Duplication

Frankston line extension business case recommends against electrification

The preliminary business case for the extension of the Frankston Line to Baxter on the Mornington Peninsula has been released.

The business case assesses a number of options for improving public transport usage in Frankston and the wider peninsula, while increasing social and commercial activity in Frankston.

The option of creating passing loops on the Stony Point line and new stations at Tyabb and Bittern is indicated as the preferred option. The possibility of electrification to Baxter or Langwarrin, while having higher a higher cost benefit ratio, would cost more and have greater impacts, the business case sets out.

Currently, Melbourne’s electrified network terminates at Frankston, with diesel-hauled services continuing to Stony Point. The report notes that the infrequency of services on the Stony Point line means that car use in the area is high and public transport use is concentrated at Frankston Station, causing constraints on parking in the vicinity of the station.

An upgrade of the rail line without electrification under the Stony Point Uplift option would also provide additional rail services for the communities of Somerville and Hastings, who would miss out on the benefits of electrification to Baxter.

The federal government, which contributed $3 million to the business case, is pushing for the electrification of the Frankston Line to Baxter and has committed $225m to the project. The business case estimates the total cost of electrification to Baxter to be between $1.3 to $1.5bn.

“Delivering a metro rail line extension south of Frankston will help open up the whole of the Mornington Peninsula, meaning locals can get to work and get home sooner and safer,” said Federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge.

The Victorian government has not confirmed a preference for any of the options outlined in the preliminary business case.

“The Commonwealth has indicated that their preferred next stage is a detailed business case, but has not yet provided the funding or approached Victoria to undertake that work,” said a Victorian government spokesperson.

“We’ll continue to work closely with the Commonwealth on our combined infrastructure commitments.”

The Committee for Greater Frankston, a grouping of local businesses and the Frankston city council, criticised the business case as “Orwellian”.

“It’s time for the state government to start properly planning to construct this vital public transport project,” said CEO Ginevra Hosking.

Public transport connectivity to Frankston is listed as a priority initiative by Infrastructure Australia, with initiatives for improvement including optimising the existing bus network, increasing bus frequency and coverage, or funding upgrades to rail services and infrastructure.

The Victorian government spokesperson said that the state government was already making significant investments.

“The Victorian government is already spending $3bnon projects along the Frankston Line that pave the way for an extension to Baxter – removing 18 level crossings, building 12 new stations and creating new stabling for 24 trains at Kananook that is a pre-requisite for any extension of the line.”

Halfway there on 75 level crossing removals around Melbourne

Over half of the 75 level crossings planned for removal by 2025 in Melbourne have been taken out.

The 38th crossing was removed as part of works on the Frankston line in August. The most recent crossing to go were at Charman and Park roads in Cheltenham and Balcombe Road in Mentone.

The next level crossings to be removed and get the project closer to the 75 target will be on the Upfield line, as work there progresses and the current blitz finishes in November. Crossings at Bell Street, Munro Street, Reynard Street, and Moreland Road will be removed.

While removing the crossings has been a key goal of the project, there have been many other associated benefits for commuters and the local community. So far, 20 stations have been renewed through upgrades, and three stations have been added as part of the Mernda Rail Extension.

Safety has also been a key goal. At the planned for removal level crossings, 30 people have lost their lives and there have been 800 near misses since 2005.

Travel times are already seeing improvements, with time spent in traffic cut by half in some areas where level crossings have been removed.

Finally, new open spaces and pedestrian and cycling connections have been created, with the newly elevated rail lines sometimes serving to protect and shade new play areas underneath. The newly created open space is equivalent to 14 MCGs and the length of the new walking and cycling paths stretches over 45 kilometres. In Cheltenham, the former station building has been repurposed as a community facility in Cheltenham Park. The heritage listed station building will be a multi-purpose facility in plans put forward by the Bayside City Council.

While COVID-19 restrictions have been in place at all construction sites, the Level Crossing Removal Project has continued throughout the pandemic, keeping 5,000 workers in jobs and on site. Since construction began in 2015, 44 million hours have been worked across the project.

New Cheltenham station opens on schedule

A new station for the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham has opened on schedule on Sunday, August 16, despite restrictions on construction activity during Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown restrictions.

The new station on the Frankston line is one of two that were replaced during a winter works blitz, with the neighbouring Mentone station opened early in late July. Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that work has continued within the new requirements.

“Despite the challenging conditions the pandemic has created, we’re continuing work on our critical infrastructure projects with strict safety measures to create safer connections for our communities and support local jobs.”

Along with the new stations, level crossing has been removed to improve community connectivity and safety along the rail line, taking the total number of level crossings removed to 38 out of the 75 goal by 2025.

Both Cheltenham and Mentone stations are five-star Green Star rated for their environmentally sensitive construction. This has included solar panels, water saving and rainwater collection, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The new station also includes a forecourt and community open space. A new passenger car park is expected to be completed by mid 2021. Landscaping works and active transit links are continuing and will finish by late 2020.

The Frankston line has seen significant renewal, with eight stations rebuilt out of a total of 12, and a total of 18 level crossings removed.

When stage 4 restrictions were put in place across Melbourne, construction on major rail infrastructure projects, including the Level Crossing Removal Project, was cut to 25 per cent of normal staffing levels. The Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) has implemented strict safety and hygiene measures including the wearing of masks and physical distancing requirements across all MTIA sites which include level crossing removals as well as project such as the Melbourne Metro Tunnel.

Duplication

Duplication of rail essential: Committee for Greater Frankston

Duplication of the rail line to at least Langwarrin is essential for better public transport in Greater Frankston, according to a local advisory body.

Following Infrastructure Australia listing Frankston Public Transport Connectivity as a near-term initiative, a local advisory committee was set up to explore options, including duplication.

In June, the committee released its report recommending two priority options. The first option involved twin tracks to Langwarrin plus a new Leawarra station and Langwarrin station. The second option involved twin tracks to Baxter plus new stations at Leawarra and Langwarrin.

Committee for Greater Frankston chief executive Ginevra Hosking said that either option would enable a frequent service.

“Importantly, both options allow a 15-minute service, a new Leawarra–Monash campus station servicing the growing Frankston health and education precinct (with estimated patronage making it the 15th busiest suburban station), and moving the main commuter parking outside Frankston’s CBD, freeing up the city centre for other users.”

The report highlights that a duplicated rail line would provide a backbone for public transport in the area and would be supported by connections such as park and ride facilities, optimising the local bus network, and improving cycling and pedestrian links.

Improvements to the rail line have $225 million of federal funding committed, however the Victorian state government has yet to commit to the construction of a duplicated rail line. The advisory committee explored short-term options, with the assumption that a second track could be built in future.

“However, a single track would severely reduce train frequency,” said Hosking. “A single track to Langwarrin should support a 15-minute ‘turn up and go’ service. A single track to Baxter would not.”

Chair of the advisory group and vice president of the Committee for Greater Frankston Christine Richards said that all sides of politics should fund the rail extension.

“The Committee for Greater Frankston is calling on all state and federal politicians to commit to building the rail extension with a minimum 15-minute service,” she said.

“Almost a century is too long to wait for any project. It’s time to extend the line, build the missing station car parks, fill the trains and run them fast to get public transport usage across the region back on track.”

Three more level crossings scheduled for removal by July

Three more level crossings are set to go by July on Melbourne’s Frankston line.

In an update to the project, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan highlighted that level crossings at Park and Charman roads in Cheltenham, and Balcombe Road in Mentone will be gone by mid-year.

Additionally, the new Kananook Train Storage Facility is scheduled to open in early May while construction on the new Carrum station and open spaces continues.

“We’ve worked really hard with our construction partners to ensure we can get this vital work done that will deliver more trains, more often – whilst protecting the safety of our workforce and supporting local jobs,” said Allan.

In addition to these three level crossings, work will also begin on site offices and work areas at Edithvale, Chelsea, and Bonbeach to remove five level crossings and build three new stations, making it one of the largest combined works blitzes in the Level Crossing Removal Project.

“This will be the biggest level crossing construction blitz we’ve ever done, but the disruption will be worth it,” said Andrews.

The nine-week blitz will begin in late May, with one extra week added to allow for physical distancing and other health and safety measures to be implemented. More than 1,700 workers will be employed across the sites in south-east Melbourne to build the new rail trenches and roads over the rail line.

After trains return to the line in July, finishing works at the new Cheltenham and Mentone stations will continue, with both stations expected to open in August.

The works are part of a $3 billion investment in the Frankston Line, which involves the removal of 18 level crossings and 12 new stations. The line will also benefit from the Metro Tunnel construction, as trains on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line will not share the track with Frankston line trains from South Yarra, enabling a 15 per cent increase in capacity on the Frankston line in peak periods.

New rail bridge and station opens part of $3bn investment

Trains are now running over a new rail bridge in Carrum, located in south-east Melbourne.

Carrum station opened on Monday morning following a two-week construction blitz, including laying track and ballast and installing traffic signalling.

Level crossings at Mascot Avenue, Bonbeach, Station Street, and Eel Race Road were removed as part of the project, making the new station boom-gate free.

The new rail bridge now connects to the existing Frankston line. The Victorian Government has invested $3 billion to upgrade the Frankston line on the Metro trains network, including the removal of 18 level crossings and building 12 new stations.

Sonya Kilkenny,  Member for Carrum, said the “dreaded ding” of boom gates will no longer effect the community, making it safer and quieter.

Construction is still continuing on Carrum station. Current access to the new station is through The Station Street level crossing. The main entrance at McLeod Road is set to open later this year.

Carrum station, located in the bayside suburb, has been designed to accommodate coastal weather conditions, with weather protection pods, shelter canopies on the platform and wind screens in entrances.

The station will create a town square at its main entrance, a garden at the southern entrance, and a new foreshore park and beach promenade linking Carrum to the bay.

Jacinta Allan, Victorian minister for Transport infrastructure, said 34 crossings have been removed and 26 new stations have opened part of the level crossing removal project.

“It’s great to see the new Carrum Station bustling with passengers right on schedule,” Allan said.

“We’re not wasting a minute delivering the road and rail projects our city and state needs.”

Construction blitz planned for Melbourne’s Frankston line

To pave the way for a construction blitz in Victoria in May, work towards the construction of two new stations at Cheltenham and Mentone on the Frankston line and the removal of three congested level crossings is underway.

“We’re getting rid of these death traps – making Cheltenham and Mentone safer, and delivering brand new stations and more open space,” minister for transport infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, said.

“Cheltenham and Mentone are going to have a busy year and I thank residents and traders in advance for their patience during construction, which will deliver more trains, more often.”

The Frankston line will be closed between Frankston and Moorabbin in early to mid-February to enable the removals and continuing work at Cheltenham and Mentone.

Construction on the rail trenches which will lower the Frankston line under Park Road, Charman Road and Balcombe Road started in late 2019.

The crossings are expected to be gone by July 2020, and the new stations will open after finishing works by early 2021.

The works are part of the state government’s $3 billion investment on the Frankston line, which includes the removal of 18 level crossings and 12 new stations. Five crossings have already been removed.