“We are seeing a few near misses. We don’t want to see a tragedy for the sake of being distracted by your mobile or trying to beat the tram at an intersection,” she said.
Ms Prendergast warned further increases in the frequency of trams for the timetable simulation from mid-November raised the potential for crashes.
“Because we have had roads closed [for construction], we have had behaviours develop where people just don’t expect anything to be running. We need people to realise that it is real, and you have to look both ways,” she said.
The most common incidents are pedestrians stepping in front of trams – and in some cases people walking into the side of them – and cars blocking intersections, preventing trams from crossing.
Taxis and ride-sharing vehicles have also been stopping on the tracks, which is likely to result in firms using so-called geo-fencing to direct their customers to other pick-up locations.
Ms Prendergast, a 35-year veteran of the state’s transport agencies, said the opening was a bigger challenge than the start of passenger services on Sydney’s $7.3 billion Metro Northwest rail line in May, partly because crowd management plans had to be developed for every tram stop.
“It is the most complex operation I have ever seen – it’s harder than the Olympics. The Olympics were two weeks and you could close anything,” she said. “We have got this brand new bit of infrastructure and a major new operation about to start, running through the centre of a very live city.”
Ms Prendergast said the first six months of operations would be treated as a chance to bed them in, which had been a key lesson from the opening of the metro rail line.
Part of the reason for delaying major changes to the bus network is that trams will not start running to Kingsford, and past the University of NSW on Anzac Parade, until March.
Express buses during peak periods will be maintained after the opening, but others are set for a shake-up due to the increase in capacity from trams.
The proposed changes to the bus network will be opened to community feedback.
Matt O’Sullivan is the Transport Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.