Victorian level crossings to nowhere

Across Melbourne the Level Crossing Removal Program is removing conflict points between road and rail vehicles, but elsewhere in Victoria there is something a little stranger -level crossings that lead nowhere.

Google Street View

In the paddocks of Bacchus Marsh

Back in 2006 a level crossing on the recently upgraded Ballarat line outside Bacchus Marsh got a mention in the Herald Sun.

Crossing a signal failure
Liam Houlihan

Herald Sun
Wednesday, July 26 2006

A set of rail warning signals installed on a road to nowhere has embarrassed the Government’s launch of a $500,000 safety campaign.

Transport Minister Peter Batchelor has been accused of stupidity for equipping the derelict, dead-end crossing at Bacchus Marsh with expensive safety lights and bells.

More than 1400 road-rail intersections in Victoria have no flashing lights or boom gates.

Most of the state’s 2274 level crossings have no more than a stop sign.

At Bacchus Marsh, a dirt track crosses the rail but instantly ends at a locked gate.

“Victorians have died at level crossings and if nothing is done will continue to die,” Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said.

“Yet this newly upgraded crossing is only metres from the road’s dead end at a rarely used back entrance to the Bacchus Marsh rifle range.”

Mr Mulder said the warning equipment should have gone to Lismore or Trawalla, where there had been deaths.

Grass grows through the rusty gates at the contentious entrance and the road inside the property is little more than a goat track, he said.

Twenty-one people have died in level crossing accidents in Victoria since 2000.

The Government has ruled out road tunnels or bridges at all level crossings as too costly at an estimated $60 billion.

Mr Batchelor said that $208.7 million had been set aside to upgrade for safer railway crossings, upgrading close to 300 over the next decade.

The crossing was upgraded as part of the Regional Fast Rail project, that increased the speed of trains on the line to 160 km/h.

VLocity VL11 back on the move at Bungaree Loop East with an up Ballarat service

As a result each level crossing was equipped with lights, even if it only served one house.

Occupation crossing AO 86.457 west of Ballan

Or an empty paddock on the side of the Werribee River valley.

Google Street View

The level crossing still being in service today.

Road closed in Cranbourne

The Evans Road level crossing is on the Cranbourne line near Merinda Park station.

Level crossing to nowhere - Evans Road, Lynbrook

But is closed to road traffic.

Level crossing to nowhere - Evans Road, Lynbrook

The level crossing at Evans Road long predated suburban development of the surrounding area, but development is what led to it closing – the City of Casey temporarily closed the unsealed section of the road in 2005 due to safety concerns, and it has remained closed since, despite the road having been sealed in the meantime.

Siemens train passes through the closed Evans Road level crossing in Lynbrook

But it won’t be reopening to road vehicles any time soon – the Level Crossing Removal Authority is going to replace it with a road over rail bridge as part of the Cranbourne Line Upgrade project.

Level Crossing Removal Authority artist impression

Cut short in Pakenham

The railway east to Traralgon was also upgraded as part of the Regional Fast Rail project of the mid-2000s.

VLocity VL58 on the up at Lardners Track

And in December 2007 the Pakenham Bypass was opened, completing the freeway east from Melbourne to Gippsland, and severing a number of local roads in the process. One of them was Ryans Road, which crossed the railway to the east of Pakenham.

7 News reported on the level crossing to nowhere in October 2008.

With the Member for Hastings, Neale Burgess suggesting that the redundant level crossing equipment be relocated to an unprotected level crossing in his electorate.

I wish to raise a matter for the Minister for Public Transport. The action I seek is for the minister to facilitate the immediate removal of the boom gates at the unused Ryan Road, Pakenham, level crossing and ensure their prompt installation at the Bungower Road level crossing in Somerville.

As reported on Channel 7’s news on 28 October 2008, the barriers at Ryan Road in Pakenham have been obsolete since the road was closed on the completion of the Pakenham bypass. The news story stated that while people have been dying on inadequately protected railway crossings around Victoria, fully functioning boom gates have been going to waste on a road to nowhere. V/Line has been responsible for the crossing for more than a year, since resuming control of it from private operator Pacific National.

Following the embarrassment of the story, V/Line announced the same day that the Ryan Road boom gates would be dismantled and removed. The next day I sent an urgent fax, followed by a copy by email, to the Minister for Public Transport, asking her to immediately arrange to have the unused boom barriers relocated to the Bungower Road level crossing in Somerville. Unfortunately the minister has not responded.

After a long and sustained campaign by the community, the Minister for Public Transport relented on her previously reported position that the Bungower Road crossing was safe and committed to upgrading protection at that deadly Bungower Road level crossing to boom barriers. However, the minister intends to make the community wait three years for that upgrade. The Bungower Road level crossing in Somerville has already claimed two lives, most recently a local family man, Jeff Young, just over 12 months ago.

I ask the minister, in the interest of public safety, to assist in having the unused boom gates at Ryan Road immediately transferred to and installed at Bungower Road. The availability of the defunct boom barriers to assist in the prevention of any further loss of life at this notorious intersection is a blessing for my community. It would also consolidate the state government’s commitment to upgrading dangerous level crossings.

Any opportunity to expedite the installation of boom gates at life-threatening level crossings should be taken. The Minister for Public Transport is in a position to make a simple decision that has the potential to save the lives of motorists using the Bungower Road level crossing. On behalf of the community and motorists, I ask the minister to act now to protect the lives of people using the Bungower Road level crossing.

Five months later he received a response.

V/Line is prepared to decommission and remove the equipment at Ryan Road after the Shire of Cardinia has finalised its local planning deliberations on the future of Ryan Road.

The level crossing at Ryan Road has since been decommissioned.

Google Street View

But the Bungower Road level crossing had to wait much longer to be upgraded to flashing lights and boom barriers – sometime between 2010 and 2013.

Google Street View

And a level crossing that never existed

On the Cranbourne line at Aylmer Road in Lynbrook there is a level crossing that never existed – an east-west road proposed in the 1990s that was never completed, and never will be due to a policy of no new level crossings.

Dead end of Aylmer Road at the railway crossing, looking west

Footnote: reusing level crossing equipment

Turns out reusing level crossing equipment at a new location doesn’t actually save much money – the most costly part is usually extending mains power to the site, followed by installing train detection equipment that reliably triggers the warning devices – the flashing lights and boom barriers are the cheapest bit!

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7 Responses to “Victorian level crossings to nowhere”

  1. Andrew says:

    I posted about the Ryans Road crossing a few years ago. It was a good laugh. It’s interesting to learn why the crossings you describe exist, that is they become part of a line upgrade.

  2. Chris says:

    The story of Evans Road also goes that the crossing was closed so to make the road a dead end and not a through road, as the Evans Road, Hallam Road and South Gippsland Highway intersection was uncontrolled and dangerous.

    That intersection is being upgraded as part of the Hallam Road duplication, which I assume it tied in with the whole level crossing removal and road upgrades in the south east.

  3. Ross says:

    My understanding is that Evans Road was originally closed due to a fatality at the Evans Rd/Thompsons Rd intersection which back in 2006 was only controlled by stop and give way signs.

    When the intersection was upgraded to a roundabout the Council decided to keep it closed due to the condition of the road surface which was still unsealed and not appropriate for the likely traffic volumes that would be attracted due to new residential subdivisions in the surrounding area.

    By 2012 the full length of the road had been properly constructed however there were now concerns about the safety of the intersection at South Gippsland Highway which was proposed to be upgraded with traffic lights. Accordingly a short section of Evans Road to the south of the railway remained closed to traffic.

    When funding for the South Gippsland Highway intersection was announced it was initially proposed to reopen Evans Road once this upgrade was complete. But then the Level Crossing Removal project came along and so the decision was made to wait for that also.

    So the expectation is now that Evans Road will reopen sometime in 2021 after a break of some 15 years and multiple separate upgrades of various sections of the road! (Note that the Evans Road/Thompsons Road intersection has since been upgraded again to traffic lights in this time.)

  4. […] But the long term solution is “Road Rail Vehicle Access Pads” – level crossings to nowhere. […]

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