Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A grave error

It came to pass that it was a terrible mistake to remove Sydney's trams. One new line was introduced a good while ago, and extended, and a massively over engineered new line is under construction. Article from the Sydney Morning Herald. Newspapers are making it difficult to copy and paste, so sorry for the formatting. Note: It was known right back in 1958 that if you give more space to cars, it will quickly fill up with cars.
At 1.17am on Saturday, June 29, 1958, passengers crammed the last tram to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge. On the following Monday, the biggest transport switch in Sydney's history occurred with buses completely replacing trams on the north shore. This is how The Sun-Herald reported on the hugely controversial move on June 29, 1958.
Today's closure of the Harbour Bridge tram tracks was criticised last week as "the greatest transport bungle in Sydney's history."
It was called "a political scandal" and "an £8 million blunder."
North Shore mayors, town planners, civic officials and travellers all attacked the Government's decision to convert the bridge tram tracks to a two-lane roadway.
[Closure of the tram lines and their conversion within 18 months to a roadway is part of the changeover of the North Sydney tram system to buses which took place last night.]

Severest test for bridge
Authorities believe peakhour traffic tomorrow will subject the Harbour Bridge to its severest test yet.
Police and Transport Department officials will be on duty in full strength on the Bridge and approaches.
Police advise motorists to leave home a few minutes earlier than usual, but the Transport Department said this would not be necessary for bus travellers, because buses would run faster.

schedules than trams.
The Commissioner for Government Transport, Mr A. A. Shoebridge, said he was "quite confident" the conversion would work smoothly. Critics of the move told "The Sun-Herald:"
• The Government was wasting £6 million in rail facilities being closed up in Wynyard tunnel and on the Bridge.
• The £2 million, two lane roadway would be saturated "as soon as it was opened."
• A record peak-hour traffic jam was likely on the Bridge tomorrow or later this week as 70 extra buses were put on 10 extra North Shore routes to and from the city.
The Mayor of Willoughby Alderman McDowell, said: "Pulling up the bridge tram tracks seems to mean that the last hope of the Warringah Railway ever being built is going out.
"Track installations should be retained. The Department shouldn't do anything irretrievable.
"We wanted them to give the buses a three months' trial, which implies holding the trams in reserve, to see how the changeover works."
The secretary of the Railway for Warringah Committee, Mr C. L. Cotton, said: "The Government is making on £8 million blunder.
"It is wasting assets worth £.6 million in closing up Wynyard tunnel and the rail facilities on the Bridge, and another £2 million on converting to a roadway.
"Traffic figures show the new road will be saturated from the moment it is opened. It will handle 3,000 cars an hour, where electric trains could carry 50,000 passengers.
"Elimination of the space for rail tracks on the Bridge is a political scandal.
"All the North Shore councils, municipalities, and progress associations are up in arms over it.
"We understand that, at the same time as it was announced that trains wouldn't be using the tram tracks, railway engineers completed final plans for quadruplication of the North Shore lines to Chatswood.
"This conversion is the greatest transport bungle in Sydney's history."
The Mayor of Mosman, Ald. R. S. Whybrow, said: "The two-lane roadway Isn't going to relieve congestion; it will only attract more traffic and become saturated.
"I believe buses should terminate at rail heads and ferry wharves, with composite tickets, again."
Among travellers interviewed, one man said: "The trams give us a clear, fast, uninterrupted run from Wynyard to North Sydney.
"At Wynyard we have the shelter of the tunnel in bad weather and the convenience of the shops."
Traffic jams on the Harbour Bridge and its approaches will be far worse than this during peak hours next week, according to critics of the Bridge conversion plan.


  1. The more things change...
    Those headlines wouldn't be out of place here now.

  2. They tore up the train tracks on Cape Cod. These trains brought passengers from Boston to Cape Cod. Now there are only two ways to get onto the Cape. Two bridges. The Bourne Bridge and the Sagamore Bridge. I can tell you that during the summer it takes over 2 hours to go about 4 miles. Sometimes longer. The bicyclists, who now use the former tracks, say it is a lovely diversion for them. But what about traffic? I've mentioned that public transport in New Hampshire is non-existent, but Massachusetts is getting nearly as bad.

    1. Maribeth, I think many of us are aware of the influence of the motor car related lobbyists on the reduction of public transport in the mid twentieth century. It sounds like what you are saying is more recent. But some good things are happening in the US with pubic transport.

  3. Sounds like you're screwed.

    1. Mark, well Sydney was well and truly when the tram system closed down and public transport numbers dropped incredibly.

  4. Anonymous9:14 am

    The railway line from Brisbane to the Gold Coast closed in the early 60s because of political interests and the growing popularity of cars. Now try to park on the GC. Doubtless the locals back then had similar comments to the Sydneysiders. - Ian

    1. Ian, I am aware there was a rail line but I have never looked at the history. At least now there is a train/tram option, but how much better a direct train would be.

  5. What a nightmare reinstalling all this stuff has been. I hope the tracks stay for good now.

    1. Snoskred, the whole process has been criminal and to run a tram line should be quite easy.

  6. The traffic across the bridge from the northern shores is awful, luckily buses have a designated lane to cross the bridge, but still, I think the tram would have been faster.
    Overall (and in my opinion since I only visit and don't live there) Sydney's traffic is awful at any time.

    1. Sami, have visited Sydney many times, I venture that Melbourne's traffic is worse, which is not a competition we want to win.

  7. Who was the idiot that said Buses would run faster schedules than trams? Tsk Tsk.
    So are they planning on reinstating the bridge tram lines along with many others?

    1. River, because trams are a bit like trains, they are taken seriously. Aside from Sydney and to a lesser degree Brisbane, buses aren't taken seriously in Australia. There aren't plans for a new tram line across the bridge, so no.

  8. A fascinating read Andrew. A huge mistake it was. You wouldn't get me driving in Sydney for anything, it's crazy and Melbourne sounds worse. Give me good old Perth traffic any day 😉

    1. Grace, your traffic does flow well, except for in Northbridge on a Friday night.