City Hub

Central tunnel busking ban signs “not authorised” by Sydney Trains

One of the signs posted in the Central tunnel. Photo: Nick McHardy, via Twitter.

By James Elton-Pym

Signs posted at Central station last month banning busking without a permit in the Devonshire Street tunnel were “not authorised” by Sydney Trains despite bearing the organisation’s official logo, a spokesperson has revealed.

The official-looking signs declared busking, begging and “conducting business” in the tunnel were prohibited without a permit from Sydney Trains.

The signs vanished without explanation around a week after they first appeared in mid-February.

“Sydney Trains does not require permits for busking in the Devonshire Street tunnel,” a Sydney Trains spokesperson told City Hub.

“The sign in question was not authorised by Sydney Trains and was removed as soon it was brought to our attention.”

Sydney rapper NJ Edwards said he busked in the tunnel every week before the signs popped up. He averaged three performances each week and earned about $100 each time.

“It pretty much took away my rent,” he said.

“I walked past [where the signs were] the other day and they have gone … so I guess it’s back on. I’ll probably go test it out later this week.”

The spokesperson would not disclose whether Sydney Trains knew who was responsible for the signs.

Social media users mocked the organisation for a misspelling on at least one of the signs which had “business” written as “bussiness”.

“They looked a bit shonky I have to say. I mean they looked legit, but normally if something’s approved by the station it would look more official,” Mr Edwards said, in response to Sydney Trains disavowing the signs.

Andrea Dell, a graphic designer who walks the tunnel most days to get to work in Surry Hills, said she was “outraged” by the signs and “didn’t believe one word” of Sydney Trains’ disownment.

“I think they realised pretty quickly that it was extremely unpopular and removed it, but sadly the damage is done and now very very few buskers have returned,” she said.

“I love the buskers, even the bad ones. I see familiar faces everyday and interact with some regularly … I noticed instantly that they weren’t there.”

The apparent crackdown on buskers was quickly condemned on Twitter. “RIP busking 1906 – 2015. Devonshire St tunnel now devoid of talented musicians #nothappy #musicisdead #sydneytrains,” radio presenter Nick McHardy wrote. Another user said the signs had made the tunnel “eerily quiet”.

One Instagram user ridiculed the idea of asking for a licence to beg: “May I have a begging permit please!! Beg your pardon.”

The Devonshire Street tunnel runs all the way from Ultimo to Surry Hills and serves as a major thoroughfare for train commuters getting off at Central. The high volume of foot traffic has made it a popular spot for buskers.

Mr Edwards said buskers never had to queue for a place in the tunnel, unlike at the Pitt Street Mall hotspot where wait times of several hours are common.

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