The mainstream media have been very quick to highlight community angst at the lack of consultation on the preferred design response to the level crossing removals in the Dandenong corridor. Indeed it is best highlighted with this report that public servants were doorknocking just prior to the public announcement over the weekend.
The two newspapers and Channel 7 have both given a lot of column space and air time to the community pushback with the President of the No Sky Rail Group centred around Murrumbeena and Carnegie being quoted extensively. The Herald Sun especially has provided a lot of exposure.
“It’s a visual blight on my property and I don’t want it. Nobody asked for my say — I have had no choice, I have had no voice in this whole consultation process.”
“I fear my property will be overshadowed, and for the privacy of my young children playing in the backyard and in the pool, and I hold grave concerns for the impact on my property value.”
Karlee Browning, No Sky Rail Group spokesperson, Herald Sun
Ever present in all the media coverage, the shadow planning spokesperson and Leader of the Opposition have been swift in capitalising on the community angst claiming that certain design responses - rail under road / in a trench - were 'promised' by the current Government.
Likewise the height of the proposed elevated rail guideways and now the height of the stations as depicted in the level crossing removal authority's graphics and animation are now being used.
Nine metre high rail and 20 metre high stations coming for the Frankston line courtesy of Daniel Andrews. #howtoruinthesandbelt— Matthew Guy MP (@MatthewGuyMP) February 9, 2016
The City of Glen Eira was the first local government area to have its reformed residential zones ticked off by the then Planning Minister and now Leader of the Opposition, Matthew Guy.
It was Glen Eira's liberal use of the neighbourhood residential zone that locks out significant change in suburban areas which drew the ire of the planning profession and set off a debate where most recently the present Planning Minister Richard Wynne announced a review into lop-sided implementation of the new residential zones throughout the metro area.
Carnegie was one area of Glen Eira that has some application of the Residential Growth Zone - the zone which broadly allows for residential development up to 4 levels and in Glen Eira's case, RGZ1 outlines a maximum building height of 13.5 metres.
If the success of the residential growth zone is measured purely by the number of applications that have been lodged in an area where the new zone applies then Carnegie is the poster child.
Carnegie won't be a "mostly flat" suburb for long - it even had multi-level higher-density development before the new residential zones were applied (at the end of this street). The new residential zones are driving investment into this pocket of Melbourne and buildings of a similar height or even higher than the proposed Carnegie Station have either been constructed or have been lodged with Glen Eira council - they are attached to this article below.
One project on Dandenong road just north of the station precinct has 10-11 levels and is currently taking registrations.
Based on current planning activity and the potential new residents flowing into places like Carnegie, I think the State Government was right to go with an elevated design response and focus on turning the land occupied by rail track into new public space.
The stretch of rail corridor between Grange Road and Murrumbeena Station is the most narrow part of the Dandenong corridor and legitimate questions on how this corridor will be expanded to four tracks are being asked - and they need to be answered so a backlash like the current one in Carnegie-Murrumbeena does not flare up once again.
Just west of Carnegie station the distance between fences across the rail corridor measures a very narrow 20-21 metres - the absolutely bare minimum needed for a four track railway. In contrast further down the line near Clayton the corridor measures 40 metres.
The State Government seems content on squeezing more capacity out of two tracks by extending platforms and running trains more frequently for the time being and this, on the face of it, is quite sensible.
However when you take into account the Plan Melbourne projections for the southern sub-region - an extra 400,000-500,000 extra people living from Police Road right out to the fringe - and the need to provide a decent VLine service to the La Trobe Valley, not to mention continue to use the rail line for freight, extra track will eventually be needed.
Perhaps the biggest stuff-up with this announcement has been the lack of foresight with regards to eventual expansion and the State Government should do the right thing now and work out which properties will need to be compulsorily acquired between Caulfield and Dandenong to make this happen.
It would be far more prudent to put the community which resides next to the rail corridor out of its misery and acquire now at current market rates before the prices go up even further as developers jostle for sites contained within the residential growth zones.