Melbourne Metro rail project | Samantha Dunn

Melbourne Metro rail project

I rise to speak to Mr Davis's motion, which is essentially a revocation motion in relation to amendment GC45...
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 10:00am
Samantha Dunn

Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — I rise to speak to Mr Davis's motion, which is essentially a revocation motion in relation to amendment GC45 and which seeks to exclude the Minister for Planning from being the responsible authority in relation to the Melbourne Metro rail project and to enable the Stonnington City Council to become the responsible authority in relation to that section of the project.

This is an ideal opportunity to turn our minds to South Yarra station and what has been happening in relation to that particular part of our transport network. The observation the Greens make is that the government has ignored repeated requests from residents, shop owners and businesses in South Yarra; the City of Stonnington; and the local member for Prahran in the other place, Mr Hibbins, to properly and transparently consider including a South Yarra station interchange in the Melbourne Metro project. These proponents have been blocked at every turn from getting proper consideration of this addition to the project scope. For the consideration of this motion it is worth delving into the benefits that inclusion of a South Yarra station would provide. I will first go to the broader network benefits.

The major design flaw of Melbourne's train network is that it is a hub and spoke system. Unless a destination is on the same line, a passenger must go to the city and then out again on a separate line. The whole point of metro-style transit systems is that they provide interchange opportunities outside of the central core. The London Underground, the Paris Metro, Berlin's U-Bahn, the Tokyo Metro and the Beijing Subway are all mass transit networks which have major interchanges outside the centre of the city. There are two major benefits of this — trips from outside the centre to another destination outside the centre can be more direct.

Compare this to Melbourne. If you want to travel from Preston to Coburg or from Belgrave to Pakenham, you must go the entire way into the CBD, even though that is a massive diversion and adds half an hour or even more to your trip. Forget about taking the bus instead. They either do not run between these places or are so infrequent and slow that there is no point trying.

Furthermore, disentangling the core greatly improves system resilience. If the city loop goes down, the entire metropolitan train system grinds to a halt. With a metro-style network, network redundancy allows for alternative routes to be taken and people can continue making their way to their place of work or education.

South Yarra station is already a major hub for Melbourne's public transport system, with four metropolitan rail lines and trams interchanging at the station. Along with a high population density in the catchment of South Yarra station, this makes it the busiest metropolitan station outside of the city loop and the busiest of all in terms of morning peak boarding. It is the ideal location for a major hub in a new metro-style mass transit system for Melbourne. An interchange connection at South Yarra would enhance the South Yarra activity centre, provide high-speed access to the Domain, Melbourne CBD and medical and university Parkville precincts. If it were ever to be prioritised by state government, a South Yarra metro station would provide access to the Melbourne Airport rail link, although on the past form of both Labor and the opposition, I will not hold my breath.

Not having an upgraded South Yarra station on the Melbourne Metro project is like having a cross-rail project in London bypass Liverpool Street station. It misses a prime opportunity for connectivity of the network for no good reason. No other city's public transport network planners would make such a short-sighted decision. Furthermore, South Yarra station would benefit people living from Sunbury to Pakenham through improved connectivity to South Yarra as an employment hub.

I want to turn now to the existing South Yarra station and its state at the moment — it is not fit for purpose. South Yarra station has experienced rapid increases in patronage numbers in recent years, driven by both employment and residential growth in the surrounding precincts. There will be an extra 12 000 residents in South Yarra by 2046, with 10 000 more jobs in the area. There will be 5000 apartments built in South Yarra by 2031. The Forest Hill precinct looms over the platforms of the existing South Yarra station. It will bring with it 2500 new dwellings and 22 000 square metres of office space by 2031.

South Yarra station does not have full disabled access to and from the platforms and has substandard facilities for its designated premium standard classification. As any commuter would tell you, it is severely constrained in terms of space. There is only one access point to South Yarra station, and that is on Toorak Road, where pedestrian footpaths are already jammed with people in the morning and afternoon peaks.

The City of Stonnington's credible concept plan for expanding the station to incorporate a metro interchange has a public plaza and access walks on the southern side of Toorak Road. This would turn the derelict siding reserve into a valuable and well-used public space, providing multiple entry points to the rail system instead of the one entry point. It would also expand opportunities for interchange with other public transport modes and give space for bike parking, disabled vehicle access and taxi ranks. There is inadequate space for any of these in the current station layout.

Inclusion of a new South Yarra station in the Melbourne Metro project could allow for existing platforms on the Sandringham and Dandenong lines to be extended to accommodate new, high-capacity metro trains. It could include safety doors as per the designs that will be used in the new Metro Tunnel stations. It could provide plentiful space for access and egress, which is only fitting considering this is the busiest station outside of the city loop.

The Greens have ongoing and real concerns about the project in terms of the bidder. Will the bidder leave tracks curved instead of including the necessary straight sections for a future platform? Will the bidder not move the alignment closer to the rail siding park, such that any future station would require even more property acquisition and therefore be more disruptive and expensive? It is a matter that my colleague in the other place, the member for Prahran, has been prosecuting. He has been tireless in his attempt to get information around this project and its intentions as recently as last month. The member for Prahran has asked what action the government will be taking to implement the Melbourne Metro environment effects statement recommendation adopted by the Minister for Planning. I congratulate my colleague on his tireless efforts around that. I recall Mr Davis talking about the member for Prahran in the other place as tardy. I will get to that in a moment — Mr Hibbins's tireless activities in relation to this.

I want to quote from the Melbourne Metro Rail Project: Inquiry and Advisory Committee Report, issued in November 2016, in relation to the discussion and findings around this. It was very clear in the report that the design and construction of the project should not preclude the ability to include such a station — talking of South Yarra station — as part of the metropolitan network at some time in the future. The committee's report says that:

The design stage of the project should seek to ensure that if possible the option of providing for such a station at some time in the future should not be precluded.

This highlighted to us the importance of making sure there is still an opportunity in the future to put works in place so that our Metro system is able to provide the people of Victoria and taxpayers with the best possible outcome at South Yarra station. It was heartening to see that the committee considered that that should not be precluded, that the door should not be shut on that and that it was important to future-proof in relation to that.

I will go to what this motion does. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the community of South Yarra has tried repeatedly to have proper consideration of the inclusion of South Yarra station. Businesses in South Yarra, residents, the City of Stonnington, the local member for Prahran in the Assembly, Mr Hibbins, have all been blocked and ignored by the Andrews government and its predilection of ignoring the views of locals — the people who know best. This motion will not succeed in forcing the inclusion of a South Yarra station though. The suggestion that the City of Stonnington should be the responsible authority and that the state government will be comfortable with such an arrangement is absurd. The government will just give itself the authority to bypass the City of Stonnington as the responsible authority for the project. It has mechanisms available to do so, and Mr Davis knows it. It is a yet another sham for the local community.

The Greens member for Prahran, Mr Hibbins, and I have secured from the Minister for Public Transport, Minister Allan, a commitment in writing that South Yarra station will not be precluded from the tender process for the design and construction of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project, and I thank Mr Mulino for making reference to that letter on behalf of the government and wish to quote from that:

The Melbourne Metro Rail Authority (MMRA) has accepted the advice of the Minister for Planning, and as a result, the three bidders who have been short-listed as part of the procurement for the delivery of the tunnel and stations will be required to adhere to this recommendation in their bids. Their designs for the project must not preclude the provision of station in the future.

I thank the minister for her assurances around that and for entering into conversations with the Greens. It is heartening to know that when we talk to ministers we can actually resolve issues. We can get somewhere and get some comfort from the government in terms of its intentions in relation to this matter.

In terms of some of the comments from Mr Davis, I wanted to go first to his first comment which talked about this being a complex and deceptively simple motion. I think that Mr Davis might have had that a little mixed up. I think what he meant to say was that this is simply a deceptive motion. It is deceptive to think that should this motion be successful, the community of South Yarra would be guaranteed to have a South Yarra interchange station. It is a nonsense to think that that would be the outcome of this particular motion, and it is really cruel to play that sort of trick on a community that in many cases does not have a full understanding of the planning scheme, the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the substantial powers available to the Minister for Planning.

There are substantial powers within the Planning and Environment Act, and quite frankly, if this motion succeeded, the government would exercise the full use of those mechanisms available to it through the Planning and Environment Act. We certainly would not be seeing Stonnington as the responsible authority. I do wonder about the legitimacy and genuineness in relation to this motion.

I am concerned about some remarks made about by my colleague in the other place, the member for Prahran. It was suggested that the member was tardy in that he did not disclose early on his commitment to this particular station. I would just like to let the house know that that could not be further from the truth. Mr Hibbins has been a tireless advocate for this project. He is rusted on to this particular project on behalf of the people of South Yarra. It was one of his commitments during the 2014 election campaign, so you cannot be more dedicated than that. He has pursued this issue vigorously. He has secured documents through the Freedom of Information Act 1982 on the detail of the provisions of the Melbourne Metro interchange. He was well onto this before those on the other side even started thinking about it.

I note with interest that it only came to the attention of the local federal member, Kelly O'Dwyer, during the federal election campaign. She seemed to be more focused on $6000 toasters than on the South Yarra interchange station.

To suggest that should this motion be successful that Stonnington would work with the government and negotiate with the government is nonsense. Mr Davis knows that Stonnington in fact would not be in that position at all because the government would in fact enact the powers available to it. Stonnington would not have a say, and neither would any other local government authority for that matter. To suggest that there is overwhelming support from the community for the motion, I have to really wonder if the community understands — —

Mr Davis — That is actually not what I said.

Ms DUNN — I am happy to check Hansard tomorrow to see if I have quoted that right.

Mr Davis — There was overwhelming support for South Yarra being connected.

Ms DUNN — I do not contend or argue that there is not overwhelming support for this particular project, as the member for Prahran in the Legislative Assembly can attest to, but in terms of this particular motion being the correct outcome for that community in getting what they want, it is not the right way to go about it. In fact it is completely the wrong way to go about achieving that outcome. This is the best outcome we can secure for the people that live and work in South Yarra, and have no doubt, members of this house, that we will hold the minister to her word. This motion is reckless, ineffective and a nonsense and, due to the commitment of the minister, superfluous. The Greens will not be supporting this motion.