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Zombie bridges are back

06 Nov 2017

Zombie bridges are back Image

By Shane Scanlan

Docklands’ recurring nightmare bridges are back, with the release last month of the government’s Draft Fishermans Bend Framework.

The state government has reneged on its 2014 state election pledge to ditch the proposed tram bridge from the end of Collins St to Yarra’s Edge.

But, even worse, is the potential re-emergence of the low rail bridge in front of the Bolte Bridge connecting the disparate parts of the Port of Melbourne.

Various other cycle and pedestrian bridges are also proposed which, collectively all threatened to murder Docklands’ future viability by blocking boat access.

“We thought these bridges were dead and buried,” said Melbourne Passenger Boating Association president Jeff Gordon. “But they’re like zombies. They just keep coming back.”

The framework rejects out of hand the possibility of water transport between the CBD and Fishermans Bend.

“The assessment of water transport options show that it is currently unviable to operate a ferry service to link Fishermans Bend to the central city,” the framework says.

Mr Gordon said: “Other great cities of the world make water transport part of the mix,” he said. “But here lack of foresight and vision are holding us back.”

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Joh Maxwell agrees the proposal would devastate Docklands.

"The potential delivery of a road/rail route across the opening to Victoria Harbour will close off this magnificent waterway," she said. "No height details have been provided, however the implementation would significantly damage the usability of the waterways."

"The Victoria Harbour water space is the jewel in the crown for Docklands, with 7kms of waterfront, every effort should be made to enhance, activate and ensure the waterways are an active space within Docklands."

"Currently servicing a vibrant charter boat community, Port Phillip Ferry Services, the growing heritage fleet and the many visiting recreational boat operators, reduced heights and access will destroy this facet of our community in Docklands."

"The hosting of the Volvo Ocean Race may also be impacted," she said.

While all bridges are damaging, the worst of the proposals is the spectre of low rail bridge just downstream from the Bolte Bridge.

The eight-metre-off-the-water bridge has been haunting Docklands almost from its inception when the Port of Melbourne lost the rail connection which used to travel up Lorimer St and Footscray Rd (now Harbour Esplanade).

The port has been advocating for the bridge to move freight between an expanding Webb Dock and its major railway connections on the Swanson/Appleton/Dynon side of its operation.

Public outcry from Docklanders successfully killed off the concept in 2012 when Coalition Minister for Ports Denis Napthine officially ruled it out.

The Premier of the day, Ted Baillieu, explained that the expansion at Webb Dock was an interim measure while the Port of Hastings was brought on stream. The Andrews Labor Government has since scuttled the Hastings expansion plan and is proceeding with renewed energy at Webb Dock at the mouth of the Yarra River.

The low rail bridge concept has reappeared in the new Fishermans Bend Framework document, which was released by the State Government on October 21.

The Fishermans Bend Integrated Transport Plan recommends to: “Safeguard a future road and rail corridor to connect Webb Dock to Swanson/Appleton Docks which, depending on port traffic growth, may need to be constructed over the next 40 years. An alignment option is recommended for long-term corridor protection.”

An accompanying diagram shows the same alignment over the river as the previously well-developed low rail bridge concept. Engineers agree that the highest a freight train could rise in such a short distance is about eight metres.

The height of the Bolte Bridge was modelled on the top mast of the Alma Doepel sailing ship, which is currently under restoration in Docklands.

Damage from the resurrected tram bridge between Collins Landing and Yarra’s Edge is mostly confined to owners of boats at Marina YE. But its re-emergence is a breach of faith, considering consistent denials from the government that the concept hadn’t died with its 2014 pre-election promise.

Fishermans Bend Taskforce general manager Geoff Ward wouldn’t reveal how high the tram bridge would be when asked at the October 25 Docklands Community Forum.

Instead, he advised that a consultation would be conducted at Yarra’s Edge on October 31.

But Mr Ward did reveal that the bridge would be constructed in the first decade of the Fishermans Bend development.

When asked how the bridge could be back on the agenda when it was specifically not ALP policy, Mr Ward said: “I’m not the politician. I think you’d better direct that to the Minister for Planning.”

“The need for public transport in Fishermans Bend is absolutely critical. It’s a catalyst project for us and if you have a look at the transport plan, there were a large number of alternative routes that were considered as part of our process and that’s the one the government’s selected.”

Opposition planning and transport spokesman David Davis condemned the Labor Party for its “treacherous breach” of its election promise.

“The Liberal Party believes this was a terrible lie by Labor,” he said.

But Mr Davis hasn’t said the Coalition would not build the bridge if elected to government next year. The most he is promising is to “investigate all alternative options”.

The Liberal Party’s candidate for the seat of Albert Park, City of Port Phillip councillor Andrew Bond, is 100 per cent behind the Yarra’s Edge bridge.

In September he told Docklands News Yarra’s Edge residents didn’t have a problem with the tram bridge.

Mr Davis (who refers the bridge as part of Southbank) said: “It’s clear that the government is intending to cut through that area and that will have a significant area on many of the people in Southbank.”

“It’s not what they voted for. It’s not what they wanted. Daniel Andrews has let them down and Martin Foley, the local member, has let them down. He’s not been advocating for that community.”

Asked how high the proposed cycling bridge on the upstream side of the Bolte Bridge would be, Mr Ward said: “There are absolutely no plans around that, other that it is a general intent. No height is even thought about at the moment.”

The government is accepting feedback on its draft framework until the end of November.

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