Opinion Pieces: Tunnel Vision

Opinion Pieces: since 2007, Prof. David Hensher has written an opinion column in the Australasian Bus and Coach magazine, where he monthly discusses a lot of different transport-related hot topics. In this section we are revisiting these columns.
July 2011
A hot topic in Sydney is tunnels. Not tunnels, for cars but finding the many unused or improperly used tunnels under Sydney’s Central Business District. In a recent article I wrote of opportunities to ‘solve’ some of Sydney’s surface chaos in York Street where buses from the northern side of Sydney all converge after crossing the Harbour Bridge. In addition to buses that are actually in service, we have a number of buses ‘not in service’ due to the need to be repositioned under the contract arrangements in place. Indeed one strong message from the chaos is the restrictions that the current contract arrangements have in limiting the fuller use of the service capacity entering and leaving the CBD.
Why can we not put the bus station underground, with access soon after coming across the Bridge and just before entering the York Street precinct? Especially since we believe that there is a tunnel system in place that was designed for the railway in the Bradfield era but never used for that purpose, which recently has become a long car park. It makes very good sense, since we simply have run out of surface ideas to solve this problem.
The suggestion that we can rid of the buses by introducing light rail into the CBD is simply not tenable, unless light rail goes across the harbor bridge and extends well into suburbia. What people hate is a transfer, especially between two public transport modes, and that will be required if light rail is built and used to remove many of the bus services in the CBD.
So let us encourage a consideration of a substantial underground bus terminal with efficient lifts to and from the surface in an environment in which the air is protected from emissions and which will enable the CBD to do some nice pedestrian and bike solutions on the surface. There appears to be a growing interest in this from some stakeholders and I encourage all stakeholders with influence to promote this idea.
Food for thought
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