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Tens of thousands of residents and businesses across middle Melbourne suburbs will be impacted by construction of the Andrews Government’s mega Suburban Rail Loop.
The Herald Sun can for the first time reveal details of where stations are set to be built for the new underground line, which would link Cheltenham in Melbourne’s southeast to Box Hill in the east under stage one.
While tunnelling the new line should reduce the number of homes and businesses bulldozed to fewer than 300, the wider footprint of each station site will see massive disruptions to major highways, residential streets and thriving business centres.
Some property owners told they’re likely to be acquired are currently building new homes on their land, plunging them into financial stress and uncertainty about their futures.
The government says they will be holding more information sessions with landowners and tenants in coming weeks to ensure they understand the process and timing of acquisitions.
New stations for the city-shaping orbital rail line are being planned at Southland in Cheltenham, as well as at Clayton, Monash University, Glen Waverley, Burwood and Box Hill.
Carlo Corallo is facing uncertainly over his townhouses. Picture: Jason Edwards
An artist's impression of a train on the Suburban Rail Loop.
The Herald Sun walked the streets to doorknock areas affected, with some families who have been in the areas for decades upset by the plans, but many saying the project is necessary as suburbs grow.
Box Hill will be a difficult engineering task, with high rise towers and deep underground car parks impacting the route and the planned station likely to affect traffic on Whitehorse Rd while taking residential and business properties to its north.
Residents in McComas Street in Burwood who are impacted include families putting the finishing touches on newly-constructed homes.
Property owner Carlo Corallo and his construction team are building 13 townhouses across two blocks owned by their parents since the 1970s, but now face financial uncertainty.
“You can’t sell them, who’s going to buy them now?” he said.
“If this gets pulled down it will break my heart and all these people’s hearts and my family, but you have to move on, what choice do you have?”
The mega-loop, which would eventually connect Southland shopping centre in Cheltenham to Werribee via 90km of track, is unfunded but has had a whopping $2.5 billion allocated for early works.
It will connect major economic activity centres across Melbourne and is billed as “the biggest infrastructure investment ever undertaken in Victoria”
A government spokeswoman said the 26 km train tunnel and six new stations as part of Stage One “will be primarily underground”.
While every effort is being made to avoid land impacts, some disruption and property acquisition is unavoidable for a project the size and complexity of Suburban Rail Loop,” a government spokeswoman said.
Homes visited in Clayton were a mix of rental properties and owner-occupiers, with many residents saying they didn’t know much about the project – despite bore holes being drilled in Madeleine Rd and surrounding hot spots.
Clayton’s planned station is also near to a medical precinct on Clayton Rd.
At Glen Waverley residents and community services near to the station footprint – which is across the road from Labor MP Matt Fregan’s office – said letters told them of impacts but they may not need to move.
A whopping $2.5 billion has been allocated for early works.
One Burwood resident who didn’t want to be named in case it affected the family’s settlement, said letters notifying of likely acquisitions were a bitter pill to swallow after COVID-19 restrictions.
“It has affected us as a whole family, it doesn’t help that after lockdown then we get that news,” the resident said.
“We don’t want to sell, we never wanted to move.”
At Box Hill, engineers working on potential routes were forced to adjust designs to ensure tunnel boring machines wouldn’t threaten underground car parks in high rise buildings.
The Suburban Rail Loop Authority is also considering a staging area at Box Hill Gardens, with entrances to the underground station built on the north and southern side of Whitehorse Rd.
Whitehorse councillor Blair Barker, whose ward covers much of the construction zone, said high-rise developments had created added complexities for builders.
“A lot of these buildings have deep underground car parks and the SRLA have had to plot a course between them,” he said.
Cr Barker said loss of public spaces was a major issue but there were also concerns about the government’s value capture program, which will seek to earn back some of the project’s cost by leveraging the increase in property values around the stations.
Bill Shorten, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews along with Transport Minister Jacinta Allan and Anthony Albanese at the announcement for the Loop.
An artist's concept of an underground station along the Suburban Rail Loop.
“Traffic congestion and the loss of park space during construction are two other big problems.”
“Too often we see work zones interrupt parks and spaces that are vital to the community.”
Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman David Davis recently warned residents they could face a “tax” on their properties if they
benefit from the SRL project.
In a letter he hit out at secrecy over station locations.
“It is simply unacceptable for Daniel Andrews to have planned for this enormous disruption to people’s lives, but to not have explained the consequences to those most impacted,” he said.
Whitehorse Council is hoping to use the massive upheaval, which could mean years of disruptions to the busy traffic corridor, to realign Whitehorse Rd and allow for a larger public community space at the top of the local shopping mall on Market St.
When stage one is completed to Box Hill, engineers will face another massive logistical challenge navigating different elevation between that precinct and a future Doncaster Station.
13 townhouses almost finished are likely to be acquired for the Suburban Rail Loop.
PROJECT KNOCKED FOR A LOOPAs Carlo Corallo and his construction team put the finishing touches on 13 new townhouses in Burwood, he now knows they could be demolished within a few years.
The five-year project, which was also a retirement funding plan, was thrown into limbo when the Andrews government said the land would be needed to make way for a railway station.
Mr Corallo said he had to push on with construction even though he would now be unable to sell them.
“You can’t sell them, who’s going to buy them now? And you might not get the real value out of them,” he said.
“We can’t stop, the banks aren’t going to stop. We don’t know if they are going to acquire them next year, or the year after, or after that. I suspect I will probably be dead by the time they do this project.”
Residents on the west side of McComas Street have been told they were in the acquisition zone. Picture: Jason Edwards
Mr Corallo, a former director of Peddle Thorp Architects, which supports new public transport projects, said there was little information about the Suburban Rail Loop but families on the west side of McComas Street had been told they were in the acquisition zone.
He said the townhouses were “built with a lot of thought and a lot of emotion” and were a dedication to his parents, who arrived from Italy with nothing and owned one of the blocks since 1972.
“You have a property 50 years and nothing happens and then you make something of it and this happens,” he said. “There’s an emotional attachment … although my dad said to me you should never get emotional about property.
“We spent a lot of money, like tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, on tree protection and cultural heritage plans which were also a lot of fun, but now what?”
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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