Melbourne Airport Rail Link – finally some detail

A few days ago the next round of details was released for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, including the route that the new rail link will take into Melbourne Airport, and how the works will be delivered.

Arrival into Melbourne, looking over the Qantas domestic terminal

The scope

The Melbourne Airport Rail Link project has been divided up into three regions.

With the work to be tendered out as six ‘work packages’.

Which include:

Airport Station Package

The Airport Station package will be responsible for the following scope:

• construction of the new Airport Station including operational control systems (OCS);
• construction of a new 1.5km track pair from the new Airport Station to Mercer Drive;
• overhead wiring system and structures;
• land clearing and minor civil works for traction power substations and Digital Train Radio System (DTRS) Towers;
• Combined Services Route (CSR);
• utility services relocations;
• civil structures; and
• roadworks.

Viaduct Package

The Viaduct package will be responsible for the following scope:

• construction of approximately 5km of twin track viaduct commencing at Mercer Drive and continuing above the median strip of Airport Drive towards Steele Creek North and across the Western Ring Road;
• overhead wiring system, wiring and structures;
• land clearing and minor civil works for traction power substations and DTRS Towers;
• CSR;
• utility services relocations;
• civil structures and grade separations; and
• roadworks.

Corridor Package

The Corridor package will be responsible for the following scope:

• construction of approximately 6km of new track and associated civil works;
• overhead wiring system, wiring and structures;
• land clearing and minor civil works for traction power substations and DTRS Towers;
• CSR;
• utility services relocation;
• modifications to Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) tracks and supporting infrastructure including ARTC signalling works;
• shared user path works; and
• modifications to existing road bridges spanning the rail corridor.

Maribyrnong River Bridge Package

The Maribyrnong River Bridge package will be responsible for the following scope:
• construction of a new elevated twin track rail crossing to the West of the existing Albion Viaduct; and
• associated earthworks, drainage, lineside fencing and maintenance access.

RPV note that the Maribyrnong River Bridge package may ultimately be delivered as part of the Corridor package rather than as a standalone works package.

Rail Systems Package

The Rail Systems package will be responsible for the following scope:

• High Capacity Signalling (HCS);
• Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) system;
• Traction Power System (TPS) including:
– intake substation;
– new traction power substations and 22kV AC reticulation systems;
– 3.3kV Essential Services Distribution System (ESDS) Cable pulling, jointing and any required field equipment;
• Rail Control Systems;
• Communications Systems;
– Fibre optic network;
– Digital Train Radio System; and
• Systems integration and assurance.

And the controversial part

And the most complicated and controversial one – the Sunshine/Albion Package. The state government released the details of this work package back in March 2021 – an ‘exclusive’ media drop made to the Herald Sun by the State Government in return for not asking any difficult questions.

The headline feature – a rail-over-road-over-rail bridge at Albion station.

The rest of the work including.

Sunshine/Albion Package
The SAP Works primarily comprise of works in and around Sunshine Station, extending to the southern end of Albion-Jacana corridor. Key scope will include:

• modifications to the Anderson Road rail underbridge to accommodate the new Melbourne Airport Rail lines and the adjusted positions of the existing lines;
• construction of a new elevated viaduct for the Melbourne Airport Rail lines to span over Ballarat Road bridge, St Albans Road bridge and the Stony Creek;
• Overhead Line Equipment (OHLE) works between Sunshine Station and the Albion-Jacana corridor, crossing Ballarat Road, the Sunbury rail corridor, St Albans Road and Stony Creek;
• upgrades to Sunshine Station, including platform and car park modifications and the construction of a new concourse;
• upgrades to Albion Station car parks and forecourts;
• Shared User Path (SUP) works to connect the Principal Bicycle Network and the Strategic Cycling Corridor;
• relocation and implementation of rail systems;
• modifications to existing substations;
• diversion, relocation and protection of existing utilities and underground services;
• signalling, including relocatable equipment buildings (REB), signalling HT locations, axle counters in the Sunshine/Albion area; and
• CSR works in the Sunshine / Albion area and on the new Melbourne Airport Rail lines to the Corridor package interface.

Resulting in a tangle of new track between Sunshine and Albion.

To be delivered in three parts.

• Final Sunbury and Bendigo Commissioning Works – all track works, signalling works, substations and OHLE in relation to the Sunbury and Bendigo lines and all station works at Sunshine Station;
• MAR Spur Works – all works relating to the new Melbourne Airport Rail lines contained within the SAP scope; and
• Balance of SAP Works – the balance of works contained within the SAP scope.

Locals up in arms

Brimbank City Council had big plans for a ‘super hub’ at Sunshine and a rebuilt Albion railway station.

Their plans made public back in February 2021.

The Sunshine Super Hub and Albion Station precinct is a landmark project that is set to reinvent Brimbank as a thriving economic centre.

The council is hoping the hub will help unlock Brimbank’s investment, development and employment potential.

In preliminary designs for the hub, included in a document presented to last week’s council meeting, the council highlighted two possible scenarios for the future of Sunshine and Albion stations.

– The first scenario will result in both Sunshine and Albion stations being upgraded as dual ‘existing’ stations, with Albion station to move to the north.

– The second scenario involves moving Sunshine station to the north and into the new super hub.

Mayor Ranka Rasic confirmed the council had undertaken preliminary design work on the project.

“These options are indicative and exploratory only and further work is needed on the state-led project to determine the best outcome for our community and the western region.

“The Sunshine Super Hub and Albion Station upgrades could create Sunshine and Brimbank as the economic powerhouse of Melbourne’s west.”

The council has also commissioned art impressions to highlight the enormous transformation potential that could be delivered as part of this major infrastructure project.

Cr Rasic said the council will be discussing these preliminary options with the government.

So the announcement of the rail-over-road-over-rail bridge didn’t go down well.

Poster for the 'Save Albion Station' community rally on Sunday 2 May

The locals disappointed with the reduced scope of the project.

The proposed concept plans for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link will drive a “lethal stake through the heart of Sunshine,” according to a local advocacy group

The Greater Sunshine Community Alliance’s convener Stephen Torsi said the group was concerned by the plans which were released last month by the state and federal governments.

The plans include a new bridge over the Maribyrnong River and elevated twin tracks between Sunshine and the Albion Junction.

There was no mention in of the Sunshine Super Transport Hub in the plans.

Mr Torsi said community members were concerned by the information that had been released so far.

He said the alliance was concerned about two issues in particular: the omission of the Sunshine Super Transport Hub and the skyrail between Sunshine and Albion Junction.

As reported by Star Weekly, Brimbank council has raised also concerns that the hub has been overlooked.

“The fact that it looks like the superb hub has been downgraded is a massive blow as a community,” he said.

“We’re keen to work with developers and all the stakeholders and push back on something that looks like it will be second rate.

“We want to make sure we get the best for Sunshine, we don’t want just another track that divides the city.”

Mr Torsi said the proposed elevated tracks from Sunshine to Albion Junction would split Sunshine.

“They split Sunshine in two in the 60s due to bad planning and this goes further in splitting the city,” he said.

“It drives a lethal stake through the heart of Sunshine. We will fight hard on this, Imagine the uproar if this was Toorak.

So what is Albion station like anyway?

The disused railway substation and John Darling & Son Flour Mill form a distinctive industrial backdrop to the area.

Former Albion substation in the foreground, the John Darling & Son Flour Mill behind

But the pebblecrete station building has all the charm of a public toilet block.

EDI Comeng with 'Movember' moustache on the up at Albion

Seedy at dusk.

Siemens 763M departs Albion on a down Sunbury service

And more so at night time.

Late night at Albion station

Sections of the platform are made of timber.

Timber deck platform extension at the up end of Albion station

Which is rotten away.

Crumbing section of platform at the down end of Albion platform 2

And the concrete Ballarat Road bridge is crumbling.

Cracking concrete parapets on the Ballarat Road bridge at Albion

And the wider area

A non-DDA compliant ramp is the only access to Albion station.

Ramp between platform and pedestrian subway at Albion station

Connecting to a dank pedestrian subway.

Pedestrian subway at Albion station

Car parking dominates the entire area.

7:30am and still plenty of car parking spaces at Albion station

The Ballarat Road bridge overshadows the Albion side of the station.

Alstom Comeng 676M departs Albion on the down

Making the car park feel even seedier than they usually are.

Car park on the western side of Albion station

Go for a walk down the west side of the tracks, and you’ll find a cyclone fence with rusty barbed wire at neck height.

Barbed wire at neck height beside the footpath under Ballarat Road at Albion station

Or head towards Sunshine North via St Albans Road, where you’ll find a narrow foothpath squeezed beside cars.

Dysons bus #755 3144AO on a Sunbury line rail replacement service along St Albans Road, Albion

Keep going, and you’ll find a second bridge over the Albion-Jacana railway.

Alstom Comeng 628M on the down at Albion

Squeeze between the road and the fence.

Narrow footpath on St Albans Road links Sunshine North to Albion station

Hopefully you don’t need to pass someone coming in the other directions.

Narrow footpath on St Albans Road links Sunshine North to Albion station

Or get crushed into the steel guard rail by a wayward motorist.

Narrow footpath on St Albans Road links Sunshine North to Albion station

So I’m not exactly surprised that a rail-over-road-over-rail solution was chosen for Albion – a penny pinching State Government doesn’t want to spend money on fixing the problems of the west, so they’re just throwing a new bridge over it all, so the rest of Melbourne doesn’t have to look at it.

Update – Albion isn’t completely forgotten

Turns out an upgrade to the shared use path between Albion and Sunshine North is in scope.

Designing and undertaking all works for the SUP between the Albion eastern car park and Gilmore Road including:

• SUP along the east side of the eastern Albion Station carpark; and
• SUP connection along St Albans Road under the Ballarat Road underpass and a new stand-alone bridge over the Albion-Jacana corridor.

As is ‘public realm’ improvements to the area:

• the architectural gateway feature including public artwork or creative design treatments associated with the viaduct near Ballarat Road;
• boulevard landscaping treatment to Ballarat Road between Anderson Road and Adelaide Street;
• public realm, shared use zone, public artwork and creative design treatments between rail corridor and John Darling Flour Mill site;
• landscape treatments to Talmage Street;
• establishment of forecourt area, including street furniture, from Albion Station eastern entry to pedestrian underpass;
• landscape upgrade works to existing Albion Station car park on eastern side of rail corridor; and
• temporary creative works to ameliorate construction-phase impacts including creative hoarding treatments, pop-up parklets, street furniture or other pedestrian infrastructure, lighting, programmable spaces, and creative wayfinding.

So at least Albion station is getting something other than a new row of concrete pylons.

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30 Responses to “Melbourne Airport Rail Link – finally some detail”

  1. Beren says:

    The west votes for Labor at every election. Poor areas of Melbourne are a Labor stronghold. Its why money is never spent. Same old issue. Its why both sides of politics were divided over whether the metro tunnel would serve Pakenham or Frankston. (They never considered serving both)

    • Andrew S says:

      The major swing seats are the eastern Bayside suburbs plus a few others. Coincidentally there is a constant drip feed of projects such as the Bayside Rail upgrade and the XTrapolis trains running on the line, various level crossing removals in trenches where possible, the Mornington Peninsula Freeway extension, then there was the Baxter funding from the Feds which was later put on the back burner.

      • indigohex3 says:

        Actually, St. Albans and Ginifer stations were lowered into a trench when grade separation happened; but you need to realise that grade separation project is actually more complex than just using one method for all, with issues such as ground (and in particular some materials which makes lowering the rail into a trench virtually impossible) and that some places are on a water table or flood plains, which may make lowering rail into a trench impossible (like Melton Highway in Sydenham for example, which became road over rail because it was near a water table) and that a bridge or even Skyrail may be necessary in some cases. So the Level Crossing Removals project is actually more complicated than you imply.

        Remember that Skyrail outraged a small minority of people along its path, but had opened some new public space and allowed trains to run while work was being done without much delays, unlike what happened at St Albans and Ginifer which was in a trench and often replaced by buses. Skyrail ended being popular with the public in the end.

        And it should also be noted that the Sunbury line (and eventually the Airport line) will be serviced by the Metro tunnel as well, not just Cranbourne and Pakenham (there is a tunnel opening near South Kensington station, which will connect the Sunbury line to the tunnel). And the Sunbury Line is being upgraded to allow the High Capacity Metro Trains to run to Sunbury in addition to grade separations in Sunbury.

        And there has also been duplication of the Melton line which was previously single-track, and a new railway station in Caroline Springs and Regional Rail Link (which will eventually be electrified under the Western Rail Plan, and are in mostly safe seats). And X’Trapolis trains now also run on the Werribee and Williamstown lines, not just Frankston (the two lines I mentioned are mainly safe seats). So there are plenty of projects in the western suburbs, which I agree are safe seats.

        And despite not being held by the Liberal Party, Brimbank received massive upgrades to its bus network in 2014 when Victoria had a Liberal government. So it could be argued that even safe seats gets projects, so it is not actually exclusive to marginal seats.

        • Marcus Wong says:

          The grade separation at St Albans station was planned back when rail under was the default, with Ginifer station tacked onto the project once planning had already started.

          I’d argue that there a single elevated rail viaduct would’ve been a better solution, than two long trenches that cut the area in half.

          • indigohex says:

            Stand corrected. I am in that general area, and rail over road was one of the options proposed for the removal work at Main Road. I am not sure if that option was also at Ginifer. Come to think of it, rail over road may have been the better solution.

  2. Richard Collett says:

    The last section from Sharps Rd to the Airport is going to be way more complicated than it needed to be, because they built the “URBN SURF” facility right on top of what was obviously a corridor kept clear for the railway line…

  3. Paul says:

    This is a great tragedy and shows the British “we only want a stop start Metro system” bureaucrats have a firm grip on power at the PTV, TfV, DOT and the ear of the inept politicians.

    The greatest idea to have come from the PTV, TfV, DOT or whatever name it was at the time was having a standard gauge line operated by V/Line that used the RRL to Sunshine, then dedicated tracks through the airport and continued on to Wallan to form the standardised north east passenger corridor. A junction north of the airport would also link to Clarkefield on the Bendigo line, enabling the standardisation to Bendigo and eliminating the sharing of tracks from Sunshine to Sunbury that drags Bendigo trains down to crawling pace.

    Unfortunately, a cheap and nasty extension of the suburban network has won the day. Singapore and Brisbane are great examples that suburban branches that terminate at an airport are poorly patronised. Meanwhile, Amsterdam Schipol on the through Amsterdam to Rotterdam track is a big winner.

  4. Andrew S says:

    I’m surprised the highlight of the Albion station precinct has been overlooked by the locals in this article – the long-abandoned and derelict bowling alley on Ballarat Road next to the overpass.

    • indigohex3 says:

      I travel on the Sunbury line and you are spot on with the long-abandoned and derelict bowling alley on St. Albans Road (it’s actually on St. Albans Road and not Ballarat Road, but you could be forgiven as it is very close. I think they should fix that up.

      • Marcus Wong says:

        It’s been closed for 10+ years now – during the Regional Rail Link project the site was used for extra car parking, but the lease ended around 2017.

        New access road to Albion station - cutting through the abandoned bowling alley

        • indigohex3 says:

          They opened a new one at Watergardens Town Centre at around that time to replace the old bowling alley as shown in your photo.

  5. Kev says:

    In the diagrams of regions and packages, the alignment of the Jet Fuel Pipeline past Calder Fwy reminds me of the pipe under Somerton Rd at Roxburgh Park/Coolaroo, through the pedestrian underpass.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I thought the locked up underpass on the west side of the Somerton Road underpass, but the pipeline actually runs on the eastern side of the railway.

      • Kev says:

        Interesting link, and the Gazette link on that, too. Trying to read the route description, my eyes goggled, now I need a rest!
        The pipe I mentioned running through the pedestrian underpass is I believe the Otway Crescent Drain (or are there even more pipes in the area?) Apparently it also crosses the tracks to follow the same eastern alignment as the jet fuel pipe for a bit (Hume City Flood Emergency Plan – A Sub-Plan of the MEMP – Version 5.2 May 2020 Page 108 [PDF page 119], sorry no link).

  6. Peter says:

    This just looks to be a cheap project. I don’t get how this project is $10 billion dollars. There is no major tunnelling, no underground stations. Just simple upgrades and asphalt platforms. Even Perth’s Airport Rail Link looks more sophisticated, yet cost a fraction ($2.0 billion).

    • Malcolm McCaskill says:

      The $10 billion is a commitment, not the cost, which will only become known toward the end of the project. In addition to the tender costs there or the public sesctor management of the project, eg publicity, plus a contingency allowance over and above that within the contractor quotes. As the true costs of the project become known there would be negotiation between the State and Federal government about how to allocate the remaining budget. For example, in the Regional Rail Link project the “excess” Federal budget was allocated to a rural freeway near Ararat, while the State component was sufficient to fund grade separations at Ginifer and St Albans.

      • Stirling says:

        Sure but saying it’s a $10 billion project just encourages the tender responses to gravitate towards that figure. Why leave extra on the table?

        Let alone the descoping of the “Sunshine Super Hub”, Albion precinct, and potential Keillor East stations from the project. The project would be far more useful with these additions than saving a few hundred million potentially.

  7. Malcolm M says:

    It’s great how the works have been split into 6 components, because these smaller packages attract a greater range of contracting companies, and likely to lower the costs.

  8. Malcolm M says:

    The scope of works includes the standard guage platform at Sunshine, indicated by a sliver of colour on the Sunshine Station works adjacent to the standard guage tracks. This would make transfers to Albury and Sydney trains much easier for passengers from the regional west and the western suburbs. It is a pity that a standard guage platform previously existed at Sunshine, but was allowed to get into a state of disrepair.

    It’s unclear how electrified Melton trains would join the Metro 1 tracks with the removal of crossovers at the eastern end of Sunshine Station. Perhaps the electrification is continued through to Southern Cross, or a new Melton local platform is built on the southern side of Sunshine Station that connects into Melbourne Metro 1 through a grade separated rail junction on the eastern side of the station.

  9. gxh says:

    Am I missing something, or is there a lack of detail as to the location of the Airport Station? Seemingly, it’s to be at ground level, but where? It looks as though there could be a long walk from the terminal building.

  10. Stirling says:

    @Marcus It seems you didn’t include a link to the document this post is based on anywhere in the post. Was that an oversight? Am I blind and just missing it? Or is it not yet public info?

  11. […] is about to start on the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, with some changes coming for Sunshine – a tangle of new track between Sunshine and Albion, and a new station concourse at the city […]

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