Monday, 21 May 2018

1988: The Monorail & Sydney

When talking about the Monorail in Sydney, we must have an obligatory reference to The Simpsons .

Last week, I shared content on the opening of the Monorail in 1988, but the question needs to be asked:

What was the impact of the monorail on Sydney? 

The impact of the monorail will depend on whether you supported it or opposed it.

This is my summary of the positives and benefits that the monorail bought to Sydney.

  • It initially was the main public transport option to travel from the city to Darling Harbour, though ferry, bus and light rail connections followed.
  • A mode of transport free from congestion. It didn't require road space that a bus or tram would need.
  • Big appeal for visitors to Sydney and families. Many travellers were tourists.

  • Fares when compared to travel on other modes was higher.
  • It was just as easy and quick to walk to Darling Harbour. 
  • Impact on the streetscape - it blocked views from the street of city buildings.
  • Only connected Darling Harbour with "midtown". It didn't serve other areas of the Sydney CBD. An expansion was mooted but did not eventuate further than a drawing board.
  • Cost of maintenance was an ongoing concern. 
  • Didn't cater for day to day commuters.
Some of the monorail stations are still with us five years after closure with virtually no plans to remove them or adapt them to new uses. The most notable one is at Darling Park, where it appears suspended in mid-air. 

While I liked the monorail for giving a futuristic touch to Sydney streets and made the street appear active, it seems that the monorail bought more negatives to Sydney than benefits.

I believe it was in the planning of the monorail that caused its demise. It needed to connect Darling Harbour to the entire city centre, not just "midtown" or even sent it through Pyrmont. A bigger network might mean that we still have the monorail.

Non Sydneysiders and fans may lament its departure, Sydneysiders, in general, have moved on as there are greater transport needs to focus on, than maintaining a monorail that served a limited area of the city.

In the end, it contributed little to transport in Sydney, apart from shuttling tourists from the city to and from Darling Harbour.

What if Nick Greiner's plan to reroute the line through Kent Street had proceeded?

Apart from a cost blowout on top of the existing blowout, it would have hastened its demise. The Kent Street option would have had poorer connections with rail and bus services at Town Hall. The advantage of Pitt Street also improved access for those connecting with buses on Elizabeth and Castlereagh Streets.

In addition, there would be no station near the Pitt Street Mall, which was evolving into a popular city destination.

Why did it get pulled down?

Above: Ten News Report from March 23, 2012, announcing the plans by the NSW Government to close the monorail.

The O'Farrell Government decided in 2012 to remove the monorail within "five years" for the following reasons:

  • Increasing maintenance costs and upgrades were financially unviable. 
  • Decreasing patronage
  • Seen as hindering the expansion of public transport in central Sydney.
  • Hindering plans to redevelop the Sydney Exhibition & Convention Centre.
It only cost $20 million for the state to purchase the entire network from operator Metro Transport Sydney (MTS), but also landed the entire light rail network as part of the package. 

Above: ABC News Report from June 30, 2013, on the Monorail's final day of operation.

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