By Rowan Forster
Furious Skyrail detractors have taken aim at the Labor State Government’s lack of consultation with homeowners and businesses along Pakenham’s rail corridor, taking their fight to the street ahead of this week’s election.
Residents were out in force on Saturday 17 November, delivering placards to mailboxes in Heritage Springs, Ascot Estate, Arcadia, Arena and Lakeside highlighting their concerns with the proposed 2.7 kilometre concrete development.
Many were quick to cite that on 21 October, Premier Daniel Andrews announced the removal of 25 additional level crossings, telling the media that communities near the earmarked locations had been consulted.
However, November’s Pakenham Skyrail pledge came as a surprise to everybody.
“There was absolutely no consultation with the community,’ No Pakenham Skyrail’s David Farrelly said.
“I play a role with many community groups and volunteer organisations, and these were the ideal people to be speaking to, but they weren’t asked.
“I was at a public meeting where the Labor candidates attended and spoke to the group and they were directly asked about Skyrail and they didn’t say anything.”
The controversial Skyrail project is now active in many of south east Melbourne’s major traffic corridors.
Some communities have accepted the infrastructure, while others are still devastated.
Jonathon Fitzpatrick – who lives at the southern end of the Frankston line where Skyrail has been introduced – said it has destroyed the aesthetic appeal of his beachside community.
“This isn’t just a term of government that is changed – it is something that is there forever,” he said.
“Once it is built, it is too late for people to change their minds and complain.
“People in Pakenham are just fortunate enough that they get to choose with an election on the horizon.”
In Clayton however, commuters have reportedly been pleasantly surprised by the Skyrail – despite initially being ad odds with the plan.
That stretch of Skyrail does not overlook residents’ backyards and has two roads, Haughton and Carinish Road, providing a buffer between trains and properties.
It comes as the plight of McGregor Road’s rail crossing was again highlighted on Saturday; with poorly signalised boom gates bringing traffic to a halt for more than 20 minutes.
The Gazette’s photographer was travelling along McGregor Road when caught in the gridlock, watching as an ambulance was forced to travel on the wrong side of the road to respond to an emergency.
In a Gazette poll, asking readers which option they would prefer, the result was almost split between Skyrail and the Coalition’s pledged rail-under-road solution.
More than 1000 participants weighed in, proving just how polarising the issue is.
The preferred approach could be the decision-maker in the battleground electorate of Bass, which is now widely considered to be marginal.