NEWCASTLE light rail has proven more than just a hit on its opening day with an average of 4259 trips taken on each day of operation in February, according to Transport for NSW data.
Opal card data released by Transport for NSW on Monday shows 46,849 trips were taken on the line in 11 days during February, after passenger journeys started on Monday, February 18.
The numbers more than double estimates in state cabinet documents in 2013, which forecast patronage of 1800 passengers a day, or 657,000 a year.
While the data may be inflated by those who took joy rides to inspect the city's new mode of transport, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance told the Newcastle Herald on Monday the government had always believed the service would be popular in the city.
“I am so pleased Novocastrians have embraced the Newcastle light rail," he said.
"This is a world-class transport system which offers locals and tourists an easy and convenient way to get around the city.
"We always said Newcastle would embrace light rail and it’s exciting to see there have been almost 47,000 passenger trips in its first 11 days.”
Keolis Downer director corporate affairs Andrew Fletcher said he was not surprised by the figures as light rail services around the world had shown they were often a hit from day one.
"It's extremely pleasing to see how customers have taken to light rail in Newcastle, locals and visitors alike," he said.
"Certainly some of the feedback we've got from east end businesses is that they've seen more tourists down that end of town and utilising the light rail.
"I think most pleasing is that we've certainly converted new public transport users.
"We know that more people are using light rail than were previously using the 110 bus service, for example, to move around the city."
The patronage figures are a shot in the arm for what has been considered an at times troubled project.
Newcastle Transport operator Keolis Downer had two trams break down in a matter of days in the first week of operation.
Services also began running at reduced intervals because of the early launch of the line.
However on the first day of passenger services, commuters transferring off trains at Newcastle Interchange piled onto the new trams.
That came a day after about 15,000 attended the community day and spoke of their enthusiasm for light rail.
Journeys on that day were free and passengers were not required to tap on or off with their Opal cards.
As such, trips taken on that day were not recorded as part of the official Opal data.