$11b rail project fails to fix 'utterly inadequate' station

We are spending $11b building a new Metro Tunnel under central Melbourne, and as part of it a new tunnel entrance will be built in South Kensington, just near the railway station. Residents are asking why the station, which is by far one of the city's most basic, shouldn't be rebuilt at the same time. Therese Fitzgerald has lived in the area for 40 years and catches the train daily from the train station, and says it is little more than a bus stop. 11th October 2017. Photo by Jason South
We are spending $11b building a new Metro Tunnel under central Melbourne, and as part of it a new tunnel entrance will be built in South Kensington, just near the railway station. Residents are asking why the station, which is by far one of the city's most basic, shouldn't be rebuilt at the same time. Therese Fitzgerald has lived in the area for 40 years and catches the train daily from the train station, and says it is little more than a bus stop. 11th October 2017. Photo by Jason South
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 16:  Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews was the site at City Square during a press conference regarding the contracts for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. July 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 16: Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews was the site at City Square during a press conference regarding the contracts for the Melbourne Metro Tunnel. July 16, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor)

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We are spending $11b building a new Metro Tunnel under central Melbourne, and as part of it a new tunnel entrance will be built in South Kensington, just near the railway station. Residents are asking why the station, which is by far one of the city's most basic, shouldn't be rebuilt at the same time. Therese Fitzgerald has lived in the area for 40 years and catches the train daily from the train station, and says it is little more than a bus stop. 11th October 2017. Photo by Jason South

We are spending $11b building a new Metro Tunnel under central Melbourne, and as part of it a new tunnel entrance will be built in South Kensington, just near the railway station. Residents are asking why the station, which is by far one of the city's most basic, shouldn't be rebuilt at the same time. Therese Fitzgerald has lived in the area for 40 years and catches the train daily from the train station, and says it is little more than a bus stop. 11th October 2017. Photo by Jason South

When Therese Fitzgerald moved to Kensington in 1975, not that many people used the nearby South Kensington railway station.

Skip forward four decades and a flood of passengers use it - last year almost 400,000 passengers used the station, 90 per cent more than 10 years ago.

And yet the facilities at the station, wedged between industrial rail yards and a park, are - to be polite - basic.

"It's a bus shelter, not a railway station," said Ms Fitzgerald, a member of local group the Kensington Association.

The association has long considered the platform dangerously narrow, especially for prams, and the shelter on offer "utterly inadequate".

Soon, South Kensington will be a railway station surrounded by major construction, as Melbourne's $11 billion Metro Tunnel under the central city - which exits here - gets built.

And yet zero work is planned to improve the stop. It could, Ms Fitzgerald says, do with an upgrade.

Another resident, Matt Hammond, almost lost his home for the Metro Tunnel, but a rejig by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority saved his and other's homes and businesses. Now, only one house is being acquired.

He too thinks at least an upgrade of the station could be done, given the construction problems residents are likely to endure for a number of years.

"As part of that, a refurbishment would be a good thing," he said. "So that it's brought up to 21st century standards".

It isn't just residents who thinks this.

The experts appointed by Planning Minister Richard Wynne to advise him on the Metro Tunnel project found an upgrade of South Kensington should be considered as part of the project.

The station, they found, needed to be brought "up to current standards".

Less generous was local government lobby group the Metropolitan Transport Forum, which said South Kensington did "not meet modern standards in any respect".

Even Mr Wynne himself, in his response to the planners advising him, said the Metro Tunnel authority should "explore" whether the station could be upgraded.

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The state opposition's public transport spokesman, David Davis, said South Kensington had "been allowed to deteriorate with Labor in government 14 of the last 18 years. People deserve modern and well-maintained stations."

A spokeswoman for the government said, in response to Mr Davis, that he and his colleagues in the former Napthine government had abandoned the Metro Tunnel project, and had not started "a single major public transport project".

Public Transport Users Association secretary Tony Morton said there was a case for the station to be upgraded, because of concerns over safety on the platform and after dark.

"There are minimum standards that stations on the network should be aspiring to," he said.

A Melbourne Metro Rail Authority spokesman said that, as the new Metro Tunnel project would not link to South Kensington railway station, its upgrade was "not within the scope" of the project.

This story $11b rail project fails to fix 'utterly inadequate' station first appeared on The Age.