Huge revamp of transport in Sydney

Trains have started testing on Australia’s biggest public transport project – a massive modernisation and improvement of Sydney’s metro system.

New-generation trains – based on the international metropolis system used in 25 cities, including  Barcelona, Amsterdam and Singapore – are set to revolutionise Sydney travel from 2019.

They are being tested on the new SydneyMetro North-west rail system, which includes eight  new railway stations and 4,000 commuter car parking spaces in the city’s growing north-western area.

The new rail link, includes elevated  stations;  Australia’s biggest railway tunnels and the ‘Skytrain’ (pictured) between Bella Vista and Rouse Hill.


Skytrain takes Sydney Metro Northwest above ground for four kilometres

The skytrain is at a height of between 10 metres and 13 metres above ground level and is supported with 130 concrete piers, spaced approximately 39 metres apart.

The two new railway stations on the skytrain, Kellyville and Rouse Hill, are elevated and the platforms are above ground.

A landmark 270-metre long cable-stayed railway bridge over Windsor Road at Rouse Hill also forms part of the skytrain. This is similar in design to Sydney’s Anzac Bridge.


When it opens, the new system promises a train every four minutes in peak hours and will be ‘timetable-free’: users will just turn up and catch a train.

A second stage of the project will include a revamped rail system through Central Sydney and on to the city’s south-west.


Sydney’s new-generation metro trains will make customer journeys easy – with an emphasis on accessibility for people of all ages.

Features include level access with platforms to multi-purpose areas for prams, luggage and bicycles and real time travel information.

Drivers not forgotten

Sydney’s transport facelift is not restricted to the new rail systems.

At the same time, a new tunnel system known as NorthConnex is changing the face of road travel  by sweeping traffic through a nine-kilometre tunnel in Sydney’s north – linking the existing M1 and M2 motorways.

Central Sydney is also getting a 12-kilometre light rail system, with 19 new Stops through the city.

This system, for which testing is also underway will complement the current Inner-West Light  Rail, which already carries 9.7 million people a year.


Featured attractions Sydney travel

Windsor, Australia: contrasts

Finding a greater contrast would be difficult.

Drive one direction and it feels like you’ve entered a time warp, whirling back to the early 1800’s.

Head the other way and you’re soon in a futuristic landscape of sweeping concrete and steel.

Welcome to the Windsor district of eastern Australia, an area that offers a snapshot of colonial times, with many grand examples of 19th century British architecture.

At the same time, the area also features Australia’s biggest public transport project, the sleek, multi-billion dollar Sydney Metro NorthWest rail link.


Sydney Metro

Courtesy Plenary Group

This stark contrast between the old and the new, is a reminder that, although Windsor is a wonderful link to Australia’s colonial past, it is also on the edge of the Sydney beltway – a bustling, modern commuter channel.

But it was the Windsor of the 1800’s that we came to find.

Our ancestors were humble farmers in the area when it was Australia’s third city, a settlement established to provide fresh produce for the fledgling penal colony of Sydney.

Many of their graves can be found in the pioneer cemetery at nearby Wilberforce, which stands in the shadow of Australia’s oldest church, dating to 1809.


Sue’s ancestors, in particular, hold a special and prominent place in the local community, descending from Australia’s first group of free settlers.

Thomas and Jane Rose and their four children – originally from rural Dorset in England – had arrived in the colony in 1793 and started farming in the Windsor area about 1802.

‘Rose Cottage’, their house at Wilberforce, built in 1811, remains the oldest slab timber dwelling on its original site in Australia.


After exploring the pioneer cemetery, we headed for one of Windsor’s best known landmarks, the Macquarie Arms hotel, which claims to be the oldest pub in mainland Australia.

Sitting high above the Hawkesbury River, the pub certainly has an olde worlde feel, complete with resident ghosts – or perhaps that should be ‘spirits’.

First licensed in 1815 and operated continuously ever since, apart from the period between 1840-1874, the Macquarie Arms was built by convicts who are said to have constructed tunnels between the building and the river for secretly transporting illegal rum.


Courtesy Macquarie Arms Hotel and Gary Bell Pub Sketches.

Whether it is really the oldest pub on the Australian mainland seems to depend on who you ask. Apparently, colonial Sydney was brimming with ‘sly grog’ shops and hotels from about 1800 onwards.

One thing is for certain: the old pub is just one of many colonial buildings in Windsor still in use.

These include the local court house, designed by famous colonial architect Sir Francis Greenway and built in 1822; several historic churches; Windsor post office; and any number of grand Victorian mansions.

And, to prove that the area was indeed a land of opportunity, there’s Thompson Square which was named after a convict pioneer who went on to become a magistrate at law.

Next on our list was a visit to Rose Cottage which is truly a priceless piece of Australian heritage, followed by a tour of the adjoining Australiana Pioneer Village which strives to promote the area’s history.


The village combines historic buildings and demonstrations of traditional crafts.

Both these attractions are maintained by hard-working groups of volunteers.

Windsor is on the north-western outskirts of Sydney, about 56 kilometres from the city centre.

Aussie stories Sydney

Accor’s five-star announcement for Sydney airport

Travellers are to be given an additional accommodation choice when using Sydney airport.Pullman-Sydney-Airport-render-Copy-233x300

Accor recently signed an agreement to manage the planned five-star Pullman Sydney Airport hotel, part of an AUD$100 million mixed-use development in the city suburb of Mascot.

When finished in May 2016, the new hotel will offer 229 rooms and suites, a restaurant and bar, gym, conference facilities and an executive lounge.

Announcing the agreement signing, Accor Pacific’s Simon McGrath, said the project would be a key development for Sydney.

“Airports are no longer considered transport hubs.

“They are transforming into complete entities where hotels, conference centres, retail and office spaces co-exist.

“Accor continues to lead as an airport hotel specialist and we are thrilled to partner with Goodman on this project, which is a win for the economic growth of Sydney and our fourth airport announcement this year.”

Once operational, Pullman Sydney Airport will join the biggest network of upscale hotels in Asia Pacific with more than 45 hotels across the region.

For information, visit



Asia-Pacific hotels spectacular heads for Sydney

Accor Hotels will bring its high profile Asia-Pacific hotels exhibition to Sydney, Australia next month.

image003The ‘World of Accor’ expo, trade show and sales event started in Jakata, Indonesia, earlier this year and is being presented at leading destinations across the region.

Eleven year milestone

It’s 11 years since Accor started taking its exhibition on the road in Asia Pacific, giving clients the opportunity of meeting hotel representatives from across the countries where the brand operates.

P1010570Accor says the Sydney event – on August 7 at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth luxury hotel – will outline developments, new products and services it offers across Europe, the USA, Asia, Australia, Fiji and New Zealand.

“For the first time at World of Accor Sydney, representatives from Accor Hotels & Resorts in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, UK, Italy, Spain, New York, North America, Latin America, Dubai and United Arab Emirates will update on latest hotel openings and news.

Travel agents, wholesalers, corporate clients, tourism partners and the meeting and conference industries will receive latest accommodation news and trends from across the region.

P1010491Expo destinations

As well as Sydney, this year’s Asia-Pacific exhibition series is being presented at Jakata; Kuala Lumpur; Singapore; Tokoyo; Osaka; Auckland;  Delhi; Mumbai; Hong Kong; and Shanghai.

It follows a successful 2013 expo, when there were more than 800 Accor delegates representing almost 3,600 hotels and resorts worldwide, and in excess of 6,000 attendees.

In Sydney, Accor expects more than 600 guests to attend the Open Trade Cocktail Session, where it says they will also sample “Sofitel’s 5-star hospitality and entertainment”.

See how to register for the Sydney event. 





Review: Cockatoo Island accommodation

Cockatoo Island is an Australian gem, located among the blue waters of beautiful Sydney harbour.

Sydney harbour from Cockatoo Island

Featuring breath-taking harbour and city views – the 17.9 hectare island is an imaginative heritage and maritime park.

Steeped in history, Cockatoo Island also abounds in accommodation and leisure facilities, waterfront camping and areas for events and picnics.

Named after the sulphur-crested  birds that once flocked to the island, the area was off limits to the public for more than a century until it was opened in 2005 and later given World Heritage listing.

Now, it is a spectacular attraction that both fascinates and absorbs its many visitors.

Dawn from Cockatoo Island

Formerly a base for indigenous fishing, the island played a role in Australia’s convict history after it was chosen in 1839 as the site of a gaol to ease overcrowding at the penal settlement of Norfolk Island.

Convicts at Cockatoo Island quarried high quality sandstone from the island’s cliffs to build their own barracks, a military guardhouse, official residences and the Fitzroy dock to service Royal Navy vessels.

Many of these structures remain and can be inspected today.

Cockatoo Island convicts also dug as many as 20 bottle-shaped wheat silos in the sandstone to help the colony of Sydney guard against crop failure.

By the end of 1840, more than 500 tonnes of grain was stored in this way, but the British government instructed that the stockpiling of wheat be stopped to allow the free market to determine the price of the grain.

Escape attempts from Cockatoo Island were rare, but the notable exception was prisioner, Fred Ward, who swam to freedom  – with the aid of his wife – in 1869 and later become the bushranger known as ‘Thunderbolt’.

Convict gaol cell, Cockatoo Island

Construction of Fitzroy dock required the removal of sandstone cliffs 45 feet high.  It took nine years to build and became Australia’s main shipbuilding facility.

After the gaol closed in 1869, Cockatoo Island was used as an industrial school for girls and a type of prison for female felons.

At the same time,  the navel ship, Vernon, was anchored off the island as a facility for orphaned and wayward boys.

Despite a 10 foot fence designed to keep the girls and boys apart, the island gained a notorious reputation and was gradually dedicated purely to shipbuilding and repairs.

Sign, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour

Shipbuilding continued for 134 years until 1991.

It was Australia’s primary shipbuilding, refitting and repair facility and, as the nation’s first naval dockyard, it played a huge role in maritime history.

When Singapore fell to the Japanese in World War II, Cockatoo Island  became the main shipbuilding and repair centre in the South-West Pacific.

More than 250 ships were repaired or converted at the island  during the War, including the liners, ‘Queen Mary” and ‘Queen Elizabeth’, which were refitted to operate as troopships.

Slipway and dock, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour

Later, Cockatoo Island was responsible for naval support during the Korean and Vietnam wars and for refitting submarines until the dockyard closed in 1991.

Today, the island’s heritage is preserved by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, which has revitalised this once-great shipbuilding centre and former penal establishment – while striving to preserve its unique character.

Visitors who catch a ferry across Sydney Harbour can wander among the island’s key sites and see the former convict areas, docks, wharves and slipways.

Self-guided audio tours will take you over each precinct and allow you to wonder at the island’s huge tunnels, including one which was reinforced with concrete for use as a World War II air raid shelter.

Waterfront camping facilities on Cockatoo Island

There are several accommodation options on Cockatoo Island, including camp sites; tents for hire; luxury camping or ‘Glamping’; units; and studio apartments with astonishing views over the harbour.

Cockatoo Island is also popular with photographers, who regularly line the cliff tops in the early morning to catch a view of the sun rising alongside Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The island is fast becoming a centre for concerts and similar events and is considered a good location to catch Sydney’s traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks.

So, to experience this wonderful park and everything it offers, head to the Sydney Quay waterfront and catch a ferry across the magnificent harbour to Cockatoo Island. And, to see the best of this memorable destination, why not book a stay in a studio apartment or join the campers along the waterfront (above).

There’s no need to worry about food. It can be purchased or ordered in advance from the island’s well equipped bars and restaurants.

These include The Island Bar, which has gained prominence because it is made from recycled shipping containers, in line with Cockatoo Island’s industrial and maritime heritage.

You won’t be sorry.