, the Snaefell Mountain Railway (SMR) carries passengers in vintage trams between Laxey, a coastal town, and Snaefell’s summit, 2,036 feet above sea level. The five mile long double-track line is 3 ft 6 in gauge and uses a Fell Incline Railway System center rail for braking on the steep gradients, some of which exceed 1 in 12. Its overhead wires supply 550 V direct current.

In 2010 the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, the railway’s operator, appointed GHD to design and programme manage the SMR’s three year track renewal programme, following on from the Manx Electric Railway’s seven year track renewals programme, also managed by GHD.

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Manchester Metrolink - City Centre Track Renewals


GHD worked as part of the Metrolink team on strategic planning of tram track renewal. After 15 years of operation, much of Metrolink’s city center track was nearing the end of its economic life and was programmed for replacement. The main objectives were to ensure the long term operation of City Centre tram services with minimal risk of derailment and with improved ability to maintain worn rail.

Working as an integrated part of the Metrolink team, GHD was responsible for the overall strategic planning of the renewals, including specification of the design requirements and of the fabrication and installation contract.

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Manchester Metrolink – Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations Compliance


Metrolink engaged GHD to plan platform modifications to meet accessibility requirements. The 2008 Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations (RVAR), define stepping distance standards for trams. Initially for new vehicles and infrastructure, the regulations will also be incrementally applied to existing networks.

The introduction of new M5000 trams to run alongside the existing T68 trams across the existing network, led Metrolink to engage GHD to devise and implement a plan to modify existing platforms (built before RVAR) so that the mixed fleet operation met the demanding requirements for near step and gap free access to either the M5000 or T68 LRVs.

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Preston Workshops Redevelopment, Victoria


GHD was commissioned by Yarra Trams to carry out both the structural assessment of the existing buildings at Preston Workshops, and an environmental evaluation of the entire site. The output from these investigations would be used in the context of the overall redevelopment of the Preston Workshops which is programmed to coincide with the procurement of a new fleet of trams for Melbourne.

Following completion of the site assessments, our team was engaged to develop concept plans and specifications for the refurbishment of Preston Workshops. Preston Workshops will need to be upgraded and modernised to perform a number of new functions as well as enhancing and improving existing functions.

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Sydney Metro Northwest – Operations, Trains and Systems Independent Certifier Services


The AU$8.3 billion Sydney Metro Northwest project - formerly the North West Rail Link - is the first stage of Sydney Metro, Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project. It will be the first fully-automated metro rail system in Australia with passenger services starting in the first half of 2019.

The delivery of this 36 km rail system involves both greenfield and brownfield work. It also includes the manufacturing of 22, single deck, 6-car sets of Rolling Stock and the associated control systems to achieve a Grade of Automation level 4.

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