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Tube idea is struggling

28 Mar 2018

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands is struggling to get the proponents of the Yarra’s Edge tram bridge to seriously consider an immersed tube alternative.

With a state election in November, local member Martin Foley has the most to lose but he hasn’t embraced the suggestion that the alterative route be seriously looked at.

The community-proposed immersed tube alternative does away with the need for three bridges referenced in the Draft Fishermans Bend Framework, released last year.

Under the alternative plan, the immersed tube running in parallel with the Bolte Bridge would carry trams, port freight and bicycles. The passenger trams and the container freight from the Port of Melbourne would share the same tracks.

The proposal would prevent the river and Victoria Harbour being burdened with any more bridges, which impede marine traffic.

The framework recommends a tram bridge at Yarra’s Edge, a bicycle bridge on the east side of the Bolte Brige and a freight train bridge on the west side of the bridge.

“Some people have suggested alternatives,” Mr Foley told Docklands News. “The current planning panel process is a public forum in which these and other issues are being tested.”

But the planning panel is exclusively examining the recommendations of the draft Fishermans Bend Framework.

The authors of the framework looked at 10 tram options but did not look at any option spanning the mouth of Victoria Harbour to link with the Docklands Drive tram routes (86, 75, 70 and 30) which connect with LaTrobe, Bourke and Flinders streets.

More significantly, they did not look at any immersed tube or tunnelling options. Indeed, Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s expert witness to the panel has revealed that underground options were specifically excluded from examination.

John Kiriakidis of GTA Consultants on March 5 told the panel of framework limitations.

“The scope of the study specifically excludes a tunnel option for the freight corridor,” Mr Kiriakidis said. “The justification for excluding the tunnel option is outlined in the technical supporting document entitled “Review of Options Container Handling for Port of Melbourne Preliminary Findings Report” (Parsons Brinckerhoff 2009).”

“This study contemplated a bridge and a tunnel option for the river crossing, however a bridge crossing was considered the only viable option as a tunnel would cost considerably more and would create significant environmental issues.”

Had the framework’s authors been able to consider an immersed tube option for freight, passenger trams and cyclists, they may have well come to entirely different recommendations for Fishermans Bend.

The framework’s authors incorrectly believe that a freight train bridge could be built at the height of the Bolte Bridge. But Mr Kiriakidis’s evidence contradicts this.

Despite being prevented from looking into the matter, he said: “It is noted that these recommendations are predicated on the proposed freight corridor bridge and proposed northern pedestrian bridge being provided as opening bridges.”

In further explaining the limitations of his brief, he said: “It is noted that my review excludes assessment of bridge height, exploration of alternative options for the bridge, consideration of the option of strengthening the existing Bolte Bridge and staging plans to determine when infrastructure will be built.”

Port Phillip Mayor Bernadene Voss is also under an incorrect understanding that the framework’s authors considered the immersed tube option for a tram route.

She told Docklands News: “I thought the taskforce spent enormous time looking all the options so we shouldn’t double up in any work already done.”

She said that if the route was still via Plummer St and the project was delivered early, it would be appropriate to further examine the immersed tube option.

To date, none of the Albert Park election candidates have supported the tube option.

Liberal candidate and Port Phillip councillor Andrew Bond says he is unable to support the concept because “fine detail” and costings are not available.

Supporters of the concept believe it is cheaper to build a single immersed tube rather than three bridges. The tube is certainly a better option for Docklands.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Johanna Maxwell said: “The immersed tube would benefit both precincts while delivering sustainable access.”

“It would remove the threat from the freight alignment and guarantee future access to Victoria Harbour.”

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