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Media Release


Construction Starts on Carlton's 'Urban Design Catastrophe'

Efforts to get proper process failed, say community group

The Public Transport Users Association today blasted private operator Yarra Trams for starting work on its new Melbourne University shunting yard, a project they have called an 'urban design catastrophe'.

PTUA Secretary Tony Morton said a great opportunity had been lost to redesign the tram shunting arrangements so as to increase both tram efficiency and urban amenity. "Instead, Yarra Trams has ignored thirteen months of community criticism and gone ahead with a design that turns the whole northern end of Swanston Street into something out of downtown Baghdad."

The new design for the Swanston Street terminus turns a large part of the block between Grattan Street and Elgin Street into a fenced-off tram shunting yard. Pedestrians and tram passengers will be forced to detour around the northern or southern end of the new shunting yard, a distance of up to 200 metres. The southbound stop at Grattan Street will also disappear, despite Yarra Trams having told the council and VCAT a year ago that no existing stops would be closed.

"This is the last place one should consider putting such a huge barrier," said Dr Morton. "There are around 25,000 people crossing Swanston St each day, and they're all going to have to walk further. Links between the University and Carlton will be harmed as a result. We've said this to Yarra Trams and to Melbourne City Council ever since the proposal became public in December 2003, but they just seem too stubborn to examine any alternatives."

Dr Morton said his greatest disappointment had been the failure of Yarra Trams and the council to set up a process to examine alternative designs. "We thought we were close to getting a proper process in May last year," he said. "But then the wheels fell off, for some reason unknown to us, and Yarra Trams insisted on building the thing to the original flawed National Express design. It's a great disappointment to us - in the seven months between last May and today they could have come up with a whole new, vastly superior design."

Dr Morton concluded by predicting that the new design would lead to as many safety problems as the existing tram stop, particularly when the new College Square apartments opened opposite the university. "You've got an eleven-storey block of student apartments with its entrance on Swanston Street, the Masson Way entrance to the university directly opposite, and a shunting yard in between. The only available crossings are a hundred metres in either direction. Students won't bother - they'll find a way across, and one day someone will get hit by a car or tram."

PTUA Office 9650 7898

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Last Modified: 10 January 2005