Transport / Opinion

The next 68 days could shape Brunswick for decades

The Brunswick skyrail should be just the start for major improvements to the area’s transport network, writes Michael Stanley

Friday, September 23, 2022

WHATEVER you think of it, Monday’s announcement of a skyrail from Moreland Road to Royal Park will bring about a dramatic change in the nature of our neighbourhood, probably even greater than the impact of elevated rail north of Moreland Road in Coburg.

As someone who rides up and down the rail corridor regularly (and drives through the level crossings aplenty) there’s huge opportunities to improve our neighbourhood, but also some enormous pitfalls.

Consider the following:

No-one enjoys waiting on Brunswick road for the level crossing, but by removing it we risk creating a traffic sewer – a new thoroughfare for traffic between the Tullamarine and Eastern freeways. Google ‘induced demand traffic’ if you want to see where that could be going.

Smaller roads like Dawson, Albert and Albion could become much more attractive for drivers wanting to move quickly through the inner north’s congested east-west routes. This could cancel out any gains from those shiny new bike and pedestrian paths.

The state government essentially ruled out any major work on Sydney Road while the northern skyrail section was built to pacify upset traders. People needing accessible tram stops and cyclists needing a bike lane on Sydney Road shouldn’t have to wait until the 2030s. Even worse, if there’s a further traffic spike that clogs Sydney Road more, it will make these things that much harder to sell down the road.

There were corners cut on the development of Skyrail north – the worst being the unnecessary destruction of the trees in the Gandolfo gardens for storage. What green space could go next?

The Moreland Road to Bell Street skyrail created new open space for pedestrians and cyclists.

None of these things are a given – but the best window to make sure we get specific commitments for good outcomes for the community is before the next state election. 

When community consultations start over the next two years all the passionate arguing and research the community can summon for little bits extra will be running up against budgets and set ways of doing things in governments – amongst many other worthy causes to be weighed up by the Treasurer with a post-COVID fiscal squeeze to manage.

So the next 68 days are our window to get commitments – for Sydney Road upgrades, for prioritisation of cyclists and pedestrians at the crossings and effective traffic calming.

So what is to be done? First we should listen to those who lost the campaign for a better northern skyrail – ask them what they would have done with the opportunity we have now.

We also should listen to what advocates for active transport and greater accessibility have been lobbying for in recent years.

Then we need to make sure every candidate in the state election – especially Tim Read and Mike Williams – know what pre-election commitments are needed from their parties to have a chance at winning Brunswick.

Michael Stanley is a Brunswick West resident and member of Climate Action Moreland and Melbourne.