Box Hill’s $754,000 footbridge across the tracks

This is the story of the $56.5 million grade separation project at Middleborough Road in Box Hill and a footbridge that was left out of scope, only be to be built later as part of a $754,000 election promise.

X'Trapolis 921M leads an up service under the Middlesbrough Road bridge at Laburnum

Planning for the project to separate Middleborough Road from the Belgrave-Lilydale rail line at Box Hill commenced in 2004, with the final business case endorsed in September 2005. Construction started in September 2006, and following a four week closure of the railway line in January 2007 trains started to use the new low level tracks. Landscaping and cleanup followed, with final completion in May 2007.

X'Trapolis 72M on a down Lilydale service arrives into Laburnum station

The project entailed:

  • sinking approximately 800 linear metres of rail corridor up to 10 metres below ground,
  • replacement of the Middleborough Road level crossing with a rail-under bridge,
  • replacement of the existing Laburnum Street bridge with a new concrete structure,
  • rebuilding of the railway station at Laburnum.

However there was one level crossing the project missed – that leading into the Box Hill Cemetery.

Melway map 47 - Level crossing to the Box Hill cemetery

The first moves to establish a public cemetery at Box Hill came in 1872, when twelve acres of land off Whitehorse Road was set aside for the purpose. This pre-dated the railway, which wasn’t extended from Camberwell to Lilydale until 1886.

An avenue of trees leading between an ornate set of entrance gates on Whitehorse Road and the railway, an arrangement the remained in place until 1979, when due to declining funeral numbers and increased rail traffic, the main cemetery entrance relocated to Middleborough Road.

However an at-grade pedestrian crossing remained in place, until it was removed to make way for a massive railway cutting as part of the Middleborough Rd Project.

X'Trapolis trains leads a down Belgrave service through the Middleborough Road cutting at Laburnum

The locals didn’t like it, with local Liberal member Robert Clark MP taking up the case in State Parliament on 13 March 2007.

I raise with the Minister for Roads and Ports the Middleborough Road grade separation project. I ask the minister to take action to restore pedestrian access in the area by constructing a pedestrian footbridge across the railway line to Box Hill Cemetery and restoring a path along the north side of the railway line between Sagoe Lane and Middleborough Road. This is an issue that has been left with the new minister by the previous transport minister. It is due to the last-minute rush by the Bracks government to try to get moving on a promise it made in the 2002 election campaign to construct this grade separation project, but it failed to take any action until mid-2006; and because of the rush there was no public consultation and no opportunity for public input on the design, leaving a number of serious and ongoing problems.

There has long been pedestrian access across the railway line via a footpath that runs from Sagoe Lane on the north of the railway line to Box Hill cemetery on the south. This pedestrian access is important because there is a lack of car parking near the cemetery. Many people, particularly elderly people, who want to visit loved ones at the cemetery park their cars in Sagoe Lane or alongside Whitehorse Reserve, from where they used to walk across the railway line to the cemetery. Now the line has been lowered about 5 metres by a cutting that has cut off that access. A petition with many signatures was taken up on behalf of cemetery visitors, and copies were provided to the minister, to the Whitehorse council and to me.

I first raised this issue with the previous minister in July last year. The minister’s chief of staff replied in September, saying that the railway line would be lowered by 5 metres, that therefore an overpass could not be provided, that instead there would be a new access point at the north-east corner of the cemetery, that parking would be unaffected and that pedestrians could walk to the new access point. Now we see that you could virtually lay a plank across the cutting as it exists and that the reasons previously given for not being able to construct this overpass are unsubstantiated.

The government’s tune has now changed, with the new minister’s chief of staff replying in January by saying that there is now an 8-metre clearance required from the top of the walkway to the top of the railway lines and raising various other objections relating to land acquisition, design, tree loss and cost. Most of these objections seem to be spurious. You can just look at the site to see that it is perfectly feasible to create a footbridge across it.

To add insult to injury, when the government promised the alternative access point, it needed a path along the north side of the railway line, which VicRoads is now refusing to commit to restoring, meaning that the people who parked there previously will have to walk the long way around via Whitehorse Road and the Box Hill High School to reach the promised access point. In both respects the community has been badly let down. These are problems caused by the previous minister. I ask the new minister not to rely just on departmental or VicRoads advice but to look at the issue for himself.

At the 2010 State Election, the Liberal Party promised funding to build such as footbridge, in order to buy votes for Robert Clark.

A Liberal Nationals Coalition government will provide $460,000 to construct a footbridge to Box Hill cemetery across the railway line cutting near Middleborough Road, the Member for Box Hill, Robert Clark, announced today, 12 November 2010.

The Ted Baillieu led Liberal/National coalition won that election, with funding for the footbridge eventually made available in the 2012-13 State Budget.

Construction commenced in mid 2013.

With the new footbridge opened in August 2013.

The Victorian Coalition Government has delivered on its commitment to the local community with the opening of a new footbridge at the Box Hill Cemetery to provide an accessible and safe railway crossing, Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder announced today.

So how much did it cost?

Footbridge over the tracks at Box Hill Cemetery, west of Middleborough Road

Turns out the initial $460,000 estimate was way off.

Work was completed on a $754,000 pedestrian footbridge from the Box Hill Cemetery across the Belgrave and Lilydale rail line. The steel truss bridge provides a safe and accessible crossing, following the removal of an at-grade pedestrian crossing at Box Hill in 2007 as part of the Middleborough Road Grade Separation project. PTV funded the footbridge.

And good looking to boot.

Footbridge over the tracks at Box Hill Cemetery, west of Middleborough Road

Footbridge over the tracks at Box Hill Cemetery, west of Middleborough Road

Just imagine how much it would cost if it wasn’t a steel cage plonked across a concrete railway cutting.

Think that was expensive?

North of Melbourne at Wandong, a footbridge was proposed to cross the main North-East railway line. A media release from 15 September 2006 when the project was launched:

The Minister for State and Regional Development John Brumby today announced the Bracks Government will build a $1.5 million pedestrian railway overpass at Wandong and Heathcote Junction.

And from three years later, when the new bridge was opened to the public on 25 August 2009.

A new $4.2 million pedestrian bridge over the Melbourne to Sydney railway line at Wandong is now complete providing a safe crossing for walkers and cyclists.

If you want to build a bridge and get over it, the cost isn’t cheap!

New $4.2 million footbridge at Wandong

Presumably the different in cost between Box Hill and Wandong is due to the massive concrete ramps at each end.

Massive ramp on the western side

As well as stairs.

Western access to the new Wandong footbridge

Something to keep in mind when debating the benefits of rail-over vs rail-under grade separation options.

Further reading

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10 Responses to “Box Hill’s $754,000 footbridge across the tracks”

  1. Michael Angelico says:

    The length of the ramps is a natural consequence of disability access regulations that mandate a maximum gradient. But nobody seems to have thought about the impact of a ramp that long on someone with limited mobility – if they can’t walk up a steep slope (or can’t use stairs), is it likely that they can walk that distance?

  2. Malcolm M says:

    Are pedestrian underpasses a lot cheaper, such as is being done at Caroline Springs station ? Livestock underpasses on rural roads and rail lines are subsidised by the State to up to one third of the total cost, with a maximum of $50,000 for an underpass costing $150,000. An underpass could have saved all those elevated ramps at Wandong, replaced by ramps cut out of the natural soil and rock.

  3. […] road leading into Wandong Regional Park, I inadvertedly stumbled across the pedestrian footbridge built a few years ago. It seems to have aged quite well – there was no visible vandalism or deterioration – […]

  4. Myrtonos says:

    Compare the price tag of such a simple truss bridge over that railway cutting in Box Hill with a footbridge over Craigieburn bypass.
    The one in Craigieburn, completed in 2005, cost $36,300,000 in today’s currency. Note that the price tag included a lot of noise sculpturing, landscaping and even a light show.
    The footbridge next to Box Hill cemetery is basically a lightweight steel cage across a cutting supported only on each side of the cutting. It should not cost as much per metre as a road or rail bridge.

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