“DON’T divide Maylands” is the message walkers and bike riders have for the state government ahead of the closure of Caledonia Avenue’s railway crossing.
In August transport minister Rita Saffioti announced a $15 million plan to close the constantly-clogged crossing and upgrade surrounding crossroads as part of Metronet upgrades, partially following up on a 2017 election promise.
Locals are concerned the plan contained no provision for a pedestrian or bike crossing at Caledonia Avenue, and it’s a long haul to the nearest crossings: It’s 350m to walk to the Maylands train station crossing, and riders have to go an extra 500m each way.
In 2017 the closure was estimated to cost $50m to $70m, leading locals to speculate that ignoring pedestrians has allowed the government to put up a cheapskate option. Community group Don’t Divide Maylands has formed in response, and spokesperson Shannon Leigh says: “In recent weeks hundreds of people – including seniors, school kids, business owners, parents with prams, retirees on gophers and people with disabilities – have all told us how important this connection is to them.
“The government’s decision to block pedestrian access at the Caledonian Avenue crossing was just dropped on the Maylands community with no prior consultation whatsoever, while the $15m put forward for modifications to the nearby street network falls significantly short of the $50-$70 million Labor promised for the crossing at the 2017 election.
“This is a broken promise from the state government and Maylands is being shortchanged.”
Ms Leigh says catering for walking and cycling in a growing inner-city area should be a no-brainer, especially as part of a large public transport project like Metronet.
“We shouldn’t have to campaign for the right to get around in our own community,” she said.
Bayswater councillor Elli Petersen-Pik got up a unanimously-supported motion at the last meeting calling on council CEO Andrew Brien to write to Ms Saffioti and Maylands MP Lisa Baker to express “the council’s strong opposition to the state government’s plan to block pedestrian and bike rider access – and request that provision of such access be included in the plans, with a preference for a well-lit and safe underpass”.
Cr Petersen-Pik said overall the expanded train network was a good plan “but the effort to improve train services should not diminish the ability of other groups in our communities, such as pedestrians, cyclists and even car drivers, to be able to move around easily and safely”.
He said “this is exactly the recipe for discouraging people from walking and cycling, and shift them to use their cars.
“If you have ever been at that station at peak time, you would know that it’s definitely not where you would want to direct dozens or hundreds of rushing cyclists. The interaction with passengers is likely to raise safety issues.
“Sending cyclists to cross Railway Parade to get onto the Seventh Avenue bridge, and then force them to cross again Whatley Cres, to get to the principal shared path, in peak time, is also a serious safety issue. And don’t forget the amount of hundreds of additional cars that we will have in those two intersections because of the level crossing closure.”
Cr Petersen-Pik said only after community outcry did Main Roads WA announce it would undertake a high-level study to see if an underpass might work T Caledonia or somewhere nearby. But it’s up in the air until the department figures out if the design is feasible and what the costs might be.
Cr Petersen-Pik said “this is a positive move, but we wouldn’t want a study to justify the decision that they already made. If they understand the issues, we would need them to commit to keep the access for pedestrians and cyclists and allocate funding for this purpose”.
There’s still concerns over how long it might take to get that underpass, given the closure’s planned for the first half of 2022 and some of the motor traffic upgrades that were meant to be part of the package aren’t happening for another three years.
A community reference group’s been set up to consult with locals.
Maylands MP Lisa Baker said: “I look forward to hearing the input from the community.”
By DAVID BELL