Skyrail must include three stations, says council
Policy document also calls for accessible tram stops in Sydney RoadMark Phillips
MERRI-BEK Council will demand that all three Brunswick railway stations are retained as it prepares for negotiations with the state government about the level crossing removal project.
An advocacy position adopted by the council on Wednesday night will explicitly seek the retention of Jewell, Brunswick and Anstey stations in the $1 billion-plus skyrail project.
The council’s stance was toughened during debate about the Reshaping Brunswick document that is the outcome of community consultation earlier this year.
Despite speculation and concern that the Level Crossing Removal Project authority will remove a station from the 2km stretch of the Upfield line,, the initial draft of Reshaping Brunswick did not take a position on the number of stations.
It said that cutting the existing number of three stations to two would lessen their negative impact on nearby residents, but it also acknowledged this would reduce accessibility to the Upfield railway line for people with mobility issues. In the end, the document shied away from recommending a preferred number of stations.
But councillors wanted to harden that position so there was unambiguous advocacy for three Brunswick railway stations.
Councillors are wary that a softer position would allow the Level Crossing Removal Project to remove one of the stations against the community’s wishes.
“We do need to take a position and we need to be calling and saying to the state government that we actually want the retention of all three stations,” Councillor Monica Harte said at the monthly council meeting on Wednesday night.
“To adopt a position that somehow merges towards trying to invite a reduction in stations is a real risk and a weaker position of advocacy.”
Nancy Atkin of the Brunswick Residents Network welcomed the revised council position and said cutting the number of railway stations in Brunswick would be a mistake and would make train travel less accessible for a significant part of the community.
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The adoption of the three stations policy was the most significant change to the Reshaping Brunswick document that emerged from several months of community consultation culminating in a town hall meeting in February.
The 61-page document is structured to both address concerns about the impact of the construction project and lays out a vision for Brunswick after the completion of the skyrail project in 2027.
The project will remove eight level crossings between Park Street and Albion Street and replace the current railway line with an elevated skyrail, freeing up the equivalent of four MCGs of open space underneath it.
The Reshaping Brunswick document has established a clear transport hierarchy with pedestrians, cyclists and accessibility at the top and cars and trucks at the bottom.
It also identifies the skyrail project as an opportunity to revitalise Sydney Road, which will experience an increase in all modes of traffic when the Upfield railway line and shared bike and walking paths are closed during the construction period.
The council will lobby for accessible tram stops to be installed on Sydney Road before the level crossing removal works begin, and there is strong support from councillors for temporary separated bike lanes to be installed in Sydney Road during the construction period.
Separated bike lanes have long been advocated by bicycle user groups to make the road safer, but the Sydney Road Brunswick Association business organisation is concerned it will result in a substantial reduction of on-street parking that would discourage shoppers and tourists from visiting the precinct.
SRBA manager Troy Stuchbree said separated bike lanes would result in the “economic failure” of Sydney Road because of the reduction of available car parking spaces.
“Removal of parking along Sydney Road, Brunswick without plans to reallocate the parking close by will create an unmanageable strain on existing surrounding infrastructure and create havoc on narrow side streets competing with residential areas,” he said.
“This is not about cars over bikes. This is about managing a sustainable economic environment for everyone to enjoy.”
But Councillor James Conlan said separated bike lanes would allow a broader transformation of Sydney Road to take place.
“It’s not just about taking away car parking,” he said.
“Building separated bike lanes on Sydney Road informs a broader vision of wider footpaths, installing trees and greenery as well as making it basically work and function better for everyone and that is a very popular proposal.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Councillor Sue Bolton said there needed to be acknowledgement that the skyrail project was not universally popular across the Brunswick community.
“There are parts of the community that are excited by the skyrail … but there are parts of the community that are quite distressed, people who have bought or rented apartments right beside the railway line who had no idea that skyrail was coming … but now suddenly find out that their homes might be destroyed.”