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Dump the tram bridge proposal

29 May 2018

By Keith Sutherland

Having read hundreds of reports and submissions to the Fishermans Bend Planning Review Panel, I haven’t seen any justification to proceed with a tram bridge across the Yarra River from Collins to Lorimer streets.

No one denies the logic of public transport to service Australia’s most exciting urban redevelopment, the Fishermans Bend employment and residential precincts. But, if it has 80,000 employees and 120,000 new residents, then trams will not cope with the demand.

In most progressive countries, trains are provided in advance of new developments. They can carry up to 1050 passengers at a time – as opposed to our newest trams which carry a maximum of 210 people. This means 126 trams would be required in the twice-daily, two-hour peak period – or one tram every 57 seconds.

If the state government is serious about Fishermans Bend’s future it must dump the current proposal prepared by Jacobs for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Costings need to be revealed and then compared with alternatives.

Proposal A

This would be the cheapest, but it may not cater for future passenger demands. 

Maybe re-route Tram 12 to go across Queensbridge, which is totally under utilised and only services tram route 58. Tram routes 96 and 109 service St Kilda Beach and Port Melbourne.

It would be my suggestion that the same route across the Clarendon St bridge be used and new line at Normandy Rd Junction be built to meet up with Turner St as proposed in Fishermans Bend strategy (page 31). 

Proposal B

Build an immersed tube under the Yarra River alongside Bolte Bridge then continue tram routes 30, 70, 75 and 86 past the District Shopping Centre along Docklands Drive. Continue on with a tunnel on the south side under the extremely busy Lorimer St, under Graham St and come up in Turner St to again meet with the tram proposal in the strategy.

Reasons for dumping the bridge

  • Tram routes 11 and 48 are already at maximum capacity, even without another further 20,000 expected employees and 5000 new residents in Docklands;
  • Lorimer St is already unable to cope with traffic congestion carrying 90 bulk cement trucks daily plus hundreds of concrete mixing trucks and transport vehicles. About 5000 containers leave the port every week and 74 per cent of container trucks use Lorimer St between Webb Dock to Swanson Dock;
  • The concrete industry would be in jeopardy if a tram was crossing Lorimer St every two minutes as predicted;
  • Marina YE would lose up to 70 boats, denied access due to height restrictions;
  • Property values could decrease due to probable loss of marina and loss of ambiance of the area. Also a possible class action could cost government up to $500 million if the litigants were successful;
  • The proposed tram bridge would be hugely expensive because the electrical system needs to be earthed through about 30 metres of silt to bedrock. This is not to mention the further cost of major acquisitions and another new bridge straddling the West Gate Freeway;
  • The position of the tram bridge, even if it was feasible due to gradient required to get to 6.5m, would also have a detrimental effect on ANZ’s head office and future developments by Lendlease and Mirvac; and
  • Has the government considered the effects on loss of tourism and business in the Docklands/Yarra’s Edge area due to possible loss of yachts and larger boats at the marina?

Benefits of an immersed tube

  • Cost. It is believed an immersed tube could be approximately $350,000 million;
  • No disruption to roads and businesses in the construction stage;
  • No acquisitions required;
  • Extension of tram route would enhance The District Shopping Centre and NewQuay with increased patronage;
  • Connectivity with Southern Cross Station, Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and the new State Library metro stations;
  • Eliminate the need for an expensive freight bridge whereby the tube could also carry containers from Webb Dock to the northern Swanson and Dynon port facilities using robotics technology;
  • The Andrews government is spending billions on reducing tram and rail crossings, so it makes no sense building a new one across extremely busy Lorimer St; and
  • It is believed that the immersed tube concept and tunneling would be approximately two thirds cheaper than tram bridge proposal including acquisitions, bridges and crossings.

Finally let’s hope that, after the exhaustive Fishermans Bend Planning Panel Review process, when the final report is delivered to government, it will be released as a public document and not held over as a cabinet document.

It should be released prior to November election as I’m sure it will be a contentious election issue and will have a major impact on the Melbourne and Albert Park electorates. 

Keith Sutherland is the chair of Yarra’s Edge Class Action Committee and a spokesperson for “We Live Here” group on tram bridge.

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