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Let’s get it right

01 Nov 2018

By Keith and Karen Sutherland

Yarra’s Edge residents

After an exhaustive process, the Fishermans Bend Planning Review Panel’s report was released by the state government early October.

It’s before the November 24 election but does not allow much time to analyse the river crossing and, in particular, its impact before the government goes into caretaker mode. The panel has done a great job within the guidelines of its terms of reference but there are some issues still to be resolved.

One of the main issues that is still causing much grief for residents of Docklands and Yarra’s Edge precinct is uncertainty surrounding the proposed tram bridge over the Yarra from Collins to Lorimer streets.

The review panel accepts that more time is required to finalise the river crossing and, in particular, its impact on private property. The panel acknowledges that this provides little comfort to property owners or the broader community.

The draft framework clearly shows the preferred location of the tram river crossing extending from Collins St.

The review panel accepts that providing public transport infrastructure requires detailed planning and assessment, design and business case development. No doubt, this task would most likely be an iterative process, taking some time to complete.

The review panel accepts that unhappiness with the tram bridge should be balanced against broader community benefits and the overall needs of Fishermans Bend.

In our opinion, this is where a rethink is required as the review panel had its terms of reference limited to PTV’s preferred location for a tram crossing. Two viable alternatives have since emerged which would cause far less disruption and, it appears, at a far cheaper cost.

The river crossing has to be one of the most expensive options and has major problems finding connectivity to the riverbed, let alone being able to get sufficient gradient to allow trams to cross the Yarra. It would come too close to the ANZ building and would also result in loss of valuable public open space and artwork.

The Jacobs Report stage 1 only assessed above-ground river crossing options. And at no stage has the Andrews government or PTV been forthcoming with costings of the bridge proposal and we’re sure the public would be horrified.

It’s not just the cost of a tram bridge but it’s also a tram crossing over extremely busy Lorimer St along with another hugely expensive bridge over West Gate Freeway and, of course, the unnecessary property acquisitions to make way for a new tram line to Fisherman’s Bend.

Of course, the tram crossing goes totally against the government’s policy of tram and train crossing removals. It has already sold the Port of Melbourne lease for about $10 billion and that money was being used to fund crossing removals. To now suggest a new crossing would be a gross waste of taxpayers’ money.

We want to stress that we are totally in favour of public transport, but the only way to service the future needs of Fishermans Bend is via trains. Trams will never be able to service the community’s needs.

The two new train routes proposed in Fishermans Bend draft strategy providing three new metro railway stations are sensible proposals and Metro 2 should be started once the current metro construction project comes to an end.

The state government should be applauded for its current program, even though at times it is quite disruptive. In the long run, Victorians will have a world-class public transport system.

As mentioned previously there are two viable alternative options to the tram bridge proposal and they are:

  • Immersed tube under the Yarra close to the Bolte Bridge, then tunnel under busy Lorimer St thus avoiding the need for a tram crossing and coming up near Turner St which is where the original tram route was identified. This proposal would not require any property acquisitions. Also immersed tube is so much cheaper than expensive tunnelling. If required, the tube could house an extension of tram routes 30, 70, 75 and 86 past The District Docklands shopping centre. It could be used as a better option to remove container trucks off Lorimer St by using the immersed tube to connect Webb Dock with Swanson Dock possibly using automated robotics.
  • Tram routes 96, 109 and 12 could have a minor adjustment by re-routing 12 around William St then across the under-utilised Queens Bridge which only has Tram 58. Only 400 metres of new line along City Rd would be needed. The line would then reconnect to the 109 route before veering off to Fishermans Bend.

It really only requires a bit of planning to pursue better and cheaper options.

Disadvantages of tram bridge

  • Trams crossing extremely busy Lorimer St would increase traffic chaos. The report suggests there could be a tram crossing every 57 seconds.
  • Has building industry been consulted about major increase in costs if the concrete supply has to be relocated due to traffic congestion?
  • Marina YE is one of Melbourne’s jewels and a tram bridge would also threaten the Rufus Knight Heron that lives there.
  • Another low-level bridge could exclude up to 71 boats and wreck the marina’s viability and exclude party boats, which use Collins Landing. Have water-based emergency services been consulted?
  • If a class action by residents and boat owners was successful, the government could have to pay out between $300-$500 million.
  • Are Melbourne City Council and the government aware of the thousands of new apartments on their way?
  • PTV and the government expect people to use public transport but are they aware trams 11 and 48 are almost at maximum capacity and at peak times they are overloaded and quite dangerous.
  • Trains are the only way to move maximum people not trams.
  • How is the council and government going to accommodate the expected 16,000 extra vehicle movements via West Gate Tunnel project into Wurundjeri Way and the extra congestion at the Lorimer and Montague streets intersection?
  • The draft framework says nothing about the financial loss and trickledown effect to local businesses with the reduction of boat numbers and, of course, the amenity of the area.

You can say we are passionate about opposing the tram bridge and you would be right but the decision to build it defies logic.

We believe there are better and cheaper options. Hopefully a better consultation process will take place before deciding on a final workable option.

As the review panel said in its report, alternative options for the tram routes were outside its terms of reference.

There is much at stake to get this right for future generations of people going to live and work at Fishermans Bend and Docklands/Yarra’s Edge precincts.

Let’s have a rethink of the preferred option and proper consultation so we can have a workable outcome that will require some compromises. But most of all let’s get it right.

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