“We’ve had some pretty major construction challenges, particularly due to the COVID disruptions,” said Sydney Metro CEO Peter Regan.
While commuters can use the station concourse on Monday, the planned opening of an easterly entrance to Central Street from Chalmers Street on the same day – near a light rail station – has been delayed.
A new building housing escalators and elevators for the station entrance was damaged during the inferno that devastated a listed warehouse nearby last Thursday.
The entrance is still in a restricted zone surrounding the destroyed warehouse, preventing transport officials from assessing the damage and determining when the warehouse can be opened. While the fire brigade was fighting the fire, water and fire protection agents got into the entrance.
Transport for NSW Acting Secretary Howard Collins said the North-South Concourse and Central Walk would become both the “core artery” and central core of the station.
“It keeps Central Station running at world-class standards and not down those little corridors we’ve all struggled through to get from side to side,” he said. “If we build train stations, then for 100 years. This is a global mega project.”
While train traffic has yet to fully recover from pre-pandemic levels, about 200,000 people a day pass through Central and the number is expected to rise to 450,000 by 2036. Before the pandemic, around 250,000 people used the station every day.
Collins said the longer term goal is to extend the station concourse to Pitt Street on the west side of the station so people could walk underground between Surry Hills to the east and Haymarket to the west.
Commuters will be able to access the subway platforms from the north-south link next year when the main section of the $20 billion Metro City and Southwest rail line between Chatswood and Sydenham opens.
British contractor Laing O’Rourke excavated more than 375,000 tonnes of sandstone beneath the station to build the new waiting shelters and subway platforms.
John Cosgrove, project manager at Laing O’Rourke, said the aesthetics and fittings of the lobby are of a high standard, making it “more of a hotel lobby than a train station”.
The unveiling of the north-south concourse comes as part of a separate $350 million transformation of the central sandstone building that is expected to take three years to complete.
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