Planning upgrades to the Cranbourne line – or lack thereof

At this moment the Cranbourne railway line is a bustling place, with construction underway on two grade separation projects, a short section of track duplication, and construction of a road bridge soon to start. But who is coordinating all of these works? The answer – nobody.

Work kicks off

In November 2015 the Andrews Labor Government kicked off the upgrades, announcing the grade separation of two level crossings on the Cranbourne line.

The Andrews Labor Government has marked its first year in office by announcing that it will fast-track the removal of four more dangerous and congested level crossings.

Premier Daniel Andrews today joined Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, to announce that the level crossings at Melton Highway in Sydenham, Abbotts Road in Dandenong South, Thompsons Road in Lyndhurst, and Kororoit Creek in Williamstown North will be removed.

The removal of the level crossings announced today will reduce congestion, improve safety and create local jobs.

In 2012, Abbotts Road level crossing was the site of a horrific collision that derailed a train and resulted in one tragic death. The Labor Government will get rid of this congested death-trap once and for all.

Removing the Thompsons Road level crossing will eliminate a major congestion hot spot on this critical transport corridor in Melbourne’s growing south east. It will be delivered as part of the duplication of Thompsons Road, another key election commitment that will reduce congestion even further.

Thompsons Road is a simple project VicRoads has done many times before as part of other road duplication projects – build one half of the bridge beside the level crossing, move motorists onto it once it is complete, then close the road to build the second half.

Cars stop for a train at the Thompsons Road level crossing

The wheels start to fall off

But the plans for Abbots Road were far more contentious. Five options were considered – some normally seen.

• Option 1
– lower the rail under road

• Option 2
– build a road bridge over the rail line

• Option 3
– build a rail bridge over the road

• Option 4
– lower the road under the rail line

And a wildcard – create a new connection between Pound Road West / Remington Drive on an already reserved alignment, and close Abbotts Road.

Moving the railway wasn’t easy:

• High water table adds to the complexity of construction
• Impacts National and State protected flora
• Would require an extended closure of Cranbourne Rail Line during construction
• Impacts on the proposed rail connection to the Lyndhurst Intermodal Terminal

While moving the road would cause a different set of problems.

• Likely to require some land acquisition to maintain access to adjacent properties
• Impacts the operation of Abbotts Road during construction

Which led to option 5 being the preferred option.

Strengths

• Remington Drive / Pound Road West connected
• Allows for track duplication and future freight tracks
• Minimal operational impacts to Cranbourne Rail Line during construction
• Consistent with the development of the future road network

Issues
• Abbotts Road closed at level crossing
• Access for properties at and around Abbotts Road rail crossing may become more difficult
• Increased traffic on Remington Drive / Pound Road West, makes existing access to properties more difficult
• Additional road and intersection works to cater for re-directed traffic

But local businesses weren’t happy with this plan, so in May 2016 it was dumped.

A busy industrial road in Melbourne’s manufacturing heartland that was to be permanently shut so the Andrews government could remove a level crossing will remain open after authorities bowed to public anger at the plan.

Business owners in Dandenong South were shocked to be told in February that the Level Crossing Removal Authority intended to turn Abbotts Road into a dead-end street at the Cranbourne rail line, and thereby tick off the crossing as one of the first of 50 it plans to get rid of.

The LXRA said in February that it would build a new road overpass across the Cranbourne line north of Abbotts Road, between Remington Drive and Pound Road, which would provide a more direct link to the freeway.

That overpass will no longer be built as part of the level crossing removal project.

With a rail over road bridge being built at Abbotts Road instead.

Installing 'U' trough sections at the down end

But what about track duplication?

The Cranbourne line is still just single track – trains are only able to cross paths at Lynbrook station, which results in cascading delays and restricts the number of services able to operate on the line.

Alstom Comeng 364M arrives into Lynbrook station with a down Cranbourne service

The new bridge at Thompsons Road has provision for a second track to pass underneath.

Bridge spans in place for the eastbound carriageway

But over at Abbotts Road nothing of the sort is happening – the Level Crossing Removal Authority has stuck to their “number of level crossings removed is the only measure of success” philosophy, and building a single track bridge.


LXRA artists impression

The only redeeming act on their part is that a second bridge can be built on the alignment currently occupied by the ground level track.

Is future proofing overkill?

One could argue that building infrastructure for a non-existent second track is wasteful, but way back in 1995 when Merinda Park station was opened, the design of the station was future proofed.

Single platform at Merinda Park

A two sided platform was built.

Siemens train pauses at Merinda Park on an up Cranbourne service

With a fence running along the unused side.

Provision for a second platform face at Merinda Park station

Just waiting for a second track to be laid.

Provision for a second platform face at Merinda Park station

It’s been waiting there for over two decades – the question is how many more years it will lay idle.

Meanwhile on another rail project

Meanwhile work is underway on the “Cranbourne Pakenham Line Upgrade” project, which will permit the new fleet of High Capacity Metro Trains to run.

Work has begun to prepare the Cranbourne-Pakenham line for the 65 new High-Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs) being built in Victoria by the Andrews Labor Government.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan today outlined $660 million worth of upgrades that will be carried out along the entire length of Melbourne’s busiest train line and the entry to the Metro Tunnel.

Over the coming years, power and signalling will be upgraded between the City Loop, Pakenham and Cranbourne.

More than 70 kilometres of overhead power lines will be rebuilt, 20 substations will be built or upgraded, and a section of track in Dandenong South will be duplicated to boost reliability and support more services.

Did you see the last bit – track duplication

The duplicated track is already in place, and diverges from the Pakenham line at Dandenong.

Duplicated track on the Cranbourne line awaiting commissioning at Dandenong

Passes under the Dandenong Bypass.

Track duplication along the Cranbourne line at the Dandenong Bypass

And then comes to an end just north of Greens Road.

Down end of the Cranbourne line track duplication at Greens Road

However a disused freight siding continues south, over the Greens Road level crossing.

Looking down the Cranbourne line from Greens Road, Dandenong South

Petering out into the long grass.

Looking down the Cranbourne line from Greens Road, Dandenong South

And bushes.

Trees growing on the goods siding at Dandenong South

And who is responsible for delivering these works? Yes – the Level Crossing Removal Authority!

Does one hand of the Level Crossing Removal Authority know what the other half of their authority is doing?

And roads win again

With a rail over road bridge under construction at Abbotts Road, you might have expected that the road bridge at Remington Drive was off the table. You’d be wrong.

Building A Better Pound Road West
April 2018

Drivers in the growing south east will get a faster, less congested commute with major upgrades to Pound Road West in Dandenong South.

A two-kilometre section of Pound Road West and Remington Drive will be duplicated from two to four lanes between Abbotts Road and South Gippsland Highway, including a new bridge over the Cranbourne rail line.

New traffic lights will be installed at Remington Drive and Hydrive Close and safety upgrades will be installed at the Pound Road and South Gippsland Highway intersection, and the Abbotts Road and Remington Drive intersection.

The upgrade will reduce congestion, slash travel times and improve safety for more than 40,000 vehicles that rely on Pound Road West and Remington Drive each day.

Yes – the road works considered “too expensive’ for the Level Crossing Removal Authority to complete back in 2015 are now possible, thanks to the $4 billion ‘Suburban Roads Upgrade’ package.

You can’t make this stuff up!

And a footnote on rail freight

Remember how the rail over road work at Abbotts Road would impact on the proposed rail connection to the Lyndhurst Intermodal Terminal? Turns out this is no longer a problem – in May 2018 the private backer of the project pulled out because they’re sick of government inaction.

Salta Properties shocks industry by withdrawing from port rail shuttle
May 13, 2018

A major transport plan for the Andrews Government is in danger of falling apart after a key player pulled out.

After 13 years’ advocating for rail connections to the Port of Melbourne, Salta Properties will no longer apply for funding from the Port Rail Shuttle Project.

The $58 million program is looking to fund a series of rail lines to connect the Port of Melbourne to freight hubs and take thousands of trucks off Melbourne’s heaving roads.

Salta’s decision has surprised many close to the process because the commercial developer has spent years ­preparing two sites for rail shuttles and has been an outspoken advocate for inland ports connected by rail.

Stakeholders now fear the long-awaited rail hubs in Melbourne’s west and southeast may never go ahead.

Sources claim Salta could not work with the government’s plans.

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers said the news had thrown the future of the state government’s plans into question. “There’s only a limited number of organisations who can be a bidder for this,” he said. “It is concerning with an organisation like that pulling out — where does it leave the process?”

Sources associated with the project told the Herald Sun that Salta might have had no choice but to pull out because it could not work with the government’s plans.

Opposition spokesman David Hodgett said it was a blow for Victoria.

“Thousands of jobs and business rely on us getting this project right,” he said.

Good thing the Monash Freeway is getting widened to 5 lanes each way – they’re going to need them for all the extra trucks using it.

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9 Responses to “Planning upgrades to the Cranbourne line – or lack thereof”

  1. numtot stomper says:

    really? lot of speculation and no actual evidence. just b/c it isn’t in the media doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. and nice pic of trespassing too

  2. Andrew S says:

    The goods siding over the Greens Road level crossing was built just prior to the electrification of the Cranbourne Line in 1995 with the end conveniently before the bridge over Eumemmerring Creek. Prior to that there were two separate level crossings at that location – one for the single track main line and one for the Pilkington Glass siding which was cut off with the track into the factory remaining in place for some years after. The road was then duplicated with the crossing remaining in place.

    The choice of Abbotts Road for a viaduct in its single track glory was likely motivated by the 2012 fatal crash with the busier Greens Road ironically one not on the list of crossings to be grade separated. Further along at Thompsons Road the crossing there was part of the duplication of the increasingly busy rote from the current end of duplication at Frankston Dandenong Road through to Cranbourne. Again politics seems to play a role with the grade separation of the crossing being priority as part of the removal project. The major source of congestion at peak hours is however the roundabout at Western Port Highway which is be replaced with a singalised intersection in lieu of an interchange that was to be built early as par of a long term conversion of that route to freeway standard.
    https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/planning-and-projects/melbourne-road-projects/western-port-highway-corridor-upgrade

    May well be another case of building infrastructure that will be destroyed in a few years time!

  3. Dark Knight says:

    To be fair and another line, a case of different government different policy with a different outcome, the Cardinia Road, Pakenham duplication was a sole road project if it just waited a few more years who knows possibly that crossing would be removed as part of the scope of works.

    That said, it’s said during the duplicatation which included moving utility lines took into account future removal of the crossing so one less job in the overall project in the future how so I guess we just have to wait and see when the crossing gets added to the list.

  4. Robbie says:

    I honestly don’t think there’s any further planning beyond the 50 level crossings, as there are so many missed opportunities being cast in concrete with all these works.

    – The “Skyrail” section was a one-off opportunity to quadruplicate the line to Dandenong, and they went and built the viaducts and easements on both sides of the corridor, making future expansion needlessly difficult.
    – There’s this fiasco with the single-track bridge on the Cranbourne line.
    – For some absurd reason the last two crossings between the City and Box Hill are not being removed, and they both have three tracks. Even better is that they’re located near the top of the grade so the simplest solution would be to bury the line and reduce the summit by 5–10 m or so.
    – Absolutely no consideration is being given to elevating the entire Upfield line, and it has at least twenty crossings between Royal Park and the Ring Rd. If LXRA cared about the number of crossings removed, this line would be easy picking.

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