Sydney CBD street furniture to be overhauled for first time in 20 years

Sydney Mayor Clover Moore said last June that the contract change to QMS would modernize the streets and generate “significant revenue” for the city through advertisements on the shelters, kiosks and billboards.

The reasons for the full renovation are unclear, as converting could temporarily leave town with no income from the ads on the furniture.

The installation of new furniture was not mandatory for the council. According to industry sources, JCDecaux offered to sell the existing assets such as bus stops and kiosks last year after losing the contract. However, the proposal was rejected.

A Sydney city spokesman declined to comment on the offer.

“The 22-year-old JCDecaux furniture was built according to the standards of the time. They are recycled and reused in accordance with JCDecaux’s sustainability plan, ”said the City Sydney spokesman. “The new street furniture was designed according to the relevant sustainability guidelines of the city.”

Steve O’Connor, CEO of JCDecaux, told The Sydney Morning Herald it was still in discussions about disposal agreements.

“Regardless of that result, we are a responsible corporate citizen who really cares about the environment and we would reuse and recycle anything we can,” said O’Connor. “However, with the best will in the world, it is inevitable that a large part of it will end up in a landfill.”

Development plans submitted to the council for approval indicate that QMS has submitted 14 proposals for billboard replacement. QMS does not require a council development permit for the bus stops. If successful, this new signage and furniture will cost $ 12.98 million to install. That number is expected to increase as QMS makes more suggestions for items such as kiosks and benches. The proposed signage is not much different from the signage that is already on the streets.

The bus stops will be torn down in July in the CBD and the surrounding areas.Recognition:Steven Siewert

The proposed bus stops are similar to those already on Sydney's streets.  The council decided not to buy them from the incumbent advertising company JCDecaux.

The proposed bus stops are similar to those already on Sydney’s streets. The council decided not to buy them from the incumbent advertising company JCDecaux.

The changes could change the cityscape dramatically, but they also affect local businesses operating from the kiosks and on streets with bus stops. Local businesses have come under severe pressure in recent years due to the construction of the light rail line and the reduction in commuters caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some companies that rent the kiosks are aware of the situation but do not know when or where to move.

A Sydney city spokesman said kiosk operators had received rent relief but did not provide details of plans for the future. “We will continue to consult and communicate with kiosk operators,” she said. “We will keep commuters informed about disruptions in good time when this project is introduced.”

Sydney City Council is separately attempting to choose a provider of free public WiFi, but has not made a final decision. The minutes of a council meeting on December 14th show that two companies are currently shortlisted, while a separate document from the months before stated that these two companies are ENE Hub and One WiFi. A final decision is expected to be finalized by mid-year.

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JCDecaux first entered the Australian market in 1997 after winning the Sydney city tender prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. A disagreement with the council over an ad-supported payphone deal with Telstra in 2017 resulted in a failure to land a new 10-year street furniture deal.

The payphone dispute eventually led to a federal court lawsuit between the Telstra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane councils.

“The installation of new payphones in the CBD is not about the provision of benefits, but about a Trojan horse for advertising,” said Ms. Moore before the dispute before the federal court.

The dispute – whether the telecommunications provider could install the payphones under the Universal Service Act – was won by Telstra. An appeal has been lost by Telecom, which has since filed a special leave request with the High Court of Australia.

Zoe Samios is a media and telecommunications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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