Walking across Buckley St, from Leslie Rd to Rose St, is currently a tricky task. It almost cost me $3000.
The usual pedestrian crossing near Rose St is out of action, and pedestrians are required to walk east, across the train line, cross at lights, before heading back via Russell St and through the train station underpass to Rose St. It’s a four minute trek.
Not being familiar with the changes, I misread the few signs and cross at the train-line – earning me a scolding, and a warning about a $3000 fine, from a Momentum Traffic officer, who appears from her car in Rose St.
I tell her I did not know where to cross. She tells me I was being unsafe.
It turns out ‘safety’ is the very crux of the issue. And the reason residents are not giving up their fight against the road-under-rail level crossing removal at Buckley St, Essendon.
Despite the commencement of drilling, residents says they will continue fighting the “bad design”.
“We live in hope we can make it better. I think there is still a possibility to stop it – if someone could actually see how wrong it is,” a resident says.
“We have to keep fighting, because even if we can’t turn this around, we are still fighting to make it as safe as possible and as inclusive as possible.”
The current works have made the crossing appear unsafe for pedestrians – even people like me who are mobile, without a dog, pram, small child or shopping bag, and can read signs.
Residents say the new road under the train-line will also be dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.
“They are replacing a congested crossing with a dangerous crossing,” a resident tells me, as we huddle over hot chocolates in the quiet Rose St trading strip.
The residents wish to remain anonymous as the issue has prompted heated online interactions resulting in some individuals being blocked from social media pages.
Of concern to these residents are the lack of cycling lanes, the need for pedestrians to use narrow underground walkways, the funnelling of school students into narrow stairwells and the added travel times and distances for people with mobility needs – including prams.
The thought of women using the proposed subterranean network of underpasses at night renders us silent.
“I always tell my children to stay visible,” says one resident. “They won’t be able to.”
Disability access is a key concern. New ramps under the station will be lengthy with access requiring an extensive journey on a narrow footpath.
“I can’t ignore that … Priority has been given to stairs – for able people.”
Walkways and footpaths will apparently be narrow (two metres), and while residents say they’ve been told money is being spent on Essendon Station to make it more accessible, they still don’t know whether the existing ramps to the platforms will be made compliant with disability access standards.
“The gap in the platform won’t be fixed,” says one resident explaining there is a vertical 30cm gap between trains and some areas of the platform.
“We’ve missed an opportunity; we’re not looking at future planning. We’ve missed an opportunity to produce a major transport hub.”
The residents say they wanted the crossing fixed, but in a way that preserves life at ground level.
“If they’d done the obvious, logical thing and dropped the railway line under the road, none of these issues would [have arisen]. No destruction of Buckley St, no cutting down of trees, no median strips taken out, no road blockages, no impact on Rose St, no changes to bus routes, no impact on local businesses, no increase in residential side street traffic, no increased safety risks..etc etc. And then a simpler removal of the Park St and Holmes Rd crossings in the same way. Why, then, did they take this terrible, terrible option?”
“This was a once in a hundred year opportunity to fix rail for the future in the area. This design has no vision,” says one resident.
The residents say the lack of planning for bikes, urban spaces and accessibility will leave the community disjointed. “It is not thinking long-term. It’s not sustainable.”
“We are fighting to keep our community healthy and well-connected.”
They are fighting hard – against the odds, against the LXRA and with ongoing questions about the final design of the project.
“Council has told us there is no final design.”
“Why can’t we see the latest actual plans for Buckley St?” a resident asks.
Residents are frustrated the state government is “moving so fast and full on” without answering questions such as:
- What are projected traffic movements? Is there a report available?
- What is the cost of the works to Essendon Station?
- Why are there no bike lanes in the tunnel?
- Why are we losing so many car spaces on Rose St?
- Why aren’t we capitalising on the intersection of trams, trains and buses to build a transport hub?
- Will current public land be sold for units or used for car-parking and urban spaces?
- Is there a proposal to put Puckle St/Holmes Rd under the train-line?
Moonee Valley Blog put to these questions to Danny Pearson, Member for Essendon, who provided the following responses, which have been included in full.
What is the cost of the works to Essendon Station?
“The Buckley Street project has a budget of $114 million dollars – this includes the level crossing removal and associated works around the Essendon Station precinct.”
Why are there no bike lanes in the tunnel?
“Buckley Street is not part of the local Strategic Cycling Corridor and is not heavily patronised by cyclists.
“Alternative routes have been provided – cyclists will be able to ride along the new service roads on either side of Buckley Street. These roads are designed to be low-speed, increasing safety.
“New bicycle lane markings (sharrows) on some local roads will direct riders to nearby strategic cycling corridors.
“By converting Sherbourne Street to two-way, we’re also providing a southbound connection to any future Moonee Valley City Council/Craigieburn Rail Corridor cycling network. A designated Strategic Cycling Corridor is located north of the level crossing – including local streets Miller Street, Shamrock Street, Mt Alexander Road and Fletcher Street.
“The Victorian Government recently released the Victorian Cycling Strategy, with a key vision to “invest in a safer, lower-stress, better connected network, prioritising strategic cycling corridors”.
“We have heard the community feedback and are continuing to investigate cycling options.”
Why are we losing so many car spaces on Rose St?
“During construction: During any major construction project there are impacts and disruptions. LXRA works closely with businesses, residents and the local community to minimise these impacts. We understand that being able to find a park close to your destination is important. While construction is underway, LXRA have rezoned 50 spaces within the Rose Street car park to short term two-hour parking to help people to access the shops and services they need. “
“Post construction: The original Buckley Street precinct plans, which saw angle parking along Rose Street, would have had no net loss of parking spaces. However, feedback from Moonee Valley City Council and the community indicated that angle parking was not the favoured outcome for that area. In line with the feedback received, the plan was redesigned to allow for parallel spaces, which has resulted in the loss of parking spaces.
“We are continuing to look at ways to reduce the loss of parking.
Why aren’t we capitalising on the intersection of trams, trains and buses to build a transport hub?
“The Buckley Street level crossing removal project will improve links to transport services in the area.”
Is there a proposal to put Puckle St/Holmes Rd under the train-line?
“LXRA have been tasked with removing 50 dangerous and congested level crossings in Melbourne. Park or Puckle streets are not on the list of the current 50 being removed.
“Our road underpass at Buckley Street doesn’t rule out removing these two crossings in the future, and it also won’t affect how they may be removed.”
In response to the query about projected traffic movements and technical reports, Mr Pearson provided a link to a fact sheet about changes to road movements in the area which includes explanations for future traffic routes and the following diagrams: levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/media/publications/buckley-street-road-changes-fact-sheet
I prepare to trek back the long way to Leslie Rd. It turns out the pedestrian lights across Buckley St west of the train line were operating on the Friday before the recent long weekend.
Late on that Friday, one of the residents noticed the pedestrian signal was out of sync with one of the sets of lights putting pedestrians in the path of oncoming traffic from Mt Road.
She waited at the lights calling VicRoads, the police and notifying the LXRA, until someone understood the problem (no, it wasn’t a broken light-globe) and committed to fix it.
The crossing, deemed dangerous, is now taped up and inaccessible.
I ask why she stood by the road late on a cold Friday guarding a faulty pedestrian crossing, and, again, why she refuses to give up on this?
“I care about this community,” she says. “It can be better.”