As ubiquitous to the Melbourne CBD as a mysteriously still-open Pie Face or that one legend busker who strums a guitar in the extreme wee hours and sings about people who walk past, horse-drawn carriages have long been a fixture on inner-city streets.

But the controversial tourist traps are set to be a thing of the past, thanks to a City of Melbourne council decision that will effectively ban them from setting up shop on Swanston St come June.

The council today announced that they would no longer be issuing permits for horse-drawn vehicles to park and offer rides on Swanston St, with the current permits all set to expire at the end of June this year.

Curiously, the City of Melbourne cited the on-going Metro Tunnel works as the chief reason for ceasing the Swanston St permits. The works are set to see a string of popular late-night fast food outlets (including a McDonald’s and a KFC) as well as a series of souvenir shops demolished to make way for the planned entrance to the new CBD South underground rail station. The historic Young & Jackson pub is safe, and will remain untouched and operational throughout construction.

The council asserted that Metro Tunnel works will mean that “the movement of trams, bicycles, and pedestrians will be prioritised on Swanston St,” and safety risks associated with the construction means that having horses parked on the street is no longer tenable.

A horse-parking bay south of the CBD on St Kilda Road will remain in operation, and horse-drawn carriages remain legal on Victorian roads under the current Victorian Road Rules.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle issued comment via a statement, asserting that safety on Swanston St needed to be prioritised while the tunnel works are on-going.

“Swanston Street is now busier than Regent St in London.”

“It’s no longer appropriate for the horse drawn vehicles to operate in their current location on Swanston Street. This civic spine should be primarily be used for cyclists, trams and delivery vehicles. The impact of the Metro Tunnel works makes this change necessary now.”

“We need to ensure that Swanston Street is a safe and accessible civic space for all Melbournians and visitors to the city,”

The horse-drawn carriages have long attracted criticism from animal activist groups over claims of cruelty, particularly surrounding the state of the facility the horses are kept in overnight.

In October 2015 a horse collapsed in the middle of the city; an incident that was captured on video, sparking outrage.

There are currently five operators with permits to operate horse-drawn carriages on Swanston St, and three other companies currently operating without permits.

Today’s decision is the culmination of a community consultation process that began in December last year, and included input from carriage operators, Victoria Police, the RSPCA, local residents, and tourists.

The move isn’t necessarily a blanket ban on the practice, but the council has instead strongly hinted that it’s the end by passing the buck back onto the carriage operators themselves, telling them they “will need to determine the impact on their business.

The Metro Tunnel construction work is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

Source: City of Melbourne.

Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Getty.