Locals call for upgrade of “death-trap” Royal Park crossing

Katie Johnson

Multiple organisations connected to Royal Park are calling for a safety upgrade of the dangerous “S-bend” on Poplar Rd at the Royal Park railway station and tram intersection.

The busy intersection at the north entrance of Melbourne Zoo currently doesn’t have a crosswalk or signalling, leaving pedestrians and cyclists to cross unaided.

Protectors of Public Land secretary Michael Petit said he and other groups had been campaigning to the City of Melbourne (CoM) to kick-start the safety upgrade as it was “an accident waiting to happen”.

“What’s missing is the way to navigate a pram, pusher, bicycle or simply safely and easily as a pedestrian to cross Poplar Rd from the tram stop and the railway station,” Mr Petit said.

“Lives are and will continue to be at risk as pedestrians dash across the street for lack of a crosswalks and signalling coinciding with drivers seeking to navigate that ‘S-bend’ before the rail barrier gates are lowered.”

“It’s a death trap and something that needs to be fixed.”

In its recent 2021/22 budget meeting, the council committed $50,000 to upgrading safety in and around Royal Park station as part of a concept plan.

But Mr Petit said that as more visitors would be coming to visit the State Netball and Hockey Centre via the new elongated e-class trams, the work needed to be kickstarted before next year.

“Some argued that this concept plan needs to await next year’s review of the Master Plan,” Mr Petit said.

“We should not have to wait until a family outing to the Zoo or a sport team suffers an avoidable tragedy to address this dangerous road crossing.”

Friends of Royal Park secretary Kaye Oddie said that Poplar Rd also presented dangers for tram drivers.

“Tram drivers complain of poor sight lines in both directions for vehicles in Poplar Rd [and there’s] no safe crossing across Poplar Rd for cyclists or pedestrians using the Capital City Trail,” she said.

Other groups calling for the safety upgrade include Melbourne Zoo, Urban Camp, Protectors of Royal Park, the Royal Children’s Hospital and the State Netball and Hockey Centre.

They form part of the Royal Park Stakeholders Network – comprised of more than a dozen community groups, venues and council officers – which was created in late 2020 to address concerns related to the health of the park.

Mr Petit said that the formation of the network was a step in the right direction to ensure groups informed each other of their objectives and plans.

“In the past everybody has been going their own way lobbying for their own interests,” Mr Petit said. “We came to the conclusion it would be great if we could all get together to bring up issues periodically.”

The Royal Park Master Plan, which was developed in 1984 to protect and enhance the native landscape qualities of the park, was a primary focus for many members in the Stakeholders Network.

After being revised in 1997, it is due to be reviewed by City of Melbourne in early 2022.

Mr Petit said that the main concerns for Protectors of Public Lands (PoPL), Friends of Royal Park and Royal Park Protection Group was to ensure green space wasn’t further diminished and that no more parking was created.

“Royal Park has gone from 10 square kilometres to 2.83 square kilometres, so we want to make sure that it doesn’t get further diminished and that the premise continues to be a dark space where you can look at the stars at night,” Mr Petit said.

PoPL was also keen to campaign against the East West link proposal – an 18-kilometre tollway which would connect the Eastern Freeway at Clifton Hill with the Western Ring Road at Sunshine West.

As it would also include a 4.4 km tunnel from Hoddle St in Clifton Hill to CityLink at Parkville, the link would create light and noise which would disturb the wildlife at Royal Park.

Mr Petit said that the groups would be “keeping an eye to ensure that monstrosity doesn’t come back” and would also advocate for more public transport use by Zoo visitors.

“There are two tram lines, the 19 and 58, and a train station, that goes right to the zoo, but it’s never been promoted,” Mr Petit said.

There’s should be people dressed as zoo animals greeting people at the stop, advertising the public transport, and showing people how to get there.”

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said that preliminary studies to inform the Royal Park Master Plan were currently underway, including transport assessments and conservation management plans.

Inner City News understands that work on the Master Plan was deferred during the lockdown, but concept plans for the Poplar Rd intersection are currently being created and work on the Master Plan will begin in 2022 •

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