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Not the brightest bulbs in Sydney

Nick Bryant | 06:47 UK time, Monday, 13 April 2009

Last month, Sydney led the world in the Earth Hour event, a campaign aimed at raising awareness of global warming by encouraging people to turn off their lights for 60 minutes. The billowing white sails of the Opera House were shrouded in darkness. So, too, the normally-floodlit girders of the harbour bridge.

In the three weeks since, Sydneysiders have experienced four involuntary black-outs, as the power supply has gone on the blink. So I am writing this blog in semi-darkness, wondering why it is that I have now experienced more power outages in the past two weeks in Australia's most populous city than I did in almost three years living in Delhi.

Perhaps this is an unfair comparison. Delhi has recently opened an impressive new metro network, which is still a pipedream for most Sydneysiders. It is run by a popular government which recently won re-election because of its success in modernising the city. Sydney's harbour lights went off for Earth Hour but have trouble staying on at other times.

The Indian capital is also being transformed by ambitious new infrastructure projects hurriedly being built in time for next year's Commonwealth games. Sydney, meanwhile, is suffering still from a post-Olympics slump.

Delhi is in the midst of India's revolution of rising expectations. Many Sydneysiders just seem reconciled to the uninspiring reality that they live in a malfunctioning city - a beautiful and vibrant one, for sure, but an underachieving metropolis nonetheless. 'Gotta love this city,' is the catch-phrase of the Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Peter Fitzsimons. But the city's creaky infrastructure is making it increasingly hard for many.

The past month has seen a rash of unfavourable headlines. Yet another ferry ran aground in the harbour - there were thirteen incidents involving the city's ageing fleet during the last financial year, once again highlighting the findings of a report which called for its modernisation.

There was the bikie-killing at Sydney airport, which revealed surprising gaps in security at the city's most important gateway.

Then there was the failure of the city's expensive new emergency warning system installed in the central business district to tell people what to do in the event of terrorist attacks or natural disasters. When the power failed, the state government finally learnt that it did not have a back-up generator to fall back on.

At the risk of being run out of town, many of the answers to Sydney's problems are found 881km to the south: in Melbourne. The roads and highways are impressive, the trams and trains seem to work efficiently and the city has clearly benefited from more than a decade of private and public investment. Alternatively, the New South Wales government could look to Brisbane, another thrusting and flourishing city.

Then, of course, there are the cities of Britain, all of which are shimmering, trouble-free utopias: modern-day Babylons, each and every one of them.*

I know this blog is Sydney-centric. But the city's problems are of national import, both economically and politically. Remember, the next time the voters of New South Wales will go to the polls is at the federal rather than state election. So local federal Labor MPs may take the blame for the failures of the Labor state government. For a party which returned to power on the back of big gains in New South Wales and Queensland, this is a real concern.

As the Australian economy worsens, the popularity of the Australian government continues to rise. That makes some sense of the comments from people I have spoken to at the top of the ALP who reckon the biggest threat to the government's re-election comes not from the GFC but from NSW.

And with that, the lights have come back on........

* Just kidding, Whitlamite.......


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  • 1. At 07:43am on 13 Apr 2009, Terry wrote:

    As a Brit who moved to Sydney 3 weeks ago I am generally impressed by the trains here compared to those in the UK. (Though I've spotted some non-air conditioned ones that won't be so much fun in January). Plus I hope soon to extend some of my day-job work on quality of life to inter-state comparisons and Australia-UK comparisons :-)

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  • 2. At 08:12am on 13 Apr 2009, newsjock wrote:

    I'm glad the power has come back on for you, Nick.

    You'll feel better and more positive after a nice cup of tea !

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  • 3. At 08:17am on 13 Apr 2009, Whitlamite wrote:

    It would be wonderful to have all of the glorious amenities here in Sydney that all those lucky people in New Dehli have. One day I shall escape the harbour city for the Indian capital and then I can truly enjoy myself, free from the inconvenience of freak cluster blackouts.

    Nick. Brisbane and Melbourne have much, much smaller and less built up central business districts than Sydney. It was far easier to modernise Melbourne and Brisbane, neither have the population Sydney does, they get a sweet deal with GST, they don't have to work around a sprawling metropolis in the same way Sydney does. The literal geographic size of Sydney and the urban density of the place makes most public works complicated, lengthy, and very expensive. Unlike New Dehli, we can't just bulldoze over slums to put in a new road.

    Sydney has its problems, but it's darwinism at work. Survival of the fittest (or the most dedicated Sydneysider). New York operates the same way. If you can't stand the heat - get out of the kitchen. Sydney is the most beautiful city in the world. I'd gladly put up with a once in a decade blackout, failure of a ridiculous emergency PA system, Vice-Presidential lockdown, Olympic tourist onslaught, APEC summit fencing-in, and even the occasional ferry accident.

    Sydney's worth it, and if you don't like it - then you can catch Asia Pacific's most expensive commuter train line to the airport, bullet proof vest in tow, and fly back to the shimmering, trouble-free utopia of Hull or Glasgow so you can enjoy your precious electricity uninterrupted.

    Actually, that does sound tempting. I should start a blog. "The thing about the English is....."

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  • 4. At 08:40am on 13 Apr 2009, Strompy82 wrote:

    eltel99uk, I don't know what part of the UK you are from so it's hard to compare, but my experience after 3 years in Oz is that the UK public transport is a billion times better than Australia's. I would have to say that Australian public transport is years and years(decades?) behind.

    Rose-tinted glasses ... perhaps?

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  • 5. At 08:41am on 13 Apr 2009, Eliza_nsw wrote:

    Well done Nick no Dudd - PM Prime Menace . And why well the answer is NSW is broke. We have the lower end of police numbers per captia, we cant afford any. we are in a mess, money is minor. And federally we are heading down the same road. As for electricity I doubt we will find out whilst Labor are in. Too much is breaking, in need of repair, but who can afford it. Not NSW. Rees maybe trying but its just a bad situation that is too far gone. Its going to take years for NSW to get back up.

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  • 6. At 08:51am on 13 Apr 2009, AustGirl wrote:

    Hey theres another nickname - for Mr Rudd PM (Prime Menace). Do people out there know that below the harbour is coral, under the harbour is beautiful. Also Newcastle sand is lining Waikiki's beaches. We have many natural wonders that we share. And yes to eletl in summer our trains are hot, stuffy and can be smelly. We cram in like sardines and off you go. And why because there isnt enough of them, no money fares go up and the service is low thats it across the State Govt board. We are in dire needs of funds.

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  • 7. At 08:54am on 13 Apr 2009, Terry wrote:

    strompy82 - I was in Bristol for the past 10 years. I endured First 'great' western on trips to London and terrible local services (both bus and train with the former grossly overpriced thanks to First's monopoly - a state of affairs pretty common to any city 'served' by First or Stagecoach). I'd rate the Sydney public transport services as being better and on purchasing power parity terms much better value-for-money than those in south-west UK but granted I haven't matched my UK experience with Aussie experience yet.

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  • 8. At 09:09am on 13 Apr 2009, AustGirl wrote:

    Firstly Strompy we are Aust not Oz thats where Dorothy & Tonto went. Eltel its good to see that you have already made a valid statement. We complain about the transport in Sydney, but Sydney is only a small area compared to the whole of NSW. In the city, most delays are because of the city lines and because the rail lines are in need of repairs WE need funds to upgrade the system be it bus, train or ferry. We have grown in number but the infrastucture has changed little. That costs and who pays.

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  • 9. At 10:12am on 13 Apr 2009, Kubali wrote:

    The comments on some of the UK transport infrastructure are correct, though I having been to many cities abroad, and people may be surprised when I say the tube is not as bad as we make it out to be and is better than many overseas underground networks.

    Generally I find the trains are much more on time though overcrowding is an issue.

    The best public transport infrastructure I have seen is the one in Hong Kong.

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  • 10. At 10:44am on 13 Apr 2009, norling wrote:

    Hmm... I'm living in the UK, considerably further from my home town of Melbourne than you are, but am very much aware that Melbourne's public transport doesn't run anywhere near as smoothly as you seem to think. Just look at Melbourne's local paper (The Age) for a few hints - there are horror stories about the over-extended train network in it almost every day. That said, it's hundreds of times better than what we have here in the midlands :(

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  • 11. At 10:49am on 13 Apr 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    You mention two seemingly unconnected issues - 'Earth Hour' and power failures in a major developed nation.

    Are they unconnected???

    In the UK we are also headed for power cuts. We shut the coal power stations (because the 'environmentalists' told us to), we failed to build new nuclear power stations (because the 'environmentalists' told us not to). Instead of power stations, we built hundreds of widmills which produce next to no electricity (because the 'environmentalists' told us to). Now the population is growing at 1 million in 4 years. Demand is going up, supply is going down. Some people reckon the lights will start going out in the UK in the next couple of years as demand outstrips supply.

    Basic point seems to be that the more you listen to the 'enviromentalists' the more your electricity costs and greater the risk you end up with Zimbabwe style power cuts.

    Less supply + more demand = more power cuts. I don't know why people find this surprising.

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  • 12. At 10:57am on 13 Apr 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    Stop press....

    (Nottingham, UK)

    100 'environmentalists' arrested on the way to attack a coal fired power station.

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  • 13. At 11:03am on 13 Apr 2009, Ollie_Cromwell wrote:


    You speak of some of the advantages about Delhi, but not much of the disadvantages. Ever get ill there? Many beggars?

    Sure Sydney has its problems and you are right to highlight them. But there are so many advantages.

    Where would you rather live?

    Oh, and I'm not a Sydneysider.

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  • 14. At 11:33am on 13 Apr 2009, youngflathead wrote:

    I am well travelled and and I have been in Sydney for 3 months. It's a beautiful friendly city with many good points. It does have its problems though, a grubby but efficient railway, good buses and old but reliable ferries to name a few. What spoils it for me is the uncontrolled graffiti and litter, especially in the suburbs. Indeed there are strong laws against littering and graffiti but it just like the UK the police and the politicians do nothing to enforce them and it doesn't seem to bother the Sydney siders. I suppose things like litter are a low priority compared to local bikkie problem with its drugs and gang warfare. Even this didn't seem to attract much police or political attention until someone was murdered at Sydney airport. Despite witnesses and CCTV no body has been arrested for murder. This embarrassment has resulted new legislation and a clamp down that should have happened months ago. I just hope they don't leave it too late to sort out the litter and graffiti (most of which is not even artistic) before this beautiful place is ruined and somebody tags the Opera House or the Bridge.

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  • 15. At 11:38am on 13 Apr 2009, blacknails69 wrote:

    I personally think that this article is an insult to a beautiful, free country.
    I see you are from the UK maybe you should take a look at your own economy before you start criticizing Australia's at least we are not in a massive recession.
    And Sydney is way better then Melbourne the only thing to come out of their is the hume highway! Sydney has the bridge, the national parks, the fact the city is right near some of the most beautiful bush land, the beaches (HELLOO), amazing food, heaps of work opportunities!!
    I think this article was written in response to your jealousy, our such a wonderful country. Australia is a fair country with some of the best work place rights in the world!
    The UK currently has bleak weather, a symbol of its deteriorating economy. Where as Australia is vibrant as per usual with our positive attitudes on life.
    At least Australians try to look for ways to fix our economy and other problem instead of just criticising others.
    Before you start criticising Sydney's security, at least we have appropriate security implemented on our train lines to avoid the deaths of hundreds of innocent people.
    And frankly who cares about it if our public transport is nott all techno , i mean who cares i just want to use it for 15 mins anyway i dont want some fancy ridiculously fast train, frankly who cares?!
    This article is very poor with limited research and evidence, obviously you had nothing else to write about so instead you chose to critisise what you though was a weak vunerable country. Well let me tell you something we australians are strong and can get through anything. Perhaps the worst piece of journalism i have seen, but then again am i surprised.

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  • 16. At 11:51am on 13 Apr 2009, fencerjohn wrote:

    Hey Nick,

    For a start, I thought that you were the BBC's Australia correspondent - not just Sydney.

    But that might explain why you see Melbourne through rose tinted glasses. Recently, the trains got cancelled all the time because it was too 'ot and the track bent. How's that for comfort?

    Further, they (that's the state government in Melbourne) are in the process of stealing our water out of the Eildon weir because they don't have enough (unlike Sydney) and the planning is so thorough that it's now anticipated that there won't be enough water in Eildon to steal when they finally get their pipeline built.

    So I invite you to visit beautiful North Eastern Victoria, where the electricity is plentiful, the public transport non-existent or late and the water is being stolen (well it would be if there was any) by the insanity of centralised state governments and the building of bigger metropoli (is that the plural of "metropolis"?). The wine is good though.

    Cheers - fencerjohn
    p.s. Shopping in Sydney is much more fun than Melbourne and it's only a short trip of seven hours!

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  • 17. At 11:55am on 13 Apr 2009, Ollie_Cromwell wrote:


    That's a bit strong mate. Everyone's entitled to their opinion and what Nick says is true. The blackouts etc did happen. I think Nick's trying to provoke some comment - which clearly he's done. He's not bagging Sydney for the sake of it, he's almost an Aussie himself. Lots of Sydneysiders are fed up with the way the place is run.

    I happen to think its one of the best cities in the world and I've seen polls which indicate that a lot of other people think so too.

    Let's not run Nick out of Australia too quickly - after all look at what he's going back too.....

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  • 18. At 12:33pm on 13 Apr 2009, pciii wrote:

    Blacknails69. Looks like you've kind of missed the point of blogs here mate. Most of us here are well aware of Sydney's pleasant setting; Nick's just making an observation about what it's actually like to live there - it's not a slight against all things Australian. Incidentally, if your best come-back is that the UK has bleak weather, then there's another argument you've lost.

    Having only visited Sydney for a few days I was surprised by how 'old' this recent Olympic City felt. For a large part, this was a good thing, it gave it character, like the Ferries (please don't scrap them, just maintain them). On the other hand I'd kind of expected some kind of integrated urban transport system, but that didn't seem to be the case, even the airport felt like it was in a bit of an industrial backwater.

    As for Brisbane, well, it's a mixed bag, and certainly much smaller than Sydney. Comparing it to Birmingham, UK (similar size), I'd say the buses are old and routes are few - but are good value. The City Cat is excellent. The trains are good for the short routes but the Gold Coast "Express" is neither express nor gets particularly close to the Gold Coast. The airport train is excellent, but, predictably expensive. Seems to be the same across much of Australia - medium to longer train journeys just aren't worth it. Our Mayor's solution to any transport probs in Brisbane - build another tunnel. He's a bit obsessed with the things. Wish he's spend some time bringing the roads we have up to a decent, safe standard.

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  • 19. At 1:37pm on 13 Apr 2009, Triangulum wrote:

    I've never understood all the complaining about Sydney's infrastructure. Some of the trains are a bit dirty, yes, but it's nowhere near all of them, and they are always efficient and close to time. The hospitals are unfailingly clean, well-organised and top-quality, with the exception of a few highly-publicised incidents which are tragic but only indicate individual failure, not systemic problems. There are some traffic jams on the biggest few routes at peak hour, but at any other time it's rare to have to drive below the speed limit. The Sydney media drive this perception of 'a city in crisis' with their unending negativity, but Sydney is seriously not that bad. At all.

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  • 20. At 1:43pm on 13 Apr 2009, Eliza_nsw wrote:

    See Nick I told you there are more interesting topics then Dudd. You sure have stired things up. Nick, Melbournes trains are woeful at times and they are privatised. Blacknail, Alot care as they travel a few hours on the train to work each way. Youngflathead, the bickies etc have had eyes on them this isnt the first time nor the last of a blow up. Each State gets a turn. SA was in the last couple of years and now NSW. And my last hooraah goes to Ollie - Well said and well done. WE ARE fed up.. Whens the next election?

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  • 21. At 1:55pm on 13 Apr 2009, WWWorker wrote:

    I have recently moved to Connecticut after 3 years in Sydney.
    I now live 50km from my place of work - a commute of 35-40mins. Compared to Frenchs Forest to North Sydney, 11kms, 45mins (in the morning). How glad am I not to face the Sydney traffic everyday???

    The trouble with Sydney is three-fold, the first is the geography of the place which you cannot or would not want to change but nevertheless is a significant factor in improving the transport network, the second stems from the political landscape and this effects more than the transport. Political parties in NSW are all far happier to get into a slanging match and throw accusations and slurs at each other rather than addressing Sydney's problems. And thirdly, the inability of Australians and in particular Sydneysiders, to accept any form of criticism of their "fare" country and in particular, Sydney. Until Sydneysiders are prepared to accept that maybe, just maybe, their city is NOT the best city in the world to live in (a ridiculously subjective statement anyway), not much will change.
    Sydney harbour IS a beautiful location, no doubt, but I'm afraid the city itself is destined to be that, just a beautiful location.

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  • 22. At 2:00pm on 13 Apr 2009, Eliza_nsw wrote:

    Oh dear Trianglum - have you read how food (meat) is not being delelivered to some hospitals as the suppliers are not being paid, have you read about people dying because there is no bed for them. Oh dear oh struth, how can you say that the state of hospitals is not sytematic. Sydney, yes is fine, but how can you say that the "system" is fine. Doctors are working longer hours, and at times with no pay, nurses bring in food for new mothers as there is none available. My one gripe is the Hopsitals, they should have been taken over when Federal Govt planned to do it. No, they are in a bad state and schools as well. The number of classrooms being taken away from one school to another because it is more needed elesewhere. No, the system is not good and will take years to pick up. The State needs an injection of funds - look at the new rail link - problems, the tunnel - problems. Sydney is a great city but its broken, like the State when care for a peson is not given as there are no facilities that is systmeatic because Im sure the doctors would do anything to save a human life if they could. I am from country NSW, its not all about Sydney. A person who is ill and needs treatment gets sent interstate as there are no beds in NSW now thats systmatic, and it did happen........... Ages spent on the phone ringing the hospitals and Qld had a bed. I love Sydney, I think its a pretty and lovely city BUT we need change and a massive influx of funds. Please dont confuse the two, I am wholly meaning the state of affairs at Govt House. Things are old and tiring, The XPT is a shell, used and used. Stations closed as there is no one to man them. NO NSW is bigger then Sydney. A young man died recently on the Nth Coast, the ambulance couldnt get to him quick enough - they had to find one. That is systematic.

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  • 23. At 5:17pm on 13 Apr 2009, moonboyroberts2 wrote:

    "Sydney harbour IS a beautiful location, no doubt, but I'm afraid the city itself is destined to be that, just a beautiful location".

    You have a valid point, although your assertion that Sydney is destined to be just a beautiful location is wrong. In time Sydney will grow big enough and take its place among the truly great cities, and this will be accelerated by the rise of Asia as an economic concern.

    Sydney's (and Australia's) disadvantage has historically been that we were a small wealthy place surrounded by poor countries. The economic opportunities were 24 hours away in the northern hemisphere - on our doorstep was poverty. We have been held back by geography and distance. Had we been 5 hours from New York we would have 60 million people and a city comparable to New York and London. The change in our region will mean Sydney, and Australia generally, will grow faster and bigger a lot quicker than it has in the past. So you're wrong. Sydney will be a major world city one day. Not soon - it will take some time to play out - but it will happen.

    However, I agree with you on your other points. I was born in Sydney and have noticed many Sydneysider's sensitivity to criticism in the couple of years since I've returned. It is a beautiful city but it is not New York City or Paris or London - not by a long shot. A city needs a lot more than a nice harbour and sun to be a truly great city. I would say Sydney beats the cities just mentioned for liveabilty, but unfortunately not for excitement, depth, and the feeling that you are at the centre of the world. Sydney is just too small yet. It needs another 4 million people and then it'll start competing. That will happen oneday but it's not yet.
    It's a simple matter of size.

    And yes, the transport here is terrible. The government is also truly pathetic in NSW. I can't believe people are arguing about this. Sydney needs a decent subway system and it needs to build more apartment blocks and skyscrapers. Why is there a housing shortage here and a shortage of office space. It's very weird.
    Housing is also ridiculously overpriced. As to the criticism of the blackouts, well, they are the first that I ever remember happening. Mentioning Delhi and Sydney in the same breath is a bit silly. The writer is correct about the crappy government here, but I suspect he's just having a little poke at Sydney using the blackout as an excuse. Possibly he's tired of having to tell Sydneysiders how great their city is and figures he'll give them a nudge on his blog. Fair enough. I also agree Sydneysiders need to get some perspective on the city. I also get tired of hearing how great it is. It's great in some ways but not in others.

    On the other hand, it is definitely more liveable than most cities and has a nice vibe and a great restaurant and cafe scene. I feel happy living here. I like the sun, I like sitting in cafes reading the paper, I like the water and the fresh air. And people seem friendly and happy. These things are not always so obvious in some of the great cities. London is a great city, but it's not a nice place to live if you don;t have a very well paid job; there's no cafe scene to speak of and eating out is very poor for under 15 pounds - unless you want to eat Indian every night ( they do have excellent Indian food though). But it does have an excellent transport system, and does have a great buzz, which is sadly lacking in Sydney.

    So Sydneysiders need to remember that we are not New York yet, and tone down the boasting. When we get another 4 million though, it will be a pretty hard place to beat.

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  • 24. At 9:35pm on 13 Apr 2009, ellenodayy wrote:

    An interesting article. I too lived in Sydney for 3 years. As several posters have mentioned it is impossible to criticize Sydney in any way, shape or form without risking the wrath of a Sydneysider. (I know it is a beautiful city, but so is Rio, Cape Town, Vancouver and even Auckland so the discussion needs to move beyond 'no criticism of Sydney')

    Sydney has an astonishing paucity of decent roads. Getting anywhere is a major effort because the public transport system is limited (to say the least). It is all very well if you live in the decent suburbs like Rose Bay that allows you to commute by water, but try living in the far flung Sydney suburbs. Getting around is a nightmare.

    Coincidentally I too have lived in India - Bangalore - so maybe the experiences are different. Bangalore has daily power cuts lasting a few minutes to 30 minutes. There are even signs in the elevators: 'do not panic if the lights go out. The emergency generator will come on within 1 minute').

    Bad a Sydney may be I venture that the power cuts are nowhere near the severity of most of India.

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  • 25. At 11:52pm on 13 Apr 2009, DrMrsTheMonarch wrote:

    Not that I am a fan of Sydney but to compare it to Delhi or any other country in the 3rd world is just outrageous cheap journalism at its most base. On my second trip to Delhi in the past two years I have observed some slight cosmetic changes to the airport and the occasional modern bus (compared to the usual battle wagons which would not be out of place in a Mad Max film). But despite being Indian's most tidy and clean city Delhi is filthy, unjust, dangerous and ultimately doomed to stagnation. We in the west may complain about slow broadband and Easter road tolls but India is a country stuck in the 16th century. Read any contemporary accounts of the Mutiny of 1857 and the scenes of general life (minus cars and electricity) have not changed to this day. It is not a question of oppression or circumstance Indian's do not want to change.

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  • 26. At 00:12am on 14 Apr 2009, youngwhateva wrote:

    I think you mean Toto Eliza. Wasnt Tonto the Lone Rangers Horse - but still very funny. The trains are dirty, but who can clean them they pull in, people pile in and off you go. Schools are crowded too, sometimes we double up in class rooms.

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  • 27. At 01:14am on 14 Apr 2009, ememcomment wrote:

    I just came back from a small Easter break in Melbourne and as a Sydney resident for 30 years, I must say Melbourne is light years ahead in terms of transport. We all know Sydney's transport system is a joke and those who think otherwise must be kidding themselves. It's one patch after another with all new projects built for conditions a decade earlier, witness the M5 tunnel.

    Perhaps those who think Sydney's transport system is adequate don't have to commute in peak hour? I love Sydney but transport is not one its most endearing features, not by a long shot.

    I also agree with the overly-defensive nature of Sydneysiders when challenged. Friends had knives out when I questioned our city's ability to entertain its masses, even though most hadn't lived overseas and experienced another way of life.

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  • 28. At 01:24am on 14 Apr 2009, Daleaway wrote:

    Wherever did you get the idea that Sydney "led the world" on Earth Day?

    Didn't New Zealand cities switch off two hours before Sydney?

    Or is there some unpublicised moral leadership that Sydney is claiming?

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  • 29. At 04:38am on 14 Apr 2009, youngwhateva wrote:

    Daleaway, Sydney created this idea - orginally. WE begun the whole concept overall. So it has nothing to do with time zones.

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  • 30. At 04:41am on 14 Apr 2009, youngwhateva wrote:

    Meblournes as just a protective over AFL. Try singing an Sydney anthem down in Vic. Or saying AFL is a silly game - good luck. We can give Melbourne the Mardi Gra.

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  • 31. At 05:31am on 14 Apr 2009, John_Stone wrote:

    DrMrsThe Monarch I am sure that Delhi is all the things you mention but if it has a brand new Metro and a popular government investing in major infrastructure projects then it has a few things going for it that Sydney doesn't. The power cuts are probably forgiveable. The lack of historical investment in public transport and absence of a coherent strategy is not. No one expects Sydney to build a system like the Paris Metro overnight or at all but it would be good to know there were credible plans, however limited, for something. Late last year the NSW Premier announced a bid for Commonwealth funding for a 5km Metro line. It turned out this project had come as news to everyone including his ministers, and unsurprisingly several problems soon came to light. Like it would compete with a privately owned light rail route, which would need to be compensated; and how on earth to further move on the several thousand people an hour that would be disgorged into an already congested city area each evening. It remains on a 'shortlist' for funding. This project was to replace a more ambitious project originally conceived in 1998 so don't hold your breath fellow Sydneysiders!

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  • 32. At 07:05am on 14 Apr 2009, Oliver wrote:

    Well Nick, you complain about the infrastructure in Sydney, you should be grateful you don't live in "rural" Queensland. Here, in the lively metropolis of Cairns, (140,000+ people), its a miracle if you have broadband or a mobile phone signal, public transport is a nightmare (try waiting an hour in the sun for a bus not to turn up!) and I've suffered more powercuts in the last 12 months than my entire life in England - power cuts which take out the entire North of Queensland since we don't have a regional power-station. BUT - having travelled all over the world, I simply wouldn't now live anywhere else on the planet. Poor infrastructure - bah - she'll be alright.....

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  • 33. At 09:30am on 14 Apr 2009, wollemi wrote:

    C'mon folks, It's a big country with only 21 million people to fund infrastructure, and that's skipping most of the 4,600km between Perth and Sydney. Providing infrastructure is going to be a challenge for a long long long time

    I'm an ex Sydneysider, now living in rural NSW. It's a 30 minute drive to the nearest shop, post office, doctor and cappuccino machine. No town water, no garbage service, no pizza deliveries to the front door. I'm fortunate that my 30 minute trip to town is on a sealed road, the neighbours are not so lucky. Gravel roads through bush settings might seem picturesque but a daily trip back and forth means punctures, chipped windscreens and wear and tear on any vehicle, that's if you can get through and the road is not cut off by an overflowing creek.

    So, yes Sydney needs an infrastructure upgrade, it's our most populous city and the Australian city that functions most as a regional and world city, but there's a long list of other requirements

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  • 34. At 2:21pm on 14 Apr 2009, Matt Cheam wrote:

    Nice article Nick, completely inaccurate but nice - I'm not sure when the last time you visited Delhi was but I can tell you now that it is definitely not the urban utopia you make it out to be. Don't get me wrong here I absolutely love Delhi ! I spent 6 months living there for work a little while ago and I'd say it's the most vibrant, alive place I have ever visited. However the reason for this vibrancy & character is the grit & grime that goes with it, anyone who has spent anytime in a car round the back streets of Delhi knows that the roads are more pot-hole than tarmac and getting a bus is an experience not to be forgotten (if the bus has only 3 times the number of passengers it should be carrying then you can probably still get on !). Also on my last trip to Sydney I don't think I was bothered by packs of stray dogs & numerous beggars and peddlers on every street corner, once again this is part of the "charm" of Delhi and I wouldn't have it any other way but still I think there's a long way to go before they emulate the clean streets and tower blocks of Sydney (personally I hope they don't do it as it will diminish the culture & character of Delhi). As for the power cuts all I can say is that you must have been very lucky as I seemed to experience at least 2 or 3 a day, generally whilst I was in an elevator !

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  • 35. At 2:39pm on 14 Apr 2009, hanekhw wrote:

    "Friends of the Earth" are usually "Enemies of Mankind". Save "whatever" at the expense of reason because it's fashionable (translation: you don't have to think about it). It will end with cities like Delhi looking attractive to a new generation that won't buy into the psuedo-science so popular today. The pleistocene era mammals died out why? Oh yes, Global Warming caused by man made CO2 levels - 20,000 years ago.

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  • 36. At 02:58am on 15 Apr 2009, Natters1975 wrote:

    I must say I'm somewhat bewildered by this beat-up about supposed power cuts. I live and work in fairly central areas of Sydney, and have not experienced even a flicker. I've seen news reports about it, but as yet have been unable to find anybody I know who has personally witnessed (let alone been inconvenienced by) these mysterious power cuts.

    Don't get me wrong - there are many things wrong with the infrastructure here, and the government planning, or lack thereof. I could go on all day about all the things wrong with this city (and many of its inhabitants too) I just haven't seen any power cuts.

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  • 37. At 07:49am on 15 Apr 2009, michelelisa wrote:

    This falls under the category of the grass being greener.
    Brisbane is my hometown, and I can tell you that Sydney shouldn't be looking in that direction for answers. With a fast population increase Brisbane's infrastructure can't handle its population anymore, and the city planners haven't been very successful with solutions. Most of the plans they are implementing right now (ie highway expansions, tunnels etc) will be unable to handle the population by the time they are finished.

    I don't know of any city that is truly successful infrastructure in place, but will it really affect Australia so much? State Governments are the ones that need to answer to these problems.

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  • 38. At 00:51am on 16 Apr 2009, Eliza_nsw wrote:

    Hi Nick, todays headline is a "Pandora Box" - that debate will go on and on for pages and metaphoric blood will be shed. Game if you are....

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  • 39. At 09:33am on 16 Apr 2009, lochraven wrote:

    #26 youngwhateva.
    I wasn't going to correct Eliza about Toto, but since it's gone this far I'll put in my two cents worth. Tonto was Lone Ranger's Indian side-kick. His horse was named Silver. A bit of truly useless information.

    P.S. I've always wanted to visit Australia. From the pictures I've seen of Sydney, it looks like a beautiful city. But my travel days are over-it just wasn't meant to be.
    Good luck to all down under.

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  • 40. At 2:37pm on 16 Apr 2009, ebonycotton wrote:

    Dear Whitlamite... I didn't realize my soulmate was so far away!!! I love your post, its the best.

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  • 41. At 01:10am on 17 Apr 2009, Eliza_nsw wrote:

    Lochraven - if you could see me now you'd see a smile - thank you - Toto. And I dont know your situation but if you are able and really wanted to visit you could, yes its a long haul but with Frist or Business you can rest up. Plus with the stop over thats a resting time. Even premium class is good I flew economy with Qantas - but flew home Premium with BA - man what a trip, worth every $thousand extra I paid. Made me broke but it was a excellent flight - food not so good but hey, who eats.....And the elderly are well looked after. Dont give up, one day you never know what life brings. All the best to you -

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  • 42. At 01:12am on 17 Apr 2009, Eliza_nsw wrote:

    Ebonycotton - cute.. but please just dont name you first born son Gough.... LOL. It was a good post.

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  • 43. At 06:32am on 19 Apr 2009, rosyinoz wrote:

    I don't really see much point in turning the power off for an hour, especially when it means missing the Bill, the weekly highlight among the rubbish on the commercial channels.

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  • 44. At 3:06pm on 19 Apr 2009, wildgazelle wrote:

    I'll admit this first. I'm a Canberrean, and before that from rural NSW, so I covet the very idea of public transport that doesn't require waiting an hour in a concrete shelter for a bus. What I'd give for a tram or train network, no matter how faulty...

    Anyway, the biggest problem with Sydney in my viewpoint is that as a city is it a highly complacent one - it releases that things have been good for it in the past, but assumes that the future will be equally good without any effort being required. The last major rail infrastructure project was opened this year, but was opened late and only runs as a shuttle service. Before this, the Olympic Park and Airport rail stations and before this... well, not much since the 1980s.

    Road infrastructure seems focussed on providing radial tollways, which by their very radial nature move further and further apart as they go deeper and deeper into the suburbs. These suburbs grow ridiculously quick (as in the Hills district) and seem poorly planned at best (case in point: Glenmore Park, a suburb near Penrith, with no rail station, no tram link, and a road system designed in such a way that bus access is near impossible).

    The health and education systems, while still very good, are starting to fray around the edges due mainly to lack of funds (as education and health are the majority of the NSW budget).

    Primarily, though, Sydneysiders do not think that they are being hard done by, because, on the whole, life have been good to them. It will likely continue to be good. It could, however, be better, if Sydneysiders realised that complacency does not in the main get results.

    Oh well, it's summed up by the fuller version of the phrase featured in your blog: as the Whitlams sing on the classic Sydney album, "Love This City", you gotta love this city, for its beauty, but not its brain.

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  • 45. At 09:54am on 03 May 2009, goldenDaybreak wrote:

    I'll simplify it for the schleps, Sydney's infrastructure is being run into the ground on purpose for 2 reasons.
    1. Funds get diverted to causes "Special Interest Groups" lobby for & the Polly gets votes in return, as a consequence real infrastructure degrades for lack of maintenance.

    2."Public-Private-Partnerships" are the Elites new confidence trick.
    Degrade the utility, flog it off, Leave Office & join Macquarie Bank as a consultant, check out what Nick Greiner & Bob Car are doing these days.
    If our Great Grandfathers & Grandfathers built it & maintained it, why can't we?

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