$172.9 million V/Line stabling yard development could potentially be used as a temporary holding site for contaminated soil with possible carcinogens PFAS and asbestos.
The Wyndham Vale rail yard is set to be occupied by V/Line as a maintenance and storage space to replace the Footscray train stabling site which is being removed as part of the West Gate Tunnel works.
The $6.7 billion project requires 2.3 million tonnes of soil to be relocated offsite. The 82-hectare government-owned site in Melbourne’s west is being considered by officials following a meeting with Wyndham Council this week.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) are raising concerns for the health and safety of rail workers if the soil was dumped next to the V/Line rail yard.
Luba Grigorovitch, Victorian Secretary of RTBU wrote in a letter to state Government officials on Monday that she is “deeply concerned” the toxic soil would pose a huge risk to workers and residents.
Grigorovitch told Rail Express that she is demanding confirmation from the government whether soil would contaminate the air conditioning systems of the Geelong-Melbourne trains, which run directly alongside the site.
The state secretary for the union said they’ve been inundated with calls from concerned V/line workers.
“Our members don’t want to be operating alongside contaminated soil,” she said.
“This government seems to be infamous for passing the buck. We’ll be undergoing full safety audits and testing before giving the ok for our members to be working at the site.”
The new facility is designed to meet interpeak stabling needs for V/Line trains operating on the regional rail network, while also ensuring there is capacity to house additional trains in the future.
The project will involve construction of a stabling yard, driver facilities and a bypass track connected to the Geelong line, which will allow trains to access the facility without delaying passenger services.
38 new VLocity carriages are arriving to the V/Line network early this year and there are concerns that there isn’t enough facilities for the growing network.
V/Line stated in 2018 that stabling capacity would be exceeded by March 2019.
The Age obtained an internal V/Line document under freedom of information laws, reporting that “the rail yard was needed to run a greater number of services on the network and to operate new trains reliably”.
According to the internal document, the lack of maintenance infrastructure will continue to impact on performance and shortages will impact V/Line’s reliability.
A government spokeswoman told the Hearld Sun that if Wyndham Vale was a temporary site it would not disrupt rail operations.
“Transurban and its builder are working with project parties to find a long-term solution to manage the rock and soil from tunnelling – no decision has been made,” she said.
Department of Transport spokeswoman said operations of the stabling facility will not be compromised.
“While a decision on where to temporarily hold soil from tunnelling for the West Gate Tunnel is yet to be made, the land in question is outside the Wyndham Vale stabling facility so if the site was ever used it would not impact the timing or operations of the new stabling facility,” she said to The Age.
The Wyndham Vale rail yard is metres away from proposed housing estates and four planned schools.
Treasurer Tim Pallas and member for Werribee said on air during a 3AW interview that it won’t be a long-term containment.
“Any suggestion that there is going to be long-term containment or toxic facility is just nonsense,” Mr Pallas told 3AW.
“What is proposed at Wyndham Vale is essentially a short-term place where it is isolated from the environment and if it is ever used – it may well not ever be used – it’s only if you can’t get access to the long-term facility.”
The stabling project is funded by the state government and is still under construction and set to open in the coming months.