FRANKSTON has waited nearly three decades for a safer, more functional train station precinct, says lobby group Frankston Community Coalition.
The group – formed in January to pressure politicians for a better deal for the city in the run-up to the November state election – says politicians have made promises not kept, state government bureaucrats have wasted millions of dollars on the precinct, and all three levels of government have been gripped by inertia.
Community coalition spokesman Ken Rowe, former principal of Frankston High School and a member of Friends of Frankston Station, said the station precinct had been neglected by a succession of both Liberal and Labor governments.
Top of six items on the groups “wish list” is “the need to develop an attractive and drug-free [train] station and public transport precinct”.
Mr Rowe said Frankston had many assets such as parks, award-winning beaches and “a much-loved art centre and international-standard sculpture park” but the station precinct “undermines the image of Frankston and the confidence of people using the area. It is a disincentive to potential train travellers” and shoppers were staying away.
Young St had become “one big bus stop” after the failure by governments to develop the eastern and western sides of the station precinct.
Mr Rowe said government neglect went back to the 1980s when the Beach St overpass was built to direct major through-traffic away from the city centre.
The plan was to free up Young St “so that it could become a boulevard featuring safe pedestrian movement and high-quality shops [to] create a more vibrant business centre around the station precinct”.
“This plan has never been acted on,” he said.
“Stand in Young St at any time and experience the sight and sound of a constant procession of buses. While many stop on the station side, there are numerous bus stops on the business side of Young St, where stationary buses run idle, belching out fumes while they pick up queues of passengers just outside shop doorways.”
A government plan for Frankston’s next 20 years – prepared by state government bureaucrats and Frankston Council officers – “correctly lists as a top priority the ‘upgrade [of] the transport interchange precinct as a key component of the revitalisation of the Frankston Activities Area’. It then fails to commit the state government and the council to any solid capital works to develop a transit interchange over that 20-year period”, Mr Rowe said.
The latest in a long line of ineffective governments was the Liberal-Nationals Coalition, which had promised $3 million for Frankston station in 2010 but bureaucrats had spent it on “projects largely unrelated to the station, for example, on plans for creating a boulevard in Nepean Highway and traffic lights on the corner of Wells St and Nepean Highway”.
Mr Rowe said the money was supposed to be spent on business plans and architectural drawings for an upgraded railway station, bus interchange area, multi-deck car park, housing options in the centre of the city and new and improved space to attract major employers to Frankston.
The government had recently promised $13.8 million to improve and develop the station precinct but it would be spent on a facelift – lighting, street furniture and “another upgrade to the entrance that was upgraded just four years ago” – as well as a bus-calming roundabout, a dedicated bus lane, and upgraded bus shelters and traffic signals for buses.
“This will further entrench Young St as one big bus stop, effectively giving the street to the bus companies.”
He said $16.8 million of public funding destined for the train station was being “frittered away” in a “scandalous misspending of taxpayers’ money”.
The community coalition would be asking all major political parties to make sure the station was developed into a “safe and attractive interchange” by:
• Removing all buses from Young St and building bus stops at an interchange on the other side of the station in Fletcher Rd.
• Developing the Fletcher Rd land owned by the Department of Transport for “major employment, multi-deck car parking and apartments” as soon as possible rather than between 2017 and 2025 as proposed by the government.
• Creating a public park directly in front of the station entrance on Young St.
• Setting up a community committee chaired by the “newly elected” state MP for Frankston to advise the government and Frankston Council how to transform the station precinct.