Domain Road trams may be gone for good after Metro Tunnel works end

Trams may never return to Domain Road, South Yarra, with the transport department weighing up whether to make a six-year detour from the Botanic Gardens’ doorstep permanent when construction on the nearby Metro Tunnel underground station finishes.

Trams stopped running along Domain Road when the affluent strip closed to traffic at the corner of St Kilda Road in May 2017, shortly after work started on Anzac Station, one of five new underground stations being built as part of the Metro Tunnel project.

At the same time, the restaurant strip blossomed when the Metro Tunnel project installed a series of outdoor dining “parklets” on the street for use by the street’s restaurants, including the Botanical Hotel.

Cafe 179 owner Heidi Gavdos said locals had gotten used to trams no longer running on Domain Road. Credit:Eddie Jim

The $12.5 billion underground railway line is schedule to open in 2025, after the twin nine-kilometre tunnels running under the city centre are completed in the second half of this year and test trains start running.

But the Department of Transport confirmed it had not yet decided whether trams would resume along Domain Road, even after construction crews pack up and leave.

“We will seek community input to help inform how trams will move through the area once the Metro Tunnel is complete,” a department spokesman said.

Tram tracks have been installed at the new tram interchange on St Kilda Road which would allow services to return to Domain Road, and early planning on the project always left the route’s future an open question.

State MP for the local seat of Prahran, the Greens’ Sam Hibbins, said constituents had told him they were eager to see trams return to Domain Road. He said he understood options being considered were trams returning to Domain Road, only running down Toorak Road, or the route being split and operating a mixture of both.

“I’d be encouraging them to reinstate the trams or consider a mix,” Hibbins said. “It provides much closer connection to the Botanic Gardens and cafes and restaurants along Domain Road, so the option is clearly the community’s preference.”

Heidi Gavdos, owner of Cafe 179, one of a handful of restaurants and bars along Domain Road, said the strip had never been busier, despite the traffic and tram closure, and said she doubted many people would mind if the tram never returned.

She said the area owed its success to the parklets installed by the Metro Tunnel project, which is responsible for their ongoing maintenance. Gavdos said the parklets, which replaced about a dozen parking spots, filled up with customers at night.

“Nobody wants to sit inside – everyone’s outside, even on a rainy day,” she said. “[The tram] has actually become quite irrelevant, it was never exactly a major arterial.”

A City of Melbourne spokesman said outdoor dining along Domain Road would not be affected by the road reopening to traffic when the project is completed.

Tram route 8 from Coburg to Toorak was axed when Domain Road closed to St Kilda Road, and it was combined with the route 55 to create the new 58 route, which travels 400 metres further south along St Kilda Road and turns eastward along Toorak Road.

Daniel Bowen, from the Public Transport Users Association, said a reinstated Domain Road service would veer just short of the Anzac Station tram interchange on St Kilda Road, which opened to passengers in December.

When the Metro Tunnel opens, passengers will be able to access the Anzac Station directly from the tram stop and also change onto seven or eight other tram lines (depending on the future of the 58 route), which Bowen said was worth the taking minor detour along Toorak Road.

“There may be locals who would prefer the tram to go along Domain Road – it also stops within cooee of the Botanic Gardens main entrance,” he said. “We’d probably say the interchange is more important than those other considerations.”

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