Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Yellow Peril

Yellow Peril
The December 2012 brochure contained a single paragraph titled Sydney's Rail Future asserting "in the longer term, the second Harbour rail crossing and new CBD line will see the network carry up to 100,000 more people an hour..." A year later the government clarified this with the diagram showing a yellow stain slooshing from the North Shore rump over the whole of the CBD, with the exception of Barangaroo, and God knows how far south. This was the only information available about this project until Baird announced the if he was elected for the first time he would consider he had a mandate to privatise the urban power distribution network and cited the project as his main justification for turning a public utility into a private monopoly. It was stated that the apparently-separate tunnels would to the west of the Harbour Bridge and Baird speculated that there could be a station at Barangaroo. Diagrams issued by the government confirmed that the single-deck trains would exit the CBD along the four track Erskineville rail link but it was unclear whether they would take over two of the tracks or be built as a tunnel. I discussed this in a previous post in February "Gladys's bottom of the Harbour Scheme".

The only information we have on the project is a crudely drawn map with dots supposedly representing possible stops as in the announcement of the tram project. We will once again be forced to use deductions to comment on a project that, God forbid, we will be paying for in higher electricity prices for the next 99 years.
As far as can be made out from the crude maps released be Premier Baird the rail tunnel will be between McMahons Point and Millers Point. This is the deepest part of the Harbour.
The depth from the bedrock to the surface of the ocean is more than 40 metres as can be seen from the diagram left. Now that Baird's North Shore Federal colleagues have made Australia the only advanced country that does not have any policies to deal with global warming this depth can be expected to increase. Despite this Baird has released infantile diagrams that show the depth of the base of the proposed tunnels through the bedrock under the Harbour to be only 40 metres.

Spurious cross-section
The Public Servants appointed to Transport for NSW have a history of making convenient assertions that can be shown to be physically impossible but in the absence of any development work on the project Baird can make any assertions he likes. Baird is out of his depth, but what can one do?

The CBD Metro 1: the original and best

CBD Metro 1
The CBD Metro has been around for many years since it was first sold to the Iemma government in 2008. The metro tunnel was to have passed under the narrow and shallow entrance to Darling Harbour and looped to the north to include stations just north of Wynyard Station and under Castlereagh Street, north of Martin Place. Baird has hastily redirected the metro alignment to, you guessed it, the North Shore after the previous metro was abandoned by the Keneally Government in February 2010, without any explanation.
Maccas Park Street building

The Keneally government had begun a process of compulsory acquisitions of properties costing half a billion dollars to provide exits from the stations - one of which was to have been the heritage building in Park Street which is now a McDonalds restaurant. The Criterion Theatre on the south side was demolished to widen Park Street.

Town Hall Metro station
The metro alignment presumably passed under the Eastern Suburbs rail line swerving from under Castlereagh Street at Martin Place to under Pitt Street at Town Hall and back again to under Castlereagh Street. The crude map released by Baird has dots at the same places at Martin Place and Town Hall, but a lot has changed since the metro was abandoned. The blue strip along the red rail alignment was an area where there were restrictions on property developments so the foundations of buildings would not be undermined by the tunnels. Once the metro was abandoned property developers lost no time in proceeding with developments over the former alignment.

The critical parts of the alignment were where the rail tunnels crossed between Castlereagh and Pitt Streets. The metro tunnels would have to pass over the top of the Cross City tunnels, separate tunnels under Park and Bathurst Street with an additional ventilation tunnel.

Cross City Tunnel

In 2008 the sites between Castlereagh and Pitt Streets north of Park Street were a Greater Union cinema and a two-storey arcade as well as buildings dating back to the nineteenth century such as the Maccas building. These have been replaced by the ANZ Tower with the developer's two-storey penthouse at the top. The underground car park is accessed from Pitt Street and is set back against Pitt Street because of height restrictions to minimise overshadowing of Hyde Park.

The Westfield site that amalgamated Centrepoint with the Imperial Arcade and the arcade adjacent to the Glass House arcade that was to have had a group of smaller buildings around the Sydney Tower now has a cylindrical Office tower with a sloping top to conform with requirements to limit overshadowing of Hyde Park at odd times of the day in winter. All the allowed parking allocation for the site was consolidated in the basement of this building.

The Sky Lobby of the office tower is at the uppermost level of the retail and restaurant podium and was open to the public during the last Sydney Open. One of the columns of the tower does not reach down to the bedrock with diagonal columns taking loads to adjacent columns.

The helpful Sydney Open volunteer pointed out that there were five retail levels and a number of parking levels down from the lobby - the depth of the excavation is the main claim of fame for the building! The Liberal government did not do anything in more than three years to protect a rail tunnel alignment passing from Castlereagh to Pitt Street.

Westfield Office Tower
Now Baird has based his political future on projecting himself as Infrastructure Boy. There are a string of unanswered questions that he must surely be asked to account for before the election. He must be asked how he will connect the dots. This will be the focus of subsequent posts.

1 comment:

  1. Conceptually to Sydney Metro was a great idea, a genuine mass transit line from Rouse Hill to Malabar via Rozelle, CBD etc, unlike the ill conceived SE Light Rail.