Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I just signed this petition asking the Australian Senate to keep EPBC laws

I just signed this petition asking the Australian Senate to keep EPBC laws strong to protect our environment including forests and the Great Barrier Reef.

 EPBC petition

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Underground rail with a linear park is better that overhead Skyrail

The Victorian government has announced plans for "Skyrail" overhead rail along sections of the Dandenong line.  Daniel Bowen provides a good overview of the proposal.

Murrembeena Station concept drawing Source
Community consultation by the Victorian government regarding this proposal seems to be "we are providing elevated rail and we want feedback on the details".

An underground rail option is not being publicly canvassed by the government.  Underground rail would probably cost twice as much as the overhead rail so it has apparently already been ruled out.

While underground rail would cost more it would have much less long term impact. A linear park can be built above it with bike and pedestrian paths and a mix of some residential and commercial buildings. 

Cities around the world such as London, Paris, Stuttgart, Naples and Tokyo all have underground rail. 

If you want to see how overhead rail ends being a disruptive divisive eyesore visit the Canterbury Railway station or have a look at the wasteland under Flinders Street viaduct in Melbourne's CBD.

Flinders St viaduct source: Wikimedia
The "Skyrail" proposal includes:

"an extra 12 km of cycle paths will be added, linking existing sections to make a single stretch for bikes from Caulfield to Dandenong, with local councils contributing additional links to Monash University and the Gardiner Creek trial, which provides an off-road path all the way into the city."

Bike path near overhead infrastructure

However, bike paths on the surface need to cross roads like the current train line does. This is a poor outcome for cyclists, less so for pedestrians. 

Here are some pros and cons of underground versus overhead rail for grade separation.

Overhead rail
  • Achieves grade separation between roads and rail
  • Cheaper to build
  • Bike and pedestrian paths can be built under gantry that can provide overhead cover

  • Creates an eyesore
  • Divides communities
  • Propagates noise further
  • Space under the gantry has low sunlight and low amenity - three or four tracks cover a lot of area
  • No opportunity for residential buildings along rail easement
  • Bike path road crossings impede cycling

Underground rail
  • Achieves grade separation between roads and rail
  • Provide linear park above with mix of residential and commercial buildings and bike and pedestrian paths
  • Less noisy, low impact on  local communities
  • Can include bike and pedestrian underpasses in tunnels (next to rail tunnel) under busy roads.

  • Expensive to build
  • Separate overhead cover required for bike and pedestrian paths
  • Diesel fumes from regional and freight trains need to be dispersed

The Level Crossing Authority should provide the best transport outcomes for motorists, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians with all grade separation projects.

So far the track record for grade separations is appalling.  For example, feedback to provide good pedestrian and bike underpasses at Springvale and Rooks Roads was ignored even though the Box Hill to Ringwood Rail Trail was an approved project when they were planned and built.

More recently, the need for a tunnel under Burke Rd for pedestrians and cyclists during the grade separation was also ignored with the usual litany of excuses such as "there isn't room for it" and "it would cost too much".

I provided feedback that a bike and pedestrian underpass should be included during consultation for the Middleborough Road grade separation.  A pedestrian underpass was belatedly provided but bikes cannot use it.

The plans for Blackburn Road grade separation show now indication of a bike pedestrian underpass

Blackburn Road separation concept [source]
Pedestrians and cyclists are forced to use pedestrian crossings at all these locations - they must press and wait for pedestrian crossing lights that then impede the traffic - that the grade separation is supposed to have prevented!  This is an absurd outcome for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

Tunnels should be also be provided for pedestrians and bikes next to train tunnels - its is much cheaper to do this during construction.

Linear parks over underground rail with covered solar bike paths and a mix of residential and commercial buildings provide the best amenity for all users and the lowest impact on local communities.

Linear bike path in Hungary

Linear bike path concept in Sydney

Please reverse government cuts to CSIRO climate science

Open letter to:

Josh Frydenberg, Member for Kooyong, Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia

Greg Hunt, Member for Flinders, Minister for the Environment

Please reverse your government's announced cuts to CSIRO climate science.

Hectares of burnt cushion plant. Photo: Rob Blakers

More government funding is required to better understand the effects of climate change, not less.

Climate change impacts that are now apparent, many of which are exceeding worst case scientific estimates, include:
  • Dramatic increase in very severe bushfires and the extension of the bushfire season
  • Bushfires occurring in regions not adapted to burning such as Tasmania's Central Plateau, where rare plants in World Heritage areas have been destroyed.
  • Heat waves resulting in increased deaths due to heat stress
  • Sea level rises now impacting many coastal regions and communities around Australia
  • Acidification and warming of the oceans leading to coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Increased frequency and severity of tropical and sub tropical storms (such cyclones and twisters)
All these impacts require ongoing scientific measurement and modelling, not less.

Climate scientists believe Australia's obligations under the Paris climate commitments will be directly undermined by the CSIRO cutting 350 jobs.

Australian and international climate scientists in Melbourne have warned the cuts would cripple CSIRO climate research.

Please reverse your government's cuts to the CSIRO Climate Science team Oceans and Atmosphere, and Land and Water divisions.

Regards, Peter Campbell


Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Tasmanian fires and damage to natural environment - enquiry is needed

To: The Hon. Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for the Environment

The Hon Will Hodgman, Premier of Tasmania

I note that areas in excess of 95,000 hectares have been burnt recently by out of control bushfires in Tasmania.  Many of these areas have very significant native vegetation and animals that have been destroyed.

Hectares of burnt cushion plant. Photo: Rob Blakers
I have previously visited and bushwalked in the Tarkine wilderness, the Central Plateau, The Overland Track, the South Coast and South West Cape tracks and the Denison and King William Ranges regions.

Could you please initiate an enquiry to determine:

1. Whether the Tasmanian Fire Service has sufficient resources to control bushfires in remote areas in a timely fashion in order to limit their spread.

2. Whether the federal government needs to provide resources to enhance air support, training, and resources for remote area fire fighters.

3. Whether current resourcing and fire management practices are sufficient to deal with conditions expected from the extended fire seasons that are now anticipated under climate-change scenarios

4. What restoration programs will be required after the 2016 fires, and what resources will be needed to ensure the best possible restoration of fire affected vegetation, especially high altitude mountain environments and cool-temperate rainforests.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Campbell