QuestionsOnNotice

Adjournment Matters No 1135
Answered
Council
59 Parliament First Session
Question
Asked: 16 February 2021

SUBURBAN RAIL LOOP

MR RICH-PHILLIPS — To ask the Minister for Employment (for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure): 

I raise a matter tonight for the attention of the Minister for Transport Infrastructure regarding the Suburban Rail Loop and the proposed stabling site in Heatherton in the middle of my electorate. In December last year residents in the vicinity of this proposed stabling site received, two weeks before Christmas, a letter telling them that the area in the vicinity of their homes had been chosen and was likely to be the location of train stabling for the Suburban Rail Loop. Now, this site that has been identified by the government is in fact a parcel of land which has been long reserved for what has been known as the chain of parks, a ring of green parks—green wedge land—through the central south-eastern suburbs to provide a reservation for recreational activities and nature activities, which this government had previously committed to. Yet two weeks before Christmas the residents in Heatherton received letters saying, ‘Well, no, we’ve changed our mind. You’re not going to have a chain of parks anymore. You’re going to have a train stabling yard’.

This has caused great concern to the residents immediately affected in the Heatherton area, but it has also caused considerable concern to the broader community in the south-eastern and eastern suburbs. One of the great needs in that part of Melbourne is increased availability of recreational facilities, particularly increased availability of sporting fields, and the chain of parks was going to be the source of that. So this does not just affect the residents of Heatherton, it affects hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in the eastern and south-eastern suburbs more broadly who all expected that area would be available for recreation and for playing fields.

I raise this with the Minister for Transport Infrastructure to highlight the need for the government to identify an alternative site for the suburban rail link train stabling. We are told this link will connect all the major rail lines, so there are numerous locations on this line where train stabling could be identified and established—not in an area which has already been set aside for recreation, not in an area that is in the middle of the green wedge and not in an area which this government had previously committed to maintaining as part of the chain of parks.

Answer
Answered: 29 April 2021

Ms ALLAN (Bendigo East—Leader of the House, Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Minister for the Suburban Rail Loop):

I thank the Member for South Eastern Metropolitan Region for his question.

The Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) will transform Victoria’s public transport system, connecting our suburbs and making travel easier and more convenient. Connecting every major train line from the Frankston Line to the Werribee Line via Melbourne Airport, the new rail link will improve access to housing, jobs, schools, universities and hospitals in Melbourne’s middle suburbs.

A train stabling facility is required near the start of the rail line to allow SRL’s fleet of new high-tech trains to begin services efficiently each day. Train stabling is a critical part of the new SRL network. It would not be possible to provide high frequency turn-up-and-go train services without it.

Victoria’s busy suburbs makes it challenging to find suitable parcels of land for the dedicated facility and the Suburban Rail Loop Authority has assessed land availability and existing land use between Cheltenham and Clayton. As a result of these investigations, the preferred location is in the green wedge zone at Heatherton, bordering Old Dandenong and Kingston Roads.

The northern section of Kingston’s Green Wedge has been mined for sand, used for landfill and for waste management. Due to the zone’s historical land use as a clean fill tip, the Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) is undertaking a range of geotechnical investigations to better understand ground conditions across the site. Geotechnical and other site investigations are critical to assessing any potential contamination and ensuring it is safe and fit for purpose.

Stabling is a permitted use in a green wedge zone and the proposed location at Heatherton will significantly minimise residential and commercial property acquisition, impacts on local jobs, impacts on local agricultural land and impacts on the environment.

The Liberals would apparently prefer the Government pursue options with greater impact to local residents, businesses and agricultural land, and at greater cost to Victorians.

The Andrews Labor Government is getting on with delivering the Suburban Rail Loop and remains committed to delivering the Chain of Parks. We will continue to work closely with the City of Kingston, local residents, local stakeholders and the community to ensure that SRL enables the Chain of Parks to be delivered.

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