The plan to build bars in the underground tunnels under St. James station is quintessentially Sydney. We love to elevate the gaudy possibilities instead of fixing what doesn’t work.
Yesterday, Andrew Constance, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, trumpeted a rather grand plan. In order to revive Sydney’s dead social scene, he’s decided to bury it six feet deep. His push is to revamp the abandoned tunnels under St James station, hoping that he could find “ideas that could transform the platform and tunnels into a world-renowned attraction.”
Sure, I mean, there’s nothing more chic than trudging through the traces of rodent effluent piled high since the last time it was used in 1920.
Hoot hoot “St James tunnel vision: Plan to revive abandoned Sydney railway” https://t.co/MjlPyEUw1k
— Mark Scott (@mscott) 1 October 2018
With this move, Constance is leaving the above-ground to the Packers and their ilk. I mean, I don’t blame him. It’s fairly grim up here. Since the introduction of the lockout laws, 176 licenced establishments have shifted into the ether. In this mode of thinking, the upside down has charm, whereas up here does not. Kings Cross is a dull neon hole in the ground, a tomb with electric signage. I walked through it the other week with a television under my arm. As I walked through the desolate landscape, I felt safe, but strangely wounded by my nostalgia. The darkened landscape of dulled windows seemed unfamiliar, as did the half-remembered evenings at Empire, at Hugo’s, at Candy’s. They happened right?
Conversely, the pseudo-Kings Cross, Newtown, was recently described to me by a friend who lived there in the middle 1990s, as no fun. Without its trademark oddball personality, she said, it was now just a place to avoid, both for safety, or entertainment reasons.
It makes all the sense that the only solution is to move the whole thing underground. To start over, to sling drinks to the mole people and the faux-dirty trend-seekers. Maybe there, deep in the bowels of the city, can the youth of today can experience what we did, a Saturday evening out.
Now, it’s unfair to blame Andrew Constance on the entirety of the lock-out laws. That wasn’t his doing. He’s responsible for the infrastructure, and the transport. But his tunnel plot follows the other nonsense logic Sydney loves to cling to: Not fixing the obvious, but choosing to elevate obscure nonsense. Retro charm is always king in the Harbour City. Yesterday is more fun than tomorrow. As evidence to that, he’s struggling to enable magical reemergence of the Sydney tram, fifty years after we stopped using it because it was obsolete. As it stands, the project has no real timeline to it being finished. The current estimation is 2020, while the retailers along the route are dying a slow death. It’s a very Sydney thing, sacrificing something that works for something that might not.
Whether Constance has rewatched the Matrix too often, but him birthing us our very own Zion is very large whoa. Primarily because (as it did to Zion), the organised robotic forces of the man may soon knock on the door to kick us all out.
You see, the problems up here will exist down there too. Those 6,000 square metres of possibility will be subject to the same laws, the same mismanagement, and you could easily assume that the subterranean scene will probably fall under the boot of lock-out. From there, the narrative might repeat, and with it, tabled plans build a gaudy Casino, promising the darkest flame-lit tables the eye could ever want, and the only place you can reliably get sloshed after the clock strikes twelve.