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Editions
August 09 Edition Cover

A tale of three bridges

05 Dec 2017

 

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands has responded in varied ways to last month’s revelation that it is threatened by three new bridges.

The recently released draft Fishermans Bend Framework proposes a tram bridge at Yarra’s Edge and two more potential bridges across the mouth of the harbour.

 

Tram bridge

Not everyone is opposed to the tram bridge that will link Docklands with Fishermans Bend before 2025.

City of Melbourne planning portfolio chair Nicholas Reece supports it, saying jobs and population growth should prevail over residents’ berthing needs.

Responding to a Residents 3000 forum on November 2, Cr Reece said: “80,000 residents and 60,000 jobs is a bigger number than 50 boats. There were some very vocal boat owners around the Mirvac development.”

“I don’t think it will interfere with boat traffic in a very significant way. Hopefully the height of the bridge will allow boats to come and go.”

Mirvac’s residential general manager Elysa Anderson told the November 24 Docklands Networking Lunch she thought a tram service would be a positive addition to the precinct (see our story on page 11).

And in this edition Ministerial Advisory Committee Yarra’s Edge community representative Phil Spender outlines why the bridge is necessary (see page 8).

Others, however, are furious. Our story of a community consultation on November 8, hosted by local MP Martin Foley, tells of widespread community anger at an apparent broken election promise (see page 9).

Some of this anger is manifesting in a legal class action for millions of dollars in compensation (see page 11).

Compensation of $300 million is being talked about. This would be far better spent on a tram tunnel from the end of LaTrobe St, under Victoria Harbour to Ingles St.

This is an idea from Yarra’s Edge newcomer, Keith Sutherland, and brings added benefits such as connecting with an under-utilised tram corridor (unlike Collins St, which is full!), as well as connecting with Southern Cross Station, Flagstaff Station, Melbourne Central Station and the new State Library metro station (CBD North).

It would also service the burgeoning City North urban renewal precinct and help Victoria Harbour become the “Circular Quay” of Melbourne as the home of water commuter craft.

 

Rail bridge

The Fishermans Bend Framework recommends the reservation of a rail alignment downstream of the Bolte Bridge.

Docklands can live with any bridge which is the same height of the Bolte, and this is where the framework’s recommendation becomes problematic.

Government transport planner Dimitri Lolas told the November 8 community consultation that a future rail bridge would, indeed, be as high as the Bolte.

But this is impossible – an opinion confirmed at a different meeting hosted by the Docklands Chamber of Commerce on November 30.

Port of Melbourne executive general manager Jason Price said: “I’m also aware that freight trains will not ever be able to come to the height of the Bolte Bridge. That’s one thing I’m very confident of. They’ll never be able to traverse at the height of the Bolte Bridge. It’s just impossible for a loco set to be able to do so.”

Mr Lolas believes a train can climb to the top of the Bolte because it would already be at 20 metres above the ground when it crossed the M1 freeway. Skyrail is clearly in favour with the Victorian Government!

And, while a train would have some kilometres to gain elevation on the south side of the river, this is not the case on the north. The draft Fishermans Bend Framework appears to have been solely assessed on elements within its own geographic boundary. It’s almost as if what happens in the rest of Melbourne doesn’t have relevance.

An example of this is a revelation from Mr Price that the framework authors did not consult the port on the practicalities of rail bridges.

Mr Price confirmed, however, that the port would need a freight connection between Webb Dock and its facilities on the northern side of the river in the future.

“Over time, it’s fair to say there will need to be a rail connection to Webb Dock. What does that rail connection look like? The answer is, honestly, at this moment, I don’t know,” he said.

“We haven’t spent time looking at that and the reason we haven’t looked at it is that it’s a fair way off for us.”

Future technology for moving containers, however, is likely to save Docklands from a low bridge. Unlike trains, self-powered, container-carrying autonomous vehicles can climb steep slopes and can turn sharp corners.

Habitat Trust chairman, Professor Allan Rodger, told Docklands News that existing tram technology would easily be able to climb the height of the Bolte Bridge.

“It would be child’s play to implement a tram-based freight system at that height today,” he said.

In its response to the draft framework, the Docklands Chamber of Commerce is likely to support the reservation of the freight alignment on the strict condition that any future bridge is built at the height of the Bolte.

 

Pedestrian/cyclist bridge

This proposal is like a bad dream that just won’t go away. Development Victoria (and in its previous iterations, Places Victoria and VicUrban) takes every opportunity to draw this bridge into future plans for Docklands (only to be told by the community to take it off).

The nightmare proposal appears in the framework just upstream of the Bolte Bridge.

Like the freight link, this proposal would have full community support if it was built at the height of the Bolte Bridge. But work to date is proceeding on the basis of an opening low-level bridge – which is clearly unacceptable.

At the November 8 consultation, framework co-author and transport planner Dimitri Lolas said he knew nothing about the proposal and admitted it had been included at the insistence of Development Victoria.

It’s up to Docklanders to again tell government authorities that open waterways are integral to the future of our suburb. It’s what makes us Docklands.

If they want to choke Docklands with bridges, then they might as well fill in the harbour and sell off the reclaimed land for more residential towers!

Responses to the draft framework are due by December 15 – see https://engage.vic.gov.au/fishermans-bend-draft-framework

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