Melbourne’s population is estimated at 4 million and this figure is expected to double by 2031. More transport solutions are needed to cope with the growing strains on current infrastructure. But Melbourne’s multibillion dollar metro is not expected to be in operation until 2026. It is currently under construction and has been anticipated in the growing city since the beginning of the 21st century. With a clear need to expand and improve current infrastructure, it is hoped to boost the country’s economic growth. However, a new idea which is now under construction could provide a high-capacity transportation system that the city needs, the'sky rail.' A nine-metre-high elevated track will be built along Melbourne's Cranbourne-Pakenham line to carry a sky train, part of the Victorian Government's effort to combat traffic congestion. Connecting the population above the air certainly has its positives, but this is only one side to the story.
The first concrete pillars have been resurrected to hold the controversial sky train which will bridge Melbourne’s busiest train corridor. Two 6.7 metre columns have already been placed near Murrumbeena station on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line. But this development has already been targeted by vandals to vocalise their clear opposition. A construction team will install 352 pillars in the coming months to support the elevated bridge beams. This $1.6 billion project will also see the construction of five new train stations. The sky rail will create 1000 new jobs increasing to 2000 during the peak construction period. Furthermore, it will have little impact on commuters’ journeys during its construction. Despite the upset caused by the design within the local community, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said she was confident the “overwhelming majority of people want these level crossing gone”. She also said security was in place along the construction corridor to stop people trying to graffiti the new structures.
So what are the benefits?
- The Skytrain would have the advantage of not disrupting Melbourne’s already congested rail systems.
- Built from above, it would also prevent disruption on the ground too. It would be fully independent from current transit operations.
- Another important consideration is cost, at around $50 million per kilometre monorails are one of the most cost-effective transit solutions which can then be translated to the customer.
- Monorails can be automated so that less staff are needed to remain open in unsociable hours.
- The automated Skyrail trains are able to affordably operate all day every day with services each two or three minutes.
Mordialloc local Tolley Cacavas, who lives near an elevated section of track, said sky rail could be an opportunity to entice tourists to get on a train from Melbourne and head to the seaside suburbs, afterwards exploring the winery region beyond Frankston.
"While you’re on the train and you’re sitting up a bit higher … you’ve got this opportunity to show off your coastline, show off your bay,” Mr Cacavas said to the Herald Sun.
“It’s quite an attractive site and why not sell it like that? The government could make it (rail over road) into an environmental feature or tourist attraction.”
And the controversy?
Many homes along the line will be overshadowed by the towering concrete structure. A large proportion of Melbourne's community have been arguing against its development for over a year. Many believe that this will only benefit a small percentage of the commuter population but not anyone else. Additionally, many local residents who will be impacted by the sky rail see Melbourne's metro as the main infrastructure to improve the region.
"I have no intention of living next to an eyesore," Lori Weare said to The Age. "It will ruin the beautiful bayside suburb we live in and will look completely ridiculous. Aspendale, Edithvale, Carrum, Bonbeach – they're just like small little towns and to put a massive structure there sounds horrendous to me. I can't believe they'd even consider it."
"I believe that the silent majority are open-minded to a sky rail solution on the Frankston line, and there's a lot of other things that could be fixed... It shouldn't just be sky rail versus no sky rail," says Edithvale resident, Cliff Wheatley in The Age.