Victorian sky rail construction requires demolition of historic signal boxes

Two early 20th-century signal boxes are set to be demolished as part of construction for a 2.5-kilometre elevated rail line from Tinning Street in Brunswick to O’Hea Street in Coburg.

Moreland Council and an organisation called the Coburg Historical Society want the signal boxes heritage protected, according to The Age.

The signal boxes and more than 100 trees will be bulldozed when the government replaces four level crossings with the $542.4 million sky rail project. In a submission to Heritage Victoria, Coburg residents asked for heritage protection of the signal boxes as well as the trees.

Executive director of Heritage Victoria, Steven Avery, recommended that trees and rail infrastructure dating back to the late 1800s should be protected. He did not recommend heritage protection be extended to the century old signal boxes, or the Gandolfo Gardens 100 trees. The Moreland and Coburg train stations, which were built in the 1880s, are heritage-protected.

According to The Age, however, planning minister Richard Wynne will now make the final decision. “As the minister responsible for both planning and heritage, it’s appropriate I make the final decision,” Wynne said.

The Level Crossing Removal Project, however, says that the removal of the trees is necessary for work towards replacing the level crossings to be able to commence because the rail corridor is so narrow.

“The alternative would be continual disruptions over a much longer time for the community, commuters and local residents,” chief executive Kevin Devlin said.

Some of the Upfield line will be closed for three months while the sky rail is constructed – the longest shutdown since the government started removing level crossings in 2016.

The government will also build a new 2.5 kilometre cycling lane, while the removal of boom gates will benefit around 68,000 vehicles driving through the level crossings each day.

Level crossings in Melbourne’s north to be removed with elevated rail

The Victorian Government has laid out plans to deal with eight level crossing removals in Melbourne’s north as part of its ongoing Level Crossing Removal Project.

The crossings, which belong to the Upfield and Mernda lines, will be removed by elevating relevant sections of the lines.

“We said we’d get rid of them and now we’re getting on with the job of removing these dangerous crossings,” said Victoria’s Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan.

“This is part of a huge investment in the inner north creating jobs and better connections for those living and working in these communities.”

The elevation is expected to deliver more open space for the public and improve connections for cyclists and pedestrians. Member for Pascoe Vale Lizzie Blandthorn commented that this would provide new precincts for the community.

“Our community will soon have an opportunity to provide their feedback about what they would like to see in the new open space,” she said.

Level crossings at Bell Street, Reynard Street and Munro Street in Coburg and Moreland Road in Brunswick (all Upfield line) will be removed at the same time by elevating the line.

The other four level crossings at Murray Road, Bell Street, Cramer Street and Oakover Road in Preston (all Mernda line) will be dealt with through the construction of a rail bridge.

The removal of the Coburg and Brunswick crossings is expected by 2020. The Preston removals are set to be completed in 2021 following the commencement of major works next year.

New stations will be built at Preston, Bell, Coburg and Moreland to accommodate the changes, while also preserving the existing heritage-listed Coburg and Moreland station buildings.

The works form part of the larger Level Crossing Removal Project, which plans to remove 75 “dangerous and congested” level crossings in Melbourne by 2025.

In addition to the works in the city’s north, the Victorian Government announced today that it would begin construction works within the next year to remove two crossings on the Packenham line by 2021.

The level crossings are located at Clyde Road in Berwick and Cardinia Road in Packenham, and will join the nine that have already been removed across the southeastern line.

The Clyde Road crossing in particular has been cited by the government as a source of delay for ambulances travelling to Casey Hospital, as well as a notable congestion point on the Princes and Monash freeways.