Labor commits to exploring transport options in Fishermans Bend, including “trackless trams”
An elected Albanese Labor Government would be the first federal government to work with the Victorian Government on delivering public transport to Fishermans Bend, with Macnamara candidate Josh Burns announcing $3 million for a feasibility study last month.
It’s welcome news for Australia’s largest-ever urban renewal zone, which is forecast to house 80,000 residents and 80,000 workers by 2050, with major tram and train routes still yet to be determined or funded by the state government.
But with the Victorian economy plunged into significant debt, both state and local governments (City of Port Phillip and City of Melbourne) have long advocated to the federal government to support the delivery of public transport to the precinct.
And on April 30, Labor’s Josh Burns, who is recontesting Macnamara again having held the seat for the previous term, announced that an elected Albanese Labor government would step up to the plate with a $3 million pledge for a feasibility study.
While the northern side of Docklands falls under the federal seat of Melbourne, Yarra’s Edge residents vote in the Macanamara electorate south of the Yarra River. Many local residents in the precinct continue to campaign against the state government’s “destructive” tram bridge proposal linking Collins and Hartley streets through Point Park, estimated to cost $1-1.5 billion.
But Mr Burns’s announcement on April 29 also included examining “the option of trackless trams”, which opponents of the tram bridge consider to be a less costly and obstructive alternative.
“While the Morrison-Joyce Government sits on its hands, an Albanese Labor Government will partner with the Victorian Government and the cities of Melbourne and Port Phillip to do the hard work of planning this region’s infrastructure future,” Mr Burns said.
“As a first step, Labor will invest $3 million to fund the Fishermans Bend Transport Link Feasibility Study. This study will determine the best way to deliver public transport links into the heart of Fisherman’s Bend, including examining the option of trackless trams.”
In making the announcement alongside Labor’s Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King, Mr Burns said the study would also “consider the most appropriate phasing of delivery.”
The 2019-20 Victorian Budget invested $4.5 million to plan for a potential tram service between Fishermans Bend and the CBD. But while planning work has been underway for some time, the state government has yet to release a preliminary business case.
The University of Melbourne will open its new engineering and design campus in the centre of the precinct’s national employment and innovation cluster (NEIC) at the former General Motors Holden (GMH) site on Salmon St in 2025.
While the government has made announcements about increasing bus services to Fishermans Bend, tram and train services are essential for the growing precinct.
As already seen used in China, trackless trams – battery-powered vehicles with rubber wheels that use sensors rather than steel tracks to run – don’t required overhead powerlines to operate and could be rolled out a lot quicker.
Yarra Residents’ Action Group chairman Keith Sutherland welcomed the announcement from Mr Burns, saying it was time to look to the future.
“This billion-dollar project [tram bridge] makes no economic sense considering the current state of the Victorian budget,” Mr Sutherland said. “It is not only a tram bridge, it also requires a tram crossing over the busy Lorimer St and then a most expensive, either bridge over, or tunnel under, the West Gate Freeway.”
“Their proposal is old infrastructure, and we need to be looking at trackless trams or an immersed tube under the Yarra to take containers off extremely busy Lorimer St using robotics to transfer between the ports and using the latest technology.”
“Or alternatively, bring forward Metro 2 trains to Fishermans Bend as already proposed in the current study. At least trains carry up to 1020 passengers, as opposed to trams carrying around 200 people.”
Mr Burns told Docklands News that while trackless trams were being considered as part of the study, all options were on the table for how to best service the precinct with public transport.
“The federal government hasn’t been willing to work with the state government. It’s not a road upgrade, it’s about what’s going to be the preferred option to potentially build a billion-dollar piece of infrastructure,” he said.
“‘All options’ is to say is we’re going to look at everything. It’s about what is the best option and what can do at the same table.”
“I think that there’s only so long you can plan for. We need to have those conversations. We need to do that together.” •