Monday, 6 April 2015

1994: John Fahey's Vision for Circular Quay

The NSW Election as we know was held recently and one face that you might have recognised during election night coverage and at the Liberal Party Election Launch was former Premier John Fahey (1992-1995).

One topic of regular discussion on Circular Quay during the 1990's was what to do with the Cahill Expressway and to redevelop the precinct. Then Prime Minister Paul Keating wanted it to be pulled down as the recently opened Sydney Harbour Tunnel provided the "first and only opportunity" for it to be removed . In July 1994, he attacked the State Government led by John Fahey for not embracing the opportunity. For the state government, the $450 million cost of demolishing the roadway plus redirecting cars and trains was too cost prohibitive. The money was better off being spent on transport infrastructure across New South Wales.

Keating accused them of lacking vision while branding the roadway an "eyesore". He went further and also said that the state government was unfit to showcase the city for the 2000 Olympic games. Federal government money was offered to make it happen. Still the answer was no. Fahey told The Daily Telegraph in its edition of July 14 1994 that he had made requests for Federal assistance but was ignored.

Fahey wrote exclusively for The Sunday Telegraph the following week (July 17) where he revealed his vision for Circular Quay which included:
  • Replacing Wharf 4 with a public walkway.
  • Reconstruction of the remaining wharves to open up to the harbour.
  • Relocation of bus and taxi stands to allow for the new square.
The cost of works was projected at $40 million. A design competition would also be held. 

While he felt that the Cahill Expressway needed to be pulled down in the long term, it needed to stay for the time being citing demolition costs and redirecting cars and trains as mentioned.  Instead they proposed an upgrade of Circular Quay. One feature was to include an archway as part of improving the concourse area for Circular Quay railway station and creating an open space linking Customs House with the Quay. No outdoor cafes would be in this area. 

      Fahey sydney vision 1994

Source: Fahey, J. 1994. "My vision for our Quay: Main feature an archway promenade." The Sunday Telegraph, July 17: 4 & 5. 

While the archway never became a reality, our wharves did get their makeover, Wharf 4 is still with us and a public square was built outside Customs House. Footpaths along Alfred Street were also enlarged. It was all completed by the Olympic Games in 2000. Those in Sydney at the time would remember it was one of the official CBD live sites broadcasting Olympic events.

The public square at Customs House was one feature of Fahey's 1994 vision that became a reality.
Photo taken by the Author. 

Still in 2015, there are calls to pull the Cahill Expressway down, but no where near the attention it did receive two decades before.