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New port plan could save Docklands from bridge

28 Sep 2010

New port plan could save Docklands from bridge Image

By Shane Scanlan

A thoughtful plan for the future of Melbourne’s port put forward last month would save Docklands from being choked by a low rail bridge.

Stevedoring company Asciano suggests that Swanson Dock be upgraded to handle expected demand for the next decade and to bring the Port of Geelong into the longer-term picture.

Ultimately, Asciano suggests that Geelong and Hastings should become dual gateways for all freight bound for Melbourne.

Apart from massive cost savings, the plan would mean the Port of Melbourne Corporation no longer had any reason to build its proposed rail bridge just eight metres above the water in front of the Bolte Bridge.

The Docklands community is vehemently opposed to the port’s bridge plan which would disrupt marine traffic and undermine the maritime nature of the Docklands precinct.

The port currently proposes a “rail link” between its existing Dynon freight facility and a proposed $1.3billion expansion at Webb Dock at Port Melbourne.

The port claims not to have a concrete proposal for a bridge, saying it has not decided between a bridge and a tunnel. But engineers advise that, even if there was money for a tunnel, there is simply not enough available distance available to cater for the required gradients.

The City of Melbourne supports the “rail link” but denies it supports the bridge. This is despite CEO Kathy Alexander admitting to the Docklands Co-ordination Committee meeting on September 16 that the tunnel idea was impractical.

VicUrban is also sitting on the fence, saying it has no position because there is no actual proposal for a “bridge” before it.

In June Ports Minister Tim Pallas signalled that he may be willing to reconsider the Port’s Webb Dock/low rail bridge plan by calling for new ideas on the future of container freight in Melbourne.

In its new proposal, Asciano points out that there is no rail link between Webb Dock and the north side of the river where all the freight would ultimately end up.

It suggests activating the Port of Geelong, where a rail link already exists.

“This would deliver additional international container capacity sufficient to satisfy Victoria’s demand through to 2030, and provide long term capacity to the west of Melbourne,” its submission says.

Asciano further suggests that the Port of Hasting could be developed at a sustainable pace to pick up the rest of Victoria’s container demand beyond 2030.

The Docklands Community Association last month responded to the City of Melbourne’s draft Municipal Strategic Statement which supports the “rail link” with Webb Dock.

DCA president, Roger Gardner, said the feedback from the community was overwhelming objection to a rail bridge and support for a tunnel instead.

The convenor of “Defend our Docklands … or” (DODO) Michael Lindell said if the State Government was serious about inter-modalism, it would be attracted to the Asciano plan.

“If they were serious about it, they would have a 20 to 30 year plan that provided a real statewide solution,” he said.

“The only option that strengthens the west is Swanson in the short term and Geelong in the longer term,” Mr Lindell said.

“Even with Hastings in the longer term, you have to ask how they are going to move this freight to the west? And, without freight also coming via Geelong, the answer is through the inner city.”

ING Real Estate Development last month wrote to Mr Pallas opposing the bridge and supporting the tunnel option.

A spokesperson said a summary of the letter was:

“ING Real Estate has for many years continued to lobby and support like-minded groups who contest the proposed low level rail bridge from the northern Dynon and Swanson precinct to the southern river mouth Webb precinct.”

“To ensure that Victoria Harbour, the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay continue to be embraced by public and private water transport systems for generations to come, ING Real Estate Development’s request is for the development of a tunnel corridor as the freight transport solution, to ensure the Docklands, the CBD and Port Phillip Bay is connected forever without impediment.

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