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SHPA update: Association continues - attention focused on Crossing Removals

At our recent meeting the Association warmly thanked Cliff Williams for the contribution he has made as President over the past five years. This meeting was a time for reflection on what had been achieved and to think about the future.

The first Surrey Hills Progress Association was established on 1 May 1889 and the current iteration of it continues today.

Over these 130 years there have been times when the Association ceased to function however community issues regularly prevailed to re-establish another group with similar community ideals and concerns.

The present association was formed in 2010 following the unannounced demolition of the former Surrey Hills Post Office and public ire about the loss of building and cultural heritage in the area.

Consistent with its longstanding charter the Association has been an active community group concerned with the social, economic and general civic betterment of Surrey Hills, with the environment, heritage protection and planning taking some prominence over the past decade.

Recent discussion within the Association has centred on the way ahead and whether there is a continued need for such a voice and representative group within Surrey Hills.

This question was answered at the Association’s recent meeting held on 18 June 2020 when it was unanimously resolved to continue the work and build on the many achievements of the decade (2010-2020) which our website documents.

Those who attended the meeting spoke of the role and respect we still had in the community; one that has thrived on a strong and collaborative relationship with local government councillors and officers, members of parliament and other community members and groups.

One of the key challenges of our next phase is to participate in public consultation and review of plans for the rail project announced by the state government – to remove the railway level crossings in Union Road and Mont Albert Road together with the construction of new railway stations at Mont Albert and Surrey Hills.

Project updates have consistently said that the design will involve placing the railway line under Union and Mont Albert Roads, within an open trench.

This will possibly be the largest infrastructure project in the history of the suburb (postcode 3127). It should significantly improve the rail and road network and better unify existing commercial areas. Other likely benefits are better connections for pedestrian movement within the area, linking public open spaces and improvement to urban design and landscaping.

We follow here with an update on the railway project.

Surrey Hills & Mont Albert Railway Crossings Removal Project

Update July 2020

Following soil testing and other engineering investigations started last year, we understand some survey work is still to be completed and concept designs are under development.

This is a complex engineering project due to the horizontal and vertical alignment of the rail line (curves and steep grades) and the narrow width of the rail corridor.

We are advised that the Government remains committed to removal of these crossings and others by 2025. Further, the timeframe will be influenced by the scale and complexity of the preferred solution, including excavation required, and the need to manage shutdowns of the line for a considerable period.

We understand recent railway crossing removal projects, now underway or completed, were undertaken after approval of a separate planning scheme amendment for each project.

In January this year the government amended all planning schemes to remove the cumbersome process of separate amendments for each railway project. Instead there are now clear and uniform requirements for all such projects and specific requirements for consultation with local councils and the public.

In our various discussions as a group, the main thoughts that appear to be front of mind are:

  • What form/design will the new railway stations take? Will there be an upper forecourt with seating, open space and landscaping?

  • How will the heritage listed building at Mont Albert Railway Station be protected?

  • Will the two stations be located exactly where they are presently located?

  • Will there be a designated bus interchange and/or renewed bus stops at the new Surrey Hills Station?

  • How many car parking spaces will be provided and will there be designated provision for car drop off/pick up?

  • Are there any new bicycle paths and facilities planned?

  • Will there be pedestrian access through the station precincts to each side of the railway line and to the respective shopping precincts of Mont Albert and Surrey Hills?

  • Will there be a pedestrian bridge over the railway line, for example at a midpoint between the two stations, perhaps linking the north side of the line with the Lorne Parade parkland?

  • Will there be a public toilet within the Surrey Hills station/commercial precinct near Union Road? There is an existing public toilet in Hamilton Street, Mont Albert.

  • Is all vegetation along the existing railway line being carefully assessed by arborists and significant trees identified for protection?

  • Will the Boroondara and Whitehorse Councils coordinate their responses to both the project concept plan/design and to the construction plan for the project? Will there be a community reference group comprising representatives from Boroondara and Whitehorse Councils, SHPA and other relevant parties to maintain continuing liaison with the Level Crossing Removal Authority as the project proceeds through the design and construction phases?

SHPA will act in a constructive and respectful manner during this process and seek to have as many of these questions and other issues addressed when the project consultation phase occurs.

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