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Accidents prompt upgrade for Sydney Opera House

Traffic accidents outside the Sydney Opera House, many involving tourists, have prompted a $125 million spend on building works for the sail-shaped building, officials said on Sunday.

world Updated: Jun 06, 2010 11:02 IST

Traffic accidents outside the Sydney Opera House, many involving tourists, have prompted a $125 million spend on building works for the sail-shaped building, officials said on Sunday.

The monument will receive the biggest investment in its 37-year history after it was revealed traffic incidents occurred almost daily on the harbour foreshore outside the building, some involving sightseers being hit by trucks.

"Anyone who spends any time at the Opera House and here on the forecourt is aware of the multiple incidents that happen here on a daily basis," the landmark's chief executive Richard Evans told reporters.

"There have been 200 reported incidents, many of which have necessitated ambulances coming... many of these people are tourists and then ended up getting flown home. It's really not a great situation."

Evans said the proposed works, which will reduce the potential for collisions with pedestrians by creating an access tunnel linking to a new underground loading dock, would be "completely transformative".

The New South Wales state government announced the $152 million spending plan, which will also fund a new lift to move heavy sets and scenery, following reports the Opera House was facing a financial crisis.

Officials have dismissed reports that the building is unsafe but acknowledged that some equipment is ageing and will be replaced over time.

Sydney's Daily Telegraph last week reported that one independent assessment had found the entire building was facing funding pressures while another revealed stage machinery was so old it was unsafe.

"The nation has used and abused the Opera House since day one but very few governments have put their hand up to to contribute to overall maintenance," an unnamed source told the paper.

Officials have dismissed reports that the building is unsafe or in danger of closing but have acknowledged that some equipment is ageing and will be replaced over time.

"This is unquestionably the most significant building of the 20th century and the work we are doing will ensure that it stays that way," New South Wales state Premier Kristina Keneally said on Sunday.

The Opera House is the work of the late Danish architect Joern Utzon, who quit the project mid-construction in 1966 amid controversy over his artistic vision and budget blow-outs.

Opened by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, the World Heritage listed Opera House attracts 7.4 million visitors a year. It will remain open during the construction which should begin in 2011 and be completed by mid-2013.

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