|Article by Harvey Glickenstein|
|On 18 February 2019, Keolis Downer—the Australian subsidiary of the French company Keolis that operates the oldest tram network in the world—started operation of a new light-rail line in the New South Wales city of Newcastle. Testing was performed by 14 drivers, who operated the vehicles for more than 1,000 trips over more than 6,000 mi.
The light-rail system operates between Wickham and Pacific Park, with four intermediate stations between the city and its waterfront. The 1.7-mi-long system is powered through overhead catenary only at the stations. The onboard supercapacitor energy system is recharged at the stations in just 23 s.
The light-rail vehicles are 108 ft long, with a capacity of 270 passengers. They are fully accessible, with a low floor design, and fitted with surfboard racks.
Keolis Downer took over maintenance and operation of the 174-bus and two-ferry Newcastle public transit system on 1 July 2017. On 18 February 2019, the new light-rail system went into revenue service after testing by 14 drivers, who operated the vehicles for more than 1,000 trips over more than 6,000 mi.
In Australia, Keolis Downer operates the light-rail system in Melbourne (the largest and oldest tram network in the world) as well as the light-rail system along the Australian Gold Coast, the most recent new light-rail system in Australia before the Newcastle system went into service.
Keolis is 70% owned by the Société nationale des chemins de fer français (the French national railroad) and 30% owned by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. It has subsidiaries in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, India, Luxembourg, Norway, The Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.