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New tram plan is a winner

05 Feb 2018

New tram plan is a winner Image

By Shane Scanlan

The Docklands community has responded to the threat of three marine-choking bridges with a simple tunnel concept that looks like being a winner for all parties.

The proposal is for an immersed tube tunnel immediately upstream of the Bolte Bridge which would carry passenger trams, freight trams and cyclists.

At first glance, it appears that the concept is cheaper than what is currently proposed by government transport planners in the recently-released Draft Fishermans Bend Framework.

Docklands is desperately opposed to bridges which would prevent marine traffic from entering the river and Victoria Harbour.

Under the draft framework, the government would need to fund: A six-metre high tram bridge across the Yarra at Collins Landing, connecting with Lorimer St west of the Array Tower; a freight bridge across the western side of the Bolte Bridge to connect Melbourne’s two port sites; and a bicycle bridge across the eastern side of the Bolte Bridge.

Also adding to the financial attractiveness of the model is a saving of potentially at least $300 million to compensate 1500 Yarra’s Edge apartment owners for devaluation of their properties.

Yarra’s Edge resident Keith Sutherland has proposed the alternative scheme, which has caught the eye of opposition transport spokesperson David Davis who says he is keen to learn more about it.

“The Liberal Party is very concerned about the current proposals which breach Labor’s election promises,” Mr Davis said. “They are not a satisfactory solution to either the public transport requirements or future freight needs.”

“I will meet with the local community in coming weeks to have their proposals explained in detail.”

Under Mr Sutherland’s proposal, the 86 and 70 tram routes would be extended to Fishermans Bend beyond where they currently terminate in Docklands Drive.

The route would either go under or beside Ron Barassi Snr Park before sweeping left and under the river – surfacing again on the south bank where passenger services would continue into Fishermans Bend.

With dual entrances at both tunnel ends, the same tracks could be used by electric autonomous freight trams carrying containers from Webb Dock via the existing Lorimer St freight alignment directly into the north-side Swanson and Dynon port facilities.

“Another plus using the immersed tube is that it can provide a vital link to Port of Melbourne container terminal using automated robotics,” Mr Sutherland said.

Transport experts agree that cyclists could also use the same tunnel and that the cost is likely to be less than the total cost of the currently proposed components.

The alternative model would also bring badly-needed activation to NewQuay and would be a boost to the new urban renewal area of City North via the underutilised LaTrobe St tram corridor.

Mr Sutherland pointed out that the proposed tram route would connect Fishermans Bend with Southern Cross, Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and State Library Metro stations.

He said: “This proposal is a win for boat owners, residents and Public Transport Victoria. To use existing tram routes along Collins St and Port Melbourne, which are already at full capacity and having a tram crossing intersecting the already busy Lorimer St, goes against Andrews government policy of removing crossings.”

“It should prove satisfactory to all concerned parties. It’s a win-win for all and looks like being a cheaper, far better option.”

“If the low tram bridge went ahead there would be a class action against the State Government by residents and boat owners and it’s believed that figures of between $300-$500 million could be sought for loss of amenity and damage done to existing businesses in that area.”

An earlier alternative- tram-bridge-immersed tube concept has been presented to senior advisers to Transport Minister Jacinta Allan, but the government is yet to see the new proposal which is shorter and shares services. Local ALP member Martin Foley was also briefed on an earlier passenger-tram-only tunnel option.

A spokesperson for Minister Allan did not acknowledge the new proposal when provided with a summary of it and asked for a government response. Rather, the spokesperson said: “Transport for Victoria evaluated a number of possible alignments, including a tunnel option.”

The Draft Fishermans Bend Framework says government planners assessed a tram-bridge-alternative tunnel option between Collins St and Yarra’s Edge. They have not assessed the new proposal.

Immersed tube technology is cheaper than tunnelling. Sections are built off-site, floated into position and sunk. Coode Island silt is a potential issue with the selected site, and piles would be required to be sunk to anchor the tubes to the bottom of the river.

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