Two stations on Melbourne’s Upfield Line have reopened to passengers after the state’s largest ever level crossing removal project. Read more
A stalwart of the Australian rail industry, Taylor Rail is expanding to meet the growing pipeline of rail construction work around the country.
A number of level crossing milestones have been reached across Melbourne.
On the Upfield Line, trains are now running on the newly elevated line, and four level crossings have been removed.
Work has been ongoing on site since late July and has beaten its schedule despite operating under COVID-19 restrictions during Melbourne’s second wave.
The four crossings at Munro, Bell, and Renard streets and Moreland Road will be gone by Wednesday, November 4, improving safety, reducing congestion, cutting travel times, and enabling traffic to move more freely through this area of inner Melbourne.
Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan on Monday said work was continuing on removing the Bell Street level crossing.
“One dangerous set of boom gates on Bell Street is now gone for good – and we’re now getting rid of its neighbour in Preston, with this notorious arterial road to be totally level crossing-free by 2022.”
In addition to the level crossing removals, two new stations are being built at Coburg and Moreland. The stations will open in mid-December. Until then, and as platforms, station buildings, and customer facilities are completed, services to those stations are being replaced by buses and trams.
“We’ve made great progress over the past five years and we’re not slowing down. We’ve removed 43 level crossings and built 28 new train stations – delivering better connections, supporting thousands of jobs,” said Allan.
Work on open space and landscaping beneath the rail line will continue into 2021.
Work will move further north on the Upfield Line in the next year, with crossings in Glenroy and Preston to go by the end of 2022.
On Saturday, November 1, the Evans Road crossing was the 39th level crossing to go.
A new road bridge over the Cranbourne Line was opened, and Evans Road is the first crossing to go as all level crossing are removed between Cranbourne and the Melbourne CBD by 2025. The Cranbourne Line will also be duplicated, allowing for a train ever 10 minutes.
“Getting rid of the Evans Road crossing is the first step in our massive Cranbourne Line upgrade – removing every single level crossing and duplicating the line to get people in the south-east home safer and sooner,” said Allan.
The road bridge over the railway line at Cardinia Road in Pakenham will be gone before the end of the year, months ahead of schedule.
While safety measures have been in place for the Level Crossing Removal Project, the bridge has rapidly been put into place and will open in December following a final works blitz for two weeks.
Originally scheduled to open in 2021, around the clock work programs have led to the final works including laying asphalt, line-marking, and signage installation, to be finalised in 2020.
Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said the project was about moving people around the community more efficiently.
“We promised to ease congestion and make the Pakenham community safer by removing level crossings – and we’re doing that well ahead of schedule, getting people where they need to go sooner by road and on the train.”
Along with the removed level crossing, new pedestrian and shared paths will open sooner, creating connections between the nearby train station and local amenities.
Cardinia Road will be the 44th level crossing removed as part of the Victorian government’s plan to remove 75 crossing by 2025. The boom gates are currently down for a third of the morning peak and 23,000 vehicles travel through the crossing each day. A new bridge will improve safety while reducing congestion and improving travel times.
Work on a new community space will begin in early 2021. Located underneath the road bridge, the space will provide an area for residents to meet, exercise, and relax.
Elsewhere on the Level Crossing Removal project, the Seaford Road level crossing project is leading to improvements to the nearby traffic network, with work on the Armstrongs Road and Railway Parade intersection beginning.
Signalising the intersection will improve safety for users and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists.
The new signals will be connected to the level crossing to manage vehicle movements to and from Railway Parade. The pedestrian crossing will be similarly clarified.
The works come in addition to the removal of the Seaford Road level crossing in 2018.
At the Glen Huntly site, community feedback is being sought on the design of the future interchange.
Work to remove two level crossings on the Lilydale Line in Melbourne’s outer east will begin in December, the first of eight level crossings to go on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines.
The two level crossings are at Manchester Road in Mooroolbark and the Maroondah Highway in Lilydale. Thirteen crashes have occurred at the crossings with one fatality in the last decade.
As part of the level crossing removal, new stations will be built at Mooroolbark and Lilydale and a construction blitz will be held from December 11 to 20.
Foundations for new rail bridges will be installed, along with new underground cables. Another week long closure is indicatively scheduled for the end of summer in 2021.
“We’re not wasting a minute getting on with our critical works on the Lilydale line – delivering better transport connections for passengers and important local jobs for workers as we begin to recover from the pandemic,” said Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.
Early works on a new multi-deck carpark at Mooroolbark station are already underway. The new carpark will add 450 new and upgraded spots at the station. A temporary carpark is now open to replace the existing carpark which is being redeveloped until 2022.
“Across the state we’re building more than 11,000 new and upgraded commuter parking spaces to make catching the train easier for everyone – and our new carpark at Mooroolbark will double the station’s current capacity,” said Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll.
The new carpark includes lifts, CCTV, and better lighting, with community feedback providing input to the final design.
Once works are complete, the 53,000 vehicles that use the crossings each day will no longer have to wait while boom gates are down for up to a quarter of the two-hour morning peak.
The existing Mooroolbark station will be moved to the Yarra Valley Railway to continue the rail history of the heritage building.
Early works have begun on the Hallam Road level crossing in Melbourne’s south-east.
Once complete, a rail bridge will replace the level crossing and a new station will be built to serve passengers in Hallam and the surrounding suburbs.
Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that the level crossing removal would complement other transport works occurring in the area.
“We’re freeing up Melbourne’s booming south-eastern suburbs – with the Hallam Road Upgrade, level crossing removals and the Metro Tunnel, we’re busting congestion on busy roads and slashing travel times on trains.”
Early works include the erection of fences and the installation of site offices. Major works are expected to begin at the end of the year. A temporary commuter car park will open to replace spaces lost to the site office which will be located in the station’s southern car park.
Community feedback has so far been included in the updated station design, with a second entrance added to allow access from either side of Hallam Road. Additional bike parking has also been added.
Further community feedback is being south through the Hallam Road Level Crossing Removal Construction Liaison Group, said local member Luke Donnellan.
“We’re excited to see early works get underway on the level crossing project and the new station – and I’d encourage all locals who want to get involved in the project to consider joining the Construction Liaison group.”
The nearby community will be able to notice the effect of removed level crossings with the nearby Evans Road bridge opened in the next week, replacing the level crossing on that road.
The boom gates at Hallam Road are closed for a third of the two-hour morning peak, delaying 20,000 vehicles. In addition, the crossing has had 14 near misses in the past 10 years.
Construction will begin next year on two level crossing removals in Glen Huntly.
The level crossings at Neerim and Glen Huntly roads will be gone by 2023 and the project completed by 2024, a year ahead of schedule.
The crossings will be replaced by lowering the Frankston Line into a trench, and constructing new road bridges for both crossings.
Removing these level crossings will only benefit the 20,000 vehicles that travel through the two level crossings a day, but also improve journeys for tram passengers on route 67, which crosses the rail line at Glen Huntly Road. The crossing at Glen Huntly Road is one of Melbourne’s last tram squares, a manually operated crossing used by trains and trams, which slows trains down significantly.
200 trains pass through the crossings each day, causing the boom gates to be down for half the morning peak.
In addition to the level crossing removals, the new Glen Huntly station will be part of a new precinct, increasing connectivity and improving community safety, said Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan.
“Our level crossing removal project isn’t just getting rid of those dangerous and congested boom gates – we’re delivering new train stations, more open space and new pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.”
The two crossings in Glen Huntly are the last to go on the Frankston Line, and when complete, the 18 crossings between Flinders Street and Moorabbin will be gone.
A number of new stations have had their designs revealed, with Bell and Preston stations being upgraded with colourful designs that reference the local communities.
For North Williamstown station, a priority was maintaining the village feel of the local area. Improvements to lighting, landscaping and crossings, will improve local connectivity and safety.
The new Glenroy Station, which is part of the level crossing removal at Glenroy Road, two sides of the rail line will be reconnected for the first time in 100 years.
“We’ve removed half of the 75 level crossings we promised, well ahead of schedule – and with works continuing in line with strict safety protocol during the pandemic, we’re not wasting a minute getting the rest gone for good,” said Allan.
Five engineers from refugee and asylum seeker background have begun their Australian professional journey with Metro Trains Melbourne in 2020.
The Engineering Pathways Industry Cadetship or EPIC program provides pathways for qualified engineers from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds to work in Australia.
Metro Trains in partnership with the Level Crossing Removal Project has placed five cadets this year in major transport infrastructure projects.
Metro’s Executive Director – Projects Peter Gleeson said the EPIC program enables those with overseas qualifications to contribute to Victoria’s Big Build.
“The EPIC program gives people pathways to further their engineering careers – with on-site experience, a recognised qualification, and exposure to some of the biggest transport projects the state has ever seen,” Gleeson said.
“There’s never been a better time to be part of the infrastructure transformation across our city, and with a huge demand for engineering skills, these cadets will only go from strength to strength.”
The EPIC program overcomes a significant barrier for those with engineering qualifications that were achieved overseas. Only those with qualifications from a select number of countries are recognised in Australia, leading to many with engineering qualifications who could contribute to the rail skills pipeline working outside of their field.
In a 2011 report, Perspectives on Migrants, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found that 65 per cent of all recent migrants had a non-school qualification before arriving in Australia, however only a third of these had their overseas qualification recognised.
One of the cadets, Mayat Mnayrji, has worked on the South-Eastern Program Alliance for stations and VicTrack interface.
“The EPIC program is really fantastic, giving overseas engineers the opportunity to get more work experience and improve themselves, as well studying a very useful course.”
Ilab Qassab, who holds a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering (power and machine) from the University of Mosul, in Iraq, has been based in the Metropolitan Roads Program Alliance, working with the rail team.
“I am very proud to be one of the EPIC program cadets. This program gave us a great opportunity to start our career in Australia and achieve our goals as we came from other countries.”
In addition to an Australian qualification, cadets also gain valuable work experience on major projects. In the ABS report, 64 per cent of recent migrants said that a lack of Australian work experience or references was a barrier to their employment. Ali Firwana, originally from Gaza, Palestine holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineer and is working as a combined services route site engineer on the Frankston Line.
“Having work experience and industry-focused education is incredibly useful, and I am learning new things on a daily basis with Metro.”
Gleeson said the work of the cadets is invaluable for Victoria’s infrastructure pipeline.
“These five cadets have been doing fantastic work for Metro to help shape the Victorian government’s Big Build, which is transforming our public transport network.”
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.