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Colander Bridge

The Footscray community has cause for concern
about the quality of RRL works after experiencing
the reality of the new 14.7 million dollar footbridge
at Footscray station.

What was promised?

  • "A fully accessible six metre wide footbridge, compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act, to improve pedestrian flow and cater for increased pedestrian traffic"
  • "An architecturally designed canopy over the bridge and stairs to provide weather protection"
  • "Stairs and lift access on the footbridge to provide better connections from/to central Footscray, station platforms and Maribyrnong River arts precinct"
  • "The community told us they wanted a footbridge that was safer and more well lit and this has been incorporated into the design"
  • "The footbridge was designed to reflect the industrial history of Footscray"
  • "The forecourts at Irving Street, McNab Avenue and Hyde Street will be completed by late 2010"
  • (Sources: Vic Govt & Maribyrnong Council web site & DoT Brochure)

Who can take the credit?

  • The project was commissioned and managed by the Department of Transport.
  • The design of the bridge was initially undertaken by Hyder Consulting along with Bruce Henderson Architects. 
  • The design and construct Architect is ‘Architectus” and the engineering designer is GHD.  
  • Construction by Leighton.
  • Lynne Kosky, Minister for Public Transport, Marsha Thompson, the member for Footscray and Michael Clarke, councillor with the City of Maribyrnong announced the awarding of contracts. 
  • Official opening by (former) Planning Minister Justin Madden.

What did we get?

"7 April 2010  - Footscray Station Footbridge opens! The Department of Transport has opened the new Footscray Station footbridge. All three lifts are also operating. The Department of Transport is also constructing three new forecourts at the entrances to the footbridge at Hyde Street, McNab Avenue and Irving Street..." Source: Maribyrnong Council web site

What did we actually end up with? 
  • A roof that let's the rain in - to the extent that you need an umbrella to avoid getting drenched.
  • Dangerously slippery floors, puddles, and rivers of water and filth cascading down the stairs when it rains. 
  • Perilously steep stairs designed for (by?) mountain goats.
  • Lifts that often don't work (see: 'Footscray station lifts going down, mostly', Maribyrnong Weekly)
  • A bridge that prevents people who can't climb the stairs from getting to the trains when the lifts aren't working. 
  • A forecourt that, 10 months after the bridge opening, looks like a text-book example of urban decay.
  • No escalators, although requested by the community during the consultation phase.
In all, taxpayers spent 14.7 million dollars on a new footbridge that is less 'fit for purpose' than the one it replaced. For our money, we got a got an oversize colander - or giant horizontal cheese-grater. Adding insult to injury, the bridge will now have to be partially demolished to accommodate the new RRL train platform. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, the political and departmental spin merchants declared that this presents a chance to add escalators, forecourts and all the other features that the current bridge was supposed to offer in the first place (see: Albanese's press release). We dare to hope that the retrofit might include a roof. 


© moodboard/Corbis


The shameful state of the 'forecourt' as at 12th Feb 2011 - more than ten months after the bridge opening

Source: http://www.danielbowen.com
Source: http://www.danielbowen.com

What's the worry?

So what? Isn't this just another typical example of shabby public work in Footscray? No point crying over split milk.

Well yes, but where are all the responsible project sponsors, project managers, designers and architects, building contractors and public relations people now? There's a good chance this same lot are lining up to handle further work for the Regional Rail Link and Footscray Renewal projects. Why should we have any faith in the competence of individuals and firms that brought us such a functionally broken piece of public infrastructure as 'Colander Bridge'?

For those of us who value public works and public transport, maybe it's not such a bad thing after all that the RRL project is to be thoroughly reviewed. Maybe the outcome will be vastly better than the roughshod project it was shaping up to be.

Postscript

Forecourts, finally

One year and two months after the opening of the footbridge, the forecourt was finally cleared of building debris, strewn rubbish and overgrown weeds. A patch of grass and some temporary asphalt were laid. These changes have made the world of difference to the look and feel of the station area.

The temporary fixes for the forecourts could and should have been done before the bridge opening. For fourteen months (not including the build time) this major 'transit cities' station has looked like a slum site. By maintaining the forecourts in such a disgraceful condition for such a long period of time, the Department of Planning and Community Development and the Department of Transport effectively undermined the hard work of local traders' organisations and Maribyrnong Council in improving central Footscray.

Would this have been allowed to happen in one of the 'leafier suburbs'?

Users have their say

Station users have given their opinions of the Footscray station and the new footbridge, and it's not positive. More than 1800 people contributed to the pt4me2 Better Station Survey, which placed Footscray as Melbourne's eighth-worst (see survey results). This comes more than a year after the implementation of 14.7 million dollars of station 'improvements'. 

Safety and accessibility were listed as worries at Footscray station, along with the lack of ramps or escalators and the leaking roof. 

The bridge designers even managed to cause a safety problem for trains: 'In November 2009 a 30 km/h speed restriction was placed on all up and down trains through the station, due to sun glare off the new bridge. The restriction applied 24 hours a day, even though it only affected trains once a day in each direction, for only a few minutes at minutes. The restriction was lifted by March/April 2010 when some unknown alterations were made to the bridge to eliminate the sun glare issue'(RailGeelong Website).

The footbridge project clearly failed to deliver on the fundamental objectives of the project (see top of page), but we won't hold our breath waiting for a proper project review. The people and organisations responsible for this fiasco are not in the habit of acknowledging and learning from their mistakes - they're too busy getting their snouts in the trough for the next round of taxpayer-funded projects.

pt4me2 Better Station Survey - Part 1: Survey data only 11 Aug 2011

Footscray Station

  • Escalators.
  • There is a big gap between the middle platforms and the trains.
  • Police Officers manning the station at ALL times. Too much crime, violence, drugs and harassment.
  • Put Myki readers near the entry/exit gates on platform 2 (otherwise you have to exit via the inside of the station building). 2. Customer service staff should do something about smoking in covered areas. 3. Announcements make no sense.
  • Better access between platforms - stairs are poorly pitched (possibly outside design standards) dangerous. Toilets dodgy. Forget security guards with guns - what about a customer service presence on the platform, or selling good coffee and snacks.
  • Better access to platforms. The stairs are too dangerous, more Myki machines at other locations as it's hard to swipe on and off.
  • Bus interchange at station, paint job in waiting room, heated waiting room, wider gates for faster customer throughput, remove junk food from forecourt outlets.
  • Design of station should be to standard and functional which it isn't.
  • Escalators, large format electronic details of when trains are due and which platform etc.
  • Lots more seating under cover as well as in the open.
  • Need accurate real time announcements, not misleading announcements.
  • Secure bicycle parking, lockers or cages.
  • The design of the station should complement the area, the parts of current design of the station is at odds with the suburb that it’s in.
  • The new steps used to climb up from the platforms to the overpass are too steep, the instep is too narrow and they collect puddles of water when it rains. The waiting room from platform 4 is appallingly dirty drab and comfortless. Also, more staff.
  • Train info at entrance to station that can be easily read from ground level.
  • A bridge that works.
  • A bridge that works and shelter.
  • A footbridge that is 'fit for purpose', instead of the terrible structure we've been saddled with.
  • A user friendly footbridge - not the Mount Everest they recently put up.
  • Escalators - stairs to steep for elderly and disabled.
  • Footbridge has no escalators causing ugly competition for available lifts.
  • Replace the new steep slippery wet steps with the old wheel and rain friendly ramps (u might find the old ramps at the local tip)
  • The new station pedestrian overpass roof allows rain through. It is absolutely absurd that up to 50 per cent of the roof panels are perforated. The steps down to the platforms are the barest minimum and dangerous. Compare the quality of North Melbourne station with Footscray.


Sources:

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BetterStations_surveypart1.pdf
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