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Media Releases - First indoor escalators and lift for Sydney Opera House

Issued 22 April 2008


Sydney Opera House has revealed plans for the first ever interior escalators, which will take patrons to the Opera Theatre and Concert Hall.

Construction of the two sets of escalators will start in December 2008 and be completed by mid-2009. They will be installed within the major sets of stairs, hidden by a pre-cast wall that matches the design of the existing side walls.

When used in conjunction with the lift which is now under construction, the escalators will save concert-goers negotiating a combined total of 184 stairs to and from the major venues and the Lower Concourse, and walking a distance of about 500 metres.

These building projects are key components of the renovations of the Western Foyers, designed by architect Jørn Utzon, and the first since Sydney Opera House was World Heritage Listed in 2007.

Chief Executive Richard Evans said approximately 20% of the population has mobility issues and the improvements to the building will benefit hundreds of thousands of visitors.

“Sydney Opera House was designed at a time when accessibility wasn’t really thought about,” Mr Evans said.

“We’re trying to make it easier for the elderly and less able to have the same access as anyone else.”

Work on the lift, which will hold up to 50 people, is well underway and scheduled to open in December 2008.

Connecting the Lower Concourse, the Western Foyers and the Box Office foyer, it will be entered via a short underground corridor on the Lower Concourse level near the Sydney Opera House shop.

For the first time, patrons will be able to travel undercover up to the Western Foyers for the Drama Theatre, Playhouse and Studio. When they alight at the Box Office Foyer level, they will travel by escalator to the southern foyers of the Concert Hall and the Opera Theatre.

The Federal Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, congratulated the Sydney Opera House Trust and NSW Government for recognising the mobility needs of older people and people with disabilities.

“There are currently 1.9 million Australians aged 70 years and over, comprising nearly 10 percent of the population; a number that will double in the next 20 years,” Mrs Elliott said. 

“With this comes the challenge of making sure our public buildings and institutions are able to meet the mobility needs of older, frail people.”

Funded by the NSW Government, the entire Western Foyers project, including the lift and escalators will cost $38 million. The new-look 100 metre-long foyers will look out to Sydney Harbour and provide additional amenities, new ticketing and cloaking facilities and new food and beverage outlets.

All elements of the project are scheduled for completion by mid-2009.


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