Demolishing Newmarket’s station building

Just over a year ago I first wrote about the crumbling station building at Newmarket, and now I’ve got an update – Metro Trains Melbourne wants to demolish half of the structure.

Work being carried out to the soon to be demolished citybound station building

The Moonee Valley Leader ran an article on the proposal back on May 20th:

Part of Newmarket train station, the ‘Heart and soul’ of Flemington, set to be demolished
Linh Ly
May 20, 2014

Moonee Valley Council received an application on May 13 for demolition consent on the eastern side of station, which fronts Pin Oak Cres in Flemington.

Mayor Jan Chantry said the proposal did not seek to demolish the entire station but the portion of the building south of the existing archway and entrance.

Cr Chantry said it is the council’s understanding that the request was made due to structural issues.

“However, Metro Trains have noted that as part of the general works and upgrades to the station, specific bracing and structural measures will be included to the remaining portion of the building to help ensure the ongoing retention of the station,” Cr Chantry said.

Metro Trains spokeswoman Pauline O’Connor said movement of the building had been detected and they needed a long-term solution to address settlement issues.

Ms O’Connor said two design solutions were considered for the station – either demolishing it entirely or demolishing half of it and building a foundation to support and stabilise the remaining building.

“We recognise the significance of the building, and this is why we are retaining half of the building,” she said.

“During the demolition of half of the building, permanent support structures will be built to ensure the remaining building is stabilised long-term.”

A week later they ran a second article on the fight to preserve the building:

Moonee Valley Council will seek State Government support to protect Newmarket Train Station
Linh Ly
May 28, 2014

Moonee Valley Council will seek urgent heritage protection from the State Government for the Newmarket Train Station site.

Last night the council unanimously supported Cr Nicole Marshall’s motion to write to the State Government to seek an interim heritage overlay so that more investigations could be done to protect the station’s facade.

Proposed works by Metro Trains and Public Transport Victoria have raised fears that the historical and much-loved ‘heart and soul’ of Flemington could be lost.

Metro Trains and Public Transport Victoria want to demolish 50 per cent of the citybound platform building, facing Pin Oak Cres, and build a foundation to stabilise the remaining structure.

Cr Marshall said it was a very special building that meant a great deal to the community and demolishing it would be irreversible.

“We have to try and protect the station now and the best thing to do is through an interim heritage overlay,” Cr Marshall said.

“From the advice we have to date, it doesn’t appear to put the public at risk.”

Cr Cam Nation said there was no reason why the station could not be improved while maintaining its unique facade.

Cr Jim Cusack said Pin Oak Cres traders needed the station to maintain the way it looked because it fit in with the neighbourhood character.

“There are plenty of engineering alternatives rather than pulling down the station,” Cr Cusack said.

As part of the proposed $935,000 project, the canopy will also be upgraded to cover 60 per cent of the platform. It currently covers 20 per cent.

My two cents

So what do I think about the demolition proposals and the fight to save the building?

Overview of the reinforcement to the eastern facade

Unlike many local residents, I wouldn’t call Newmarket station a “very special building” – sure, it looks nice and is a distinctive part of the streetscape, but from a heritage perspective it isn’t significant at anything higher than a local level.

Built in 1924 as a replacement for the previous timber structure, the station building at Newmarket was one of many brick structures that the Victorian Railways constructed in the period following the electrification of the suburban network, in response to the growth in patronage.

In addition, I’m not one to immediately dismiss modern architecture – so I’m not overly concerned about a modern looking station building replacing the existing one. I’m a fan of Melbourne’s heritage listed glass skyscrapers as well as the clean lines of Southern Cross Station.

My main concern with Melbourne’s recent railway station projects is when form doesn’t follow function, leaving us with expensive show ponies such as the “Colander Bridge” at Footscray station which leaks every time it rains, or where concerns about vandalism trump aesthetics, leaving us with concrete monoliths like Coolaroo that look more like a prison than a railway station.

For me, what really pisses me off at Newmarket isn’t the demolition itself, but the reason we have ended up in this situation – infrastructure falling into disrepair due to a lack of maintenance, a rail operator wanting to take the cheap way out, and a local community having to fight to keep the facilities they already have.

All up Public Transport Victoria is spending $935,000 on the works to demolish half the building and reinforce the remaining part. They also plan to install a canopy that will cover 60 per cent of the platform – up from the 20 per cent covered by the existing veranda.

What PTV and Metro Trains seem to be missing in their spin is that the current upgrade is not an either/or proposition – years ago they could have extended the veranda in a sympathetic way to cover the entire platform, while at the same time completing works to ensure the building was structurally sound, avoiding the need for demolition of what is already there.

And an update – June 2014

Metro have been forced to give a stay of execution for the station building:

Metro Trains scraps plan to partly demolish Flemington’s Newmarket station after resident, Moonee Valley Council backlash
Linh Ly
June 12, 2014

Metro Trains has backed down from a plan to partly demolish Newmarket Station’s historic platform building as part of an upgrade project.

Metro Trains spokeswoman Larisa Tait said they decided, following a review conducted in partnership with Moonee Valley Council, to “investigate alternative design solutions to address the structural issues while retaining the entire station building”.

“Metro will present the design solutions as soon as they are developed to Public Transport Victoria for their consideration,” Ms Tait said.

August 2014 update

Another update via the Moonee Valley Leader – a heritage listing application has been rejected:

Moonee Valley Council will fight to save historic Newmarket station from development
Tamara Heath
August 7, 2014

An application to have Newmarket train station put on the state heritage register has been knocked back.

A Heritage Victoria report, released on July 25, found the station had “local but not state significance”, with executive director Tim Smith saying modifications since the 1960s to the 90-year-old station buildings had diminished their significance.

Mr Smith said stations on the Victorian Heritage Register, including Essendon, Caulfield, Footscray and Glenferrie, were better examples of Edwardian and federation rail architecture.

Moonee Valley Mayor Jan Chantry said while the council did not submit the Heritage Victoria application, it was “moving forward” with plans to apply a heritage overlay to the site after a council-commissioned study found the station had local historic and aesthetic significance.

Councillor Nicole Marshall said Planning Minister Matthew Guy authorised the council to apply a permanent heritage overlay to the site, which would give it control over the station.

A sensible outcome from my perspective – Newmarket is a nice station and requires some protection, but calling it significant at the state level is a long bow to draw.

November 2014 update

Works started on building ‘permanent’ passenger shelters at Newmarket station, with the timber veranda outside the station building replaced by a freestanding steel structure.

'Temporary' veranda attached to the station building at Newmarket platform 1

And an additional shelter was provided at the city end, stretching almost the full length of the platform.

Platform shelter at Newmarket platform 1

November 2018 update

Metro Trains is now planning works to fix the station buildings themselves, but the local council isn’t happy about the impacts on the surrounding trees.

Moonee Valley City Council has been advised that Metro Trains Melbourne is planning urgent platform works at Newmarket Station, Flemington in the coming days or weeks which will include the removal of a number of heritage-listed trees, including a River Red Gum that is more than 100 years old.

Metro has met with Council officers and advised us of the planned works to repair structural issues with the platform. Metro advised that root systems of the significant trees are creating a number of risks and would need to be removed.

We are currently investigating if there are alternate solutions that don’t involve removing the trees and will be meeting with Metro staff onsite later this week to discuss options.

Further reading

Only a handful of railways stations in Melbourne are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register – the highest level of protection for buildings in Victoria. However a number of station buildings are listed on local government Heritage Overlays – specific examples near Newmarket are:

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7 Responses to “Demolishing Newmarket’s station building”

  1. Tony Smith says:

    Can’t think of another old brick station building elevated above the street in quite the way Newmarket is. Would be a pity to lose it due to prevailing lies about govt finances.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Newmarket is the only one I can think of there the elevated station is out in the ‘open’ – Glenferrie and Auburn are integrated with the shops around them; Gardenvale and Collingwood are elevated timber buildings among trees.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      How did I manage to miss that! At least they are looking at alternative to just demolishing it.

      • Sonnenschein says:

        I missed it as well. It went completely under the radar. I don’t know how it happened. I only found out today when I saw a cursory reference to it in an unrelated article!

  2. John Dickie says:

    Metro is at it again, this time wanting to cut down 10 mature trees around Newmarket Station. Different bases seem to be cited in support of removing the trees. Initially it was for platform work, to insert new retaining walls next to the existing ones (as the trees are in the way of ready access). As a permit is required because of the heritage overlay, Metro is now claiming there are safety concerns, and seek to cut down at least some of the trees under a provision that overrides heritage protections if there are immediate safety issues to the tracks. Some of the trees are sought to be destroyed because they are not native, which seems incredible given that most Peppercorns, for example, are part of the heritage value to Newmarket.

    Metro has given reports to Moonee Valley City Council, but will not release the reports to the public. Moonee Valley City Council is not convinced by the reports that there is any imminent danger, and in fact is outraged that Metro is planning to do its works based on the lacklustre reports. Council has put forward $25,000 to assist Metro to come up with better options to reinforce its platforms without sacrificing trees. There’s another community campaign to try to get some cooperation. Unfortunately, Metro seems to be digging its heels in.

    If Metro has any long-term plans for the station or its surrounds, they are not publicly known. In recent times Metro has responded in a reactionary, piecemeal fashion to any engineering issue. Each time it diminishes the value of the station. Perhaps that is its long-term plan. Community members are justifiably concerned over the lack of information being released, Metro’s ongoing unwillingness to work with community groups and Council to maintain and improve the station and Metro’s repeat attempts at trying to rely upon unreliable (or false) information to demolish or destroy the trees and buildings. Metro is now promising to plant 10 mature trees for each one destroyed – where they might be planted is anyone’s guess! Of course there is no plan. There is the standard offer to hand over the wood from the old river red gum to create some furniture…

    Trust in Metro is further diminished by the recent desecration of trees around Flemington Bridge Station. Most of the mature trees surrounding this station were cut down last year. When asked if there was a plan, Metro initially said yes. When asked some months later what was happening, I was informed it’s on Metro’s list to develop a plan, possibly in autumn, when planting might be more readily achievable.

    I know you don’t think the buildings have much heritage value, Marcus, but – especially when combined with the surrounding trees and gardens – Newmarket Station is very much the hub of this part of Flemington. With the right investment, it could be even better than it is. We want to start encouraging people to see train stations again as the heart of their community. Surely it’s in Metro’s interest to try to do this.

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