Friday, June 28, 2013

Roll up, roll up, for your last ride

Sydney's monorail inspires both love and hatred and it seems the haters have won. The last public rides will be on the thirtieth of June, this Sunday, and it will then be dismantled with little prospect of seeing operation again. As useful public transport, it was a miserable failure. As a tourist attraction, it worked well enough. As an attractive addition to Sydney's Street, it was ghastly.

I have been on it more times than I care to remember, usually to get to Darling Harbour or the Chinese Gardens, but sometimes just within the city. The first issue is it only goes one way. Fine if you want to go one way, but if you want to go back one station, you are forced to do almost a full circuit Wikipedia tells me a circuit takes 12 minutes. I don't believe that at all, or maybe it just seems to take forever. Apparently it is actually 15 minutes.

At times there were paper tickets to travel, other times tokens had to be bought and the last time I rode it, I paid at a vending machine.

Most of what is below is from the Sydney Morning Herald.

The late Nobel Laureate Patrick White hated it and campaigned vigorously against its construction - ''one of many autocratic farces perpetuated by the powerful on our citizens,'' in his words.

Who else of note campaigned against it? Well, quite a few, magazine publisher Ita Buttrose, actor Ruth Cracknell, unionist and Green Ban activist Jack Mundy, architect Harry Seidler and even Nick Greiner who went on to become State Premier some years later. 

An alternative to the construction of the monorail was a light rail system connecting Circular Quay with Central (station) via Darling Harbour. The light rail was supported by he National Trust, environmental groups and public transport advocates, along with the then State Planning and Environment Minister, Bob Carr, now Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs. Whether that would have been particularly useful as public transport is unknown to me, but it would have been better than the monorail Sydney ended up with.


So in spite of strong expert advice against the monorail, Sit Peter Abels' company TNT, a good friend to the ruling Labor Party at the time, was awarded the construction contract by Minister for Public Works, Laurie Brereton. 

The monorail never had the numbers of traveller predicted and did not return a profit on the capital invested. The State Government bought it from an investment company last year and is now closing it down. Suddenly it has become popular and bookings are needed on the last rides.

18 comments:

  1. I can see how a train that only goes one way might be a deterrent, then again, on a regular line if you miss your stop, you have to detrain and get to the opposite side of the station and wait for one going back, so staying on the monorail for another 15 minutes to get to where you want doesn't seem too bad.

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    1. Quite true River, although I doubt you could relax enough to miss your stop on the monorail.

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    2. I can relax anywhere, witness me falling asleep on the bus...

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    3. Stinking hot River in spite of inadequate air con, crying kids, crowds and vehicle noise. I am not sure you would.

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  2. Harsh words indeed but GOOD RIDDANCE!!!!

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    1. America bought London Bridge Ian, how about monorail for New York? Ah, they had overhead trains and pulled most of them down.

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  3. I have lived in Sydney all my life but never rode on the monorail, I always walk around Sydney it's faster most of the time, I like to wonder and check out everything.
    Merle..........

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    1. Merle, too true. It is faster to walk usually, but I think a ride on it is something you should do once, if only to say you hate it.

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  4. "One of many autocratic farces perpetuated by the powerful on our citizens" ...what did White mean by that? In any case, as long as the mono-rail isn't replaced by more Sydney buses (which stink and drive like lunatics).

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    1. I thought it was clear Hels. In spite of common sense and professional advice, the monorail went ahead to profit Abels. I think that was what White was about. Sydney buses have improved.

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  5. I rode the monorail for the first and only time last year out of interest having boycotted it previously. It was cramped and stuffy and expensive and you couldn't see much through the dirty, scratched windows. It had very little to recommend it, in my view.

    Ironically, Greiner having criticised its construction as Opposition leader ended up opening it having moved into the Government in the meantime.

    Light rail would have been a much better option especially if went somewhere useful and, of course, we now have plans for light rail nearby.

    Hels, have you travelled on a Sydney bus lately? Most of the busses are new, or nearly new and I think quite good. I enjoy travelling on them. As for them being driven like lunatics there would be few routes where the traffic is light enough - during daytime anyway - for that happen. There is still some old bus stock, being phased out, which I agree is in pretty poor condition.

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    1. Perfectly summed up Victor.

      Greiner found it too expensive to stop.

      Light rail would have be better, but it would have been a circuitous route from Central to the Quay. Your Glad's George Street plan is good.

      My first memory of Sydney buses is when Wran bought all these new buses, which were good at the time but without air con. I loved the way the drivers were so aggressive between town and Bondi Junction along Oxford Street etc. Maybe the buses weren't so powerful, but the drivers could make them roar out into the traffic and their driving skills and judgement was excellent. Back then many drivers were Indo Chinese.

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  6. I recall taking a quick trip on the monorail quite a few years ago now. It seemed a bit pointless even to me as a tourist. I seem to recall thinking that it felt like I was in Disneyland!

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    1. Craig, an amusement park ride describes it well.

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  7. It was a bit of a flop. It did make the streets look ugly. However, we did use it a few times when we were tourists in Sydney to get to Darling harbour. It seemed okay for that kind of travel. The most exciting thing about it is that it was built in TOH's home town in Switzerland. There is one on the Gold Coast too which is pretty useless.

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    1. Diane, the Swiss seem very adept at building strange train and rail systems. I guess they have to be in such a mountainous country. I did not know there is one on the GC. Tits on a bull, comes to mind. Even as a tourist, the Sydney Monorail was painful if you were trying to get around without knowledge of local buses.

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  8. I can see how Sydney siders thought it was a bit of an eyesore, I would too if it was in Perth, .but I did enjoy my few trips on it ..

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    1. Grace, it is on rails and it is public transport, so of course I enjoyed it too, but its time has passed.

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