February 09, 2016

Horse 2070 - Woollahra Station: The Hole Truth

The train on platform number five goes to Bondi Junction. First stop Martin Place, then King's Cross, Edgecliff, Woollahra and Bondi Junction.

This announcement is not made on platform five at Town Hall but it should be. Woollahra Station sort of does exist, incomplete, waiting to be finished. It is like a gaping open gash upon the landscape and not quite forty years after the Eastern Suburbs Railway was opened, albeit 44 years behind schedule, it still stands as one glorious monumental hole, to the memory of incompetence past.

It's not even a whole hole. It's only half a hole.

A lot of the original tile work in the Eastern Suburbs Railway was still in place when I used to work at the Law Courts. Sydney was in the grip of another rebranding exercise of its railways and was busily tearing down the white enamel roundels which were still remnant from the previous major rebranding. The Eastern Suburbs Railway Line with its faux five star hotel bathroom tile work looked out of place when it opened in 1979 and today it looks more out of place as age has wearied it and the years condemned. Yet despite this, the modernisation of King's Cross and Edgecliff stations have turned them from 70s monstrosities which crossed the line of taste twice, into works of mediocrity which are fit to be ignored forever.

This brings me to Woollahra Station. Where it would have been is perfectly obvious. The open hole will still take an eight car railway station and could easily be covered over so that the noises of trains stopping as opposed to them not stopping, would be entirely quietened. The building of Woollahra Station would require the eviction of precisely zero people since the site is already in use, would cause the disruption of zero roads since the tunnels have been in place since the 1930s and will increase the usability of existing infrastructure. I can see no logical reason whatsoever, why work on Woollahra Station should not commence tomorrow. It should have been finished forty years ago; if it was meddled with by the local residents.

I'm pretty sure that the residents of 2016 would really really like to thank the residents of forty years ago for this great stinking hole in the ground. An injunction was granted to the Woollahra Residents Action Committee in the Supreme Court of New South Wales to prevent  Codelfa Construction Pty Ltd from being able to work the required number of hours to complete the Eastern Suburbs Line. This case of liturgious knavery meant that Codelfa didn't complete the job and to compound the issue, the State Rail Authority then took them to court for incomplete performance. This case was fought tooth and nail until it ended in the High Court of Australia, some two years after the Eastern Suburbs Railway Line was finally opened and a whole six years after the injunction was granted.

The second piece of idiocy in this story comes from the Wran Government who decided to sell all of the land which should have extended the Eastern Suburbs Railway Line through places like Maroubra and Randwick and which would have connected it up to the Port Botany Goods like, thus connecting the airport to the rest of the train network as early as 1980. That presumably didn't happen because Wran's government which was Labor, was of the opposite political colour to the Eastern Suburbs.
These two acts of political spite and stupidity combined and conspired together the other day when I had to take some documents to Woollahra from Mosman. Had things been built properly and not ripped to pieces, the journey could have been made by one tram and two trains; instead of a bus, a train and another three buses.

Just like Joe Cahill who died in office in 1959 and left us with the legacy of an opera house which cost 11 times more than it should and can't even hold an opera inside it, ripping out the biggest tram network in the world at the time, Neville Wran left us with the legacy of unbuilt railway lines, unfinished railway stations and the cancellation of the Warringah Transport Corridor.

Woollahra Station could have been a thing; should be a thing and it is a crying shame that it is not a thing. Why isn't it a thing?

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