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Monday, 3 October 2016

Why Wynyard Walk will change Sydney for the better

Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Wynyard Walk, a pedestrian tunnel connecting Sydney's Wynyard Station with the new commercial area at Barangaroo South, opened two weeks ago without much fanfare. 

Social media indicated more excitement among the general public:

OMFG no words to describe the shear life-changing fabulousness that is the Wynyard tunnel

For those who don't know it, the tunnel starts at Wynyard underground station in the heart of Sydney and exits 180 metres west, above ground, at Napoleon Plaza near the corner of Margaret and Kent Streets.  From here a footbridge over Sussex Street leads pedestrians to escalators and stairs which deposit them at Barangaroo South and the Darling Harbour waterfront. At brisk walking speed, it's only four minutes from water's edge to the Opal Card readers at Wynyard. Another 90 seconds and you're at George Street.

No intersection is negotiated between Barangaroo and George Street.
Source: www.barangaroo.com.au

To appreciate the benefits fully, you would need to try what many pedestrians have previously endured to reach Wynyard from the Darling Harbour wharf - a walk up the steeply inclined Erskine Street, crossing six road intersections, five of which are controlled by traffic lights. Like most traffic lights in Sydney, they seem to be optimised for cars, not pedestrians.

In the context of other Sydney infrastructure projects - the new Barangaroo ferry terminal, due to open in March 2017, and the conversion of George Street to light rail and pedestrian traffic only from 2019 - Wynyard Walk will make a huge beneficial change for ferry users. It creates effortless access to the centre of Sydney from its western edge.

Erskine Street ferry wharf was once the city terminus for the Watsons Bay tramline. Ferries from Anandale/ Glebe, White Bay, Thames Street Balmain and Parramatta River all terminated at Erskine Street. The Erskine Street tram provided a convenient means for commuters to reach their final destination elsewhere in the city. But tram services to Erskine Street stopped in 1950. Ferries from Parramatta and Circular Quay (Darling Harbour line) still stop at Erskine Street, but the Anandale/Glebe and White Bay ferries are sadly no more and ferries from Thames Street Balmain now travel directly to Circular Quay. 

But Wynyard Walk is now the great successor to the old tramway. The western side of the CBD has become an easy and logical point of entry to the city for ferries arriving from the west, even without the old tram. With the increased berthing capacity available at the new Barangaroo terminal, it is an opportunity to resume ferry services from Glebe and redirect the Woolwich/ Thames Street route to terminate at Barangaroo. And why bother sending the Parramatta ferry around Dawes Point to Circular Quay when the centre of the city, plus train and light rail connections, can be so easily accessed from Barangaroo?

Circular Quay reached capacity as a ferry terminal more than one hundred years ago. Norman Selfe, the great and far sighted engineering innovator of nineteenth century Sydney foresaw even then that all ferries travelling from the west should terminate west of Dawes Point. In his vision, the western terminal was immediately west of the harbour bridge. But if he was alive today, and saw how the city has now re-arranged itself, Barangaroo South would be the great ferry terminal he envisaged. 

Selfe would be pleased at what has been accomplished with the construction of Wynyard Walk. It will help make Sydney a significantly better place.

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