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FURIOUS residents are fleeing the shadow of Melbourne’s new sky rail, as more than 350 concrete pylons spring up next to their homes.
The latest stage in the $1.6 billion project was revealed on Tuesday with a “monster” blue crane installed to place track beams on concrete pylons.
The 60m-long crane will initially move between Murrumbeena and Carnegie in Melbourne’s southeast, creating a 3.2km stretch of 10m-high rail.
Concrete pylons have been erected along the railway line near Murrumbeena station. Picture: Nicole Garmston
The machine will move between Murrumbeena and Carnegie. Picture: Nicole GarmstonLater the crane will work further down the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, to eventually enable nine level crossings to be removed between Caulfield and Dandenong.
Families living next to where the two-storey-high crane will lay the beams told of their shock on Tuesday.
To placate them, some will be offered new fences and shrubs in an attempt to give them privacy.
The Level Crossing Removal Authority has identified 350 properties “eligible”. Letters will be sent to those homes, offering residents a choice of six fence designs and seven types of trees and shrubs.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday insisted the crane was the best way to build the structure while trains kept running, and it would create “11 MCGs” of new open space below new tracks.
A massive 60 metre-long wheeled carrier has been set up near Murrumbeena railway station. Picture: Nicole Garmston
The blue carrier towers over businesses near Murumbeena railway station. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Oakleigh MP Steve Dimopoulos, Premier Daniel Andrews and Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan at Murrumbeena station on Tuesday. Picture: Nicole GarmstonBut Murrumbeena and Carnegie families in streets such as Beena Ave, Oakdene Crescent and Girdwood Ave are among those now confronted with concrete.
Catherine Pendelich said she had finally given up and would leave the area, after learning her courtyard would get only 47 minutes of sun during winter days.
“Everybody is in shock and disbelief as it continues. It’s actually like salt on the wounds. Slowly, more people are becoming aware of what we face,” she said.
Some locals do not want to be identified in case, they say, the government refuses to buy their homes.
One Murrumbeena resident said: “Everyone’s emotionally shattered.”
Opposition planning spokesman David Davis said: “People gasp when they see the monstrous size of this structure that is millimetres from people’s properties.”
Trixie Gardiner at her home, which is overlooked by the massive 60 metre-long wheeled carrier. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Trixie Gardiner inside her home, with the 60 metre-long wheeled carrier overlooking her backyard. Picture: Nicole GarmstonMr Davis added: “The full size and impact has yet to be seen. It will be visible kilometres away, a noisy, ugly blight on southeastern suburbs.”
The growing anger from residents in streets around sky rail comes amid concerns about budget blowouts and the late reopening of Murrumbeena station.
But Mr Andrews said his signature level crossing removal project was “in front” of where it should be, and extra costs in the budget were from an “expanded program” of works.
“We do very much appreciate the understanding of local residents and traders — you compare that though to the disruption and the chaos and the tragedy that has come from these level crossings over decades,” he said. “In the scheme of things it’s a small price to pay. Significant, but a small price to pay to get rid of these things.”
Fears over mounting costs come amid concerns that new workplace agreements for construction workers, including a 20 per cent pay rise over four years, will make their way onto the sky rail project.
Trixie Gardiner looks towards a massive 60 metre-long wheeled carrier from her backyard. Picture: Nicole Garmston
The 60m-long wheeled carrier has been installed at the station. Picture: Nicole Garmston
It allows trains to run during the construction process. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Residents have complained about a lack of consultation. Picture: Nicole GarmstonThese have been struck in light of a new federal building code that forced unions to give some flexibility to builders.
But an industry source said extra-generous provisions would now make their way onto government projects like level crossing removals.
These projects are already subject to special allowances for some union workers.
When asked about new workplace deals, a spokesman for the CFMEU’s Victorian branch said: “It pays to be in the union.”
Master Builders Association of Victoria chief executive Radley de Silva urged contractors on government projects not to adopt any more generous provisions.
“If the union pressures contractors for even greater provisions on projects already under way in
Victoria, it will be up to the construction companies to address that and convince the government that increased labour costs will be offset by increases in productivity and efficiency,” Mr de Silva said.
Under one agreement struck with Probuild, workers now receive 5 per cent annual pay rises, 300 per cent penalties for working over Christmas and Easter, and higher penalty rates for working rostered days off.
The mega-crane now in place was assembled in Victoria, using local parts as well as materials from China and Italy. It is the first time a machine of this type has been used in Australia.
Some roads will be closed when the carrier is operating above them.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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