In the 1959 UK/USA movie The Giant Behemoth, a blatant Godzilla ripoff, a rampaging sea monster emerges from the Thames in London to run riot, destroying all in its furious path. Sounds familiar? Many would say it’s an appropriate metaphor for the high cost of infrastructure that currently overwhelms the city of Sydney and its surrounds.
Not just the cost in dollars and the impact on many small businesses but the social cost that major construction works inevitably entail. Once unleashed by various State Governments, these massive projects certainly take on a life of their own, sustained by what seems a constant injection of tax payer’s cash and almost a total disregard for those they impact – like homeowners in the path of the horrendous WestConnex.
In The Giant Behemoth, the seemingly unstoppable monster is finally subdued with a torpedo filled with radium fired by a midget sub in the Thames, but in the Sydney experience immediately as one construction monster is complete another quickly arises to take its place.
Only this week a leaked document put the cost of the revamp of Sydney’s Central Station at over three billion dollars with a series of upgrades and additions spread over a supposed twenty year period. The makeover promises to effectively take us back to the days when all trains stopped at Central and it was the true gateway to the City. In the days before Town Hall and Wynyard the phrase “getting off at Redfern” was slang for a contraceptive act – but is of course meaningless today. But I digress!
Included in the three billion dollar budget is a planned ‘modernisation’ of the Devonshire Street Tunnel, for years an iconic piece of this city’s history and home to countless buskers and panhandlers. Any commuter stroll through the tunnel is an instant exposure to the mass of multi-cultural humanity which make up this city and a true socially interactive experience. Please don’t put in a moving footpath that accelerates the experience to half the time normally taken. Power points for buskers to plug in their amps, however would be a welcome addition.
And then of course there’s the light rail – not so much a sea monster but more a slithering giant anaconda that has snaked through the city and nearby suburbs with a paralysing grip. Whilst countries like Japan and China can build this kind of infrastructure in what seems like half the time, our own light rail project appears to be in perpetual slow motion. Let’s hope the actual trams run a lot faster.
Any walk down George Street is now a most dispiriting exercise. It’s like the soul has been ripped out of the heart of the city and replaced with endless orange coloured barricades bedecked with dusty Council messages telling us that they are building Sydney’s future or inviting us to grab a coffee at a nearby shop which has probably closed down anyway due to lack of business. Rubbish piles high on the barricades and street sweepers do their best to keep the pedestrian walkways not looking like a rubbish dump.
Can we at least have a big countdown clock, strategically positioned on the front of the Sydney Town Hall, counting down the days until the first light rail carriages rattle their way down George Street? At least this would place some perspective and reassurance on what seems like an interminable wait for completion.