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One of Melbourne's busiest boulevards and a popular inner-city park could become heritage listed as part of a state government tactic to ensure the Metro Rail Project stays on track.
In a pre-emptive move, the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority has applied for St Kilda Road and Fawkner Park to be listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, partly so objectors can't use the tactic to later delay the $10.9 billion project.
The road and the park sit along the alignment of the cross-city tunnel. If approved by the Victorian Heritage Council, they would join other protected sites such as the Great Ocean Road, Royal Park and the Domain Parklands.
The heritage bid will likely take a few months but doing so now will prevent any future applications by opponents of the project, who could use the tactic to force delays that can lead to cost blowouts or unwanted disruptions for motorists and commuters.
A heritage listing would establish clear requirements to minimise the impact of construction of the project. For instance, a portion of Fawkner Park is likely to be used to house a tunnel-boring machine and to store soil overnight, and sections of St Kilda Road near the Shrine of Remembrance will be closed for short periods while the rail line is built underneath.
"We need the heritage protection, but the government needs to think carefully about how it can proceed with the Metro without irreparably trashing Fawkner Park," said opposition spokesman David Davis.
An artist's impression of a new station to be built in the Melbourne Metro project. But South Yarra will not get a new station under current plans.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the applications "recognise the importance of these beautiful places and provides further certainty for this critical project".
The Melbourne Metro Rail project is a nine-kilometre twin tunnel from South Yarra to South Kensington, with five new underground stations: Arden, Parkville, CBD South, CBD North and Domain.
Political tussling over its funding intensified last week, after Treasurer Scott Morrison earmarked $857 million in his first budget for the state to spend on the rail tunnel once it finalised the privatisation of the Port of Melbourne.
The money would be provided using the Commonwealth's asset recycling scheme, which gives the states bonus payments equivalent to 15 per cent of the value of asset sales, provided the money is used on productive infrastructure, such as road or rail.
However, Victoria insists the funding provided by Mr Morrison came with a new set of strings attached because under his predecessor Joe Hockey, it had been up to the states to determine how federal funds would be spent.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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