Upgrades kicking off for Melbourne rail corridors

A $1bn upgrade to the Cranbourne Line is one of a number of upgrades to the Melbourne rail network to recently take a step forward.

Duplication of eight kilometres of track between Cranbourne and Dandenong is now underway, in addition to the 11 level crossings already removed.

The duplicated track will allow services ever 10 minutes, increasing capacity by 121,000 passengers in the peak across the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines.

Construction crews are working on power, signalling, and drainage upgrades at Merinda Park Station and in the rail corridor from Cranbourne to Greens Road.

Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan said that works will enable a first for the line.

“We’re getting on with the massive Cranbourne Line Upgrade, delivering more frequent services and removing its last four level crossings – making it Melbourne’s first level crossing-free train line.”

Level crossings still to go on the line include the Abbotts Road level crossing, where 25-metre foundations are being drilled into the ground, and the Merinda Park station will be renewed in August. At Evans Road the bridge will remove the level crossing before the end of 2020, restoring connections in Lyndhurst, Lynbrook and Cranbourne West.

Elsewhere on the Melbourne rail network, the federal government has committed $8 million in funding to remove the Glenferrie Road level crossing in Kooyong. The funding will allow the Victorian government to begin a business case, said federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Alan Tudge.

“This funding means we can start vital scoping and early development works for the level crossing removal.”

The $8m comes alongside $2m for initial feasibility studies for level crossing removals at Tooronga Road in Tooronga and Madden Grove in Burnley.

Glenferrie Road has been identified as a high priority level crossing in studies in 2013 by VicRoads and in 2017 by the Victorian Auditor General, in part due to the interaction of trains, trams, and vehicles.

In the west of the Melbourne rail network, two level crossings have been fast tracked to begin construction in early 2021. Level crossings at Fitzgerald Road in Ardeer and Deer Park’s Robinsons Road will be removed by 2023.

At Robinsons Road a road underpass will be built, and at Fitzgerald Road a road overpass will be built to minimise disruptions to train services and allow for upgrades to the Geelong-Ballarat train line.

Safety and congestion have been a concern at both level crossings, with 18 near misses since 2012 and boom gates down for 45 per cent of the morning peak.

With the two level crossings gone, the Mount Derrimut Road level crossing can be removed by 2025, the last between Deer Park and the city.

Victoria is now seeking community feedback on the design of the level crossings.

In Hallam, station designs have been released as part of the removal of Hallam Road level crossing, with a new elevated rail line with access from both sides of Hallam Road. Works is expected to begin at the end of 2020 with the crossing to be removed in 2022.

As some level crossing removal projects begin, others are closer to completion. At Mentone Station, the station will open two weeks ahead of schedule and Cheltenham station is on schedule to open on Sunday, August 16. Frankston line trains will begin running a week ahead of schedule, stopping at Mentone Station from Monday, July 20.

New facilitation at the station include a climate-controlled waiting area, sheltered seating, and electronic passenger information displays to enable smoother transitions between bus and train services. Accessibility and access has been improved and work will now begin on landscaping and active transit connections between Cheltenham and Mentone.

Cheltenham and Mentone stations have also received a five-star Green Star sustainable design rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. The award has recognised the installation of solar panels, water saving, and rainwater collection facilities.

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.

Incidents force lower punctuality for Melbourne in June

The Victorian Department of Transport will pay compensation to passengers of Metro Trains after failing to meet its punctuality targets in June. Metro Trains delivered 88.3 per cent of its trains on time last month, which was 3.7 per cent lower than its 92 per cent target.

Department Acting Deputy Secretary Alan Fedda said that compensation would be offered as the figures fell below 90 per cent. Metro Trains and Yarra Trams can be fined up to $1.25 million and $500,000 a month respectively if they fail to significantly meet their targets.

An overhead power issues near Aircraft Station on June 3, a collision between a train and car at Mentone Station on June 12, and more than 100 incidents of passengers taking ill and requiring help onboard were cited as contributors to delays.

“Metro Trains’ contract with the state government includes tougher measures than ever before in relation to punctuality,” he said. 

“We expect them to meet these targets and deliver a service that our passengers deserve. These results are unacceptable and we will continue to work with Metro Trains to ensure its performance returns to the expected levels.” 

Yarra Trams’s punctuality rose 4.4 per cent on May figures to 84.1 per cent, presenting its best result in four months, and second highest since October 2018. V/Line also recorded its best result this year, with the Ballarat, Geelong, Warrnambool and Bendigo lines all experiencing jumps.