|11- Future Tunnels|
|THE MANLY RAILWAY
Douglas Darby, a local member of parliament for Manly, best-known for his scheme to
bring about world peace by teaching the Chinese to play cricket, also had another pipe dream. This one involved building some tunnels as part of a railway from Manly to Pittwater, a distance of sixteen kilometres.
In 1970, he came out with concrete proposals for three-metre tunnels under Fairlight
Hill and under the Brookvale-Dee Why Saddle and the Collaroy Heights Massif. The mini-railway proposed by Darby would have whisked passengers from a new space-age ferry terminal at Manly at speeds of 120 kph to waiting hydrofoils at Pittwater which would carry passengers on to Gosford. Only about half a dozen houses would have needed to be demolished as half the route was to be in tunnels and the rest in parkland.
However, the government of the day gave no encouragement for the scheme and in 1972 it j was dropped.
THE HARBOUR TUNNEL (written c. 1980)
The most enduring tunnel proposals concern the Harbour tunnel. In 1978, the Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran, came out with a proposal for a $500 million tunnel. But because of the long history of Harbour tunnel proposals, nobody was holding their breath.
Sydney Harbour tunnel proposals don't go back as far as the ill-fated English Channel tunnel which can be traced back to Napoleon, but they do go back nearly a hundred years.
The idea is perfectly feasible. A six-kilometre tunnel under Sydney Harbour is only a baby compared with the 53.9 kilometre Seikan Tunnel in Japan. Moreover, the expertise of the consortium that built the $60-million, two-kilometre Hong Kong tunnel and made it a commercial success is available to build a Sydney tunnel. However, people have been proposing, considering, and rejecting Sydney Harbour tunnels since the 1890s.
Sydney’s traffic nearing the end of the nineteenth century was becoming chaotic. Roads were choked with bullock waggons, hansom cabs, drays and horsedrawn carriages. It was the shape of things to come nearly 100 years later with the Harbour Bridge choked with
traffic and the public calling for more Harbour crossings. Irate readers wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald in the 1880s complaining about the
long delays while waiting for the punt that carried vehicular traffic from Milsons Point to Circular Quay.
Then in 1896, investigations were made into a plan to link the city and North Shore with ii tunnels to ease the traffic flow. The scheme was the brainchild of the late Sir John Sulman, Sydney architect, town planner and patron of the arts. The plan evisaged an electric underground railway between Milsons Point @d King Street, city, which it was stated would entice many people to leave their carriages at home. Sir John's plans also envisaged a vehicular tunnel between Milsons Point and Circular Quay. Parliamentarians and voters were shocked by the proposed cost of the tunnels, estimated at more than £600 000. But it I came in an era where a man could be clothed from head to foot for under £2 and beer was 3d. a pint. Details of the tunnel scheme appeared in the Sydney Mail of 30 May 1896 in a full page illustrated story headed "The Proposed Harbour Tunnels". It stated that the scheme was one of several before State parliament. In the scheme for the electric railway, three stations were proposed, Milsons Point, Circular Quay, and King Street. They were to be reached from street level by large hydraulic lifts capable of carrying 100 passengers.
Each train was to consist of two or more carriages which were to be "brilliantly lit by electricity". The cars were to be connected by "American telescopic gangways". Estimated journey time between Milsons Point and King Street was four minutes. In the present day, time is emphatically money and such quiet transport is a boon the public would quickly appreciate," the Sydney Mail stated. The proposed railway tunnel was not to be within twelve metres of any point so as not ! to interfere with any "sewers, gas, water, or other pipes or channels". Nor would it interfere with the telegraph or telephone systems of the city, it was claimed. The greater part of the tunnel was to be excavated from solid rock and lined with concrete. Under the Harbour, the tunnel would pass through clay and would be lined with cast-iron plates. When he appeared before a Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly to explain his plan, Sir \ John claimed that the ventilation of the tunnels would be perfect. The report said that while the electric railway would provide only a quick passenger traffic there could be also a need for "a better means of passing vehicular traffic than the present punt service". "To meet this a bill has just been introduced in the Legislative Assembly . . . for a vehicular tunnel, 27 feet in diameter between Circular Quay and Milsons Point, although at the present time the revenues from the punt traffic would not pay interest on such a scheme", the resulting report said. "But if the facilities are provided, it is believed that the traffic will so increase that in a few years a moderate dividend would be earned, as the
total outlay is comparatively low, being indeed not one-fourth the cost of a bridge that would not impede shipping." The plans provided for the vehicular tunnel to enter rock
under Phillip Street, just in front of Goldsbrough Mort and Co's wool store and descend from there at a uniform grade of one in 27 under Albert Street at the Quay.
Turning left under the Domain, it was planned to reach the Harbour under Macquarie Point (the site of today's Sydney Opera House). It would run level until it reached the
North Shore, then rise at a grade of 1 in 26 and, turning left under Campbell Street, it
would finally surface near Water Street, and the Milsons Point railway station. Easy access was planned for higher ground near Alfred Street, North Sydney, by a new road at a grade of 1 in 26 skirting lavender Bay and traversing for most of the way ground which was then virtually bushland.
The grade was to be easy so that heavily loaded trucks could negotiate it "with the greatest facility".
The vehicular tunnel was to be finished with glazed bricks or tiles used in the Blackwall Tunnel then being built under the Thames, London. One of the plans to raise money for the tunnels was to charge tolls for vehicles. foot passengers and animals.
The authorities were still recommending train tunnels under the Harbour in 1909 -and in 1912, when it had been decided to build a bridge, they turned their attention to a tunnel to the Western Suburbs under Darling Harbour from Millers Point.
Even Bradfield, the man who designed and built the Sydney Harbour Bridge, had a soft
spot for tunnels. Not content with the city underground which he built in the 1920s, he wanted to see tunnels through Sydney for Eastern, Western, and Northern Suburbs railways. He was also keen on underground tramways.
Yet the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 was only a temporary set back to would-be tunnelers. By the 1950s congestion on the bridge was already bad and the tunnellers emerged with their proposals once more.
In September 19%. the Labor member for Dulwich Hill, Mr H.C. Mallam, proposed a Tunnel with two entrances in the city -one near the Haymarket and the other at the lower end of William Street -emerging on the North Shore near St. Leonards Park. BY November 1955, the Town and Country Planning Advisory Committee, which had been asked to investigate Mr Mallam's proposal, had rejected the idea as impracticable.
The giant American company Kaiser Steel looked into the tunnel idea and decided to
leave it alone. Their engineers, 'like generations of other engineers before them, decided the deep, fault-strewn Harbour floor and the steep approaches were just too difficult a combination to conquer.
In May 1958, the State government rejected another proposal, this time from a Darling Point engineer, Mr D.R. Carter, for a prefabricated funnel to lie on the Harbour bed. The estimated cost of the project was £20 million, and the Government said the money would be better spent on arterial roads. In March 1960, the then Minister for Local Government, Mr Hills, rejected three schemes submitted by an international firm of civil engineers for a tunnel under the harbour. '
In July 1964, R.W.Askin (later Sir Robert, but then Leader of the Opposition) said that if the Liberal Party was elected it would start building a new bridge or a tunnel under the Harbour in its first term. By July 1970, he was Premier and was reported as saying that it seemed out of the question for the State government to build another Sydney Harbour crossing because of financial circumstances.
In March 1975, the then Minister for Transport and Highways, Mr Fife, rejected a proposal by the Australian Transport Study Group for a road-rail tunnel to be built from the Spit Bridge to the Cahill Expressway.
No route was suggested for the tunnel proposed in 1978 but southern approaches for the tunnel under Darlinghurst were mentioned. Many factors were ex2ected to govern the choice of an exit on the north side if in fact the project did go ahead.
In 1979 two large companies Ampol and Pioneer Concrete, announced that they were launching a joint feasibility study. But nobody was prepared to guess where the tunnel might begin or end, how it might be built, or how much it would cost.
Previous studies had indicated that a tunnel would need to have very steep approaches. This would mean low gear work for cars and an almost impossible climb for trains unless the tunnel started its descent near Redfern shunting yards and emerged around St. Leonards. Another drawback was price. Hong Kong drivers pay 90 cents for a one way trip. Sydney drivers could expect to pay even more.
And so the vision of a tunnel under Sydney Harbour looks like' going on and on and on...
|This section is based on the excellent book by Brian and Barbara Kennedy. (Subterranean Sydney (The Real Underworld of Sydney Town), Reed, Sydney, 1982. ISBN 0 589 50312 X). Copyright Brian and Barbara Kennedy and Reed Publishing.|