“The thing that needs to be realised is that every level crossing is different,” Parkdale father Dave Harrison says.
“Parkdale is one of the last true villages left in the state, that in itself needs to be recognised.”
The proposed removal of the Parkers Rd level crossing in the seaside village of Parkdale has embroiled the township in a major struggle.
The Andrews Government has committed to removing 85 dangerous level crossings around the state by 2025, with Parkdale set to undergo a drastic transformation off the back of the proposals.
On July 29, Mordialloc MP Tim Richardson tweeted an announcement that Parkdale, along with the crossing at Warrigal Rd, would be removed in favour of overhead rail – or Sky Rail, as it is known.
The Save Parkdale organisation headed by Mr Harrison was created in the wake of the announcement, with the group determined to put a stop to the state government’s plans after the announcement of the plans blindsided residents.
“There was genuinely no announcement or consultation beforehand, unlike almost every other station on the Frankston line,” Mr Harrison said.
The project is still in the planning stage, with work set to begin in the next 12 months to have the crossing removed by 2025.
A village among the suburbs
Compared to its neighbouring suburbs of Mentone and Mordialloc, Parkdale is noticeably quieter, and the shopping strip has no major supermarkets or franchises.
There are no major roads passing through, while neighbouring areas have busy thoroughfares – Balcombe Rd (Mentone) and Nepean Highway (Mordialloc).
City of Kingston Melaleuca Ward Cr Tim Cochrane says the state government’s plans are wrong for Parkdale. “The thing is with Parkdale you travel to it; you don’t travel through it,” he says.
“I just don’t think [Sky Rail] fits in with the village-like feel.”
According to a “Your Kingston, your say” survey following the state government’s July announcement, an overwhelming 876 of 1150 respondents – or 76 per cent – supported a rail under road option.
Rail over vs rail under
The choice to proceed with rail over road has puzzled traders and residents, with the newly removed level crossings minutes away at Mentone and Cheltenham both going with a rail trench under road.
The closest Sky Rail is at Carrum – 10km south of Parkdale.
Mr Harrison says the Level Crossing Removal Authority failed to address traders’ concerns during the special consultation call they set up.
“We could only type our questions and the authority selected them instead of everyone getting a chance,” he said.
“They skirted around the questions and somehow concluded rail over road is the best solution.”
With the suburb’s shopping strip not containing dwellings higher than two storeys, Mr Harrison is convinced the noise of the Sky Rail will be overwhelming when completed.
“All the tall trees will be removed, and the sound will travel further,” he said. “People who live under Sky Rails in other areas have said the noise is a big thing.”
Cr Cochrane believes that rail under road would be the best result for local business, which bustles with families at weekends.
“It’s not a question of over versus under, but more what type of trench would be suitable for the area,” Mr Cochrane said.
“For Parkdale I can picture in my head tables, chairs and greenery to allow for residents to enjoy the expansive space.”
The effect on the shopping strip
One of the main gripes that Parkdale businesses have with the project is the amount of room it will consume, with the government claiming Sky Rail will instead produce two MCGs worth of space underneath for various developments.
Mr Harrison rejects this. “There is talk of ‘two MCGs worth of space’, which would be accurate if the MCG had massive concrete pylons every 30m,” Mr Harrison said.
“The government have made it clear they want to make most of the space carparking, meaning there won’t be a lot of greenery available.”
Mr Harrison believes that the size of the elevated line would make the Parkdale experience unpleasant.
“On a Sunday morning, I usually go to the shops and get a coffee with my family. The sun that bathes the shops is beautiful when it’s cold,” he said.
Sky Rail will cast a shadow over the whole of Como Parade West.
“Who would want to stand in the shade under a Sky Rail in the middle of winter drinking coffee?”
Taking a stand
Mr Harrison’s petition on Change.org has more Han 6200 signatures.
Additionally, Save Parkdale has two other petitions – one for each house of parliament – that Mr Harrison is aiming to have read on his behalf during a session.
The next step for the group is to collaborate with other local organisations facing similar problems to gain more notice.
“There are groups like ours across Melbourne.
“Transport Minister Jacinta Allen is the only one that stop this. We need as much support across the state to get this stopped.”