Calls for free public transport to royal show after traffic ‘bedlam’

Moonee Valley City Council says residents near Melbourne Showgrounds are facing traffic “bedlam” this week unless the state government offers free public transport for the last weekend of the royal show.

After two years of hiatus, the Melbourne Royal Show has attracted record crowd numbers but residents of nearby Ascot Vale have complained of unprecedented traffic and gridlock.

Stationary traffic on residential roads around the grounds.Credit:Stephen Rowley (supplied)

For the first time in more than a decade, the show will coincide with a race meet at Flemington on Saturday, meaning even less parking will be available to an expected sell-out show crowd of 50,0000.

Moonee Valley Council said nearly 1000 tickets were issued to drivers parking illegally in residential permit spots, on nature strips and across driveways last long weekend. Victoria Police was also called in to direct traffic to clear tram tracks.

Ascot Vale resident Richard Turnbull who has lived on Charles Street, 50 metres from the showground boundary, for 20 years. He said he had never seen anything like the traffic that engulfed his suburb last weekend.

Turnbull said the first day of the show, which coincided with a Thursday public holiday for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, was the worst as on-site parking at the showgrounds quickly filled and drivers began crawling suburban streets looking for rare permit-free parking.

Richard Turnbull has lived near the showgrounds for 20 years and said he’s never seen traffic as bad for the Royal Show as last weekend.Credit:Eddie Jim

“It was absolutely gridlocked,” he said. “I was trying to get home at 11.30am after being out in the morning and I got to one street away from home on Doncaster Street and no one was moving. You couldn’t even do a u-ey and get out of it.”

Turnbull said he ended up leaving his car a kilometre away, walking home to get his parking permit sticker, walking back to the car and then home again, in which time the traffic hardly moved at all.

He said some drivers heading to the show were getting so frustrated they were intentionally parking in illegal spots and walking on foot to the grounds.

“Somebody who parked outside my place copped a $110 ticket,” he said.

Congested residential streets around the showgrounds last weekend.Credit:Todd Monaghan (supplied)

Moonee Valley council, which does not capture Flemington Racecourse or the showgrounds but does oversee Ascot Vale, rushed through an urgent motion at its Wednesday night council meeting to call on the state government for help.

“It’s the only way that we’re not going to have bedlam around Ascot Vale and that will potentially lead to some really unsafe outcomes,” said Greens councillor Rose Iser who put forward the motion to request that public transport to the show be made free this weekend and more trains, trams and buses be put on to accommodate the crowds.

Iser said residents and councillors were taken by surprise by the traffic conditions, suggesting part of the problem could have been that, “people are using their cars a little bit more than pre-COVID”.

“It’s going to be absolutely essential that public transport is the mode of transport on this coming Saturday, which is the day of the Turnbull Stakes [race] when no parking will be available at the racecourse,” she told the meeting.

Wyndham Vale resident Goldy Kumar spent nearly two hours in traffic just outside the showgrounds last Thursday trying to get into the on-site parking at the racecourse.

“The line to get into the show from Ballarat Road was ridiculous,” she said.

“Only two people [were] traffic managing the area upon entry. This was after 100 minutes roughly, mind you. Once we entered the showground premises, we were in queues waiting to pay for parking. This ordeal was further 40 minutes, roughly.

“Whilst in the queue, we saw pedestrians were walking on the opposite road towards the show parking area with oncoming traffic. No one in the vicinity monitoring [or] patrolling the area.”

She said her family would have used public transport if it was free for ticketholders and said show organisers needed to do more to communicate that driving was not recommended. She also said she thought show capacity needed to be reviewed.

Moonee Valley mayor Samantha Byrne said she wanted to see the state government make public transport free for ticket holders in future years.

Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll and organisers from the Melbourne Royal Show have been contacted for comment.

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