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Foley feels the heat over tram bridge

05 Dec 2017

Foley feels the heat over tram bridge Image

Member for Albert Park Martin Foley felt the heat from Yarra’s Edge residents on November 8 over an apparent broken election promise.

Mr Foley vehemently denies promising the government would not build a tram bridge between Docklands and Yarra’s Edge in the lead up to the 2014 state election.

Rather, he says, he ruled out a specific alignment from the western end of the ANZ Centre on the north bank through Point Park on the Yarra’s Edge side and into Fishermans Bend.

He further says the government committed to explore all other tram route options. But, three years later, the direct route between Fishermans Bend and Southern Cross Station remains the most viable.

“We committed as an opposition to make sure that the public transport solution would not include losing the open space at Point Park and making sure that we went through a more transparent process about what the public transport arrangements would look like,” Mr Foley told an often noisy meeting.

“In terms of the commitment that was made, and I made it to many people in this room. I made it to Mirvac and many others. In terms of that we would not cross the river at Point Park and that we would explore public transport options that ensured the best way that the redevelopment that needs to occur in Fishermans Bend has a public transport, rather than a car focus.”

“And I, in all good faith and good conscience and certainty believe that this proposal reflects that commitment.”

Many in the room took issue with Mr Foley’s version of events, claiming the commitment was for no bridge at all.

Government transport planner Dimitri Lolas revealed that the proposed tram bridge would be six metres off the water, which would allow full access to 71 of the 120 boats in Marina YE.

“The recommendation for the bridge from Transport Victoria to government is for a six metre high bridge – fixed, non-opening bridge. We are well aware that this will impact 49 of the 120 current lessees of Yarra’s Edge.”

Mr Lolas said building the bridge three metres higher would add 50 per cent to the cost and would result in access for only another nine boats.

“Why not an opening bridge?” he proposed. “Well, there’s a couple of reasons. An opening bridge, if you think about it, is effectively building in a level crossing – it just happens to be on water. And that goes against what we are trying to do on the rest of the network, which is to get rid of level crossings.”

“Secondly, the tram operations are impacted as it adds to the cost of the operations and reduces the value of those tram services.”

He said opening a bridge only a certain number of times would put undue pressure on boat operators to meet the schedule.

But, he said, the major reason was so it could be used for emergency services coming out of the city to Fishermans Bend.

Mr Lolas also revealed that the bridge would not be raised, once it had crossed the river into Yarra’s Edge. He said it would cross Lorimer St at ground level and would be raised again to cross the M1 freeways.

He ruled out a tunnel as a viable option saying: “The problem with tunnelling is that it creates a very long portal. What it does at each end is it creates a barrier between communities where that portal is.”

He also rejected water transport as an option.

“We did look at water transport. I think we’ll continue to explore the opportunities for some water transport connections. But water transport doesn’t meet that high capacity movement of people that’s needed. But we’ll always remain open to it,” he said.

Mr Lolas predicted that the tram bridge, if accepted by the government, would be built between 2020 and 2025.

Yarra’s Edge residents passionately criticised the recommended tram bridge.

One speaker said: “You might say that it’s only 49 boats, but each of those boats represents family and community. One boat there represents a community and a family and possibly a business connected to that boat.”

Another said: “We all like the marina. We like the boats. We’re living there for a lifestyle choice. If you take away part of that lifestyle, then not only will property values drop but people will be moving out of there.”

A common thread was that the marina was a major attractor in residents’ decision to move to Yarra’s Edge.

“This bridge will kill the river,” another resident said.

Mr Lolas said: “Doing nothing is irresponsible so when you do something, someone’s going to be affected. We’re not unsympathetic bureaucrats in cardigans.”

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