West Melbourne and Docklands share a common heritage; in the 1860's they were both at the centre of Melbourne trade and industry. In short, while the rest of the city was being landscaped with beautiful parks and roadways, Docklands and West Melbourne was where workingmen came to struggle and toil everyday. That is why you do not see too many big houses and open parkland in this corner of the city; who puts parkland in an industrial neighbourhood.
With the rapid growth of the city though, industry is being displaced for urbanisation and nowadays both Docklands and West Melbourne are in the middle of dramatic change. Tall buildings now stand next to where tall ships used to berth, and in West Melbourne the old warehouses are rapidly being converted into low and medium height apartment buildings. What is missing from these neighbourhoods though, are the amenities that the rest of the city takes for granted. These include open parkland, good connectivity between neighbouring communities and considered placement of infrastructure. Docklands and West Melbourne both lack much of the planning finesse that you will find in other parts of Melbourne and in time, these problems will be compounded to eventually devalue and erode the inner west.
Below are some of the issues that currently confront the inner west. They are in no particular order, but they all affect the quality of living for people who live and work in Docklands and West Melbourne.
Trains are a common feature of the Melbourne landscape, but they are even more noticeable in West Melbourne. Aside from the hundreds of electric metro trains that pass through North Melbourne Train Station every day there are also regional and interstate diesel trains passing the neighbourhood..
Up until a year ago, the regional and interstate diesel trains travelled through North Melbourne Station at the same level as the Metro trains, but when the Victorian State Government commissioned the new Regional Rail Link in 2013, authorities decided to make use of an old train flyover next to Railway Place. This train flyover used to be used by about five or six trains a day, but now more than 180 diesel trains a day use this flyover... and these trains pass within 15 metres of homes. Vibrations from these trains are impacting on properties but there are also concern for the long term effects of diesel pollution on the local community too.
With the implementation of the flyover, most regional trains now bypass North Melbourne Train Station, and this is also providing problems for many regional commuters. Up until 2014 regional trains could get off at North Melbourne Train Station and join the 401 bus service to Royal Melbourne Hospital and Melbourne University. Now that regional trains are bypassing North Melbourne Station, these commuters have to take the train through to Southern Cross Station and then either join a metro trains back to North Melbourne Station to join the 401 bus, or get a train or tram into the city and another tram north to the university or hospitals. This daily routine add precious time to an individuals day, but it is also putting more stress on trams in the CBD.
For more information on trains and their impact on the inner west, follow this link... More
Roads and Traffic
No one is denying that we need roads, but there is a limit to the amount of traffic that Melbourne's CBD can cope with. Transurban's own engineers admit that their roads are already"capacity constrained" at the city end and so this beg the question... will the city really benefit from having two new roadways being built on the E-Gate site within one kilometre of the CBD. Are there better solutions available, both for the use of the E-Gate site and helping traffic through the city?
Transurban's original argument for the Western Distributor was to get trucks off the road around the port suburbs of Brooklyn, Yarraville, Seddon and Footscray. Their plan is to take traffic off the Princes Highway, bring it through a tunnel under these suburbs, cross over the Maribyrnong River using a new bridge and then bring this traffic along Footscray Road and onto CityLink. At various points along the Western Distributor will be ramps that will provide trucks easier access into the port.
Western Connection group supports this portion of the project. What Western Connection does not support though, is the intrusion of more roads into the CBD at the expense of more meaningful opportunities to resolve problems within inner Melbourne.
The train lines and roadways that cut between West Melbourne and Docklands have a noticeable effect on both communities. There is the noise and air pollution that affects both communities, but there is also a large physical divide that is created by both the rail and road networks.
West Melbourne residents live just 600-metres away from Harbourtown, one of the largest shopping precincts in Docklands, and yet to get between the two, residents have to walk down Railway place, under a noisy train overpass and then across Footscray Road, a distance of about 1.5 kilometres. What should be a seven-minute walk is closer to a 20-minute walk. Commuters who get off trains at North Melbourne Train Station to go to Docklands also have the same walk to make every morning and evening.
This divide is not discouraging for West Melbourne residents, it is a frustration for the small business owners in Docklands who are struggling for their economic survival. In the time that Docklands has been evolving as a community, dozens of businesses and restaurants have come and gone, with most
Parks and Green Spaces
Despite the rapid urbanisation of Docklands and West Melbourne, the one thing that noticeably missing from this corner of the city is green-space. North Melbourne and Parkville have Royal Park, Carlton has the Carlton Gardens, East Melbourne has Fitzroy Gardens and to the immediate south of the CBD you have the Royal Botanical Gardens, Albert Park and Fawkner Park. For the resident of West Melbourne though, Flagstaff Gardens is the only significant park, and it is more within the bounds of the CBD than it is the actual suburb of West Melbourne.
With the rapid development of high-rise apartments buildings in West Melbourne, the likely development of E-Gate and the ongoing growth of Docklands, green space and parkland is becoming an urgent consideration. The problem is though, that land is now becoming too expensive for the City of Melbourne to purchase. Read more about parks here... More
One important concern for many residents in West Melbourne and Docklands is car parking. West Melbourne has a problem with car parking simply because many developers have sought exemptions on car parks for their new apartment buildings. Many businesses in West Melbourne also have staff who drive to work each day, and many workers in the CBD drive as far as West Melbourne and then walk into the CBD, or catch a tram in the new free-tram zone. Weekends are also a challenge for West Melbourne residents, with many people driving in from the suburbs, parking in the streets of West Melbourne and then walking to events at Etihad Stadium and Festival Hall; it can often be impossible for local residents to get a park if they go out, even on short errands on the weekends.
Docklands also has its own unique problems with parking. For one thing, the usual process of putting carparks into the basement of buildings is not feasible in Docklands simply because most buildings are built in close proximity to water. Because of this, car-parking within buildings needs to be built into the lower floors of a building. There is another problem with car parking in Docklands though, and that is that some of the car-parking buildings are actually under-utilised. It is not that they are too many car-parks in Docklands, it is because business, including Harbourtown are simply not getting enough customers. Nevertheless, car parking is a major consideration as we build more apartments into the CBD, and through bad public transport provision force people in outer suburbs to drive into work every day.