Last week the State Government announced another ten level crossings to be removed, on the Pakenham, Frankston, Mernda, Sunbury, Lilydale and Belgrave lines.
This made sense in part because they want to keep the workforce busy once other projects are completed. Leave it too long and those skilled people will move elsewhere, and you can’t get them back for the next tranche of projects.
What’s pretty cool about this is that when these (and the others already pledged) are done, the Cranbourne/Pakenham and Lilydale lines will be completely free of road level crossings – though there will still be some pedestrian crossings.
Unfortunately while there’ll be no crossings on the Lilydale line, there will still be single track at the outer end, so the capacity limitations and delays this causes won’t be resolved. This seems like a missed opportunity.
Happily they are duplicating lengthy remaining single sections of the Cranbourne line as part of grade separation projects.
Generally, the closer to the City, the busier the trains and the roads. So delays and disruptions due to single track and level crossings (be it from heavy rail traffic, or incidents) tends to affect more people the closer in it is.
So then, once all current projects are completed, how much single track will be left, and where will the innermost crossings be?
Here’s a comparison in map form: 2021 (left) vs 2025 (right):
- Red circles are the closest crossings to the City
- Orange shows all single track on the Metro network (Some of the stations on single track sections have passing loops). Sorry, I haven’t done V/Line sections.
- Base map is the official PTV map.
If you want it, I’ve also put the same information in a table.
|Line/s||Closest crossing now||Closest crossing 2025||Single track|
|Altona/ Werribee/ Williamstown||Anderson Street, Yarraville||same||Most of the Altona Loop|
|Geelong/ Warrnambool||Fitzgerald Road, Ardeer*||via Wyndham Vale: Wests Road, Werribee|
via Werribee: Browns Road, Werribee
|Mostly single track beyond Geelong, to Warrnambool|
|Ballarat/ Ararat||Fitzgerald Road, Ardeer*||Hopkins Road, Rockbank||Some single track beyond Melton, to Ballarat and Ararat|
|Sunbury/ Bendigo||Calder Park Drive*||Watsons Road, near Diggers Rest||Some single track between Kyneton and Bendigo|
|Craigieburn/ Seymour/ Flemington Racecourse||Macaulay Road, Kensington||same||Some single track between Tallarook and Seymour|
|Upfield||Arden Street, North Melbourne||same||Gowrie to Upfield|
|Mernda/ Hurstbridge||Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill||same||Greensborough to Hurstbridge (being partially duplicated)|
|Lilydale||Union Road, Surrey Hills||none||Mooroolbark to Lilydale|
|Belgrave||Union Road, Surrey Hills||Alpine Street, Ferntree Gully||Ferntree Gully to Belgrave|
|Alamein||Riversdale Road, Riversdale||same||Ashburton to Alamein|
|Glen Waverley||Madden Grove, Burnley||same||None|
|Cranbourne / Pakenham||Webster Street, Dandenong||none||Dandenong to Cranbourne (fully duplicated by 2025)|
|Gippsland||Webster Street, Dandenong||Koo Wee Rup Road, Nar Nar Goon||Some single track between Bunyip and Bairnsdale|
|Frankston||Neerim Road, Glen Huntly||Wickham Road, Highett||Single beyond Frankston, to Stony Point|
|Sandringham||Greville Street, Prahran||same||None|
Have I made any errors? Let me know in the comments.
Single track limits the number of trains that can run, and causes delays to snowball.
Even post-2025, there’ll still be sections of single track on the Altona Loop, Upfield, Lilydale and Belgrave lines. The Hurstbridge line will have some sections duplicated, but still have some single track. (There’s also been recent progress on the Ballarat line.)
As with crossings, the effects of the single track are reduced as you get further from the City, but with Melbourne ever-expanding, these do need to be resolved – especially the Altona Loop and the Upfield line, where cancellations and diversions leave long waits between services.
Once completed in 2025, many lines will have their inner sections completely separated from motor vehicles. This should help a lot with the impacts of motor vehicle vs train accidents.
Notable inner-city crossings remaining will remain at Clifton Hill (not too much traffic, hopefully lower risk than some), on the Sandringham line (which has received no removal projects whatsoever), Madden Grove on the Glen Waverley line (perhaps the busiest road crossing remaining in Zone 1), Macaulay Road on the Craigieburn and Upfield lines, and several more on the Upfield line. Also several on the busiest section of the Werribee/Williamstown line – including at Yarraville (lead image for this post) and Spotswood where there was a crash just a few weeks ago.
By 2025 when the Metro tunnel opens, the Sunbury line will almost be crossing free. Just two left on the outer section of the line between Diggers Rest and Sunbury. The government says it may be difficult to justify the cost of grade separating these: Watsons Road is a quiet country road. Old Calder Highway looks a bit busier.
Maybe in a few years they’ll look at these? Zero crossings would be a prerequisite for driverless trains, though there are other significant barriers, including much of the line from Sunbury through to Cranbourne/Pakenham being shared with V/Line and freight.
It’s actually amazing to think that by 2025 the number of crossings in Melbourne will have been roughly halved. When the 2009 ALCAM study was done, there were 180. Removal of 85 is now committed, a reduction of 47%. This would have been unimaginable not too long ago.
It’s an expensive program, certainly. There are benefits for everyone – though this would be an easier sell if some lines didn’t repeatedly miss out on getting new stations (hello to you, Werribee line).
Still, great progress. Whether it keeps rolling may depend on the 2022 State Election. With Labor said to be wanting to fight this on infrastructure, you can bet more crossings will be pledged for removal. Hopefully this includes the rest of the worst – but hopefully they also continue to address more single track sections – and of course better implement service upgrades to go alongside these infrastructure improvements.