Official Map: Sydney CityRail Network Map

Here’s a map that has been requested quite a few times, but I’ve held off on until now. Having lived in Sydney most of my life, I think it’s difficult to be dispassionate about something I’m so familiar with… but here goes!

Have we been there? You know it!

What we like: Clear and easy to understand. Different types of services are denoted well, but in a nicely understated way: grey lines with coloured ticks that relate to the suburban lines they share track with for intercity routes works very well. Thinner, subordinate lines for country bus routes also share their colour with their related train route, carrying a nice “colour equals compass direction” theme through the whole map.

Comprehensive legend and a well-considered set of explanatory icons. The grid and corresponding list of stations is a nice usability touch for those less familiar with the system.

What we don’t like: Some terribly cramped station names, especially on the Illawarra Line between Arncliffe and Jannali. In fact, the unevenness of station name spacing throughout the whole map is one of its biggest flaws.

Part of this comes from having to show all CityRail services, all the way out to far-distant destinations. Goulburn (at the bottom left) is almost 200km (125 miles) from the centre of Sydney! Older CityRail maps concentrated solely on the suburban area of Sydney, with arrows and text indicating service to distant points, which gave the map more room to breathe. I’m not saying that a map like this one isn’t important, but it could be supplemented by a second map that deals with just the city.

The other main failing of the map is its attempt to place a diagrammatic representation of the network onto a “geographical” background. I’ll tell you now - Sydney’s coastline looks nothing like this. Everything is horribly distorted and the difference in style between angled diagram and “naturalistic” coast is jarring to my eye.

Our rating: Despite a couple of major problems, this map still manages to take a large, sprawling commuter and interurban rail system (plus buses and light rail!) and make it clearly understood. Clean design and nice colour choices help a lot (the Bankstown Line looks much better in orange than its old brown). Three-and-a-half stars.

3.5 Stars

(Source: CityRail website)

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