Photos from ten years ago: May 2006

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time May 2006.

The everyday scene between Burnley and East Richmond isn’t much different to today.

Graffiti along the concrete cutting walls between Burnley and East Richmond

The change to Metro Trains Melbourne running the rail network haven’t been much better for cleanliness, as Melbourne’s graffiti covered cutting walls attest.

Over at Southern Cross the station itself was virtually complete.

Crowds of passengers at Southern Cross

Unfortunately the wide open spaces of the Collins Street concourse have been lost in the years since, with ticket gates and tacky shops taking over the station.

However at the shopping centre end of the complex work was still ongoing, when I came across a set of escalators being installed at the Little Bourke Street entrance to the complex.

Placing escalators for the DFO shopping centre, across from Little Bourke Street

V/Line trains were much quieter a decade ago – this two carriage VLocity train sufficed for an off-peak Geelong bound service on a Friday afternoon.

VL15 on a down Geelong service at Footscray

The initial order of VLocity trains consisted of 38 two carriage trains, but in the decade since the fleet has been expanded to 59 trains, each set having been expanded to three carriage long.

Short V/Line trains also served Bendigo and Ballarat passengers, as this single VLocity train passing through Middle Footscray shows.

VL02 heads for the city at West Footscray

The scene at Middle Footscray has changed massively in the past decade – in 2011 a vast swathe of houses along the railway line were compulsorily acquired to make way for the Regional Rail Link project.

A more alarming V/Line movement was this collision between two empty trains.

You can see BCH122 on an angle here

The shunting mishap occurred when an empty train being moved around the carriage yards at Southern Cross Station was pushed towards a second empty train, resulting in a few scrapes and dings along the sides of the two trains when they met.

You can see the damage to the side of BCH121

Still on the subject of V/Line, in March 2006 I photographed a pair of VLocity trains crossing over the infamous North Melbourne flyover – cause of the excessive wheel wear issues that afflicted the V/Line fleet in 2016.

VL18 leading VL15, waiting on the flyover to head back to Southern Cross

A decade ago the flyover saw little use, with only empty V/Line trains using it, along with interstate rail services to Sydney and Adelaide.

From the same location I also photographed a freight train carrying cement from the Blue Circle Southern works at Waurn Ponds, outside Geelong, to their distribution facility at Lyndhurst, south of Dandenong.

VL14 waiting on the flyover, NR liveried C class shunting in the background, and a PN blue hopper in the cement train consist below

This rail service to Lyndhurst was discontinued in April 2009 when the traffic moved to road transport, with the carriage of cement by rail being abandoned altogether in December 2015.

Another photo from North Melbourne was this collection of V/Line locomotives, all wearing the older ‘blood and bone’ livery.

A70, P14 and N462 on the flyover at North Melbourne

Represented is an N class that forms the core of the V/Line long distance network, a P class that is only used to haul short distance commuter services, and an A class locomotive that used to fill in on peak hour runs, until they were almost retired in April 2013 thanks to the addition of more VLocity railcars to the V/Line fleet.

And another item of railfan interest at North Melbourne was this motley collection of trains, ready to convey railway sleepers and ballast to a work site.

W241 and W244 push-pull an empty sleeper train; A79, T364 and Y168 on a loaded ballast at Melbourne Yard

The dinky little units to the left belong to W class of diesel hydraulic locomotives – they entered service way back in 1960 only to be withdrawn from service in the 1980s, but W241 and W244 somehow managed to hang on for another two decades.

And we finish up with this odd looking colour scheme on freight locomotive NR30 passing through West Footscray.

Indigenous liveried NR30 on a steel train at West Footscray

In 1997 the National Rail Corporation introduced their new fleet of NR class locomotives, and decided to commission Indigenous artist Bessie Liddle to decorate two of the units – the end result was NR30 named ‘Warmi’ and NR52 named ‘Kungara Mankurpa’.

As you can see, a decade in the Australian sun didn’t treat the artwork well, with the locomotives being repainted into a standard livery by 2008/09.

Footnote

The full ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

Furlong Main and the St Albans roller coaster

Hundreds of millions of dollars are currently being spent on Sunbury line at St Albans to grade separate Furlong Road and Main Road, with Ginifer and St Albans stations also being rebuilt as part of the work. A noble objective given the history of fatal accidents in the area, but thanks to the half-arsed way the project has been planned, the Level Crossing Removal Authority has missed the most important bit – removing every level crossing.

Alstom Comeng 669M crosses the soon to be removed Furlong Road level crossing at Ginifer

Some background

The St Albans area has a long history of level crossing fatalities.

Flowers near Ginifer station after the latest fatality, the pedestrian crossing is at the down end of the platforms

In 2004 three people died at the Furlong Road level crossing when their car was struck by a train, in 2011 a pedestrian was killed by a train at Ginifer station after running through a closed level crossing, and since 2006 St Albans station has seen two fatalities and 39 near misses involving pedestrians.

Another pedestrian races across the level crossing as a stopping train approaches

So how many level crossings are in the area?

Starting at the Melbourne end we have Furlong Road – four lanes of traffic protected by boom gates, and a pedestrian crossing on the north side protected by automated gates.

EDI Comeng 473M leads a down Sunbury service across Furlong Road into Ginifer

At the Melbourne end of Ginifer station is another pedestrian crossing, protected by automated gates.

EDI Comeng arrives into Ginifer with a citybound service

Next up is Ginifer station.

Comeng 349M arrives into Ginifer on the up, as a down train arrives into the other platform

Between Ginifer and St Albans stations we have the Willis Street pedestrian crossing – it lacks warning devices or pedestrian gates.

Willis Street pedestrian crossing between Ginifer and St Albans stations

We now arrive at St Albans station.

Up and down train cross paths at St Albans

Main Road at St Albans has four lanes of traffic protected by boom gates, and a pedestrian crossing on both sides, each protected by automated gates.

Down train crosses the Main Road level crossing at St Albans

And finally, the Ruth Street pedestrian crossing at the north end of St Albans, protected by automated gates.

Ruth Street pedestrian crossing at the down end of St Albans station

History of the project

With such a considerable history of fatalities around St Albans, removing the Main Road level crossing has long been a political football. In February 2013 the Federal and Victorian Governments argued over who should fund the works:

The Federal Transport and Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese, and Maribyrnong MP Bill Shorten today visited the St Albans site.

“We’ve got a level crossing that is notorious,” Mr Shorten said.

“People have been killed, it’s been a neglected issue for decades.”

Mr Shorten says 16 people have been killed at the level crossing in the last few decades.

“The St Albans level crossing should’ve been fixed 20, 30 years ago,” he said.

“We’re still here, forced to watch people almost engaging in Russian roulette.

“The message is very clear, now’s the time for bipartisan, now’s the time for something as important as life and death, to put the State versus Federal Government aside, and fix the most dangerous level crossing in Victoria.”

In April 2014 the two levels of government finally came to an agreement to remove the Main Road crossing.

On Sunday morning, Premier Denis Napthine said the Coalition would remove the Main Road crossing in St Albans after allocating $200 million for the overhaul, $151 million of which will be provided the by the Federal Government, and the rest from the state with savings generated from the Regional Rail Link project.

At the time Transport Minister Terry Mulder said that a rail under road solution was the best option.

“There were a couple options to consider, and one was to put rail over road, and which would have had a significant impact on the community in this area.

“But the community asked for rail under road, the state architect suggested rail under road, and that is a far better outcome for those who live in St Albans.”

The November 2014 state election saw a Daniel Andrews led Labor party win government, with their commitment to remove 50 level crossings around Melbourne.

Construction started soon after at Main Road, but March 2015 saw additional action at St Albans, as the removal of the Furlong Road level crossing was also added to the agenda.

The Furlong Road level crossing in St Albans could be removed at the same time as the Main Road level crossing in a new plan being considered by VicRoads.

“Bundling level-crossing removal projects, where they are in close proximity and located on the same rail line, could result in cost savings and reduce the impacts of construction on local communities and businesses and rail customers,” the VicRoads website says.

State Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan would not confirm or deny whether the Furlong Road level crossing would be removed in conjunction with the Main Road project.

Turns out the bundling of level crossings removals got the green light, as in June 2015 it was announced that the Furlong Road level crossing would now be part of the new “Furlong Main Level Crossing Removal Project”.

St Albans and Ginifer railway stations will go underground as works start to eliminate two dangerous level crossings in the area.

The state government last week named Leighton Contractors, and Aurecon and Hyder Consulting to design and carry out the crossing works at Main and Furlong roads with the rail line to be lowered under the road.

St Albans and Ginifer stations will be rebuilt with platforms below street level. A time line for each project is not known.

Removing two level crossings at the same time might sound like a good idea, but unfortunately the reality is somewhat lacking.

What is actually getting done

Despite being called the “Furlong Main Level Crossing Removal Project” the removal of the Main Road and Furlong Road level crossings is not a holistic project – work at St Albans station was well underway before it was decided that Ginifer was part of the project scope, resulting in a half-arsed solution.

Alstom Comeng 598M departs St Albans on the down

The Level Crossing Removal Authority website has this to say on the project scope:

Furlong Road, St Albans

This level crossing removal will include:

  • lowering the rail line below Furlong Road
  • moving Ginifer Station up to the intersection at Furlong Road, with access to the station at Furlong Road and Bond Street
  • installing platforms in the rail cutting accessed via lifts, ramp and stairs
  • building a walking and cycling path parallel to the rail line, from Furlong Road to Willis Street
  • relocating the car park to the east of the rail line, maintaining at least the same number of spaces.

Main Road, St Albans

Removal of the Main Road level crossing will transform the station area into a modern transport interchange. The design includes:

  • lowering the rail line below Main Road
  • rebuilding St Albans Station
  • accessing lowered platforms via lifts, ramps and stairs
  • reconstructing the station car park providing the same number of spaces as a minimum
  • building a walking and cycling path
  • relocating the bus interchange from Alfrieda Street to either side of the station
  • a pedestrian overpass at Ruth Street.

The big omission

The interesting bit about the Furlong Main project is what they don’t say online – hence I sent the Level Crossing Removal Authority an email seeking clarification about the project scope.

First off – I asked for technical details and received the answers I wanted:

Q: At the Melbourne end of the works, where do the tracks start heading underground?
A: Approximately 350-400m south of Furlong Road
Q: What track gradient is in place between there and the new platform at Ginifer?
A: 1.96% (horizontal curve compensated)
Q: How far below the surface are the new platforms at Ginifer?
A: Approximately 6.5m below existing surface
Q: How far below the surface are the new platforms at St Albans?
A: Approximately 6.0m below existing
Q: At the Sunbury end of the works, where do the tracks return to ground level?
A: Approximately 1000m north of Main Road
Q: What track gradient will be between there and the new platform at St Albans?
A: 1.95% (horizontal curve compensated)
Q: Where will the pedestrian overpass at Ruth Street, St Albans be built?
A: On the site of the existing pedestrian crossing and approximately 1.5 – 2.0 metres above the existing ground level

And I also asked them about the Willis Street pedestrian crossing, situated between Ginifer and St Albans stations:

The existing Willis Street pedestrian crossing remains at ground level, however, it will be upgraded to active gates from passive gates (automatic closure of gates when the train is detected)

Track grade back up to existing surface between Ginifer Station and Willis Street pedestrian crossing, with the track gradient 1.96% curve compensated. Track grade between Willis St pedestrian crossing and St Albans Station into the cutting is 1.97% curve compensated.

A total of $480 million is being spent to remove four level crossings – Heatherdale Rd in Mitcham, Blackburn Rd in Blackburn, and the neighbouring level crossings at Main and Furlong Roads in St Albans. So it doesn’t seem good enough that a pedestrian crossing with a history of fatalities is being left behind by the government, especially given that it is located next door to two crossings that are being removed.

Willis Street pedestrian crossing at the down end of Ginifer, and more flowers

And inefficiencies as well

The lack of forward planning on the Furlong Main level crossings removal projects will also make train operations on the Sunbury line less efficient. With both Ginifer and St Albans stations below ground except for the short section of track between them, each train will have to do the following:

  • hard on the brakes headed downhill into St Albans station,
  • accelerate hard out up the grade back out,
  • reach Willis Street and coast over the top of the grade,
  • slam on the brakes again for the descent in to Ginifer station,
  • and finally, accelerate hard out of the station to reach ground level again.

(and vice versa in the other direction)

Compare this with the current situation – a slow climb on the line towards Sunbury, and a slow descent on the way to the city – an extract from the 1989 Grades and Curves diagram book for Victoria.

Grades and curves chart - Ginifer to St Albans

As a result, the new roller coaster track through St Albans will increase the amount of electricity required to power trains on the Sunbury line, and thanks to the lack of regenerative braking systems on the Melbourne rail network, any momentum built up by trains headed downhill can’t be used to power trains powering uphill – the energy can only be burn off as heat.

Wasteful, isn’t it?

Alternatives

If Furlong Road had have been included in the scope as part of the original Main Road level crossing removal project, and not as an afterthought once construction had already began, other options could have been considered.

From St Albans the existing trench at Main Road could have been continued south all the way to Ginifer station, with the Willis Street pedestrian crossing replaced by a bridge. While this would have resulted in the removal of all level crossings in the area, the “better” option of rail under road would be even more costly than the current roller coaster design, due to the greater amount of excavation and retaining walls required, and would still cut the suburb in two with a massive trench.

X'Trapolis train arrives into Gardiner station via the new low level tracks

Elevated rail would have been the perfect solution – raise the tracks between St Albans and Ginifer onto a viaduct and rebuild new stations on top, and in the process remove the barrier that the railway tracks currently form. The existing railway reservation is wide and paralleled by existing streets, so unlike other parts of Melbourne, overshadowing of nearby residents won’t be an issue.

EDI Comeng departs Ginifer station with a down Watergardens service

Yet another example why forward planning for Melbourne’s rail network is so important, and an important lesson for residents along the Dandenong and Frankston lines – a rail under road approach doesn’t guarantee that the government will actually place an entire railway line below ground.

Photos from ten years ago: April 2006

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – April 2006, which was somehow a very quiet month for me.

In the railyards beside North Melbourne station there were plenty of trains to be seen – wagons loaded with new concrete sleepers and ballast were being prepared for a weekend of track maintenance, while a quad lashup of freight locomotives headed past on their way to be serviced.

G527, X44, XR554 and H2 pass various works trains at Melbourne Yard

At Southern Cross Station I spotted a pair of Hitachi trains cross paths, each still in the green and gold ‘The Met’ livery of the 1990s.

88M and 129M at Southern Cross Station

At that point six Hitachi trains were still in service on the Melbourne rail network, with the tattered vinyl decals not being replaced by Connex branding until 2007.

And on the subject of rebranding, at North Melbourne I spotted a massive pile of discarded station signs – made redundant by the rollout of Metlink branding across the Melbourne rail network.

Massive pile of old PTC station nameboards waiting for someone...

Footnote

My ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series has finally caught up to the month that it related too – hopefully I can keep it this way!

Missed a spot – Nunawading and Mitcham level crossing removals

With millions of dollars being spent across Melbourne in recent years on level crossing removal projects, it is interesting to see what doesn’t get upgraded. A good example of this can be found between Nunawading and Mitcham – a pair of railway stations that have both been recently grade separated.

Transdev bus #8012 rego 8059AO on a route 902 service at Nunawading

Nunawading station is located next to Springvale Road, with the level crossing being grade separated in 2009-10 at a cost of $140 million. A new station was built on the western side of the road.

X'Trapolis 200M arrives into Nunawading with a down Lilydale service

With brand new tracks passing beneath Springvale Road.

Stairs linking the west side of Springvale Road to the platforms at Nunawading station

And a cutting on the eastern side, using brand new concrete sleepered track to link it back to the existing ground level tracks.

X'Trapolis 932M arrives into Nunawading with an up service

Meanwhile at Mitcham, the station was rebuilt in 2013-14 as part of the grade separation of the Mitcham Road and Rooks Road level crossings – with total project cost of $192 million. A new station was built at the bottom of a concrete trench.

X'Trapolis 102M arrives into Mitcham station on a down Belgrave service

Mitcham Road passes over the tracks at the eastern end of the station, where the newly built tracks return to ground level.

X'Trapolis train departs Mitcham station on a down Belgrave service

While new tracks at the bottom of the concrete cutting continue a kilometre west towards Nunawading, where Rooks Road passes over the top.

Google Street View - trenched railway at Rooks Road, Mitcham

However penny pinching becomes apparent when you look at the tracks between Rooks Road and Springvale Road. Here a section of life expired timber sleepered railway track still remains, where the ground level track was left untouched by both level crossing removal projects.

Life expired timber sleepered railway track between Nunawading and Mitcham stations

However you can’t argue that the section of track was out of scope of both projects – the stanchions that hold up the overhead wires are now modern galvanised structures, which replaced the original rusted steel stanchions erected when the railway line was electrified during the 1920s.

New overhead stanchions between Nunawading and Mitcham stations

Presumably the short section of timber sleepered track was deemed “good enough” to be left untouched as part of both projects, but the stanchions needed to be moved to new locations because the overhead wires in both directions needed to be realigned.

Yet more evidence that level crossing removals are projects designed to deliver benefits to road users, with any improvements for passengers or railway infrastructure being a bonus.

Footnote

A similar omission is part of the grade separation of Blackburn Road at Blackburn – local residents thought they would get a brand new railway station as part of the project, when the scope of the work only covers relocating the railway tracks to beneath Blackburn Road.

X'Trapolis 71M and 172M cross the Blackburn Road level crossing

Photos from ten years ago: March 2006

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time March 2006.

First off is this photo of Geelong station, taken from the open door of a V/Line train with manually operated ‘swing’ doors.

Looking back at Geelong station from a departing train

The last train of this type ran in March 2009, when a program to install power door locks was completed.

Also at Geelong I photographed a special V/Line train for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Freight Australia liveried P23 leads a push-pull H set out of Geelong

With V/Line short of rolling stock to run the extra services, they turned to freight operator Pacific National to supply diesel locomotives to haul the trains.

I like to joke that I never have a reason to head eat of Punt Road, but for some reason I had reason to head all the way out to Box Hill, where I photographed an abandoned V/Line parcels office atop the local railway station.

Former V/Line parcels office at Box Hill

Parcel traffic dates back to the early days of railways in Victoria, and as late as the mid-1980s V/Line Express Parcels still advertised to the general public.

On the way out to Box Hill, I photographed a temporary viewing platform underway on Wellington Parade – intended as a display suite for another overpriced apartment block.

Temporary viewing platform underway between Flinders Street and Richmond, to sell overpriced apartments on the old carriage sidings

Called ‘One East Melbourne‘ the complex was completed in 2009.

Over at Spencer Street work on the new station was wrapping up – the office pods at the east end were bright and new.

The office pods cleaned up

And finally, I received word that the ‘4D’ train – Melbourne’s first and only double deck suburban train – was headed for the scrapyard, so I headed out to see capture the final journey.

4D at the back of the train

The 4D train was ordered in 1991 to test the suitability of double deck trains in Melbourne, but was left an orphan following a decision not to buy any further double deck trains. After a troublesome service life it last ran with passengers in 2002, and was then placed into long term storage.

Footnote

In February my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series finally caught up to the month that it related too – now I’ve managed to slip up and fall behind yet again. Hopefully I’ll get the April 2006 instalment out on time!