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CITY traders and residents are pushing to have Flagstaff railway station re-opened on weekends, arguing its closure has a deadening effect on the life of the north-west end of the CBD.
Flagstaff is the fifth-busiest railway station on the metropolitan network but the only one not open seven days a week.
Kirsty Chiaplias, owner of the Workers' Food Room on Little Lonsdale Street, said the north-west end of the city was a ghost town on Saturdays and Sundays, which discouraged traders from opening.
''If the train station was open and the council supported this end of the city I would open and other businesses would open [on weekends] because we pay enough rent to justify it,'' Ms Chiaplias said.
''But compared to the rest of the city, it's a dead part of the city. There's no art gallery, there's no retail, there's no laneway festivals - the foot traffic here is minimal and supposedly Melbourne is the world's most liveable city, but the whole city needs to be with the same concept.''
Ms Chiaplias launched a petition calling for the station's weekend opening a little over a week ago. It has so far collected just 150 signatures, but has received the support of many city dwellers and the Greens' Melbourne mayoral candidate, Dr Alison Parkes.
Tony Morton, the president of the Public Transport Users Association, backed the call and said it would not be difficult to open Flagstaff on weekends.
''I think there's this view in the bureaucracy that the people who use Flagstaff station are purely working people who come into the city Monday to Friday and there's nothing around there that anyone wants to go to on a weekend, but that view is increasingly rubbish,'' Dr Morton said.
''There are a lot of people who don't just work near the area but actually live near the area, with all the development going on around West Melbourne and the Flagstaff Gardens.''
Queen Victoria Market chief executive Jennifer Hibbs also gave the campaign her support, saying stall holders had previously backed the idea.
A Public Transport Victoria spokeswoman said Flagstaff station had long been closed on weekends ''largely due to low weekend demand in an area that was historically seen as an office precinct''.
''PTV will continue to review weekend transport demand as Docklands and the north-west corner of the CBD grows and changes,'' the spokeswoman said.
But she warned ''opening Flagstaff on weekends would need to be assessed against competing demands for other improvements to the public transport network''.
More than 22,000 people live in Melbourne's CBD. RMIT senior lecturer in transport planning Paul Mees said Flagstaff's weekend closure was ''kind of like a legacy of the Melbourne of the 1980s, except ironically in the 1980s it was at least open on Saturday''.
When the city loop opened in the 1980s it did not operate on Sundays. The introduction of Sunday trading changed that, although Flagstaff station had its Saturday services cancelled at the same time the other two loop stations opened on Sundays.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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