Penny-pinching at Craigieburn station

Since September 2007 suburban electric trains have served the northern Melbourne suburb of Craigieburn, but the infrastructure that allows them to do so is a mere shadow of that originally planned a decade ago.

Alstom Comeng arrives into platform 2 at Craigieburn with a terminating service

The early plans

I found a presentation dated March 2004 on the Craigieburn Rail Project, authored by the Department of Infrastructure. They summarised the works as follows:

As part of the State Government’s “Linking Victoria” policy the Craigieburn Rail Electrification project will:

  • Provide high quality and accessible public transport to the Craigieburn urban growth corridor –anticipated 38% increase in population by 2021
  • Contribute to the Government’s 20/2020 target of increased public transport mode share
  • Improve access and integration between Craigieburn,Roxburgh Park and Broadmeadows activity centres
  • Extend frequent rail services beyond Broadmeadows connecting direct to the City Loop

Roxburgh Park

  • A new station will be provided at Roxburgh Park complete with bus interchange and car parking facilities

Craigieburn

  • There will be an extensive remodelling of the existing Craigieburn station to provide three new platforms with Premium Station facilities again including bus interchange facilities and the existing car park will be extended
  • Train stabling will be provided north of Craigieburn station in a new secure facility
  • Available land at Craigieburn to provide for future expansion with ultimate capacity of up to 14 trains-sets and a potential maintenance facility

The plans for a three platform station at Craigieburn caught my eye.

2004 concept for Craigieburn station: north-south cross section

The main station building would still be on the ‘town’ side of the station, like what was eventually built, but access to the platforms would be via a pedestrian underpass.

2004 concept for Craigieburn station: east-west cross section

In addition the third platform would allow suburban trains to terminate clear of the main line, enabling V/Line trains towards Seymour to continue through unimpeded.

Cutting the scope of the project

The extension of suburban trains to Craigieburn was costed at $98 million, but in July 2005 The Age had revealed that the scope of the project had been cut:

Car parking at Roxburgh Park Station has been slashed from 400 spaces to 138. A planned yard at the station has been reduced in capacity from five train sets to two, and cheaper building materials have been used for parts of the roof.

But the biggest cut was at Craigieburn station:

At the Craigieburn station the original plan provided for platforms on either side of the tracks, linked by a pedestrian overpass. But under the revised plan, the eastern platform has been scrapped and instead of an overpass there will be a pedestrian level crossing, forcing passengers arriving from the east to walk across the tracks.

With construction delays being the result:

The project is also behind schedule because of the redesign. Work was to have started last year but is yet to get under way. The 2006 completion date appears unlikely to be met.

Cutting the ribbon

A few years later and with an extra $17 million spent, suburban trains finally rolled into Craigieburn on 30 September 2007.

Premier John Brumby today launched a new era of public transport for people in Melbourne’s outer northern suburbs with the commencement of metropolitan services along a newly electrified line from Broadmeadows to Craigieburn.

Premier John Brumby today launched a new era of public transport for people in Melbourne’s outer northern suburbs with the commencement of metropolitan services along a newly electrified line from Broadmeadows to Craigieburn.

Mr Brumby, also Member for Broadmeadows, said the completion of the Victorian Government’s $115 million Craigieburn rail extension project was an historic day for people in Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park and nearby areas. “This is a great day for people living or working in Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park and surrounding suburbs and delivers on our commitment to provide greater public transport services for people in Melbourne’s outer north,” Mr Brumby said.

The completion of the new Roxburgh Park station and the new line to an upgraded Craigieburn station also paves the way for construction of another new station at Coolaroo which we funded in the 2007/08 State Budget and will complete by 2010.

Ms Kosky said the new Craigieburn line meant Melbourne’s outer north now had an integrated public transport network. “The new services will provide eight services to the city in the morning peak, compared with three V/Line services before,” Ms Kosky said.

Despite the spiel from the government, the facilities initially provided at Craigieburn were spartan – the facilities on platform 1 were left in a decrepit state, with only platform 2 being rebuilt for suburban trains.

New and old platforms at Craigieburn

In addition only a single crossover between tracks was provided – a configuration that only permitted suburban trains to use platform 2. As a result, whenever a Seymour-bound V/Line service passed through Craigieburn, any waiting suburban trains had to be emptied of passengers, and then shunted into the sidings to clear the track.

A year after opening, the extension of suburban trains to Craigieburn was a success:

Acting Public Transport Minister Tim Pallas said the success of the Craigieburn electrification project was already apparent, as local train patronage continued to grow.

“Melbourne’s outer northern suburbs have grown significantly in the past few years. Validations at Craigieburn Station have tripled since the same time last year, with more than 31,000 people boarding at the station in July this year.

The government also found some money to finish the job proposed back in 2004:

Mr Pallas said investment was continuing in this region as construction now begins on the second stage of the Craigieburn train stabling project.

“The electrification to Craigieburn included stabling, or storage to accommodate new train services. The second stage of works will now include stabling to house an extra six trains, track and signal work, and a building for train drivers and maintenance staff,” Mr Pallas said.

The upgrades included the rebuilding and electrification of platform 1, as well as the provision of an extra crossover between the two tracks – changes that allowed V/Line trains bound for Seymour to overtake suburban services.

Sprinter 7016 and classmate arrive into Craigieburn

Unfortunately a fourth crossover at the country end of the station was not added, so V/Line trains from Seymour still get cannot overtake suburban services.

Work also started on a new station at Coolaroo, located midway between Roxburgh Park and Broadmeadows.

New footbridge in place at Coolaroo station

Back at Craigieburn, the stabling yard for suburban trains was enlarged.

Looking down the Craigieburn sidings at the stabled sparks

And an additional track was built to allow simultaneous arrivals and departures into the yard.

Signals governing entry to Craigieburn Yard hiding beneath the Hume Highway bridge

The final icing was the 2010 decision to build a complete train maintenance facility at Craigieburn.

Craigieburn in Melbourne’s north will become home to one of largest and most modern train maintenance facilities in Australia. Public Transport Minister Martin Pakula said the new maintenance facility would include housing for 17 trains, maintenance train roads and a new train wash plant which would use water captured off the buildings roof.

“This facility will be one of the largest in the country; it will have the capacity for 25 trains to be onsite at any one time,” Mr Pakula said.

Works are already well underway at Craigieburn, with construction of the new train wash facility, driver amenities, power sub-station and additional stabling roads all progressing.

Work on the massive shed started soon after.

Maintenance shed at Craigieburn taking shape

Work on the maintenance facility was completed by 2011 – here is a a diagram of the completed yard at Craigieburn.

Looking down on Craigieburn Yard from the north

As for the third platform and footbridge access proposed for Craigieburn back in 2004, we’re still waiting.

Hiding in plain sight at Craigieburn

Craigieburn station has an interesting feature.

Street frontage of Craigieburn station

Head onto platform 2.

Main entry to the platform at Craigieburn station

And you’ll notice a ‘land bridge’ linking the platform with the station concourse.

Land bridge links Craigieburn platform 2 with the station concourse

The bridge crosses land reserved for the future third platform, to be located on the western side of the tracks.

Land bridge links Craigieburn platform 2 with the station concourse

Even the rear edge of the existing platform is ready for the future third track.

Face of future platform 3 at Craigieburn

Footnote

In the decade since suburban trains started running to Craigieburn, the Victorian Government department responsible for transport has had the following names:

  • Department of Infrastructure
  • Department of Transport
  • Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure
  • Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Do you reckon they could cram another title into the next department rebranding?

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11 Responses to “Penny-pinching at Craigieburn station”

  1. beren scott says:

    Coolaroo is actually between Broady and Roxy. Also, it seems to me like an opportunity was missed. Could have connected Upfield line and created a boost in services in the process.

    So they spent more money then planned, yet cut back? Isn’t this the reverse of cutting back? They spent more and got less?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      You’re correct about Coolaroo – how did I mess that one up. 🙁

      As for ‘cut backs’ it is to scope, not cost – what was eventually built over an extended period still doesn’t match the original plans.

  2. Kevin says:

    Great record of the history, thanks Marcus!
    There are several other matters not mentioned (and no doubt, even more than this!):
    The Craigieburn pedestrian level crossing is right at the bus stop, causing pedestrian congestion in peak times;
    Local residents are appealing for more car parking at Craigieburn Station (personally, I’d prefer more emphasis on walking, cycling and PT to the station);
    Potter St has no infrastructure for people using that side (Wollert is growing, plus employees and visitors to businesses along the Hume Hwy (Sydney Rd));
    The intention of building a new track is preventing a pedestrian and cycling path being built along the railway line;
    Coolaroo Station overpass is not very accessible for cyclists, with the lifts being very small and no ramps except for stairs with a wheel guide channel (this station could be a node in a future cycling route between Melbourne Airport and Greensborough);
    Pedestrian and cycling overpasses could be built at Patulos Lane and beside the high voltage transmission lines, as well as another crossing at Aitken Creek as well as a Craigieburn station improvement.
    Also, an interesting fact is the distance along the railway line between Craigieburn and Kilmore East is less than the distance from Craigieburn to the Melbourne CBD using the main off-road cycling routes.

  3. Jacob says:

    Kevin,

    Wow a cycleway from IATA MEL to Greensborough!

    We should have a cycleway all the way along the Regional Rail Link.

    And have 2 classes of cycleway: blue painted cycleway where helmets are not required.

    • beren scott says:

      or we could just continue to enforce the helmet law requiring everyone to wear one, and if you dont, thats your problem.

    • Kevin says:

      Jacob,

      I used the word “route”, not cycleway. 🙂

      Future infrastructure development could, IMO, include a path along a possible Attwood Connector. Several kms of the existing route however, are on-road (eg through Lalor and Thomastown).

      But don’t forget the new Airport Drive and the M80 Trail (Metro Ring Road) is path all the way except for the older section of Airport Drive (and a small section of a local street in Jacana).

      Having a cycleway along railway lines is a great idea… If they follow the same contours and don’t have silly hills at cuttings, etc.

      • beren scott says:

        one problem with cycleways, i find, is if you take the cycle way along the ring road between edgars road and hume freeway, is access. i will give an example, lets say you start riding from edgars road just north of the freeway, you ride down and between edgars and main st around the corner on the hume freeway, there is only one exit into the residential area. then you have a freeway overpass around this point, but its ages away from any access points. these paveways have terrible access. then you follow the path up and next exit is barry road, after that you have a new housing estate, no access, except for a hole cut into the fence. what the problem is, these cycleways are just chucked in randomly as a sweetener for road spending, they are incredibly poorly designed, have next to zero access, and are useless as a walking track, something i note most of all, having walked one of these is you feel lonely, like youve entered a zone where nobody goes, because crap i never saw a single bike in an hour and a half.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Regional Rail Link did add a few piecemeal pieces of cycling infrastructure:

      http://www.regionalraillink.vic.gov.au/construction/cycling

      However there are still gaps at the city end:

      http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/western-suburbs-cyclists-will-get-their-own-offroad-path-to-the-cbd-20141115-11neo6.html

      Along new railway from Deer Park to West Werribee, they didn’t build a path, but have included a bike path sized tunnel at each road overpass for the future:

      http://www.railgeelong.com/gallery/regional-rail-link/tarneit/F111_2964.jpg.html

  4. Kevin says:

    There’s a similar tunnel under Somerton Rd near Roxburgh Park Station, presently locked.

  5. […] criteria to include expanded level crossings, the list grows longer: in 2007 Craigieburn station received a pedestrian crossing instead of an underpass, and in 2016 the crossing at Cardinia Road on the Pakenham line was […]

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