All over Melbourne’s growth areas, new railway stations are a commonly requested big ticket item. So how often does something get done about it?
For the western suburb of Caroline Springs, that call was answered in the ‘Victorian Transport Plan’ released in November 2008, which committed to the following:
$220 million for new stations in growth areas including Williams Landing and Caroline Springs in the west, Cardinia Road and Lynbrook in the south-east, starting in 2010.
Unlike most government transport plans that get forgotten after a few years, in July 2009 the Minister for Public Transport issued a media release stating that design work for the new stations had commenced:
Public Transport Minister Lynne Kosky said construction of the four new stations announced in the $38 billion Victorian Transport Plan would start next year.
“Access to public transport services for communities in Melbourne’s growth areas will be dramatically improved with the construction of these four new stations at Lynbrook, Williams Landing, Cardinia Road and Caroline Springs.
“With construction of the new stations to begin in 2010, the design of the four new stations has been packaged together to deliver maximum efficiencies in both the design and construction phase, while also minimising impacts on the train network.”
The design of the new station at Caroline Springs was revealed in a media release dated June 2010, so the “stating construction next year” promise given in 2009 by the former Minister for Public Transport was still achievable:
Minister for Public Transport, Martin Pakula, has unveiled designs for the new train station for Caroline Springs, marking an important milestone for the project.
“The new station for Caroline Springs will be a functional and modern space, enhancing passenger safety and security with closed circuit camera security surveillance throughout the facility.
“There will be bicycle facilities, a taxi rank and bus stops, making it easier for those who use different modes of travel to get to and from the station.
Member for Kororoit Marlene Kairouz said that new V/Line station will be welcomed by the growing community as they will no longer have to travel to other stations to catch a train.
“The new station for Caroline Springs will service a population that is expected to grow to nearly 25,000 within the next 10 years and also reduce congestion at neighbouring railway stations,” Ms Kairouz.
The site selected was south of the actual suburb of Caroline Springs, being located where Christies Road met the railway, to the west of the Deer Park Bypass.
However the cost to build the new station was criticised by The Age in an article published in August 2010:
New railway stations priced at $20 million each four years ago are now set to cost Victorian taxpayers $55 million each, according to Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula.
Mr Pakula has admitted in a statement to Parliament that the average expected cost of stations the government promised in 2006 at Lynbrook, Williams Landing and Cardinia Road in Pakenham had almost tripled. The three stations, all to be built on existing lines, were initially priced at a total of $60 million, including costs over a decade, in a 2006 plan.
By the time of the 2008 plan – state Labor’s fourth transport strategy in a decade – a fourth proposed station had been added at Caroline Springs, and the total estimated cost of building them all had ballooned to $220 million.
Replying to a question in Parliament from opposition upper house MP Ed O’Donohue on the four stations, Mr Pakula sought to explain the massive price difference by saying the cost put forward in 2006 was “a high-level planning estimate”.
“This figure was a high-level planning estimate and was limited to basic infrastructure costs for the construction of three stations,” Mr Pakula said.
“It did not include a station for Caroline Springs, which is funded in the $220 million package … Additionally, the budget incorporates general cost escalations in the construction industry.”
The 2006 plan mentioned in the article was titled ‘Meeting Our Transport Challenges’ and has since been shoved down the ‘Memory Hole’ – no longer appearing on the websites of the Department of Transport or Public Transport Victoria.
You’d think with only an artists impression released by the government and the cost ballooning, that Caroline Springs station was on shaky ground, but in November 2010 the politicians actually made a trip out to the site in order to turn the first sod on the project:
Work on the new Caroline Springs railway station has begun, even though it’s not in the suburb it’s meant to serve.
Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula was last week joined by Kororoit state Labor MP Marlene Kairouz to turn the first sod at the V/Line station, at the southern end of Christies Rd in Ravenhall.
Mr Pakula said delivering a new train station near Caroline Springs was important in serving the local community, expected to grow to nearly 25,000 within 10 years.
“The station, due to open in 2012, will serve current and future public transport needs and help people access jobs, study and also stay connected with family and friends,” he said.
The new station will be on the Melton line between Rockbank and Deer Park stations, about 1km south of Caroline Springs.
The government also launched the customary yet pointless ‘choose the station name’ competition:
The State Government has so far received more than 200 entries for a competition to name the new station but has yet to announce a winner.
By February 2011 work on the access road to the new station was well underway.
But the change of government at the 2010 State Election led to the rest of the project being shelved:
In Caroline Springs, a road has been built to where the new $55 million railway station was intended to go. But the station project, like so many others in the state, is in limbo with no start date in sight. The road leads to empty paddocks
Melton shire mayor Justin Mammarella branded the connection to the Caroline Springs railway station a “road to nowhere”.
“It is ironic that the current state government has commenced works on the road extension … but has placed the construction of the station on hold,” he said.
Once the road was completed concrete traffic barriers were placed across it, presumably to stop local hoons from using it as a drag strip.
Fast forward to February 2012 and the buck passing between the two sides of parliament fired up again:
Quizzed on ABC local radio about when the Baillieu government would deliver the station, Mr Baillieu said: “I will have to check on the date, but Caroline Springs obviously there are commitments there, and the timing of that I would have to double check on that.”
When questioned late yesterday, the Baillieu government revealed there was no date for the construction of the station.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said “the previous Labor government failed to allow for sufficient new or upgraded electrical substations for new stations planned as part of its growth area railway station program”.
“Prior to proceeding substantially further with a new railway station at Caroline Springs, the Coalition government is fixing this in relation to the new Cardinia Road [near Pakenham] and Lynbrook [near Cranbourne] stations that will open in 2012.”
Trains that pass through the Caroline Springs station site are diesel powered, not electric, so what has the upgrade of traction power substations have to do with the delays out west? Thankfully someone in parliament took up the issue with Terry Mulder, as recorded in the transcripts of Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s meeting on May 15, 2013:
Ms HENNESSY — Minister, I have a question about Caroline Springs station. When I go to budget paper 4, page 124, under ‘New stations in growth areas’ I see that funding for Caroline Springs station is pretty conspicuous in its absence, but it was not conspicuous in its absence on PTV’s rail plan, which effectively said it has already been built. What is the go?
Mr MULDER — Okay; what is the go with Caroline Springs. There is a new station planned on the Ballarat line for Caroline Springs. The access road from Deer Park bypass to the station car park at the site has already been constructed. Land has been purchased and detailed design for the station has now been completed. The station is one of four stations that make up the New Stations in Growth Areas program, which also included Lynbrook, Cardinia Road and Williams Landing railway stations. Construction of two new substations has also been added to the scope of the program, because they were left out of the original scope of the program. I think we all understood what happened at Lynbrook and Cardinia Road—there was not enough power to pull trains away from the stations.
Ms HENNESSY — Is there money in the budget to build Caroline Springs railway station, given that the PTV plan says it has already been built?
Mr MULDER — Given that there was a sum allocated to the growth area program, the final accounts for the contractors on Cardinia Road, Lynbrook and Williams Landing stations are in the process of being settled, as I understand, at the moment. That is why the budget is under review. When we came to government there were a number of projects that had massive cost overruns, including projects in that particular program, and PTV is finalising, as we speak, a settlement with some of the contractors over some of the very, very large claims that were laid as a result of the construction of some of those other projects. Ian, would you like to
expand on that?
Mr DOBBS — That is correct. When PTV came into operation we inherited a number of projects that had considerable claims from the contractors. We are now actually in the final stages of concluding those, and we are confident that that will actually leave funds within the budget. But we want to see first of all exactly what those funds are and see whether they can actually, if you like, satisfy the scope of the project as it is—which we have managed to reduce anyway, because we actually looked at the design and found more cost-effective ways of building the stations as well.
Mr MULDER — Yes. I think it is important to understand that we have not stopped. Consultants have been appointed, all the design work has been completed and the project is basically ready to go to tender. We just want to get an understanding: do we have money within the budget for that allocation after we have worked through the cost overruns with the contractors? We have progressed that project.
So in short, the government says the four stations in the Victorian Transport Plan’s “growth area program” had a $220 million bucket of cash to share, and because Lynbrook, Cardinia Road and Williams Landing stations spent most of it, the station at Caroline Springs has been put on hold.
Regional Rail Link is another rail project now underway near Caroline Springs, and it appears some local residents have confused work on it with the restarting of work at Caroline Springs station, as the minutes of the April 2013 meeting of the Regional Rail Link Community Reference Group show:
Laura-Jo Mellan (Melton Shire, Coordinator Strategic Planning) expressed concern that residents are calling Council as they think that Caroline Springs station is being built where works are occurring at Christies Road. Suggests a letterbox drop or other communication be undertaken.
Deer Park-West Werribee Junction project team to clarify the purpose of Christies Road works to public.
The aforementioned work confusing residents is the extension of the mothballed station access road over the existing Ballarat railway line – the bridge is required to serve the nearby Boral Quarry which will otherwise be isolated when the existing east-west roads are severed by the new Regional Rail Link tracks that will run north-south across them.
- Victorian Transport Plan: Victorian Government, November 2008
- Four New Stations for Melbourne on Track: Minister for Public Transport, 16 July 2009
- Designs Unveiled for New Station for Caroline Springs: Minister for Public Transport, 4 June 2010
- Labor in transport cost blowout: Clay Lucas, The Age, 19 August 2010
- Caroline Springs station started: Belinda Nolan, Star News Group, 2 November 2010
- Work starts on Caroline Springs train station, just a bit south: Andrew Jefferson, Melton Leader, 7 November 2010
- State of limbo: Baillieu’s project logjam: Jason Dowling and David Rood, The Age, 25 March 2011
- Caroline Springs station in limbo: Jason Dowling, The Age, 1 February 2012
- Minutes of the Regional Rail Link Community Reference Group: April 2013
- Transcripts of Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: 15 May 2013