Sydney’s monorail is (most probably) going nowhere

The Sydney Monorail will finish operation at the end of June.

It’s been interesting to see speculation on whether it would be purchased and moved to another site, such as elsewhere in Sydney or interstate.

What this speculation appears to have missed is the important fact that the hardware is not in good shape.

Last month when I was in Sydney for a day, I noted one train crawling along the monorail above Market Street.

Fact is, anybody taking it on will need to spend up big to keep it in operation.

“The monorail has never been truly embraced by the community and is reaching the end of its economic life.


โ€œThe NSW Government cannot justify costly upgrades like the purchase of new vehicles required to keep it running and the removal of the infrastructure will make way for the development of the Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct.โ€

— NSW government: Monorail to cease operations June 2013

That said, they have invited expressions of interest in buying it (or simply removing it).

But the implication is you’d need to basically get new trains to keep it running… and unlike conventional rail systems, it’s difficult to buy trains and track — you may need to build them yourself.

And unless you’re going to re-use all of the track (can it be pulled apart and re-laid like bits of model railway?), then it doesn’t seem like there’s a big chance of it running anywhere after the end of June.

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12 Replies to “Sydney’s monorail is (most probably) going nowhere”

  1. NWhy hasn’t the monorail been embraced in Sydney as their answer to lack of trams??

    I think I read fares were pretty high and it was more useful for tourists but I’m a big advocate for multi-modal transport in cities and it’s a shame to see any public transport infrastructure removed, knowing full well it’s difficult to get any new ones built! ( although Sydney will be getting trams).

  2. I don’t think it’s crawling – I think that’s unfortunately its normal speed. I can’t remember it going any faster than that even in 1990 when I first travelled on it.

  3. When I originally holidayed, and then lived for a few years, in Sydney I adored the monorail. Couldn’t get enough of admiring her, and occasionally riding her.

    The only trouble was two things:
    My CityRail pass would get my on trains and ferries every day, occasionally a connecting bus as well, but not usable for monorail.

    The separate ticket for the monorail was expensive (can’t remember how much, but enough for you to decide not to)

    And of course, sorry to say, it didn’t really go anywhere that was 1) useful day to day, 2) that I couldn’t simply walk to in a short length of time.

    To that end my trips on it where simply to take an intentional trip on it, so other than for tourists it is a white elephant.

    A friggen shame – in my opinion I always wished it was instead extended around the city, but then again what the hell for with such a fantastic underground (which I lived by).

    If I had unlimited funds and land I’d love to put it in my backyard :)

  4. Conflicting info here…1-2 years ago the media was saying it was privately funded and has made a profit?

    And now people are saying “it didnt serve enough people and the tickets are too expensive”.

    If it really has made a profit, that is amazing and definetly “economically viable” to buy new trains and keep it going.

  5. @PTuser, how is a circular, single-direction, non-fare-integrated, expensive route (of any kind) an answer to having no trams?

    @Philip, I seem to recall it going faster than this in places, but you might be right about this stretch.

    @Chris, the fare is $5.00 per ride, or $9.80 for a day pass. Not cheap! http://www.monorail.com.au/travel-info/fares/

    @Jacob, just because it has made an overall profit over the past 25 years, doesn’t mean it’s economically viable to completely refurbish/rebuild the system now and keep it running.

  6. I have used it on some visits to Sydney ovber the years…as a bit of a novelty for my grand children…but it doesn’t link to either The Quay of Central Station or underground stations so getting to it is not very easy…if they had run it from Central to the Quay it might have had more success
    There are several monorails in K>L as well as conventioinal suburban rail andt they are nor great there either….
    In peak hours they are congested and one faces a long wait just to get on.. after a long queue
    I opted for a taxi(cheap) 0n my last KL visit rather than the monorail

    There used to be one on the “holiday” island of Sentosa in Singapore Harbour but it was taken out some years ago I believe

    Sentosed is now filled with ” attractions” much loved by the hordes of Indian tourists who now infest Singapore and crowded the buses on Sentosa when we last were there(all are equippped with sharp elbows in crowds and a host of very spoiled brats…)avoid Sentosa now ;like the plague…

  7. There is no plan to replace it. It is pretty unacceptable that there is a high-density residential and commercial precinct, which is more than a brief stroll from the CBD, which has effectively no public transport to it. It does rain sometimes in Sydney ….

  8. To address the question of why it wasn’t embraced, for a city worker, it doesnt go anywhere you need to go and for a tourist it doesnt integrate with any other forms of transport.

    To be a viable transport medium it had to essentially follow the city circle train route as businesses hug that circuit, in which case, why have it as there is already heavy rail underground and anyone with a city periodical ticket can use any of the city circle lines to get on and off as they wish.

  9. Well to address your issues, city workers don’t particularly have much need to go to Pyrmont, unless they live in Pyrmont, of course. It is a bit pathetic that there is no usable transport from Pyrmont to the CBD – it’s fine to walk if it is not raining.

    Not sure what point you are trying to make about “integrated” transport, for tourists in particular. Integration is surely more valuable to time-poor daily users, no ? The monorail goes past Chinatown, the QVB, and the retail hub of Pitt and Market. It’s route is more visible, “legible”, and scenic than the hidden underground railway.

    Your comment about “businesses hug that circuit” just seems bizarre. Of course Museum and St James are the business hot-spots of Sydney and Pitt Street … isn’t.

    And of course, tourists all have a periodical ticket.

    You do highlight one of the key weaknesses of Sydney public transport – the extreme cost and inconvenience of short, multi-mode journeys.

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