Geoffrey Heard writes: Re. “Melbourne SkyRail NIMBYs completely miss the point” (yesterday). Helen Razer misses the point herself when she produces a discursive discussion on the NIMBY syndrome instead of tackling the real issues.

In fact, there are some very real objections to elevated railways.

They include:

  1. Access. You want to see what a modern elevated railway looks like. If it passes over a road, it is built to allow something like a small block of flats to be transported under it. If it is at a major level crossing, it is almost certainly at a major station. Build the station up to the elevated lines and see how high you are. If someone demonstrates the urgent need for a brain scan, they will build platforms either side of the lines, in which case there might be some sort of super structure for an overpass between platforms and there is a five or six storey monstrosity right there with people struggling to access it. Even if they do a drop out of a central platform, there is still a lot of height to be dealt with and peak hour crush.
  1. Noise. Victorian trains are bloody noisy! There are ways of ameliorating this and dropping the lines into a trench so the sideways propagation of the sound is limited, is one of them. Putting them in the sky is the exact opposite (have you ever watched “The Blues Brothers”? LOL). In fact, most railways lines in Melbourne are slightly elevated now, the track bed is built up so that the train wheels are about a metre or a meter and a half above ground level. Makes for excellent sideways sound propagation. There are also ways to make trains quieter — check Queensland.
  1. Whether they lead to more crime or not, I don’t know, but most elevated railways I have seen certainly offer those with nefarious intent cover for ready access to and egress from nearby areas.
  1. What problems do elevated lines solve? In this case, they are solving a problem for motorists by introducing a problem for train travellers — i.e. the train travellers lose their street level access to trains which is by far the easiest and safest access for them. They have to climb up and down stairs or long ramps, usually more or less out in the weather, or take lifts or escalators which are a hold up. Why not elevate the roads to let the trains run free? Going over a hump in the road is no trouble for a car or truck.
  1. What problems does removing the level crossings cause or exacerbate? Speeding up traffic flows will bring more and more traffic onto the roads. This unarguable. This, in turn, will create bottle necks elsewhere. Seriously, people, you would have to be functionally insane to drive up or down Clayton Road, Clayton or along Centre Road, Clayton in peak hour and experience the delays of the two level crossings there. And Charman Road, Cheltenham and Balcombe Road, Mentone? Heh, heh, heh. (Note: my experience of both is as a local resident and mostly pedestrian laughing up his sleeve as he outpaced the car traffic on foot.)
  1. What will all these extra vehicles on the road do to the area’s air quality? Well, moving vehicles through the railway crossings faster will reduce pollution from individual cars, but how will the situation develop with more vehicles on the roads and major hold-ups not far away from the current gridlocks?
  1. Will fixing these level crossings for road vehicle traffic encourage more people to use public transport? No, it will have the opposite effect.
  1. How could money be spent to encourage more people to travel by train? Look at Queensland. Sure, their trains are only toys, running on tracks about as wide as Puffing Billy’s, but Brisbane trains are much quieter, they have “quiet” carriages (no music, no phones), stations are staffed (and in my experience, the staff are happy to talk to passengers, keep them informed, help them along, and occasionally, exhibit a wicked sense of humor). Trains also have free internet as do the ferries in Sydney. Both Brisbane and Sydney have trains to their airports — albeit poorly implemented at the airport end in Brisbane resulting in poor patronage — but Melbourne, with its higher population and more extensive train network could do the job much better provided the trains deliver and pick up right in the airport like the they do in Hong Kong.
  1. Money needs to be spent upgrading the lines, the signalling systems to get more trains moving, rolling stock to have one and a half levels as in Sydney, and to put in a circle line at some point. Another urgent need is minimum distance, covered interchange between different forms of public transport, e.g. buses, trains, and trams in Melbourne.

NIMBY disclaimer: I lived for many years backing onto the Frankston line, halfway between Mentone and Cheltenham. The trains didn’t drive me out, the sound of the night train from the steel rolling mill at Hastings used to lull me to sleep, but then the rolling mill closed.

Passenger train frequency build up and in the end, a train every 10 minutes didn’t worry me but it made the backyard pretty much untenable as an entertainment area. I hope for the sake of my old neighbors in those areas that when they fix the Cheltenham and Mentone level crossing, they drop the lines right through there (from the new station at Southland through Parkdale would be good) and do a proper job on the Latrobe Street, Warrigal Road, and Parkers Road crossings too.

On ABC reports

ABC media manager Nick Leys writes: Re. “Should ABC business reporters take more CEOs out to lunch?” (yesterday). Your report on the ABC editorial review into business coverage is wrong when it says ABC Radio has “dismissed suggestions the ABC needs to ’embed’ itself within businesses to improve its reporting of the area.” An accurate reading of the ABC Radio response clearly states there are “reservations” about such a proposal and more information is required.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey