Confined to cars

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People in Melbourne’s outer north say a lack of transport planning is undermining their community’s ability to live well. SANJEEV CHOUDHARY explains.

There is a common vibe among residents of Melbourne’s outer north, that while everyone knows our population is growing rapidly, our leaders are failing to deliver the planning and infrastructure we need.

The rapid growth of Epping and the wider region of Melbourne’s north has been widely acknowledged over the last few years. Since 2011, the City of Whittlesea’s population has grown by an average of 5 per cent a year. In 2015 the Epping North and Wollert population was estimated at around 20,000; by 2035 it is forecast to be more than 82,000.i

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In 2015 the Epping North and Wollert population was estimated at around 20,000; by 2035 it is forecast to be more than 82,000.

However our community members feel key authorities, including council and political leaders, have failed in their planning to meet needs that have already emerged due to this influx of residents into the growth corridor, let alone our future needs.

One of the key issues around this is lack of transport planning. The consequences of poor planning and lack of empathy by key decision-makers have led to a situation of worsening road congestion, lack of accessibility for vulnerable residents, and declining liveability standards for our community. If this is the case now, we can only worry about what it will become in future years.

Our roads are clogged. A trip to Lalor train station that without traffic takes seven minutes, in peak hour takes 45 minutes. People do not even try using Epping Station, because of the very limited car parking there.

The opening of Melbourne’s new wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower market in Epping has brought more people to the area, and more traffic. The big trucks come through and block off our main roads. Traffic is flowing from arterial roads into the housing estates, where it sits stalled on single lane roads, blocking off houses.

All this makes it difficult for people to access work, schools, community activities, services and appointments. It can put people at risk of health issues or isolation. Improving our transport options would help provide a general feeling of happiness and prosperity across the community. Our community is very well-informed and knows what it wants. Better roads and transport options are among our top issues, along with the need for more schools.

In 2015, following continuous efforts and advocacy from local residents and Aurora Community Association (ACA), bus services were introduced into new growth areas of Epping North. This was a key development and offered some respite, however there is not enough evidence to suggest it has improved accessibility and congestion on the roads.

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Our community is very well-informed and knows what it wants. Better roads and transport options are among our top issues, along with the need for more schools.

ACA, along with the support of its community members, has been continuously lobbying for link roads such as the O’Hern’s Road interchange and the extension of Edgars Road. However all these efforts have been embroiled in political chaos over who will fund it, to a point beyond the understanding of everyday people living here, who are the ones who suffer while this saga goes on. The promise of a rail extension has been deferred now for another two decades. This will lead to further adverse outcomes for the future of our area and residents.

Over the last few years ACA has discussed these issues of lack of planning and infrastructure for transport in many forums, including meetings with key decision-makers and local residents, however despite all the assurances, few positive outcomes have been achieved as yet.

ACA and community members will continue to voice these concerns with the authorities in an effort to promote empathetic planning and actions that will deliver evidence-based outcomes. We want to see better planning, innovation and delivery of infrastructure and transport options that will help our community be a happy and prosperous one.

Photo: Kellee Nolan

i City of Whittlesea, Place Profiles: Demographic Profiles of Precinct Areas in the City of Whittlesea, version 2.0, 2016, pp. 86,183.

 

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