At its council meeting on March 19 2019, Yarra City decided not to deliver on years of commitments to build a shared path in Rushall Reserve.
The long anticipated connection would have helped untangle a hotchpotch of mismatched path linkages in the Rushall precinct.
But it has faced prolonged opposition from a clutch of canine-loving locals who feared that the bustle of nearby bike path would disturb their pets’ fitness regime in the adjacent parkland.
The council says its decision came following a "range of complex logistical challenges and risks relating to the proposed path’s proximity to railway and power infrastructure, and the adjoining embankment next to the Merri Creek.”
Yes, there are technical challenges facing the construction of this path. As there are on every bike project in communities of entitlement. Typically the list of technical impediments mysteriously grows in proportion to the hysteria of the political opposition.
The council says that "during the recent planning permit application process for the project, agencies including VicTrack (who own the land around the train line), Metro Trains (who operate the rail line) and Ausnet and CitiPower (who own underground high voltage cables), notified us that additional works would be required to their assets to facilitate the construction of the path. These requirements would cause a substantial increase in the costs of the proposal.”
There are elements of truth in these claims.
Metro Trains is well aware that its track on this bend is problematical, with risk of derailment. Its signal system is substandard and will have to be replaced.
VicTrack knows that there are drainage, stability and fencing concerns.
If the underground power cables are likely to be disturbed by the shared path, then they too would have to be non-compliant with standards.
These kind of problems are not that uncommon in infrastructure and can usually be overcome without crisis.
The agencies involved will no doubt have discussed that they will have to deal with them in the future.
But (please) not now. Not only are the fixes not scheduled, they are not budgeted.
Hence the attempted arm-twisting of the City of Yarra: “Sure, you can build your shared path, but you’ll have to fix our stuff at your cost as part of the project."
So let's turn that around.
Soon enough the signalling and other problems will have to be fixed by the agencies, and at their expense.
They will have their big machines digging and trenching and levelling. The easiest thing will be to include the shared path construction as part of that work.
It will be quicker and cheaper, and free dog-food can be provided.
There is a Rushall shared path in our future, no yapping doubt about it.