Sadly 2016 hasn’t been a great year for us.
The first slap in the face was the dumping of the Port Rail Shuttle project in a deal to privatise the Port of Melbourne. This would have taken 3500 trucks a day off our streets and be complete within 18 months. It was one of the key recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Proposed Lease of the Port of Melbourne but instead the plan got kicked into the long grass, with freight on rail targets that don’t have to be acted on for a leisurely 8 years!
After almost two years of endless meetings with Government and Transurban about the Western Distributor we still have not received a commitment that trucks will be forced to use the new road. Nor have they committed to filtering the tunnel to future proof neighbouring communities from carcinogenic diesel fumes. We made it very clear in our ‘Is the Tunnel Good for the Neighbourhood’ rally that we do not support the project without these commitments. The day before the protest Roads Minister Luke Donnellan accused us of playing Kumbaya with The Greens, clearly not interested in taking residents legitimate concerns seriously.
Stage 1 of the West Gate Distributor is well underway, unfortunately opening the flood gates to more trucks on our streets as well as heavier trucks with the strengthening of Shepherds Bridge. Our greatest fears were realised when on 1st November super B Doubles were banned on the West Gate Bridge and sent down Williamstown Rd and Francis St instead. Unbelievably we found out about this through the media, despite regular meetings with VicRoads. These trucks are absolutely massive and to think that we should just suck it up truly shows how much government doesn’t understand the impacts or maybe just doesn’t care.
Daniel Andrews might understand the impacts if he actually met with us but despite many requests he hasn’t. Not long after the super B double decision Daniel Andrews claimed on ABC 774 that he’s had many meetings with residents over the truck issue. We’d love to know who these residents were because they certainly weren’t us.
We had yet another year of trucks hitting the Napier St Bridge with containers falling onto the footpath and bike path. Roads Minister Luke Donnellan promised a $600K gantry 18 months ago, to prevent the containers from falling. But they have not been a hurry to spend it, with Luke Donnellan even claiming at a press conference that the work was done and dusted! It was then hastily announced that work would start within a month. Whilst the gantry will potentially save lives, it will not stop trucks from hitting the bridge and as long as this road is a truck route the problem will not go away.
Buckley St and Williamstown Rd still don’t have a night and weekend curfew, despite Luke Donnellan telling us earlier in the year that the Trucks Inner West Working Group would look at it. Buckley St in particular is becoming more congested than ever with traffic at a complete stand still in the morning peak.
The night and weekend part curfew on Moore St has reduced the trucks but the numbers are slowly creeping up. We get regular reports that the curfew is never enforced and it is impossible for locals to tell what a ‘local’ truck actually looks like.
And the bad news about air pollution kept on coming including the big one that diesel exhaust has been found to cause asthma in children. That’s not exacerbate but actually CAUSE asthma. Cities around the world are starting to take action and Paris, Athens, Mexico City and Madrid have all announced they will ban diesel vehicles from entering their cities from 2025. In London, where 9400 people a year die from diesel pollution, a group of doctors have formed Doctors against Diesel, calling for a ban to improve the city’s health outcomes.
Bringing it closer to home – this year the Victorian Asthma Foundation launched ‘Puffing through the Pollution’, a new project to support residents of Melbourne’s Inner West to better manage their asthma, linking our high asthma rates to…you guessed it… TRUCKS!
Even though the evidence is loud and clear that there is no safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust, VCAT approved a child care centre for the corner of Francis Street and Williamstown Road. Pollution here would undoubtedly be way above the World Health Organisation’s guidelines and yet VCAT didn’t take air pollution into consideration in the slightest – a truly unbelievable piece of news to end the year on.
We did have some small wins in 2016.
The scoping requirements for the Western Distributor were announced and our recommendation that health be considered was accepted, the first time ever for a Victorian infrastructure project.
The reference design for the Western Distributor was announced. The final design, whilst by no means perfect, addressed the concerns of MTAG and other community groups such as Concerned Locals of Yarraville and Friends of Stony Creek. The long tunnel option was chosen, which won’t destroy Hyde St Reserve and a ramp won’t be going right past the Emma McLean Kindergarten in Spotswood which also would have been unacceptable.
And Wembley Primary School kids got a school crossing curfew on Francis St which was pretty huge. Disappointedly though, the curfew has not been managed nearly as well as the introduction of the Somerville Rd school crossing curfew, with limited signage and enforcement.
So onwards to 2017, when the first huge task will be wading through the documents for the Western Distributor Environmental Effects Statement and preparing a submission. We look forward to a massive community effort in preparing submissions – we have to send a strong message to government that it’s just not an option for this project to fail in solving the inner west’s truck and pollution problem.
Thanks to all our supporters and have a safe Christmas and New Year.
The MTAG committee