April 24, 2015

Horse 1882 - When It All Comes Down

Without any data whatsoever and playing on the basis of nothing more than a guess, I would say that Town Hall is the busiest railway station in terms of numbers of passengers who pass through in a day; followed by Central (including Sydney Terminal) and then in third place Wynyard. In terms of peak passenger flows though, I would hazard a guess that Wynyard beats them both in both the morning and evening rush hours. Although Central connects with other lines, there's not as much of a reason to go there as a destination, and although Town Hall connects to the shopping district, it is Wynyard Station that gets all the people in suits.
When I see the roof leaking at Wynyard Station, I get worried; partly because its underground and partly because of how its built.

Sydney joined the world of underground railways exceedingly late (though nowhere near as late as Melbourne). The railway network in 1916 when Sydney Terminal was built, came to screeching halt south of the city. It wasn't until 1926 that the line to Museum and St James burrowed its way into the city and opened and Wynyard and Town Hall were built in concert with the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Wynyard and Town Hall share a few aspects in their construction. Both were built using the cut and cover method (I imagine that this would have been quite difficult in the case of Town Hall as it sits directly under George St and more worrying, both are made from steel and wood.
You can see this most obviously at Wynyard where steel beams as well as forming the structure also form the design language of the space. That might have been reassuring more than eighty years ago when it was opened but today, that just screams to me of maintenance that needs to be done and it it doesn't happen soon, the roof will collapse.
No doubt that Sydney Trains probably have sent po faced engineers to pore over everything they can find but when you have governments looking to save money, its usually maintenance budgets which are the first to be skimped upon and I bet that even when problems have been identified, that they will be ignored for as long as they can get away with it. Nobody wants to be left holding the can but if they can kick that can as far down the road as possible, nobody need know... until the roof collapses.

Sydney over the past few days has had one of those patterns of weather that happens roughly once every twenty eight years. With a high pressure system sitting to the south of the continent, a cold front running from Cape York to Bass Strait, and La Nina doing her dance of joy, Sydney has experienced flash flooding and extensive damage.
Even though water follows the path of least resistance and it has to go somewhere, it still doesn't change the fact that Wynyard is an underground railway station and there's one rather singular fact to do with all things underground - it doesn't rain underground. Therein lies the problem. Eighty year old wood tends to do strange things when subject to water. I know that there are Tudor houses made from wood which exist from before the time of Shakespeare but they don't have to support the weight of several hundred tonnes of earth above them, unless there's some ye olde horse of iron with a suite of carts in train which traversed the miles below that I don't know about.

Now that "the storm of the century" as the Sydney Morning Herald hyperbolically put it, has passed over use and drifted eastwards, the roof at Wynyard Station has stopped leaking and so I suspect that it will become a case of out of sight; out of mind. The unfortunate thing about that attitude is that it then becomes someone else's problem to deal with and I fear that the results could be tragic.

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