No traction to fix bus-stop ghetto

Neil Butler in the once-thriving retail strip in Langhorne Street. 204578_01 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Pleas to fix a “failed” bus stop interchange in central Dandenong appear to have stalled between Greater Dandenong Council and the State Government.

Stockdale & Leggo director Neil Butler’s business overlooks the bus interchange ‘trouble spot’.

Since its introduction in 2011, Mr Butler has seen the western end of Langhorne Street transformed from the busiest trading area in central Dandenong to a ghetto.

It had been blighted by young gangs punching-on at the bus stops, shop windows being smashed, drug-taking and public urination, as well as the street closed to public parking.

Police and paramedics were regularly called into the area, Mr Butler says.

In the meantime, decades-old businesses such as Moore’s Pharmacy had moved, as well as the post office, Suncorp and the Arab Bank.

“The biggest issue is the area feels unsafe and has a negative image to the public,” Mr Butler says.

“People won’t go there unless the bus stops are relocated.”

For years, an increasingly frustrated Mr Butler has pressed Greater Dandenong Council to support the bus interchange’s relocation.

He says as far back as May, chief executive John Bennie had promised to set up talks with the Department of Transport.

However the council states it had not been granted a meeting with the department on the issue.

“How can it be that it’s 10 months down the track and you still don’t have a meeting?” Mr Butler says.

“If the Department of Transport is not responding there should be representation to the Public Transport Minister.”

Mr Bennie, reaffirming his undertaking to Mr Butler, said the Department had not been “agreeable” to meeting the council.

“Short of camping on their doorstep I don’t know if there’s much more I can do at the moment.”

Council officers recommended distributing the bus stops over a wider area. It would take “a lot of” time and money, Mr Bennie said.

“The State Government should be party to funding those options.”

Mr Kearsley said “we are incredibly disappointed with the lack of action and the lack of response from the Department of Transport”.

“We haven’t found someone in the chair who will be prepared to give us the time of day.

“We asked last week and we’ll ask again this week.”

Mr Butler’s solution is to move the bus stops into one of the tracts of empty public land in central Dandenong, and to replace them with free car parking.

The intersection with Lonsdale Street should be re-opened to cars. It would allow better access and reduced congestion on Lonsdale Street, Mr Butler said.

This would cater for the adjoining Drum Theatre’s patrons as well as provide access to shoppers in the precinct, including the now-deserted Hub Arcade.

“When you have anti-social behaviour in an area, the most effective action is to attract the general public into the area.

“Then the drug taking, the fighting and the urinating on the street will go.”

A Victoria Police spokesperson said police regularly run operations in Dandenong to “address any anti-social or criminal behaviour” including on bus lines.

“Local police have not seen an increase in reported crime or calls for assistance on Langhorne Street, Dandenong.

“We want to reassure everyone that police will not tolerate any criminal or disruptive behaviour.”

Victoria Police declined to comment on the location of the bus interchange. That was a matter for “the local council and PTV”.

A spokesperson for Public Transport Minister Melissa Horne was contacted for comment.

 

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