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Freight bridge rises to 11 metres

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Sean Car

It appears a freight bridge, not a tunnel, is officially on the Port of Melbourne’s horizon after an Andrews’ Government Minister alluded to plans of an 11-metre-high openable bridge adjacent to the Bolte in State Parliament last month.

In response to a query from Sustainable Australia Member for Southern Metropolitan Clifford Hayes about the proposed freight link on November 23, Minister for Ports and Freight Melissa Horne said she was unaware of any plans for a six-metre bridge.

Instead, while only at “concept level at this stage”, she said the Port of Melbourne had proposed a bridge to be “over 11 metres high” and “includes a section that can be opened to allow for greater clearance”.

It comes after Docklands News cartoonist Michael Lindell posed 12 questions to Premier Daniel Andrews in last month’s edition as to whether the freight bridge was proceeding in light of ongoing advocacy from the Port of Melbourne.

In response to those 12 questions, the Premier instead referred the matter to Minister Horne, who provided the following statement in response to the entire set of questions …

“The Port of Melbourne has highlighted a rail connection between Docklands and Webb Dock as a necessary way to ensure an efficient freight network and well-connected port,” Minister Horne said.

 

 We understand this project is a priority for the Port of Melbourne, with community involvement expected to be key throughout planning and delivery.

 

On background, Minister Horne reiterated that a “rail bridge” had been listed as a critical priority to be delivered by 2030 as part of the Port of Melbourne’s Port Development Strategy.

In a follow up question from Docklands News as to why a tunnel wasn’t being explored, a government spokesperson said there was “no currently approved proposal for a rail link to Webb Dock”.

While the mystery surrounding what form the bridge takes continues, it would appear from the government’s latest statements on the matter that a bridge is all but confirmed as per the wishes of the Port of Melbourne.

In response to answers provided by the government to his 12 questions, Michael Lindell thanked Minister Horne for her “informative response”.

“The Bolte Bridge was built with a 25-metre clearance to ensure our Victoria Harbour would survive as a vital and animated heart within the City of Melbourne,” he said.

“The proposed rail linkage with a clearance of 11 metres would massively compromise access, character and inevitably life.”

“Are we prepared to sacrifice Victoria Harbour to create a connection between parts of the port?”

“Victoria builds tunnels often and extensively. Surely it is not beyond our wit to resolve this challenge without permanent collateral damage to our priceless harbour.”

“Do we really value Docklands?”

Yarra Action Group chairman Keith Sutherland, who called on the assistance of Clifford Hayes to ask the question of Minister Horne in Parliament, said it was time for answers.

“For far too long the residents of Docklands and Yarra’s Edge have had the uncertainty of a tram bridge from Collins St to Lorimer St and now we have a double whammy with a proposed freight bridge adjoining the Bolte Bridge,” he said.

“It’s about time the so-called experts looked outside the square and sourced alternatives to freight and tram bridges and looked at some of the worldwide solutions in immersed tubes, which Sydney has had for decades.”

“They are a far cheaper option and creates far less visual pollution and damage. Also, we identified that freight could run through the tubes using robotics which is a far better option and would take many containers off busy Lorimer St.”

“From my observations the City of Melbourne and State Government seem to be pro-development but when powerful business interests want something they seem to prevail at the expense of residents.”

“It’s time for answers. We realise COVID has been a priority over the past two years but now it’s time for fairness and consultation.” •

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