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Doubts cast on tram bridge

02 Jul 2019

Doubts cast on tram bridge Image

By Sean Car

While a bridge through Yarra’s Edge has long been understood as the state government’s preferred tram route to Fishermans Bend, a stretched state budget means that all options are currently on the table.

Despite the government’s 2018 Fishermans Bend Framework forecasting medium-term delivery of a tram to Fishermans Bend by 2025, it only included $4.5 million over the next two years in its recent budget.

The two-year funding commitment for a business case ($2m) and pre-construction works ($2.5m) means that construction on the project won’t commence until at least 2022 – the same year the government proposes to open a new Fishermans Bend Secondary School.

With the setback of Federal Labor losing the recent election and the state budget forecasting net debt to balloon by more than $50 billion by 2022-23, the expensive tram bridge proposal over the Yarra River is no longer a sure thing.

Docklands News understands that the service provider Yarra Trams is open to discussion about alternative routes, with an extension of route 58 along Queensbridge and Whiteman streets in Southbank considered to have greater cause for expansion than Collins St.

While Yarra Trams refused to provide comment to Docklands News on tram services to Fishermans Bend, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport said the government was exploring all options.

“Fishermans Bend is Australia’s largest urban renewal project and it’s vital that we properly plan the transport needs of this growing residential and employment hub,” the spokesperson said.

“That’s why we’re doing the early works needed for a future tram link to Fishermans Bend. This will help us explore the most appropriate solution and provide advice to government.”

Other alternative routes flagged by the Yarra Residents Action Group include an immersed tube under the harbour via Latrobe St through Docklands Drive, as well as a new route via Harbour Esplanade and North Wharf Bridge into Lorimer St.

Yarra Residents Action Group chairman Keith Sutherland said that while the Department of Transport was currently looking at two of its proposals, he called on Premier Daniel Andrews and his ministry to provide certainty to the community.

“Surely it is time for the Premier to make a statement about the future of the tram bridge to get rid of the uncertainty for business, residents and boat owners at Marina Yarra’s Edge,” he said. “But most of all, realise that tram routes 11 and 48 are incapable of carrying increased patronage to the Docklands precinct of up to 20,000 extra people plus up to 80,000 ultimately to Fishermans Bend.”

With the Fishermans Bend Framework forecasting 80,000 jobs by 2050, the state government’s 2016 purchase of the 37-hectare GM Holden site in the future employment precinct, as well as the delivery of public transport, are central to making good on its projection.

With the University of Melbourne purchasing 7.1 hectares of the site for its new engineering and design campus, and RMIT University in negotiations to follow suit, the government has formally branded Fishermans Bend as a “priority precinct”. With a focus on advanced manufacturing, the area is earmarked to become a national employment and innovation cluster (NEIC).

However, with the precinct’s capital city zoning resulting in landowners forking out growing holding costs for sites, the absence of a significant funding boost for a tram is causing growing concern within the existing business community.

As the public waits for the government to release its funding plan for the precinct, Fishermans Bend Business Forum (FBBF) executive officer David Weston said a full funding commitment to a tram service was essential.

“Until there is a commitment to funding, businesses will be considering their options, which in some cases means relocation.”

With the Federal Morrison government offering $4 billion towards the East West Link following its election win in May, Mr Weston urged the state government to enter into negotiations for that funding to be put towards Metro 2.

The University of Melbourne plans to open its new Fishermans Bend campus in the “early 2020s” and the government is also in the process of finalising a site for a new community hospital, which is projected to open in the Wirraway Precinct in 2025.

 

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