Monday, 18 October 2010
Chisholm Electorate: Clayton Road
I rise tonight to speak about an issue of huge concern to my electorate—traffic congestion on and around Clayton Road. There is a desperate need for something to be done about the traffic congestion surrounding Clayton Railway Station. This area is a major thoroughfare, with tens of thousands of motorists utilising the corridor on a daily basis. The Clayton Road gridlock has been a problematic issue for many years. In recent times the problem has gotten much worse to the point that it is now completely intolerable. The time has come for something to be done.
The 2010 redspot survey conducted by the RACV gathered information from Victorians who nominated congested road locations across the state. The Clayton Road intersection was ranked the eighth most troublesome spot in Victoria. According to the RACV analysis, 36 trains pass through the Clayton Road crossing between seven and eight o’clock each morning. The crossing can be closed for up to 50 per cent of the hour, causing long queues and delays for those travelling north and south along Clayton Road. I certainly observed this on freezing cold mornings during the recent election campaign—it is a nightmare to behold. Recently, commuters faced a horrific morning at the intersection when a man suffered a fatal heart attack on a city-bound train. The boom gates were down from about 7.15 am and thousands of motorists were delayed at the level crossing for more than 40 minutes.
This incident highlights the problems of having the rail line and Clayton Road traffic on the same level. Unsurprisingly, it has triggered fresh calls from the community for a grade separation of the rail line and the road. The problem is set to be exacerbated following the Victorian government’s announcement of a new $250 million children’s hospital at the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton, literally minutes up the road from the intersection of Clayton Road and the train station. I commend the Victorian government for committing to the 230-bed hospital, which will service more than 27,000 children. This is a magnificent project. There are more than 330,000 children living in the south-eastern corridor, and the new centre will mean that more babies and children receive their care more quickly, closer to home and closer to their families. As a person who has been a ‘frequent flyer’ at the children’s hospital, I know that it would have been much nicer to have my child in a facility closer to home.
Although this project has obvious merit, greater strain is going to be placed on the Clayton Road intersection when construction begins in 2012. Ambulance Employees Australia has already expressed concerns that the bottleneck is delaying ambulance attendance at Monash Medical Centre. The new children’s hospital will generate more traffic along Clayton Road and undoubtedly lead to even longer delays at the intersection. This has the potential to result in tragic consequences when it comes to emergency cases. Bus services such as the popular and high frequency SmartBus are also affected by these delays. The SmartBus takes students to Monash University, so it is a frequent service, and the hold-ups will affect bus timetables and lead to immense frustration for commuters.
The problems with congestion at Clayton Road are not confined to frustrated motorists. Local businesses and traders at the Clayton shopping strip are feeling the pinch, with the congestion affecting their businesses. Clayton Traders Association president Bill Pontikis summed up the feeling of local traders when he said, ‘I’m not sure how much longer we can deal with this, because it’s getting worse every day.’ As the RACV and others have noted, the solution to Clayton’s clogged roads is a grade separation whereby either an overpass or an underpass is created at the railway station.
While I welcome the Victorian government’s commitment of $1 million to examine options for addressing this issue along the Dandenong rail line corridor, more needs to be done. I also understand the complications of the issue given the freight and regional services that pass along this train line. It is not just the commuter services that are using it. That is why there is a greater frequency of trains in this spot. The grade separation of the railway line and the road is absolutely essential to address congestion and, more importantly, accident issues, which are only getting worse. I call upon the Victorian government to make this issue a priority in the upcoming Victorian election and commit to action which will ease the current gridlock. The case for action is clear. Motorists, commuters and local traders are fed up with the delays and the ensuing accidents. It is time for the government to step up and address this issue. While I understand it will be costly, the community will benefit overall.