News sources are today reporting that the City of Melbourne will soon put an end to the controversial horse-drawn carriages that work along Swanston Street in the CBD. This news was cause for celebration for many Melburnians who have concerns for the safety and welfare of the horses. But, on further inspection, it seems the announcement won't mean a complete ban on horse-drawn carriages.
Speaking at a press conference this morning, Melbourne's lord mayor Robert Doyle has said that from June 30 of this year, the City of Melbourne will no longer issue permits for horse-drawn carriages to park or offer rides on Swanston Street due to risks associated with the construction of the Metro Tunnel and the CBD South station.
A statement from the City of Melbourne says the horse drawn carriage parking area between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane on Swanston Street (beside McDonalds and KFC) will be removed from June 2017, though a separate parking area on St Kilda Road will remain. The current horse-drawn carriage permits are set to expire in June as well.
According to the City of Melbourne, community consultation on the issue began in December 2016 and included consultation with the carriage operators, road and transport authorities, Victoria Police, the RSPCA, as well as interviews with local residents and tourists. Issues raised included the fact that there are carriage operators operating without City of Melbourne permits.
However, while the City of Melbourne won’t be issuing permits for horse-drawn carriages, they are still able to operate elsewhere in the CBD. Mr Doyle says the permit restrictions are “not a ban” and that they can continue to operate. "We’ll find a spot for them to park and to embark on their journeys... We'll move them down to just over Princess Bridge... so they can operate in the parks."
“We actually don’t control them,” Mr Doyle explained today. “As I’ve said all the way through, they are [classified as] vehicles. That’s a matter for VicRoads.” It’s because of this classification that horse-drawn carriages will still be able to travel through the city as they wish.
Mr Doyle has said he has no power to stop them travelling through the city. “My preference is that they don’t, because I don’t think horse-drawn vehicles and modern traffic mix, but I have no power to stop them. [Vic Roads] have got to determine if their vehicles need to be registered. Do the drivers need to be licensed? What insurances do they need? That’s a matter for VicRoads as it always has been.”
When asked whether he was washing his hands of the issue and pushing the blame onto Vic Roads, Mr Doyle responded by saying the issue at hand was never the City of Melbourne’s responsibility. “We instituted a permit system to try and regulate some of the behaviours. There are now people who are operating without a permit so in fact, the system is ineffective,” he says.
The mayor is confident that the move to safer spaces outside of the civic spine could lead to a safer horse-drawn carriage operation, similar to in Central Park in New York City. “In other cities around the world – think of cities like New York – they operate in the park and they do that quite successfully and I would like to see the same thing here in Melbourne. But horse-drawn vehicles, modern traffic, busy city, a million people a day – they just don’t mix.”
So no, horse-drawn carriages won’t be completely eradicated from the CBD, though it’s clear the move outside of Swanston Street will have an impact on the popularity of carriage rides in Melbourne. The Melbourne Against Horse-Drawn Carriages Facebook page is counting today’s decision as a win, though there’s still roads to go when it comes to complete safety for these animals.