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Melbourne's Town Hall building, its refurbished City Baths and the iconic Princes Bridge over the Yarra all risk being left in structurally unsound condition by planned rail tunnelling works, the Melbourne City Council warns.
The celebrated view of St Paul's Cathedral, framed between the eastern and western "shards" of Federation Square, would also be ruined by a proposed new railway station entrance and should not be built, the council argues.
The council has detailed a long list of concerns about the impact the planned $10.9 billion Melbourne Metro rail tunnel will have on the city environment, in its submission to the project's Environment Effects Statement.
Princes Bridge. Photo: Craig Abraham
These include the unknown and "not acceptable" effect on traffic from planned road closures, permanent damage to public parklands along St Kilda Road and the avoidable acquisition of people's homes and business premises in Kensington.
The council states in its submission, to be confirmed by councillors at a meeting next week, that it remains a firm supporter of the planned rail tunnel, which will include five new underground stations in the municipality and relieve growing pressure on the City Loop.
But it also details many "deficiencies" with the proposed design of the tunnel and stations that could leave some pockets of the city worse off.
The Melbourne Metro is not due to open until 2026 but construction work will start early next year, when huge shafts will be dug at station sites.
Key parts of the city, including the City Square, and Franklin Street between the City Baths and RMIT, will be excavated.
The council fears the vibration could damage some of the city's most treasured buildings and structures.
Its submission says there are concerns over "potential impacts from the proposed excavation and tunnelling works on the structural integrity of the City Baths, Melbourne Town Hall and Princes Bridge". Other buildings and structures along the project's alignment down Swanston Street may also be affected, the council notes.
The structural integrity of Melbourne City Baths could be impacted by Melbourne Metro Rail works. Photo: Craig Sillitoe
The submission also argues that pre-emptive remedial works must be done on the City Baths, because of worries over damage from "vibration and settlement due to construction activities".
Other heritage buildings on Swanston Street that could be damaged by the project, the submission says, are Young & Jacksons Hotel and the Manchester Unity Building.
The Young & Jackson hotel on the corner of Swanston and Flinders streets. Photo: Ken Irwin
The report warns that the planned closure of A'Beckett Street to cars is not acceptable, the closure of Grattan Street underestimated in its traffic impact, and that emergency exit tunnels to be built near the La Trobe and Swanston street corners may ruin a plan the council has approved for a new laneway.
The submission also says that, in the City Square, a series of three ventilation structures must not be built because they would have "a significant visual impact" and get in the way of pedestrians, especially those using a busy tram stop on Swanston Street.
And it voices concerns over a new entrance to be created to the Metro from Federation Square, saying there are "significant concerns about the location of any new structure within this important civic space".
There are also concerns that "perceived and actual safety may decline" late at night when construction begins in the CBD, particularly around the City Square.
Many students and young people who currently use the area within the planned construction zone will instead go to what the submission calls particularly vulnerable streets "such as Elizabeth Street where there are existing concentrations of fast food outlets" that "are already hot spots for Victoria Police". This street in particular has crowded footpaths at night and crime and anti-social behaviour is already occurring.
There are two options in play for the western tunnel entrance in South Kensington, one of which will involve the compulsory acquisition of nine homes and 13 business premises, the other is a more expensive option that would claim just one home.
Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert said that the council would "be advocating strongly" for the western entrance to the Melbourne Metro to be designed so that fewer homes in Kensington need to be compulsorily acquired.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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