All signs, signals and repositories of wisdom appear to be pointing west. That is, the Napthine government is actively looking to reshape the way we think about central Melbourne by focusing mobility to and from the CBD on the west end.
With the budget announcement on Tuesday headlining with a realigned "Melbourne Rail Link", the focus for public transport is undeniably shifting west from Melbourne's central Swanston/Elizabeth Street axis.
Rather than run underneath Swanston Street connecting Flinders Street and Melbourne Central, the new rail link will cross the Yarra further to the west with new underground platforms at Southern Cross, new stations at Montague (Fishermans Bend), Domain and new underground platforms at South Yarra.
The previous iteration of the Melbourne Metro project, and championed by the opposition, was set to supercharge development throughout Melbourne's inner north thanks to the location of the Parkville and Arden Stations. However what's lost in the north is now apparently gained in Fishermans Bend.
A follow-up media release was distributed by the Planning Minister on Tuesday afternoon:
"The largest urban renewal project in Australia must have a railway station,
"Providing this vital heavy rail service to Fishermans Bend is a priority of the Coalition government and will meet the needs not only of this new community but also the expanding Southbank area.
"Fisherman’s Bend is 10 times the size of Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct.
"The precinct’s 240 hectares compares to the Hoddle grid at 160 hectares, Southbank's 100 hectares, and 140 hectares in Docklands. Melbourne's CBD now extends from Spring Street to Williamstown Road, encompassing the historical Hoddle grid, Southbank, Docklands and now Fishermans Bend.
"The precinct expands Melbourne's capital city zone by more than 50 per cent and is expected to eventually accommodate around 25,000 jobs and in excess of 40,000 residents.
"There will also be significant productivity benefits from more people locating close to jobs and services in the CBD, Southbank and Docklands,"
One of my major worries for Fishermans Bend was the lack of proper public transport access; 80,000 residents and 40,000 workers would swamp the existing light rail services in the area. With the budget announcement yesterday, this goes a long way, but not all the way, to mooting this issue.
Historically when state governments have kicked off large-scale inner-city redevelopment projects, they've been adjacent to the CBD and therefore heavy rail mass transit infrastructure is already in place: Cain/Kirner got Southbank (Southgate) rolling, right across the river from Flinders Street; Kennett got Docklands rolling, adjacent to the now renamed Spencer Street.
On one hand, placing a station in Fishermans Bend makes sense in terms of providing high-quality transport infrastructure for a region that's likely to rival Southbank and Docklands over time. But on the other hand, Parkville cannot be ignored over the longer term.
Casting our minds back to when Denis Napthine took over the premiership, the PTV heavy rail plan was released outlining the agency's thinking regarding staging infrastructure development.
Critically the second cross-town rail tunnel from Clifton Hill to "Fishermans Bend" was - as per the published plans last year - going to connect with the original Melbourne Metro project at Parkville, then connect at Flagstaff and Southern Cross and continue onto Fishermans Bend. Is this still on the cards?
If I could request one thing from the state government before the election campaign heads into overdrive, it would be to ask the DTPLI / PTV to republish updated heavy rail network plans. Denis Napthine did it after assuming the premiership, he ought to do it again.
The Melbourne Rail Link announcement has shifted focus away from City North. Notwithstanding interim plans to boost existing public transport services in the Parkville area, the community, institutions, businesses and City of Melbourne (who only just recently sent a specific City North structure plan to the Minister for approval) deserve to know what else may have changed.
Lead image credit: flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0