Monorail to make way for light rail?

Posted: January 11, 2012 in Transport
Tags: , , , ,

It is looking more and more likely that Sydney’s troubled monorail will be removed from CBD. Sydney City Council has wanted the monorail removed to make way for light rail, with Lord Mayor Clover Moore having opposed the monorail ever since it was first built back in the late 80s when she was the local state MP (see video below). Now it appears that the state government is also shifting to a position to tear down the monorail, having told the redevelopers of the Entertainment Centre (through which the monorail passes through) “don’t let the monorail constrain your thinking”.

The history of the monorail dates back to the 80s, when redevelopment of Darling Harbour (along with neighbouring Pyrmont and Ultimo) was a major urban renewal project designed to co-incide with bicentenary celebrations planned for 1988. Part of this urban renewal included plans for a new transport link into the area. The choice came down to light rail or a monorail. The decision to ultimately go with the monorail appears to have been a political one, motivated by the minister responsible Laurie Brereton, who took responsibility for the project out of the committee and into his own hands. A detailed SMH article explaining the behind the scenes events that led up to this was published in 1988 notes that the light rail option was described as the “best long-term solution” but that the monorail was chosen because Mr Brereton personally supported it, as did Premier Neville Wran.

Pitt Street

Pitt Street is currently a one way street with 2 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes (one on each side). The monorail pylons prevent the lane on the left from being turned back into a traffic lane. Click on image for higher resolution. (Source: Google Maps)

A light rail line would eventually be built in 1997 between Central and Lilyfield which is now being extended through to Dulwich Hill. The current O’Farrell state government has also pledged to extend this further through the CBD (most likely down George Street), to Sydney University and to UNSW. However, putting the light rail on George Street would mean re-diverting some traffic down other streets (potentially removing all private vehicle traffic altogether from portions of George Street) and one option is to make Pitt Street a two way street again by removing the monorail’s pylons from the ground and thus allowing a constant flow of traffic along what is now a parking lane only (see image).

I had previously supported the idea of keeping the monorail, it’s already been built and runs at no expense to tax payers. But if removing it in order to replace it with a more effective and more efficient light rail system would improve transport options, then I think it’s a good move.

  1. Jim says:

    It would be a shame to see it go. It is a tourist attraction, one of the few in the world. It’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t actually go anywhere.

  2. The monorail is an abomination. Good riddance!

  3. […] that owns the monorail and light rail. Now back in public ownership, the government plans to tear down the monorail as part of its redevelopment of the Entertainment Centre, while also making it much easier for the government to go forward with its planned expansion of […]

  4. It’s definitely a nice tourist attraction (something I always encourage friends to have a ride on when travelling to Sydney), but there are 2 main problems which have resulted in its eventual demise:

    1. It needs millions of dollars in investment to repair and replace the infrastructure and trains. The private owners held off on making these expenditures, no doubt on the assumption that it might one day be torn down and had little potential for growth (in fact, I understand usage had been dropping).

    2. Even though it ran without tax payer subsidy, the pylons used up valuable road space in the CBD, particularly on Pitt Street. The existence of these pylons forced lanes into parking lanes at all times of the day, and could not be used as bus lanes or general traffic lanes during peak hour to ease congestion. So really, it did operate at a cost to the public, and it was decided that the benefit of light rail in those lanes was much greater than monorail pylons (and parking spaces) in those lanes.

    All that said, part of me will miss it when it’s gone.

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