It was announced on Friday that the NSW government has purchased Metro Transport Sydney, the owner/operator of the Sydney monorail, as well as the light rail (tram). The reasons cited in the media (see http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/onceinageneration-opportunity-to-fix-transport-20120323-1vnss.html for example) are to get around a clause in the contract with Metro Transport that says they have first right to any extension to the light rail network. More significantly though, they plan to demolish the monorail as it is near life-end, and stands in the way of a proposed redevelopment of the Sydney Convention Centre.
With no plans, and a sunny day, I thought it a good opportunity to record some memories of the monorail whilst it is still running.
Having been in Sydney for nigh on 15 years, the monorail has always been there. I arrived too late for the apparent protests, and to hear the reasoning behind it. Something that seems to be put forward in the reports of its demise though is that it never worked as a serious transport option. Of course it didn’t – it is low capacity, low frequency, expensive, and despite coming close in some cases, it just doesn’t cover key areas of the city it needs to in order to be effective public transport (the last point can be said of the light rail also, but that’s another story).
My feeling is a better route would have been to turn from Liverpool Street into George Street with a stop by the cinemas, and another stop as a psuedo-interchange with Town Hall station. It could then turn right onto Park Street, left onto Pitt Street, and continue through Pitt Street Mall with a station there. Then run it down King Street, have a station near King Street wharf, then back up to Pyrmont Bridge. This would add three key “in your face” stations, and let’s face it in Sydney if it’s not in your face, it doesn’t exist (CityRail stations aside as people don’t have a choice).
Because of this lack of commuter convience it was consigned to be a tourist gimmick, but it largely failed at that also. It connects the touristy areas of the Pyrmont Bridge, through Darling Harbour, and Chinatown, but when I say through Darling Harbour I really mean behind it. This has two problems – it can’t advertise its existence very well when it’s hidden away behind buildings, and it greatly limits views of tourist appeal – aside from the run across Pyrmont Bridge the tourist actually see bugger all of interest. Instead it needed to run through the pedestrian area of Darling Harbour to give the tourists a view, and to be seen to attract more patronage. Again the same can be said of the light rail, though it is easier with the monorail as it is elevated out of pedestrian’s paths.
The entry price was another downside – $5.00 regardless of distance, but once you leave the station that’s it. I would suggest maybe $3.50 – 4.00 would have been better, with an option of an all day pass for about $8.00 to allow people to hop on and off as they pleased. With more people you require more services however – yesterday I noted there were only three sets operating. I read elsewhere two sets are out of service, and that seems in line with other parts of the system.
Anyway, it’s all a moot point – the decision has been made, and something I’ve always considered a part of Sydney is soon to be gone.