If the revived Metro Rail Link goes ahead there is no doubt that it will be Melbourne’s CBD that will suffer the pain.
And few civic leaders are prepared to back Swanston St traders and city residents against the years of pain on the horizon.
The level and duration of the disruption to the CBD is not yet known, but at the very least, the city is facing massive dislocation and a division into east and west sections.
Preferring to focus on longer-term benefits, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle applauds the project and the timing, describing it as the most important infrastructure project in the country.
“There will be some agony but don’t forget there are no private vehicles in Swanston St anymore,” he said.
City Precinct president Gerard Kelly also supports the project, despite concerns about how his City Square-based businesses will fare during construction.
“From the view of the City Precinct members, after the construction phase should the Metro Rail make it easier for people to enter the city, stay in the city and move around the city, then this would only be a positive for traders,” he said.
Residents 3000 president John Dall’Amico is similarly supportive. “Getting people on public transport and out of cars must be a priority for the CBD,” he said.
“I believe the benefits of the project will quickly out weigh the short-term disruption to the residents of the CBD.”
Transport Minister Jacinta Allan acknowledges there will be impacts on the CBD, but says that is no excuse for inaction.
A government spokesperson said the level of impacts on the CBD and Swanston St would depend on the final alignment and construction methodology, which was still being determined.
The spokesperson said Swanston St was the preferred alignment at this stage.
“The extent to which properties may be affected or required for the project will be determined through the development and planning phase,” the spokesperson said. “It’s important to stress that the long-term impact of Melbourne Metro on Swanston St and the CBD is overwhelmingly positive.”
Shadow public transport minister David Hodgett is more sympathetic to locals, saying: “Any proposal to dig up and effectively shut down Swanston St would impact on hundreds of businesses and thousands of workers.”
“It is therefore incumbent on (Premier) Daniel Andrews to come clean and set out a comprehensive and transparent plan on how he is going to help stores and their workers to deal with this massive disruption.”
Cr Ken Ong is also concerned about the pain that will be inflicted on traders.
“After all the time we spent creating Swanston St as the city’s spine, I would not like to see such major disruption again,” he said.
“Considering the two years they have already suffered, it would be a major blow to Swanston St businesses.”
Collins St Precinct president Don Parsons also expressed “incredible concerns” about the disruption to the city.
“I’ve got incredible concerns because of the separation that will be caused by an open cut dividing the east from the west of the city,” Mr Parsons said. “The metaphor of the Berlin Wall is entirely appropriate.”
“The fact is there is a need for a lot of communication on what is to happen.
We don’t know whether it will be open cut or tunneling. People are talking about four to five years of open cut down Swanston St.”
“Talking to engineers, it may be that the only excavations will be at the two station sites and the rest may be drilled out. The would obviously be a lot better but we need some clear communication from the new authority on exactly what will happen.”
“They say there are 2000 trams that use Swanston St every day. What the hell are we going to do with them? They can’t all be re-routed up Elizabeth St.”