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Experts divided on retractable bollards after Bourke Street incident

“The bollards prevented the driver of that vehicle from being able to access those locations where, of course, pedestrians were. And it also prevented the vehicle from being able to use that as a potential pathway for them getting out the other end of the Mall, which was clearly their intention,” he said.

“Based on our assessment of what we saw yesterday, and how those bollards shaped the thinking of the driver in terms of what he was trying to do, we are actually pretty happy with how those bollards came into play.”

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius at a press conference on Friday.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius at a press conference on Friday. Credit:Eddie Jim

The state government and the City of Melbourne launched a $52.5 million security upgrade of the CBD after James Gargasoulas’ deadly January 2017 rampage, in which he hit and killed six people and injured 27 while speeding down Swanston and Bourke streets.

The upgrade included the installation of hundreds of steel bollards, reinforced barriers and gates in high-profile pedestrian sites, including Bourke Street Mall.

On Friday, Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said a formal review of the security measures would be conducted by police, including whether more needed to be done to stop vehicles from entering and travelling on the tram tracks.

“We’ve worked very closely in partnership with City of Melbourne and other agencies around assessing and identifying the very best physical security features that we can put in place around the city,” he said.

“We’ll take the opportunity as a result of this incident to go back and again, assess … those security arrangements …

“But you know, there’s a balance that has to be struck here. Because of course, the trams going up and down Bourke Street Mall, that’s a very critical part of our public transport infrastructure.”

Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said now was the time to look at whether retractable bollards, which had been used successfully overseas, could be installed on Bourke Street.

“There are a number of cities where trams or buses are able to get through automated bollards while waiting at the stop. The bollard will go down and then let them through and rise again,” he said.

“In Cardiff, for example, they appear to be very smooth. As the buses arrive, bollards would drop down and rise again. I think that sort of solution, if it’s been done there and elsewhere, technically it should be possible. You would hope authorities look at that and work through the issues.”

However, Associate Professor Douglas Tomkin, an expert in hostile vehicle mitigation from the University of Technology Sydney’s Designing Out Crime Centre, said the bollards were problematic and “prone to error”.

“There are certainly ways in which you can have retractable devices that a tram could activate when you get near but they are difficult to install, subject to weather and all sorts of other problems. And if they jam, you have a real problem,” he said.

“I have heard so many cases of them getting damaged by water or stuff gets into them or they have mechanical issues, and they are awfully expensive to install.”

The car hit a bollard on Bourke Street Mall on Thursday evening.

The car hit a bollard on Bourke Street Mall on Thursday evening. Credit:Wayne Taylor

Professor Tomkin said there were other strategies that could be used to help deter vehicles from entering the tram tracks.

“I think there are various ways to discourage traffic from getting to those areas in the first place.”

Security consultant Luke Percy-Dove, the chief executive of Matryx Consulting and an expert in areas of physical security design and counter-terrorism, said retractable bollards were “very expensive” and were not a foolproof solution to stopping hostile vehicles entering the area.

“They need to be installed into the ground, and they need to go down as deep as the bollard retracts. It’s quite a big hole to put them into. This makes it difficult because of the services in the ground already – water, electrical, gas, whatever it may be,” he said.

At Southern Cross Station, a temporary safety bollard is treated to some guerilla art.

At Southern Cross Station, a temporary safety bollard is treated to some guerilla art.Credit:Hannah Francis

He said from his perspective, the Mall is “really well protected now”.

“I was in there last week and noticed very few weeks spots in terms of getting onto the footpath as happened a few years ago,” he said.

“Logistically retractable bollards would be incredibly difficult to manage and overall the city council does a good job in target hardening that precinct.”

He also noted that “if people are intent on causing harm to others, they will find a way”.

A government spokesperson said the state had invested more than $52 million in a range of security measures throughout the Melbourne CBD and these played a crucial role keeping pedestrians safe during the incident that occurred in Bourke Street Mall on Thursday.

“All our security measures have been designed in consultation with Victoria Police, security experts, transport professionals and architects to ensure that the protections are well-designed, practical and safe,” the spokesperson said.

“As part of these upgrades, six sites are fully complete, with construction on the remaining three sites expected to be completed in the coming months.”

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