Questions remain on Swanston Street disruption

Swanston St will be a construction site for an unknown number of years, following the State Government’s announcement last month of its preferred Metro Rail route.

Speaking on April 16, Premier Daniel Andrews, also announced the Government’s preference for “shallow tunneling” but couldn’t say whether or not this meant a “cut and cover” methodology.

The Metro Rail tunnel will be only 10 metres below the surface.

A “cut and cover” approach to tunneling would be significantly more disruptive to Swanston St than tunneling techniques.

Mr. Andrews said the specific engineering methodologies and timeframes were yet to be determined.

However, he said shallow tunneling would be cheaper for Government and better for commuters.

“In terms of whether it is a ‘cut and cover’ in a traditional sense, or whether there are other ways in which we can get this done, I’ll leave that to the technical experts,” he said.

Asked whether or not he agreed with comments that the disruption could be compared with the Berlin Wall, Mr Andrews said: “You’ve either got a vision for public transport or you run commentary like that.”

He said the “heavy-duty” planning could now begin because decisions had been made about the alignment and depth.

Mr Andrews apologised in advance to CBD locals for the disruption.

“There will be disruption for extended periods of time.

We apologise in advance for the progress we are going to make in delivering on our election commitment and in delivering a world-class public transport system,” he said.

The Government considered both Russell St and Elizabeth St alignments but settled on Swanston St. Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said a shallow tunnel would result in fewer truck movements during construction.

She said “cut and cover” methodologies would be used at the underground stations but said specific details would be released later.

“But along the rest of the route between Melbourne Central and Flinders St, there will be a shallow tunnel approach.

So it’s a smaller tunneling machine which will be underground digging away and, at either end of that, will be a big tunnel-boring machine that will be underground doing this work,” she said.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said he understood that underground tunneling techniques would be used between the two Swanston St stations.

“There’s going to be a large City North and a large City South station, so the middle part of Swanston St may not be affected at all.

The tunneling may just go underneath Swanston St and trading may not be disrupted,” he said.

On the question of compensation, Cr Doyle said it was too early to have the discussion.

“This is early days and the first discussion will be about what we think the disruption will look like,” he said.

“And then there’ll be a second discussion when you finally get a successful consortium to build the tunnel and, at that point you say to them ‘show us the plan that will cause minimum disruption’ and, at that point, we can start talking to traders about business continuity and compensation.”

Cr Doyle said that, despite the disruption, the project needed to proceed.

“I know it will cause disruption to our city, but we just have to do it,” he said.

“We worked with all the traders in Swanston St when we were doing work a few of years ago, so we know them all.

We know how to contact them. We know how to talk with them.

We know their businesses.

And we’ll certainly be doing that with the Government through the course of this project, but it’s really important that we get on with building the Metro Tunnel.”

Mr. Andrews said he was grateful the Lord Mayor had offered to help in the consultation.

“I’m really pleased that the Lord Mayor has agreed to be part of the process.

I think we can get better outcomes by doing that,” he said.

“There will be disruption. It will be for months and, indeed, years.

But we’ll do everything we can to treat people respectfully and we’ll do everything we can to minimise the disruption.”

“You won’t see the whole street closed all at once. It will be done in a staged way.”

Mr. Andrews said it was yet to be determined whether or not affected people would be compensated.

“We haven’t determined that yet. But we will treat people fairly,” he said.

“Everyone impacted by this will be treated fairly and appropriately.

I’m not interested in any other approach.”

“And if compensation is recommended to us as something we need to entertain, then we will look at it in a balanced way.”

The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) welcomed the announcement but urged the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority to consult with stakeholders, including Swanston Street traders “VECCI has urged the Government to closely engage with business to ensure there is minimal impact on retail and professional business services in the CBD and the movement of goods and services in and around affected areas,” VECCI said.

Mr. Andrews said alternative public transport routes would be employed during the construction phase.

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