Now that the new Noble Park station (aka “Area 3” of the Caulfield to Dandenong “skyrail”) is open, what of the rest of the project?
It’s moving fast. “Area 2” in the Clayton area is coming along, and a rail line closure from the 3rd to the 15th of April will allow construction workers to hook up the new elevated section and get Clayton station opened.
This will remove the crossings at Clayton Road and Centre Road. Clayton Road in particular will bring huge benefits by improving safety and cutting delays — for passengers trying to get to/from the station, for ambulances going to/from Monash Medical Centre, motorists, cyclists…
Importantly, grade separation at Clayton Road will also markedly cut delays for buses. Three routes currently cross the rail line here, often suffering delays due to train delays keeping the boom gates closed, or faults. All three are quite long routes, so this will bring benefits to bus passengers right across the east and south-east of Melbourne.
- 631 – Southland – Waverley Gardens via Clayton, Monash University
- 703 – Middle Brighton – Blackburn via Bentleigh, Clayton, Monash University
- 733 – Oakleigh – Box Hill via Clayton, Monash University, Mt Waverley
The 703 is also my local bus route. Twice this month I’ve spotted two buses arriving at once at Bentleigh in morning peak, meaning one was delayed at least 15 minutes. (Clayton may be the worst crossing it encounters, but it’s not the only one; this bus route also crosses the Sandringham line at the North Brighton level crossing.)
Bus/train interchange will also be easier at Clayton, as northbound buses will use a service road which means passengers no longer have to cross multiple roads to between bus stops and the station. (This won’t be the case for buses at the other rebuilt stations.)
So by the time the Easter school holidays are finished, the new Clayton station should be open, with trains running above Clayton and Centre Roads.
Meanwhile in “Area 1” (Caulfield to Hughesdale), the straddle carrier is expected to have finished by the time you read this.
The main reason it’s been used to build the elevated railway in this section is because of the lack of space in the rail corridor – which is also why this section has been so controversial.
Courtesy of the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA), I got to go up onto the elevated structure and take a closer look at the straddle carrier last Tuesday, along with various other advocates, bloggers and stakeholders.
The big blue things towering above the rail line (behind me on the left) are gantry cranes, designed to lift the pre-built sections of elevated structure up off the ground, to where the straddle carrier (on the right) can get them.
From there, the carrier drives along the existing structure, to where the new sections are lowered into place – as shown in this video from the LXRA from February:
Call us constructions nerds, but we reckon seeing the straddle carrier in action never gets old ?
— Level Crossings (@levelcrossings) February 9, 2018
The existing Murrumbeena and Carnegie stations are both operational as works continue. Hughesdale has been closed for some time, as this is where the trains will come back down to street level.
Shown above, at Murrumbeena, the main wraparound shelter for the new station is taking shape. Platforms will accommodate the new 7-car High Capacity Metro Trains, with future provision for platform extension to 10-cars.
This photo supplied by the LXRA shows the view from the elevated structure, looking from Carnegie towards Caulfield:
Work will be ongoing as trains continue to run underneath. Not confirmed yet, but expect a shutdown during the winter school holidays to hook up this section and get it operational.
Because the new Clayton station is being built alongside the existing station, they’ve already installed escalators, and lifts should be available from day one of operation, just like at Noble Park.
But it’s a different story at Carnegie and Murrumbeena, where the new stations are directly above the old ones. It sounds like temporary stairs may be necessary – with those requiring stepfree access initially using a shuttle bus to another station until lifts are installed a few weeks later.
Mostly this project seems to have been achieved without long disruptions to rail users, at least, not as long as those felt on lines where tracks have been dug up and lowered into a cutting/trench.
That said, those who travel in the evenings (particularly Sunday to Wednesday) must be getting used to regular replacement buses.
And I’m told rail shutdowns will continue after all the level crossings from Caulfield to Dandenong have been removed. Upgrades to signalling and power and platforms to cater for the new High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs) will be ongoing for a while yet, until they come into service sometime next year.
Tens of thousands of people use the Dandenong line every day, and it’s only going to get busier. It’s great to see it finally getting the investment and upgrades it has needed for so long.