A new look for Balaclava station
Carlisle Street, Balaclava is abuzz any day of the week. In this very busy thoroughfare, you’re very likely to come across locals running errands, hungry and caffeine-crazy revelers making use of the very active cafe culture and fashion-forward individuals scoping out the eye-catching boutiques and novelty shops for much of the day.
Many of these people would have used Balaclava station. It’s one of the busiest railway stations in suburban Melbourne and the only one in the City of Port Phillip. It is used by over 3000 commuters every weekday. It’s also one that hasn’t had a major upgrade for a long time.
In this climate, locals have welcomed the announcement of the Balaclava Station Upgrade Project, a $13.3 million initiative by the Victorian Government to improve access, safety and facilities at the station.
“The upgrade of Balaclava Station is long overdue,” admitted Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder in a media release.
In its current state, the ramp leading up to the platform of Balaclava Station doesn’t comply with the regulations set out in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). The platform itself is too narrow in places to accommodate the large number of commuters during peak times.
Other complaints include a lack of seating, insufficient covering from rain and poor lighting at night-time.
21-year-old Taryn Silver, who uses Balaclava station to commute to and from the city for university, is very pleased at the prospect of an upgrade.
“Security-wise, it doesn’t feel very safe at night,” she said.
Public Transport Victoria (PTV) has worked with local stakeholders to develop a concept design for the upgrade, which was on display at St Kilda Library between Thursday the 26th of April and Thursday the 31st of May.
They invited the community to ask questions and provide feedback over two sessions, which were attended by about 50 people.
A number of the participants in these sessions expressed dissatisfaction with the consultation process.
Gerry McLoughlin, who has followed the project avidly since its inception, was expecting to see more detailed plans and drawings as part of a comprehensive presentation. She was disappointed with the level of communication from PTV to the community. She was particularly disappointed with the fact that none of the designers were present at the meetings to field questions.
Another lady suggested that there wasn’t enough publicity leading up to the meetings.
Members of the wider community were invited to provide feedback on the designs in a written survey available at the Library display. They were also given the option of submitting feedback online.
The station, one of the busiest along the Sandringham line, will be upgraded to a premium station. This means it will be fully staffed from the first to the last train every day.
Moreover, security will be increased with improved CCTV and lighting. The project will deliver better amenities at the station, such as new seating, wider platforms, additional shelter and better passenger information.
The upgraded station is expected to have multiple Myki barriers to ease the congestion when commuters touch on and off.
While PTV has placed emphasis on improving accessibility, one notable omission from the plans is the inclusion of a lift.
McLoughlin echoes the sentiment of a number of local residents who expressed their discontent with this omission, especially since a lift was included in earlier drafts of the proposal.
In order to comply with the DDA requirements of ramp gradient, commuters using the new ramp will have to cover approximately double the distance they do now.
“For a young mum pushing a heavy pram, that’s a big ask. We’ve also got some elderly people, and that’s a big ask as well, to lumber up four lengths of a ramp,” lamented McLoughlin.
“We really need a very elegant solution for this train station, that is appropriate for a tight urban location, and that will mean a lift. A modern station should have a lift,” she said.
PTV have explained that ramps, as opposed to lifts, are a ‘fail-safe’ solution.
PTV is currently in the stage of reviewing community feedback and finalising the design. It intends to provide the community with further information prior to commencement.
“The Coalition Government has a real commitment to working with local communities and this comprehensive upgrade is being developed in consultation with people in the Balaclava area,” said Mr Mulder.
McLoughlin is pleased that money is being invested in the redevelopment of this station, especially considering the increasing housing density in the area.
“Of course we strongly support having an upgrade to the station. But we just need a better refinement of the design,” she stressed.
Construction is set to begin in early 2013, and be completed by the end of 2013.
By Phoebe Roth
For more information about this project check out Public Transport Victoria’s website here.