Sticking with the Fishermans Bend theme, today I want to have a brief look at the Transport aspects of the area.
At present, and reflected in City of Port Phillip’s structure plan for Montague, the eastern extremities bordering Southbank of the Fishermans Bend precinct is served by the very high frequency #96 tram to St. Kilda Beach while slicing right through the heart of the Montague precinct, the #109 Port Melbourne tram will be the primary non-road transport option for the area.
The PTV’s recent public release of the heavy rail plan that has more or less been in use for 5-6 years states that an extension of the Clifton Hill – Parkville – Flagstaff – Southern Cross tunnel, envisaged to be operating by 2030, will eventually end up as a terminus in Fishermans Bend.
As a footnote to the Fishermans Bend extension, PTV states the line may end up crossing the Yarra and connecting with Werribee/Altona Loop/Williamstown lines at Newport. This footnote requires a much more detailed look as there are significant impacts for the West Gate bridge should Fishermans Bend develop without any significant public transport investment to enable south-western connectivity.
Using the statistics from City of Port Phillip’s Montague structure plan, the three precincts inside Montague are planned to have 379, 519 and 520 people per hectare in the City road, Southern neighbourhood and Northern neighbourhood precincts respectively – or an average of 472 people per hectare.
Likewise the jobs density is planned to be 233, 412 and 148 jobs per hectare in the City Road, Southern neighbourhood and Northern neighbourhood precincts respectively – or an average of 264 jobs per hectare.
Applying those averages across the whole Fishermans Bend area (240 hectares) that equates to a potential resident population of 113,000 people and 63,000 jobs.
Montague in isolation may be able to cope by utilizing the two Light Rail lines + bus route improvements but when we look at greater Fishermans Bend area, it’s not hard to see that two small tram lines navigating through congested Clarendon and Spencer Street city intersections just won’t cut it.
The PTV’s plan appears to place a Clifton Hill-Southern Cross tunnel dependency on the Fishermans Bend line and it was grouped with all the potential network extensions that have been studied – Rowville, Airport and Doncaster – in the later stages of the plan.
There’s some obvious reasons for this as the PTV plan tends to revolve around building capacity through the centre of the city in order to then expand branch lines.
However, like all proposed rail extensions or new lines in Melbourne, serious consideration for differing railway technologies operating independently of the existing and soon-to-be upgraded network over the next 2 decades should be studied sooner rather than later.
A Newport-Clifton Hill line via Fishermans Bend and the CBD is a prime candidate as a start to implement something similar to the Canada Line in Vancouver for Melbourne with extensions via conversions of existing rail lines to Williamstown and Laverton via Altona to the west and extensions to Doncaster from Clifton Hill (or Victoria Park) to the east thereafter. Refer to the Orange line on this map.
This could in turn remove the need to build a larger and therefore more expensive rail tunnels from Clifton Hill to Southern Cross. Similarly it removes the Clifton Hill-Southern Cross dependency for a Doncaster Line and frees up capacity on the existing Newport-Footscray corridor for more trains running into Werribee, and as per the PTV plan, eventually to Wyndham Vale/Tarneit. Further minimizing potential costs could be another bridge across the lower Yarra adjacent to the West Gate Bridge.
It’s possible that Fishermans Bend may be implemented in a way that Docklands should have been: one stage at a time, and therefore the pressure to build heavy or hybrid heavy/light rail infrastructure for full connectivity to both the east and the west will not be as great. However, judging by the speed in which large development sites are being secured by developers and proposals being drawn up in the Montague precinct already, the PTV’s plans to roll out this necessary piece of rail infrastructure is in danger of being rolled out too late.
The Victorian Government would be wise to set aside funds in the upcoming budget to study the potential for long-term Public Transport connectivity in this important urban renewal project.