UNDER THREAT - FROM - MELBOURNE METROPOLITAN RAIL AUTHORITY AND THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT

Residents can’t believe what MMRA and the Government is doing to them.

What’s happening to St Kilda Road?

Get ready Melbourne. The massive $10.9 billion Metro rail project will deliver two 9-kilometre rail lines from South Kensington to South Yarra via the CBD, and five new stations. But what will it mean for the grand southern entrance to the city?

Metro Tunnel:

  • Twin 9-kilometre rail tunnels between South Yarra and Kensington
  • Five new stations: Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain
  • Estimated cost of $10.9 billion
  • Due to begin operating in 2026

Where will the disruption be?

From just north of Park Street to just south of Toorak Road West will become a construction zone.

Will I still be able to drive along St Kilda Road?

A route travelled by 30,000 cars a day will be reduced from three lanes in each direction to one each way between Dorcas Street and Toorak Road for two to three years.

As alternate routes, the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) suggests Canterbury Road, Beaconsfield Parade and potentially Punt Road — an already congested arterial that will make some commuters shudder at the thought.

Will there be tram delays during construction?

When asked this question, Yarra Trams referred the ABC to the MMRA, which says it will largely be business as usual for trams on St Kilda Road throughout construction.

The MMRA has, however, foreshadowed changes to local bus routes and timetables.

What about cyclists?

St Kilda Road is one of Australia’s busiest bike routes — and one of Melbourne’s most accident-prone for cyclists.

But access for riders will be maintained with a bike lane in both directions.

Bicycle Network’s Garry Brennan says that is an “acceptable solution” and he’s satisfied cyclists won’t be forced to mix it with cars.

When will the disruption start?

It has already begun — especially if you live or work on St Kilda Road. In recent days, residents say they have been woken by jackhammers at 8:00am on a Sunday, and by mechanical noise after midnight, as preparatory works get underway.

The MMRA’s blue screens are appearing in more and more spots along the boulevard.

On the corner of Domain Road, service relocation works are underway. In Toorak Road, works to reroute the number 8 tram from Domain Road have commenced.

Next, you’ll see Domain Road close between St Kilda Road and the western edge of Edmund Herring Oval. Traders on Domain Road have been told to expect 250 trucks in and out every day.

If you drive on St Kilda Road you will really notice the disruption late this year or early next year, when St Kilda Road is reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction.

In 2018, the excavation of Domain station and tunnelling is scheduled to start, with its associated noise and vibration.

All worth it, say proponents.

How long will it last?

Construction of Domain Station will take about five years, says the MMRA.

But that’s an estimate, and one made “at this stage of planning”.

Metro says the disruption at the surface is expected to last for a shorter length of time in most areas, with a plan to reinstate the surface of St Kilda Road after about three years, and then continue work underground.

The Metro Tunnel Project isn’t scheduled to be operational until 2026.

How many trees will be lost?

The MMRA says fewer than 223.

If you start at Dorcas Street and head south, almost every tree by the footpaths and on the median strips on both sides of the road will go, all the way to Toorak Road.

The current permit applications request permission to remove 118 elm and plane trees over a 770-metre stretch. This includes two avenues of elms in the triangular park on Albert Road where the Boer War memorial stands.

In its permit application, the MMRA acknowledges the impact is significant:

“For a period of time, the heritage qualities of this section of St Kilda Road will not be evident in a straight physical sense. The loss of substantial numbers of mature trees in a concentrated area is challenging and there will be an adverse impact on the aesthetic qualities of the place in this location as a result.”

Some might interpret that as code for “it’s going to be ugly”.

Metro says the intent is to eventually reinstate St Kilda Road as a formally planted boulevard “to the extent possible”, by the replanting of “super advanced” specimens of “like species” at a rate of two for every one removed.

Many of the existing elms date from the 19th century — which gives a sense of how long it takes to get them to their present state — but the MMRA says it aims to double the current canopy cover by 2040.

How big will the hole in the ground be?

Residents believe it will be 300m long by 40m wide by 30m deep, stretching from Domain Road to Toorak Road.

The MMRA would not provide specifics, but a map on its website suggests the station footprint will be about the length residents say, and about the width of St Kilda Road.

It’s unclear how deep it will be, and how long the pit will be open for.

How bad will the noise be?

Serious enough for Metro to offer to relocate residents adversely affected by the vibrations from the digging as it passes their buildings.

The ABC understands this was said at a public meeting, but the MMRA would not confirm that, only stating:

“The contract for the tunnels and station work will include detailed provisions on the circumstances where temporary relocation will be offered.”

Acoustic sheds over worksites are intended to contain noise, dust and light but Metro concedes “there may be some noise and dust associated with these works”, which at some points during the project will be taking place 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How many residents will be affected?

A group called G12, which represents residents in more than 20 buildings along the boulevard, estimates a minimum of 3,200 people live close enough to be directly affected — a broad demographic including families with young children, career couples and a large contingent of retirees who chose the location for the amenity it offers.

Beyond this, the group says 30 or 40 large residential buildings in Bank, Park, Wells and Dorcas streets, Queens Road and further south on St Kilda Road will have difficulty exiting their buildings because of prolonged traffic congestion.

Is it a done deal?

Pretty much.

The MMRA is waiting on two permits from Heritage Victoria for the removal of trees in St Kilda Road and Albert Road Reserve, but preparatory works are proceeding.

The Federal Government this month granted emergency heritage protection to St Kilda Road. But it appears to be too late to force any reconfiguration of the project.

The office of Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg says because the boulevard wasn’t heritage listed at the time Victoria flagged the project, no federal approval was necessary and that decision can’t be changed retrospectively.