Last week I told the story of how Melbourne’s Middle Footscray station came to be and why more tracks are needed – today we step into the future and look at what will be built as part of the Regional Rail Link project, and what is going to be hit by the bulldozer.
The final Regional Rail Link plans for the route through Footscray were released on July 12, 2010. However a number of residents did not find out their homes were to be acquired until told by visiting journalists that morning, with official notification from Department of Transport representatives coming up to 24 hours later, which caused quite the kerfuffle at the time.
Construction of the two new tracks through Middle Footscray was to require the acquisition of 26 homes and 84 businesses on Buckley Street, but changes to the plans released in September 2010 reduced the total number from 110 to 78.
The following diagram is an composite of the detailed sectional maps found on the Department of Transport website, with the property numbers added by myself. Maps 20 through 23 covering Middle Footscray (you can find the full set of maps for download here). The legend is as follows:
- Yellow: railway land, existing or to be acquired
- Red: new Regional Rail Link tracks
- Purple: relocated suburban tracks
- Green: relocated ARTC (freight) tracks
- Black: tracks left as is
By my count a total of 24 houses are to be acquired on Buckley Street, as well as the Footscray Senior Citizens Centre. Of these, only a few properties around Victoria Street are actually in the path of the new tracks, with the rest of the route running through what are currently backyards and garden sheds.
The original project timeline stated the transfer of properties was to commence in July 2011, with the completion of land purchases occurring by August 31, and demolition work following in the fourth quarter of 2011 leading into early 2012.
However when I first visited in mid September a number of houses were still to be vacated. The reminder of the properties had already been secured, with plywood covering all door and window openings, and temporary fencing panels blocking access to backyards. So lets take a walk…
Starting at the city end of the diagram are the modern brick terrace houses at number 96, 98 and 100 Victoria Street: all are to be acquired, but their more historic neighbours at numbers 102, 104 and 106 will be spared, albeit on an island of their own.
Heading along west Buckley Street the next few houses are also safe, but the timber cottage at 43 Windsor Street will go, given that it is right beside the tracks at Middle Footscray.
Across Windsor Street is the Footscray Senior Citizens’ Centre, which the Maribyrnong City Council had committed $130,000 to refurbish just a few days before the compulsorily acquisition notice was given. The railway side of the hall shows how big it really is.
Continuing along Buckley Street is a small park, and then a few timber houses: numbers 148 through 156. The residents at number 148 were among the last to leave their home, with their windows still to be boarded up in September 2011.
The owners at 152 Buckley Street appear to have been part way through renovating when the acquisition notice arrived: the freshly replaced weatherboards on the western wall have only been puttied up, never to be painted.
The rest of the boarded up houses make a sad sight.
Further along the block are two 1960s cream brick houses, at numbers 158 and 160.
Numbers 162, 164 and 168 Buckley Street are a few more older timber houses, while 166 and 170 Buckley Street are bland brick affairs in 1980s mission brown.
Next in the block is 172 Buckley Street, a former neighbourhood milk bar that had been trading as “Pandu’s Fast Food”.
Marking the end of the block is a pair of flats at 176 Buckley Street, next door to the shop but facing onto the short stub of John Street.
On the other side of John Street is 178 Buckley Street, a former shop that was just a house in recent years.
Rounding out the rest of the triangle are four timber houses, at numbers 180 through 186 Buckley Street. The first three were private residences, with the last one used being used a music school.
As of mid October 2011 one property is still occupied by the owner: most of the windows are boarded up, but a cardboard sign on the front door is in place warn away vandals. As for the rest of the block on Buckley Street: the houses are boarded up and the utilities disconnected, but demolition has yet to commence.
When one looks down the tracks from the footbridge near West Footscray station, one can see the amount of free space already available for the construction of the new track pair. It makes you wonder: would people prefer to have their houses pulled out from under them, or have trains move right up to their back door?
- Compulsory acquisition, don’t say they’re dreaming: an article from the Herald Sun detailing the compulsory acquisition process in Victoria.
- Fair-go for Footscray Rail Residents: community group that “does not oppose the RRL project” but is concerned about it’s impacts