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Construction of a new rail line under Swanston Street is set to be completed without ripping up the entire street – in stark contrast to claims by former premier Denis Napthine the project would divide Melbourne's CBD "worse than the Berlin wall".
The tunnelling machines to be used on the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel from South Yarra to South Kensington won't be used beneath all of Swanston Street.
Instead, while new railway stations are built at either end of Swanston Street, it will be shut to trams for at least two years while mining and drilling is carried out 10 metres below.
Fear of pedestrians being driven away from Swanston Street because of the Melbourne Metro works has led Melbourne City Council to set aside $100,000 in its annual budget to begin planning how to keep the street alive once trams shift to routes such as Elizabeth and William streets.
On Swanston Street, the city blocks between La Trobe and Collins streets would be left largely untouched above ground. That vacant road space amounts to 1.8 hectares of land.
Lord mayor Robert Doyle said the closure of the street provided an opportunity for Melbourne to turn Swanston Street into a fantastic public space for the duration of works on the metro project.
"I was in Paris when they turned the Champs-Elysees ... into one gigantic nursery," he said. "They had farm animals; they had cows, horses and pigs and ducks. And they had [a] sculpture park."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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