Not a state MP in sight, but Doncaster rail advocates have their debate anyway

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Manningham Leader: Not a state MP in sight, but Doncaster rail advocates have their debate anyway. Anna Chisholm. 21 February 2014

Doncaster rail advocates dressed up in 1888 gear in November and did some shopping at Westfield Doncaster to demonstrate how long the area has been waiting for a rail link. Source: Supplied

Manningham residents went head-to-head in fierce debate over Melbourne’s eastern transport network at last night’s Doncaster Rail Community Forum, despite being snubbed by their State Government MPs.

About 100 people filled the room at Manningham Function Centre, Doncaster to voice concerns and hear from Monash University public transport expert Professor Graham Currie and Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) president Tony Morton.

Professor Currie, who advised the Athens Olympic Committee and London Olympic Committee, said Melbourne’s existing train signalling and infrastructure was old and inadequate.

After 35 years in international planning and transport, he said a heavy railway to Doncaster would have it’s benefits, including shaving 10 minutes off travel time compared to bus.

“Behavioural studies show people prefer train networks,” he said.

“But your design is not very nice, you’ve got three stations covering a vast area of Manningham.

“Hardly five per cent of Manningham will have the ability to walk to these stations.”

He said the proposed stations for the Doncaster Rail network needed high quality transfer integration, including a feeder bus network to work.

PTUA president Tony Morton said Manningham’s use of public transport was below Melbourne’s average of 16 per cent and lower than Whitehorse, which has a similar population.

Some residents said they preferred an underground rail system, while others were unsure about an underground network from Bulleen to the city.

Most voiced disappointment that not one of Manningham’s three state MPs showed up.

Christina and Julius Janka of Doncaster said expanding Park & Ride carparking was not a solution.

“We haven’t got all the facts yet,” Mrs Janka said.

“When people become less dependent on their cars, they will use public transport.

“Ugly, multi-storey carparks at train stations is not the right answer.”

Councillor Jim Grivokostopoulos kicked off the forum, reminding the panel that Manningham remains the only metropolitan municipality without train or tram services.

“This forum has been in the making for 130 years, since it was first proposed in 1880,” he said.

Shelved by successive governments, he said rail from the inner city to Doncaster still provided a quick, efficient and viable alternative.

“It would mean the removal of thousands of cars from the eastern freeway and local roads and remove pressures on the buses network,” he said.

In 2010, the Victorian government committed $6.5 billion to the two phase feasibility study, said to be completed by late 2013.

Phase one revealed the total cost of the study team’s preferred options, excluding the extension to Doncaster Hill, would be $7-$11 billion.

Cr Grivokostopoulos said Manningham Council would prefer the rail to extend to Doncaster Hill, despite the costly tunnel/station to do it instead of the proposed stop at Doncaster Park & Ride.

Professor Currie said he was surprised the State Government had favoured the East-West Tunnel, branding it as the weaker option.

He said when the tunnel opened, more trucks and heavy vehicles would be on the roads and would not benefit commuters using the Eastern Freeway.

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