At the Melbourne MetroRail Inquiry on Tuesday 13 September, Dean of Melbourne, Dr Andreas Loewe, confirmed the Cathedral’s support for the MetroRail project as an opportunity for positive change in the City: ‘The Cathedral is very supportive of the creation of a new underground MetroRail to serve our city. The new station will bring many benefits to our precinct and the city as a whole’.
At the same time, St Paul’s Dean highlighted some of the challenges posed by construction. The Cathedral will be surrounded by three excavation sites giving access to the newly-planned underground station. Noise and dust from demolition work in City Square, Federation Square and a row of retail outlets across Swanston Street will have an impact on the operation of the Cathedral. ‘We are fully aware that the construction of a 250m long station next to our historic Cathedral will also bring with it significant levels of disruption to our day to day operations’, Dean Loewe said.
Dr Loewe explained: ‘The Cathedral’s “business” is people. More than 400,000 people come to St Paul’s every year, as visitors or worshippers. More than 80,000 people attend more than 1,000 acts of worship a year at St Paul’s. We are dependent on easy access to our Cathedral, and a welcoming and attractive precinct in order to continue to flourish as Melbourne’s most visited spiritual landmark’.
In order to ensure that the Cathedral precinct continues to provide a welcoming presence in the CBD, the Cathedral hopes to be able to contribute to the branding of the three largescale acoustic sheds in its direct neighbourhood, and has sought assurances that road and public transport access to the precinct will not be adversely affected by the project.
Noise a challenge for peaceful Sanctuary
A significant concern for St Paul’s is the effect of additional truck movements on the Cathedral as a place of prayer and peace. Dr Loewe explained: ‘What our many visitors and worshippers value most is the peace and tranquillity of our prayer-filled Cathedral. St Paul’s is an irreplaceable sacred space at the heart of our city. We want to ensure that people can continue to enjoy the silence and peace of this sanctuary during the construction of the new station’.
As a member-funded organisation, St Paul’s largely depends on its congregations and visitors to maintain the landmark building. A reduction in members means loss of income, says the Dean of Melbourne: ‘The Cathedral is funded entirely through the generosity of its members and visitors. We receive no public funding, nor are we funded by the wider church. Any reduction in the number of worshippers or visitors will have a direct impact on the way in which the Cathedral is enabled to meet the costs to maintain our wonderful building’.
Additional works to protect Cathedral’s treasures
In the past weeks, the press has highlighted some of the potential risks posed by the cavernous mining technique to create an underground station box next to the Cathedral. Experts have warned that increased vibrations by tunnelling and mining activities near the Cathedral may have adverse effects. As part of the MetroRail Inquiry hearing, St Paul’s called on experts to advise the Inquiry how best to protect its treasures. It has submitted costings for additional maintenance and monitoring activities to MetroRail, and looks to the State for support.
Dean Loewe said: ‘Experts have advised us that during construction we will need to put in place additional works to ensure our spires, our mosaic floor and irreplaceable stained glass windows, as well as our magnificent pipe organ are kept in the same condition they are in now. We cannot carry this additional financial burden on our own, and look to the State to assist in protecting our Cathedral’.
A ‘St Paul’s’ Station for Melbourne
The Cathedral believes that a new station adjacent to St Paul’s will positively transform the precinct and calls for the station to be called ‘St Paul’s Cathedral’. Dean Loewe explained: ‘We believe the new station should be called after the oldest and most recognisable landmark in the precinct. St Paul’s predates the Federation of Australia by a decade and the building of Flinders Street station by almost two. We were celebrating the centenary of our foundation by the time City Square was opened. Visitors find us an easily recognizable landmark in the CBD, and the people of Melbourne regardless of faith or belief look on us as their own Cathedral: we believe the station should be called “St Paul’s Cathedral”.’
The Dean added: ‘London has its “St Paul’s” tube station, Sydney has its “St James” metro station. Both honour significant landmarks that are also important places of faith. Calling the new station “St Paul’s Cathedral” will celebrate a much loved, iconic symbol of faith and community for the people of Melbourne’.