My street is a leafy side-street, well away from industrial land. We see the supermarket trucks rolling through our suburb, but other than that, few big freight vehicles are seen. In fact a bigger volume of freight probably goes through Bentleigh on the steel trains from Hastings than on trucks on the streets.
Not so for residents of the western suburbs, particularly the inner-west. Even in streets that are residential (and have always been so), the juggernauts go through constantly.
So it’s easy to understand why the Eddington report’s Truck Action Plan was greeted with acclaim. It says they’ll get trucks off residential streets. Sounds great, doesn’t it.
Well, it is, and it isn’t. The off-ramp on the Westgate to give trucks access into the port without going down Francis Street, for instance, sounds extremely logical. Shame an on-ramp can’t be provided too, but evidently the gradients would be too steep.
But another part of the plan involves road widening along Ashley Street and Ballarat Road, and flagging that as a truck route in and out of the port.
Some of Ashley Street is industrial, and you can see along there that VicRoads have obviously been planning this for a while. Much of the street has plenty of space for widening.
But Ballarat Road though is a completely different story. Most of it is residential. Throw in some churches, shops, a couple of new apartment blocks, and heritage elm trees… it’s going to get messy. Not that VicRoads hasn’t been planning ahead here too — around Droop and Gordon Sts, it’s very apparent that they’ve already bought a number of properties, ripe for flattening (if they haven’t been already).
Cunningly, VicRoads say they’re not currently buying land for this. At least, not in response to the Eddington report. Of course not! They can’t respond to the Eddington report until the government says they’ll go ahead with that part of it. Besides, some of it is already bought!
So anyway, not all of the Truck Action Plan sounds so good anymore. It’d be great to get trucks out of residential areas, but not so much use moving them to other residential areas. All credit to Yarraville-based MTAG, who seem to recognise this.
We all know widening the road will lead to more traffic. Not just truck traffic, traffic in general. (OK, maybe we don’t all know this. The Premier seems to think motorways are actually environmentally friendly!)
How about spending some money on getting more freight onto rail, instead? Y’know, like, in line with the government’s goal of 30% of port freight on rail by 2010. (Currently: 15%, and dropping!) Most freight heading out of Melbourne would be more efficiently sent by rail. Even local Melbourne freight would benefit if trains took it from the port to localised freight hubs (as has been proposed in some circles) in industrial areas like Dandenong, Altona and Somerton.
And if in the longer term the main port is moved to Hastings, won’t most of the trucks go with it?