For five years or more we’ve lived alongside the railway line, the tracks are 10m from our side fence, and just outside our fence at the front is a small thicket of cypress trees, apparently planted by a previous occupant of the house two or three decades ago. In our back garden is a very large bay laurel that overhangs the fence and grows about 3m out over the railway land. For five years or more we’ve watched as backhoes, trucks, cement mixers and assorted other work vehicles have all driven up and down along the access track without a problem.
Last week the surveyors arrived and – finally – started pegging out the route for the bike path from Galbally reserve to Oakleigh station. This half-kilometre stretch of path is one of many missing sections along the Caulfield to Dandenong stretch and its lack has required cyclists to detour along either Willesden road – and through the bus interchange – or Carlisle crescent – and dismount and walk through the station underpass. Both then require cyclists to ride through the commuter car park, dodging motorists parking or dropping off passengers. The new path will run along the south side of the rail lines, ending at Oakleigh station and requiring cyclists to then dismount, walk through the station underpass, ride through the commuter car park, then rejoin the existing path on the north side of the rail lines at Oakleigh Central shops. This is apparently the best design that LXRA can come up with and they will refer to it, with a straight face, as a “Continuous bike path”
Jo happened to be outside when the surveyors were there and had a very informative discussion with them. It was clear that the desert oak that overhangs the existing pedestrian rail crossing would have to be removed for the new path, but from the location of the pegs they looked to be well away from our fence, at the rail side of the dirt access path used by the trucks and maintenance vehicles. They said that they thought some trimming may be needed of the cypresses, but they probably wouldn’t need to be removed.
Today, Jo was fortuitously home when a couple of members of the LXRA “Communications team” came to visit to let us know that next weekend – 24-25 of February – every single tree would be cut down! As seems to be the case elsewhere along the Skyrail project, the easiest approach is to chop everything down and make promises that landscaping will be done afterwards. Apparently the cypress trees will intrude to within a metre of the bike path, although they also said that with the fast-tracked design they weren’t sure exactly where the path would be! We were told that the trees can’t be trimmed, because that would remove branches from one side and they might then topple over. Arrangements are to be made for us to talk with the arborist, although what this will accomplish given that they’ve already decided what they’ll do!
As a parting comment, Jo pointed out that we have a massive Bay laurel in the back yard and asked what would happen to that. The statement was that they would cut every single branch off, at the property line, up to a height of six metres! This is all despite nobody seeming to have had any trouble driving large trucks, cranes, backhoes and bulldozers along the track for the last five years that we’ve been here. As far as we can tell, cutting all the branches off one side of a tree that’s on private land won’t result in a tree that will topple over, but to do so on railway land will.
We’re hoping we can get a more realistic result when we talk with the arborist, sometime before next weekend!