“I am worried about the safety and privacy of my children, that they are not going to be preyed upon by paedophiles looking into the pool when they are swimming.”
This is not a comment you’d expect to be associated with a rail infrastructure project, but welcome to the year 2016—the year when it all went wrong. Victoria’s Andrews government had just announced their plans to remove nine level crossings through the use of elevated rail. Instead of digging trenches to separate the rail lines from the road, as had been done across Melbourne up to this date, 8 kilometres of elevated track would run above the ground between Caulfield and Dandenong.
The ‘paedophile’ comment was made by the president of the No Sky Rail group, Karlee Browning (I later challenged her about this quote on Twitter and she claimed to have no idea what I was talking about, even though she was in the fucking newspaper with her face next to it). The group made wild claims that elevated rail would render the area around it a ‘ghetto’ and be a ‘magnet’ for ‘graffiti’, ‘freight-train derailment’ and other such anti-social behaviours and/or infrastructural disasters. This ‘grassroots’ group turned out to be little more than astroturfing by political opponents and, in the age of pandemic, has morphed into an anti-government #DictatorDan org.
What’s this got to do with photography? Well, nothing directly, but I actually wondered down to the elevated rail a couple of weeks ago and WOW—were these loons wrong. Now, I can’t speak about the creep aspect (can’t say I’m too interested in others’ backyards, pools or otherwise), but at ground level, this infrastructure project is a big improvement on what was there.
What used to be a noisy, barricaded train line is now kilometres and kilometres of walking and cycling track. The stations sit high above the ground with impressive accessibility (stairs, lifts and escalators) and facilities. They also brush up alright on film.
Is it better than rail trenches? Feck yes. Having lived near a number of grade separation projects along the Lilydale/Belgrave line, the resultant amenities are much better than trenches. Along the skyrail route, you’ve got winding paths, grass and gardens. Rather than being divided, the community is united at ground-level for the first time since the railway line was built. Along the trench between Blackburn and Nunawading stations, you’ve got asphalt, concrete and more asphalt. Oh, and they had to rip out more than 500 mature trees and thousands of shrubs for the joy of digging a trench and putting a train track in it. On a cold day, it’s miserable; on a hot day, it’s unbearable.
So here’s to skyrail and its impressive elevated pylons and to the perpetual ‘concerned resident’ Karlee Browing who provided me with much mirth through her non sequiturs.