Regional Rail Link platforms and North Melbourne

As part of the construction of Regional Rail Link, V/Line trains that once stopped at North Melbourne now bypass the station, forcing passengers to change trains elsewhere. So why was the stop removed?

VLocity VL04 leads a down Geelong train past North Melbourne station on the RRL tracks

The reason was the separation of V/Line trains from the existing suburban tracks, removing the delays that used to occur when country trains headed into and out of Southern Cross Station. The new track layout has two routes.

The first one leads towards Southern Cross platform 15 and 16, with two tracks running along the western side of North Melbourne station then south over Dudley Street.

VLocity 3VL27 on an up Geelong train passes North Melbourne on the RRL tracks

Meanwhile a second track pair lead to Southern Cross platforms 1 through 8. Once only used by the interstate trains to/from Adelaide and Sydney, these tracks skirt the railway sidings west of North Melbourne station.

P15 trails a push-pull H set bound for Southern Cross, climbing to the North Melbourne flyover on the new RRL tracks

Then pass over the top of the suburban tracks via an upgraded flyover.

Outbound V/Line service crosses the North Melbourne flyover, as a pair of suburban trains pass beneath

Which brings them down onto the eastern side of the railway corridor, which leads directly to the country platforms at Southern Cross.

VLocity VL08 and classmate arrive at Southern Cross on the rearranged lead to the station

The Regional Rail Link Authority has the following to say about the removal of the North Melbourne stop.

Q: How do regional passengers connect to North Melbourne railway station, the Route 401 bus and City Loop services?

A: Regional passengers have two options to connect to metropolitan trains and other transport modes; they can either continue to change at Southern Cross Station or change at Footscray railway station.

Regional passengers wishing to use the Route 401 bus can change at Footscray railway station for high frequency trains to North Melbourne railway station.

Regional passengers travelling directly to Southern Cross Station can connect to metropolitan trains operating through the City Loop.

The above doesn’t help much for existing commuters, who have to traipse around Footscray station to change trains.

So why were platforms not built on the new Regional Rail Link tracks?

In the case of the tracks that lead to Southern Cross platforms 15 and 16, there is plenty of room for new platforms to be built at North Melbourne.

Big gap between North Melbourne platform 6 and the new RRL tracks to Southern Cross platforms 15 and 16

Platform 6 at North Melbourne currently only has tracks along one side, so it would be easy enough to bring the citybound RRL tracks onto the other side as ‘platform 7’, and then build a new ‘platform 8’ for outbound tracks, with passenger access being provided via an extension of the existing concourse at the north and south ends of the station.

A more complicated problem to solve is platforms on the tracks leading to Southern Cross platforms 1 through 8 – the RRL tracks are about a hundred metres west of the existing North Melbourne station and separated from it by a number of existing railway sidings.

Push-pull service climbs towards the North Melbourne flyover, with a stabled Comeng train in the yard below

The tracks also split into a ‘V’ shape once they leave the flyover, with one leg of the tracks leading towards the main railway to Adelaide and Sydney (right hand side in the photo below), while the other carries V/Line trains towards Footscray.

VLocity heads for Southern Cross on the new RRL tracks, as a push-pull H set descends the North Melbourne flyover

Building platforms on the flyover, on a curve and atop the suburban tracks, would be a difficult operation.

N458 leads a down Intercity service over the North Melbourne flyover

As would be linking the new platforms to the existing station concourse – a long walk would be required, as well as a number of changes in elevation to dodge the existing tracks.

In the end I reckon the omission of platforms came down to finances – back in 2011 cost increases put the entire project in jeopardy, so presumably something had to give.

At least building platforms 7 and 8 at North Melbourne to serve trains headed for Southern Cross platforms 15 and 16 would have been an achievable project. However the usefulness of them would have been doubtful – V/Line appears to be incapable of making their trains use the same platform at Southern Cross each day, so it would be pot luck for passengers whether they would be able to count on the North Melbourne stop for their everyday commute.

Footnote

Another possible way to provide a North Melbourne stop for all V/Line trains would have been to build four new RRL platforms immediately west of the existing station. Two of the tracks would lead into Southern Cross platform 15 and 16 as per the current arrangement, while the other two would continue south a short distance, and then cross over the suburban tracks via a new flyover, reaching ground level just before the La Trobe Street bridge.

Looking towards North Melbourne: West and East Bypass Track, then the up and down RRL lines

Given the number of tracks already in place between North Melbourne and Southern Cross, I hate to think of how much disruption building said flyover would require!

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10 Responses to “Regional Rail Link platforms and North Melbourne”

  1. Tom the first and best. says:

    I believe there is a plan (or at least was until the Coalitions latest rail tunnel “plan”) to, in the long term, convert the existing side platforms at North Melbourne into islands to allow 8 suburban tracks and have the loop through-routed as well. This may favour an island platform for the RRL tracks as well.

    A new flyover could have avoided the tracks getting so close to Festival Hall.

    To add further complication to the whole thing, there will be future links (both to the station and a road) to E-Gate around there as well.

  2. […] no platforms for the Regional Rail Link tracks at North Melbourne, V/Line trains no longer stop at the station, forcing passengers for the City Loop to change trains […]

  3. Paul Westcott says:

    There were never going to be platforms provided at North Melbourne for RRL trains. That was confirmed to me by a senior DOI planner in 2008, soon after the basic plans for the RRL were revealed. It had nothing to with any later cost blowout.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Thanks for that Paul – though it does raise the question as to why the DOI planners thought platforms at North Melbourne were unnecessary.

      • Paul Westcott says:

        An obvious question. I seem to recall that cost was mentioned, although I couldn’t see why at the time. On reflection, and looking at what has been built, I suppose it related to the expense of providing a platform at North Melbourne for *every* RRL train, including those using the existing flyover.

        Corey Hannett, until recently the CEO of the RRL Authority, did muse a few months ago that he would have preferred a new flyover to have been provided closer to Southern Cross station, but that was hardly on the cards, of course.

        • Marcus Wong says:

          It goes to show that those in charge might not necessarily be building poor infrastructure, but being forced to work within the restrictions imposed upon them by Treasury.

  4. […] North Melbourne – since December 2013 trains from Geelong no longer stop there, because the new RRL tracks through the station lack platforms. As a result, V/Line jiggled their network map to show that trains from Geelong no longer stop […]

  5. […] at just two stations: Footscray and Sunshine. With an inconvenient interchange at Footscray and no platforms at North Melbourne, Sunshine is the stand out station for passenger […]

  6. […] Now renumbered platform 3, the car park in the background has since disappeared, replaced by a new pair of platforms for suburban trains built as part of the Regional Rail Link project. In addition, the number of V/Line passengers using Footscray station has skyrocketed, thanks to the removal of the V/Line stop at North Melbourne. […]

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