Still more shops at Southern Cross Station

Over the years I have been following the slow bastardisation of Southern Cross Station, as ticket barriers funnel passengers through narrow passageways, shops fill previously open spaces, and ‘pop up’ events block day to day commuters. Unfortunately these inconveniences have continued to spread, as recent works on the Bourke Street Bridge show.

Work starts on the new shops that will obstruct the Bourke Street bridge

What are they building

Three changes are being made to the Bourke Street Bridge at Southern Cross Station. First up are two retail pods at the eastern end.

Work starts on the new shops that will obstruct the Bourke Street bridge

This has forced the relocation of the next train displays at the entrance to the station.

Relocated PIDS on the Bourke Street bridge

The second part of the works are myki gates to check the tickets of passengers accessing the country platforms.

Second bank of four myki gates, east of the entrance to platforms 5 and 6

Two banks of four gates flank the entrance to platforms 5 and 6.

First bank of four myki gates, west of the entrance to platforms 5 and 6

And finally, a new retail pod to replace the temporary news stand next door to the suburban ticket office.

Afternoon peak on the Bourke Street bridge

This VicTrack diagram shows the extent of the works. The new paid area is shaded red, with three banks of four myki gates controlling access; while the orange, yellow and green shading show the additional shops.

VicTrack diagram showing the new Myki gates being added to the Bourke Street bridge at Southern Cross

The extent of the shops at the eastern end of the Bourke Street bridge above platform 1 and 2 can be seen in this diagram.

More shops cluttering up Southern Cross Station: this time on the Bourke Street bridge above platform 1 and 2

So how did we end up with more shops cluttering up the joint?

The story starts

Unlike previous obstructions added to the concourses of Southern Cross Station, the current round of works needed to be approved by the City of Melbourne, due to a public access easement existing on the Bourke Street Bridge.

The minutes from the April 15, 2013 council meeting go into great detail regarding the changes.

The purpose of this report is to advise the Future Melbourne Committee on three applications for planning permits for easement variations on parts of the Bourke Street Footbridge, which crosses over Southern Cross Station

The station and bridge are owned by Public Transport Victoria (PTV). The bridge is encumbered by an easement of way for pedestrian purposes in favour of the public. The easement provides a legal right for through pedestrian movement between Docklands and central Melbourne. Permanent obstructions cannot be placed on the bridge unless the easement is first removed from the affected land.

PTV is seeking to install myki ticketing barriers on the bridge for its regional platforms, whilst SCS Retail Pty. Ltd. (SCS) which manages retail operations in the station complex, seeks to construct several retail pods.

The council wasn’t too concerned about the addition of ticket barriers along the south side of the Bourke Street Bridge.

Pedestrian modelling indicates that there is little likelihood of the PTV proposal adversely affecting the public use of the bridge. However, in the future there may be the desire to remove the works and have the easement reinstated should long term changes to the bridge’s use levels warrant this.

Being happy to approve the works, but with a few conditions in place:

9.3.3.1. remove the barriers and associated works after 10 years (with a potential extension at Council’s sole discretion):
9.3.3.2. provide a shelter for the general public to replace the existing shelter affected by the proposed barriers;
9.3.3.3. requiring the reinstatement of the easement should the approval not be extended;

However the addition of shops on the Bourke Street Bridge was a greater concern, where two ‘pods’ would block the eastern end of the bridge near the main access stairs, with a third pod to be located at the western end near the suburban ticket office. The council listed their concerns:

The concession area is situated proximate (several metres) to the prime steps providing public and commuter access from Spencer Street to the bridge. It is considered the pods will negatively impact upon the public realm and the use of the Bourke Street Bridge as a main pedestrian thoroughfare.

Their final decision only gave the go ahead for one of the shops.

9.4. issue a planning permit in relation to planning application TP-2011-126 for the easement variation related to the SCS western retail pod subject to the Minister for Planning first approving the associated works;

9.5. issue a refusal to grant a planning permit in relation to planning application TP-2011-157 for the easement variation related to the SCS eastern retail pods;

On July 2, 2013 the City of Melbourne met again to consider an updated development proposal. The minutes of the meeting detailed a number of objections to the proposal:

Four objections were received. These were from the AFL; Melbourne Stadiums Limited/Etihad Stadium; Places Victoria and from the Franchise Manager of the Theobrama Chocolate Lounge. The Lounge operates at bridge level opposite the proposed eastern retail pods.

All of the submitters had concerns as a consequence of the proposed easement removal and works, on pedestrian amenity and safety on the bridge at times of egress from major events held at Etihad Stadium. The Lounge had additional concerns on the effects of the construction works on their business.

The Lounge has not participated in subsequent consultation but has confirmed the objection remains.

The AFL and Melbourne Stadiums have unconditionally withdrawn their objections.

Places Victoria has consented to the application subject to the certain conditions being included in a Notice of Decision to issue a permit. The conditions, which follow, relate more to the operation of the myki barriers than to the easement application itself.

None the less, parts of council were still not happy with the proposal.

The easement removal is not supported by Manager Urban Design and Docklands on the following grounds:

  • there is no justification for loss of public space at the top of the Bourke Street stairs;
  • there is ample space for additional retail in the adjacent Spencer Outlet Centre;
  • it creates a physical and visual barrier at the top of the stairs;
  • it will adversely affect critical air movement between the bridge and the station;
  • it will obstruct views into the station, which would significantly compromise the current competition-winning design; and
  • a permanent structure as required by the applicant, as compared to a temporary structure, does not allow for regular reassessment of its effects on public space issues;

But at least safety concerns were considered:

The applicants have provided detailed pedestrian modelling including factoring commuter rush times and spectator discharge from sporting and non-sporting events at Etihad Stadium. These have been prepared by two independent traffic management consultants. Those being AIRBIZ for DoTPLI and Urbantrans/Movendo for SCS. The pedestrian modelling shows all of the works should have little impact currently and in the near future on pedestrian use of the bridge.

Additionally there is little likelihood of a significant event such as a large crowd crush occurring as a result of those works, but the implications of such happening could be severe. Considerable comfort comes from PTV advice that the myki barriers can be promptly and easily opened in the unlikely event on an emergency such as a public crush and that back up contingencies also exist.

It took until August 6, 2013 for council to approve the additional shops on the bridge, with the meeting minutes reading:

It is considered the proposal is acceptable providing it is conditioned on the lines of the myki related approval. Measures need to be in place giving Council the full discretion at any future time to have the retail pods removed and the easement reestablished.

The reasons for those actions should not be restricted to safety as was the case for the myki approval, but expanded to include urban design and general amenity related matters to address the recommendations of Manager Urban Design and Docklands.

So ten years of more shops cluttering up the Bourke Street Bridge, until the City of Melbourne finds them to be a bad idea, and revokes the permit.

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