Redevelopment goes off the rails

Issue 

BY JESS MELVIN

MELBOURNE — "Redevelopment" has gone off the rails at Melbourne Central train station. As part of the "new evolving Melbourne Central", rail commuters have been diverted from their usual direct exit point to Swanston Street, which had been in use for 20 years, through the Melbourne Central shopping complex.

Melbourne Central is the second busiest station in Melbourne, used by more than 40,000 commuters and 720 trains every day.

Transit company M>Train explains the decision, which will add five minutes to travel time, in its current Customer News bulletin: "The departure of [department store] Daimaru has created an opportunity to redevelop the station and integrate it more effectively with the Melbourne Central shopping/entertainment and office complex."

Travellers now have no option but to walk through two levels of retail and food outlets. Even the old station concourse has been taken over by juice and coffee shops, and a Hungry Jacks has emerged within the ticket gates.

Not surprisingly, passengers are less than impressed about these changes. The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) conducted a survey that concluded that 96.7% of respondents were unhappy with the changes.

"This is purely about greed", said PTUA president Daniel Bowen. "Tens of thousands transfer from trains onto Swanston Street trams every day, and rather than have people flow smoothly through to complete their trip, the shopping centre wants to grab their money on the way."

When I attempted to photograph the new station, the police were called, and I was told, under the eye of the permanent security cameras, that photos and video recording within the station have been banned for the last year.

If money can be found to "redevelop" the station's entrance and exit, it should be spent on improving the frequency and conditions of trains.

From Green Left Weekly, November 19, 2003.
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