The week in transport transport

More level crossing removals?

Things have been busy, so I’m a bit behind on blogging things. A few things in brief, then the big news.

Wednesday night delays

Last night saw major delays affecting the Mernda and Hurstbridge lines between about 4pm and 5:30pm, impacting peak hour. This was due to a track fault at Flinders Street, and it appeared that Metro re-routed those trains to other platforms, which caused flow-on effects onto the Burnley lines.

Big delays for tens of thousands of people.

But there was a silver lining in a very dark cloud: other lines (those via North Melbourne and South Yarra) were largely unaffected. This is a huge improvement from a few years ago, when the operational practices of sharing drivers and trains across line groups would quickly cause delays to snowball across the network.

The question of compensation has come up again, of course. My sense is that the higher priority is to invest to avoid these problems in the future, and that the compensation scheme needs a broad review. The current threshold of cancellations/delays across the entire network across each calendar month is not appropriate — it means any people affected by huge delays like last night’s invariably get nothing.

Paul Mees Award

Last week the PTUA presented the Paul Mees Award for contributions to the transport debate to Channel 9’s Andrew Lund and The Age’s Clay Lucas. Both doing sterling work. Well deserved.

Paul Mees Award 2018: Andrew Lund and Clay Lucas

More X’trapolis trains on the way

On Sunday the government announced that more X’trapolis trains are to be ordered for the Metro fleet. The design will be updated first, and I’m told they will be compatible with the existing carriages. Hopefully they will fix the worst of the problems, such as poor suspension, lack of stainless steel, and information displays blocked by handles.

It might also be logical to build them as semi-permanently coupled six-car sets, with no middle driver cabs, given these now rarely get used.

They will help bolster the fleet as the Comeng trains start to get retired next decade, and the government tells me they see benefit in having trains other than just HCMTs — probably makes sense given the large size of the fleet, the problems in the past when much of the Siemens fleet had to be taken out of service, and wanting to keep multiple rolling stock vendors with local facilities viable into the future.

Glenhuntly level crossing

Labor pledges more crossing removals

The big news: On Sunday the state ALP pledged to extend the level crossing removal program by another 25 sites if re-elected — on top of the 50 promised by 2022. (51 actually because Park Street, Cheltenham got added due to proximity to Charman Road.)

In my opinion, this is a good policy – there are numerous benefits to motorists and public transport users alike from crossing removal. And we’re finally making progress in getting rid of the worst ones.

The Coalition has re-affirmed that it will complete projects already started, but will not expand the level crossing program. It’ll stick to its proposal of road intersection grade separations.

In my opinion, this is a bad policy – these mini-spaghetti junctions (see St Kilda Junction for an example) will be disruptive and expensive to build, result in cyclist and pedestrian-hostile environments, won’t actually fix traffic congestion (because you’ll just end up queuing at the next set of lights) and in fact won’t get rid of traffic lights – they’ll still be needed for turning vehicles.

Traffic lights might be irritants, but are never as unpredictable as level crossings, they can be overridden/ignored by emergency vehicles, they can be overridden by controllers, and the major roads that would supposedly benefit from this idea already tend to have green lights synchronised along their routes.

I guess this means voters have a clear choice.

I asked my Twitter followers about it. They may lean a particular way, but even I was surprised at how one-sided was the result: 90% preferred level crossing removals.

Underneath the skyrail near Grange Road, Caulfield

For the Coalition’s list of intersections in their proposal, see this post from November last year when they announced it.

The extra level crossings on the ALP’s list

15 of the 25 have been announced so far. Many of them are grouped – I’m told a key learning is the benefits of doing adjacent sites.

  • Sunbury line: Gap Road, Sunbury
  • Werribee line: Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Potential to do this at the same time as the two Werribee crossings already on the list, and avoid multiple train shutdowns
  • Mernda line: Cramer, Murray and Oakover Roads, Preston. Likely to be rail over road (eg skyrail). These are either side of Bell Street, which is already on the list, so presumably all four would be done at once
  • Frankston line: Neerim and Glen Huntly Roads, Glen Huntly, and Chelsea Road, Argyle and Swanpool Avenues, Chelsea. All likely to be rail under road.
  • Upfield line: Reynard and Munro Streets, Coburg. Also likely to be skyrail. Given the proximity to Bell Street, which is already on the list, one would hope all three are done as one project.
  • Belgrave/Lilydale line: Union and Mont Albert Roads

Glen Huntly Road? Hallelujah. This tram/train crossing delays trams, and forces trains to crawl across at 20 km/h, even when they’re expresses. It slows down journeys for every single Frankston line passenger. As a former local, I’m a bit disappointed it won’t be skyrail, as it could provide additional open space adjacent to the shopping centre, but I hope at least they’ll look at moving the station to between Glen Huntly and Neerim Roads, to improve connections to local buses as well as trams.

Citybound platform at new Ginifer station - Nov 2016

The government has also released a document showing how sites are prioritised. At least, it shows the methodology. What it doesn’t show is how each site comes out when evaluated in this way. But it’s still well worth a read.

On grade separation of level crossings vs intersections, the choice the major parties is stark. It’ll be interesting to see which way the election goes.

See more in this Age article: Here’s how your vote will shape Melbourne’s transport network

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

25 replies on “More level crossing removals?”

“it means any people affected by huge delays like last night’s invariably get nothing.”

This is exactly the problem. Using Myki touch on/touch off data it should be relatively trivial to offer compensation to only those affected. Because the compensation would be spread around fewer people the amount could be much higher (rather than the current cup of coffee amount). Dare I propose ticket refund if your train is delayed 15 minutes and 10x ticket value if you’re delayed an hour or more?

Track fault on the Clifton Hill group only affecting a few lines. Unlike in Sydney nearly every line would of gone down apart from with its highly interconnected nature.

Not an expert would the CFI or the road intersection removal program be more cyclist & pedestrian friendly ?

@Anonymous: To remove a road intersection, I think we end up with something like the St Kilda junction underpass, which is hardly PT, pedestrian or cyclist friendly.

Regarding the middle of 6 cars driver cabs not being used. I can’t speak much for the Xtrapolis because I don’t get to observe them as much, but I’ve seen a lot of incidences of drivers just moving between stations getting in the middle cabs of Comeng and Siemens to get around the network. I have no complains of that though. Might as well use those space rather than taking up passenger space in peak hour.

I also hope they add Maidstone St, Maddox Road and Champions Road to the list of the level crossing removals to the Werribee line sometime in the near future. These generally face industrial or commercial areas so I hope they don’t face much community opposition.

Haha, NOW they introduce some rigour into the process of selecting crossings. Bit late for the $82 million they’ve wasted on the crossing on the Altona line. It was towards the bottom of VicRoads list and was not a problem. In fact it will only drive more traffic, and more trucks, into residential areas. AND despite the duplication of track as part of the removal, it has not resulted in more reliability on the Altona loop line. It’s barely a 20 minute service.
As for the other crossings on the Werribee line, Hudsons Rd in Spotswood is already a congested area, and that crossing should have been given priority. Ditto Anderson St in Yarraville and the other 3 mentioned by Arfman above – Maidstone St and Maddox and Champion Rds. If there’s going to be another 35 trains on the Werribee line then these crossings are going to be closed more often than they’re open.

@Anna, I think duplication of Altona loop has a lot of potential for increased frequency and no doubt it will improve the reliability of the service. I think that’s a very good outcome from this project + the level crossing removal in a vital freight route. So I wouldn’t call it a complete waste.

Most of the crossing removals came with significant upgrade to station, bus interchange, amenities and rail infrastructure. I believe we need to remove each and every level crossing but it will take time and also needs a lot of money.

I hope people vote them in and they remove all the 75 crossings by 2025. They have a very good track record and consistency as far as this project is concerned. And if everything goes well, I guess they will update the list again with 25 more crossings at the end of their next term in 2022.

I do hear, that the powers to be, are rather keen to move the Metro network to just two fleets. being the Xtrapolis and HCMTs. Under this plan, both the Comeng and Siemens trains will be gone.

It would have made a lot of sense, to have started on the Upfiled line removal, from Brunswick Street to up near Fawkner, all in one go, and, to have used the same cranes as used on the Murrumbeena site. Just move the Murrumbeena one over to say Moreland as that project was completed.

Does anybody know where the Murrumbeena crane is now?

I think it should be 52 are in the works to be closed Park Rd Cheltenham and Mascot Ave Bonbeach weren’t in the original 50.

I predict the other 11 level crossings selected for removal are:
– Fitzgerald Rd, Ardeer
– Mt Derrimut Rd, Deer Park
– Robinsons Rd, Deer Park West
– Macauley Rd, Kensington
– Greens Rd, Dandenong South
– Webster St, Dandenong
– McGregor Rd, Pakenham / Main Rd, Pakenham
– Madden Grove, Burnley
– Glenferrie Rd, Kooyong
– Tooronga Rd, Glen Iris
– High St, Glen Iris

I hope the two in Highett get done as the roundabout on Wickham road which goes through the level crossing is a huge hazard.

Highest rosd is a big congestion point too.

I lived in rippinlea and the grossing at the station Glen Ira road would also be worthy for a change in my opinion.

The LXRA website fact sheets suggest early preferences are “Road over Rail” for Hoppers Crossing, “Lowered road under Rail” for Sunbury, and “Rail under Road” for Mont Albert & Surrey Hills.

Technically the original package is still a net 50 grade separations given the 2 planned crossing closures in Carrum (Eel Race Rd was on the 2014 list, with Mascot Ave was added to the list last year in exchange for the Station St bridge over Patterson River)

Hopefully Chelsea sees the Chelsea Rd crossing replaced with a Thames Promenade connection 100m up the line. Edithvale plans should also be reviewed, the current trench proposal returns to ground level just in time the Lochiel Av crossing, although traffic levels & the local network would suggest this crossing could potentially just be closed.

Frankston line commuters better get used to rail replacement buses with the increased time it’ll take to dig all these trenches as opposed to skyrail. I’d have thought it might be smart to finish Carrum first, make it as pretty/functional as possible, and then pursue skyrail at other sites once locals have had a chance to get used to it, but alas.

Chelsea should just have one crossing at Thames Promenade, anything else would be a gross waste of money.

@Craig the whole section from Mordialloc to Carrum should be skyrail. Would open up a massive amount of space near the beach

So does the retirement of Comeng trains mean lines that aren’t compatible with X Trapolis trains at the moment will be upgraded to allow them to run on those lines eg. Craigieburn, Upfield, Sandringham?

Are any level crossings being removed as part of the Melton duplication project?

@ Gene
I would think that Evans Rd and Camms Rd level crossings would also be removed as part of the Cranbourne duplication project.


I don’t see why we should be removing ComEng and Siemens trains at this stage. We need as many rollingstock as we have at the moment. The Siemens trains are as new as many of the Xtrapolis trains and IMO have a much better ride quality. The ComEng are undergoing a refurbishment program (one of many) and are in decent shape too so scrapping them would be a waste.

I believe the major impediment to removing the central cabs is that the maintenance facilities are designed to take only 3 cars at a time. Not sure about the practicalities of shunting with the moment siding central cabs.

I agree the Sunshine-Deer Park West crossing are likely to go, likely as part of Melton electrification related quadruplication to separate suburban trains and the RRL.

Macaulay Rd, Kensington is one of the more obvious gaps in the original 50, however they have already announced the other gaps are going, so I am unsure whether this will be one they propose.

On the Glen Waverley line Tooronga and Glenferrie Rds are the most likely to be announced, as they are either side of the already promised Toorak Rd, Madden Grove is the least likely as it likely involves major Burnley Sidings works and might require the closure of the line to Camberwell as well and High St is somewhere in between.

I do not have any idea which the other crossing will be.

It seems like with the exception of Macaulay Road, Kensignton (which has numerous reasons not to remove it), Labor are now filling in the bizarre omissions from their 2014 list, and then focusing on complete lines.

I suspect that the remaining ones to be announced are further south on the Upfield and Mernda lines, and will tactically deployed closer to election day against Greens.

I’m incredulous that so many comments don’t even acknowledge the residential communities that those monstrous SKYRAILs pass through. They change the whole character of communities by robbing them of local amenity…clear skies, home privacy and community charm & character…all become consumed by steel & concrete. And the amplified and extended noise & vibration on the diesel freight lines has proven to be horrendous for residential living. The residents are condemned to live with all of that for a lifetime…FOREVER…without a thought, whilst transient motorists and commuters get priority consideration. It’s social& environmental vandalism at best especially at Carrum which is a unique site where the rail runs along the coastline 140m from the high waterline. SKYRAIL will destroy 900+m of the 1200m coastline at Carrum which the Carrum community and all Victorians who own that coastline heritage can never replace. Rail Under Road CAN be done at Carrum and independent engineering proves it. (Btw, for the uneducated, either option at Carrum begins at the sth River abutment, does not involve the river). It’s criminal. As for the traffic flow/ congestion debate, the LXRAs own data reveals an average time saving of .98 min. Per site across the board currently exists. What a joke! Daniel Andrews has just borrowed another $4.7b to cover the cost blowouts on SKYRAIL. Btw, my claims are legitimate and supported by empirical & referenced with researched evidence by established authorities world wide.

The only major arterial roads that the Upfield line crosses on the level south of Moreland Rd is Brunswick Rd, so they might announce that, possibly in combination with Park St but anything further north is high cost (lots of rebuilding (including of stations, one of the more expensive part of rebuilds) and lots of heritage issues) for low return (no major arterials, no trams crossing low frequency trains to justify them). The Upfield line will probably have to wait for Wallan electrification, when it will be come a much longer line with a lot more trains, to justify further removals.

While the Mernda line has more trains than the Upfield line, it similarly has only one significant arterial road crossed on the level south of Bell St, Normanby Avenue. Normanby Avenue is also away from stations but if the station locations on the were changed (a station at Millier St (to interchange with a revived 14 tram and the 552 bus) and Normanyby Avenue (to interchange wih the 510 bus) to replace the existing Croxton and Thornbury, make logical sense), that could change

Skyrail is not without its downsides but you cannot expect every comment on the subject to mention them.

Many rooms facing skyrail and gardens within have a reduced level of privacy, many significantly and the privacy screens could do a better job. However, many of the rooms and gardens directly facing the railway could still be seen into from passing trains and many of the gardens now visible from the railway are front gardens visible from the street. Rooms with a reduced level of privacy can have privacy curtains or similar installed to restore some privacy. Trees and screens can be planted/installed in gardens to restore some privacy.

Some places don`t get some at some times of the day they used to. However that also occurs in many cases from new buildings on private land or (if the Coalition get the intersection removal policy up) elevated intersection removals, so it`s not fair to single out railways.

Skyrail also brings the new parkland and far greater walkable connectivity for local streets, increasing community space and connectivity. Neither of these get anywhere near as much boost from the railway being put into a cutting, which would have a more significant cost to building over.

Rail closures for construction have also been minimised.

The trains have a far nicer view of roofs, treetops and distant mountains, compared with ugly concrete walls.

The train by the Nepean Highway with 100-200 metres of housing between the highway and the beach setup runs from Carrum to the boundary between Aspendale and Mordialloc.

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