V/Line VLocity train emissions

The core of V/Line’s fleet is the VLocity train, the first of which entered service back in 2005. So how dirty are the diesel engines that power them?

VLocity VL57 emerges from the fog with an up Geelong service at Ravenhall

What’s under the hood?

Each train is made up of three carriages, and each carriage has two diesel engines beneath it

A 19-litre Cummins QSK19-R rated at 559 kW (750 hp) to move the train.

Cummins QSK19-R main engine horizontally mounted beneath a VLocity railcar

And a 5.9 litre Cummins 6BT5.9G generator set rated at 85 kW to power the air conditioning, lights, and auxiliaries.

Cummins 6BT5.9G generator set beneath a VLocity railcar

The Cummins QSK19-R engine is used in trains around the world, with over 1,700 units already in service.

The original QSK19-R, released in 1999 with the High-Pressure Injection fuel system (HPI), powered the world’s fastest diesel railcar to 222 km/hr (138 mph) and quickly set new industry standards for high reliability and low operating costs in passenger rail service.

The all-new Cummins QSK19-R, now upgraded with a Modular Common Rail Fuel System (MCRS) and urea Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) aftertreatment, delivers the same reliable power and economical operation at Tier 4/Stage IIIB emissions standards.

Clean-burn technology significantly reduces engine-out Particulate Matter (PM) and does not require an exhaust particulate filter. Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions are reduced with urea SCR, which has proven to be robust, reliable and extremely effective.

Closed-crankcase ventilation eliminates 100 percent of crankcase emissions at all times. Efficient, service-free filtration strips the oils and feeds the gases back into the engine for complete combustion, ensuring a clean engine compartment and a cleaner environment.

A few statistics

V/Line’s fleet of trains consume around 200 litres per 100 km travelled:

Fuel consumption rates (diesel) for V/Line has been based on fuel consumption data and vehicle kilometres travelled provided by V/Line for 2014/15.

And in 2008 V/Line was using around 31 million litres of diesel a year:

With a loco using about three litres of diesel per kilometre, V/Line gets through a whole lot of fuel over the course of a year.

In fact, V/Line bought about 31 million litres of diesel in the past year – an increase of 30 per cent since the introduction of VLocity trains, the start of the new service plan and the
installation of fuel points at Bendigo and Geelong.

With only a few fuel companies in Australia large enough to supply the amount of diesel needed to run our fleet, it’s important that V/Line gets the best deal going.

In September last year, tender submissions closed for the V/Line bulk fuel contract, worth a not-so-paltry $35 million. Six companies put in their tenders after attending briefings and site inspections and the contract has been awarded to BP.

In an effort to reduce emissions in 2012–13 V/Line trialled catalytic converters on VLocity trains:

V/Line has started trialling a catalytic converter on a VLocity unit with the aim of reducing diesel emissions. Catalytic converters change toxic exhaust into a less toxic substance and are common on motor vehicles which run on petrol. The converter sits in the exhaust system, and while testing is still being carried out, if found successful, consideration will be given to retrofitting the VLocity fleet.

In 2015 they started spruiking their use of BP ‘Ultimate Diesel’ to fuel the fleet.

Advertisement for 'BP Ultimate Diesel' on VLocity 3VL59

And in their 2017-18 annual report they stated that energy consumption intensity was falling.

Energy consumption intensity continued to decrease at V/Line in 2017-18, falling to 0.839 MJ/passenger km. This is a 3.3 per cent decrease from the previous year’s consumption of 0.868 MJ/passenger km.

And the Level Crossing Removal Authority’s air quality assessment for the Caulfield to Dandenong project spelled out the emissions created by VLocity trains

Table 3 Emission Factors

Pollutant Emission Rate, kg/h Emission Factor, g/km
NO2 0.45 9.05
PM10 0.1 2.01
PM2.5 0.1 2.01

For two 3‐car trains (6‐car sets). The emission factors were calculated based on a line speed of 80 km/h.

So what emissions standards do V/Line’s trains meet?

Back in 2006 someone asked V/Line that very question:

For over a year I have been corresponding with the state government on particulate pollution from V/Line Diesels around Spencer Street. There is a national voluntary reporting mechanism for emissions (the National Pollution Inventory, managed in Victoria by the EPA) and V/Line has volunteered not to do it. As part of the to-ing and fro-ing, I did get one letter from the DOI which had this to say.

Their answer at the time being:

Over the last five years, the Government commenced updating its country passenger rolling stock, opting for the VLocity passenger cars in preference to locomotive-hauled carriages. VLocity engines comply with Euro 2 emission standards.

In 2018 I decided to ask pose the same to them, to see what has changed:

I was wondering:
– what exhaust emission standards do V/Line’s VLocity trains meet (eg: United States ‘Tier X’ or European Union ‘Euro X’ standards)
– has there been any work done to reduce the exhaust emissions of VLocity trains since they first entered service a decade or so ago, and
– are there any plans to reduce the exhaust emissions of VLocity trains in future

And they eventually got back to me:

Our Fleet Maintenance Manager has advised that current traction engine is designed to Euro II requirements.

Some VLocity have had a particulate filter added to the exhaust system. This upgrade has only started this year and it is planned to upgrade the remainder of the fleet as they undergo overhaul. With this modifications the engines are capable of Euro IIIa.

A Euro IV package is currently being investigated for new builds and replacement engines.

So some progress, but plenty of work still to do.


Photos from ten years ago: June 2009

Another instalment in my photos from ten years ago series – this time it is June 2009.

Main entrance to Southern Cross Station

Remember how open and spacious Southern Cross Station used to be? Nevermore!

But one thing that has changed for the better is the queue to buy V/Line tickets – on the Friday night before the Queens Birthday long weekend I found 50 or so people waiting to buy one.

The failure of paper based ticketing - almost 50 people waiting to buy one, on the Friday night before the long weekend

Before the introduction of myki to V/Line commuter services in 2013, passengers could only buy tickets in person from major railway stations, or a limited number of ticket agents in country towns – which led to massive queues at Southern Cross Station.

June 2009 also saw the first Myki ticket machines deployed to suburban stations.

Myki CVM awaiting commissioning at Altona station, Metcard machine to the right

It took until December 2009 for them to be switched on for passengers, with the Metcard machines removed from November 2012.

Another improvement was down at Laverton, where work was well underway on a third track and turnback platform. There were ‘Road closed’ signs blocking the rails.

'Road closed' signs on the track

A platform minus track.

Down platform with no track

And new overhead wires being strung.

Cherrypicker on the way down

Over at North Melbourne station the new concourse was almost complete.

Hoardings over platforms 5/6 removed

The structure emerging from above the steel and timber crash deck.

Temporary scaffold over platform 3/4

June 2009 also saw site clearance work start for the new Footscray station footbridge.

Old ramp still in use

Ready to replace the rickety timber and tin footbridge that linked the platforms.

Commuters wait for an up train at Footscray

A short distance from Footscray is the rail freight yards of North Dynon freight yard.

QRN liveried CLP11 shunting at North Dynon

In the decade since much has happened – QR National rebranded as Aurizon in 2012 only to quit the intermodal freight business completely in 2017, while the northern Melbourne CBD skyline is now crowded with new apartment towers.

But things were much quieter at the Newport Workshops, where the railway sidings lay empty.

Looking over the west block

Currently used y a number of railway heritage groups to restore steam locomotives, in 2019 VicTrack announced that the groups would not have their leases on the site renewed.

I also caught a a V/Line screwup at Southern Cross Station – the points changed beneath a carriage set in the yard, leading to multi-track drifting.

South end from overhead

And finally something completely different – semi-submersible oil platform ‘Kan Tan IV‘ being towed into Corio Bay.

Four tugs towing the 'Kan Tan IV'

Just made it at nightfall

Bound for Lascelles Wharf, the rig was in Geelong for refurbishment.


Here you can find the rest of my ‘photos from ten years ago‘ series.

What does $2.1 billion for the Sunbury line get?

In the 2019/20 Victorian Budget a total of $2.1 billion was allocated for upgrades to the Sunbury line, in preparation for the new High Capacity Metro Trains set to run via the Metro Tunnel by late 2025. So what does that money get you?

Digging deeper

First stop – the 2019/20 State Budget papers:

New trains for Sunbury

The Sunbury line will be transformed as part of the largest rail corridor upgrade in Victoria’s history. A range of platform, stabling and traction power upgrades will be undertaken on the Sunbury line to support the end-to-end operation of High Capacity Metro Trains on the Sunbury to Cranbourne-Pakenham rail corridor.

This investment complements other recent investments by the State on this corridor including the Metro Tunnel project, the removal of several level crossings, and power, signalling and other infrastructure upgrades on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line.

The Metro Tunnel page on “upgrades to the rail network” has a map showing the scope of the work.

As well as explaining the upgrades themselves.

High Capacity Signalling

As part of the Metro Tunnel Project, High Capacity Signalling (HCS) will be installed from Watergardens to Dandenong.

High Capacity Signalling will enable Victoria’s new fleet of High Capacity Metro Trains to run on the Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury lines and through the Metro Tunnel.

Sophisticated HCS equipment will be installed in both the rail corridor and within the driver’s cabin of each train, allowing trains to safely run closer together.

Track side communication equipment will also be installed along the length of the corridor.

Dedicated control centres will be built in Dandenong and Sunshine to support the new technology and will be fully staffed by experts who will monitor trains on the new Metro Tunnel line.

Train stabling

Stabling facilities are used to maintain and store trains when they are not in service. The existing Calder Park stabling facility is proposed to be expanded to store and maintain the new High Capacity Metro Trains. Changes may also be required to existing train stabling at Watergardens and Sunbury to accommodate the new trains.

Platform modifications

New High Capacity Metro Trains are being delivered by the Victorian Government to meet the future needs of Melbourne. The new trains will have more carriages, carry more passengers and be longer than trains used today.

Some existing stations on the Sunbury, Cranbourne and Pakenham lines may require platform extensions and ancillary works to support the longer trains.

Works at West Footscray station, including an extra platform, will also be undertaken to enable some Sunbury-bound services to turn around at this station.

This will enable trains to terminate and commence from West Footscray station which in turn, will create more services towards the city on this line.

Power upgrades

Electricity upgrades are proposed to power the new trains and systems that are part of the Metro Tunnel. This may include upgrading a number of existing substations and potentially building new power facilities along the rail corridor.

They also provide a basic map showing where the works are required.

But what will the upgrades like look like?

No need to wonder – identical works are underway on the other side of the city as part of the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line Upgrade (CPLU) project.

A new signal control centre has been built at Dandenong station.

New signal control centre at Dandenong station

With plenty of new electrical conduits installed along the tracks.

Installing new signal conduits at the down end of Oakleigh station

And signal equipment rooms.

New signal equipment room at the down end of Dandenong station

New cables are being run.

Pulling new signalling cables through trunking at the up end of Oakleigh

Connecting to new line side signals.

New tilt mast signal awaiting commissioning at the up end of Huntingdale

New overhead stanchions have been installed along the corridor.

New overhead stanchions in use at Oakleigh station

Supporting brand new overhead wires.

New overhead stanchions and upgraded overhead between Beaconsfield and Officer

Additional copper traction power feeder cables have been added in parallel with the normal pair of catenary and contact wires, to supply the power hungry High Capacity Metro Trains.

Triple copper traction power feeder cables at Springvale station

Along with new traction power substations, which convert the 22kV AC mains power to the 1500V DC used by trains.

New traction power substation taking shape at Berwick station

And finally – platform extensions.

Some are short and basic.

Completed platform extension at the north end of South Yarra platform 6

Others include ramps and shelters for wheelchair passengers.

Extension at the city end of Oakleigh platform 1

But the extension at the down end of Springvale platform 1 takes the cake – it’s only 1.5 metres long!

Tiny platform extension at the down end of Springvale platform 1

The rebuilt Springvale station opened in 2014 – did someone miss the “new platforms must be 160 metres long” memo?

So what about the cost?

The 2019/20 State Budget papers break downs the funding allocated to the Sunbury line upgrade, due to be delivered over the next four years.

Year Million $
2019-20 202.1
2020-21 491.8
2021-22 715.5
2022-23 292.6
Total 2050.4

$2.1 billion is a lot of money, so let’s compare it to some other recent contracts.

The Metro Tunnel has two separate works packages currently delivering similar work, at a cost of $1 billion each:

Rail Systems

The Rail Systems Alliance (RSA) will include the design, supply, installation, testing, integration and commissioning activities in relation to train and power control systems, operational control systems, conventional and high capacity signalling.

Rail Systems works will be undertaken by a consortium comprising CPB Contractors and Bombardier Transportation.

Rail Infrastructure

The Rail Infrastructure Alliance (RIA) will include works at the eastern and western tunnel entrances (portals) including cut and cover tunnelling, decline structures and the reconfiguration and realignment of existing lines to connect the new Metro Tunnel rail tracks to the existing surface network.

RIA will also deliver a new platform at West Footscray and associated suburban rail upgrades that will maximise the benefits of the Metro Tunnel.

A consortium comprising John Holland, CPB Contractors and AECOM will deliver these works, in partnership with Rail Projects Victoria and Metro Trains Melbourne.

We also know how much the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line Upgrade is due to cost, thanks to the 2018/19 Victorian Budget:

The new Sunbury to Cranbourne-Pakenham corridor will be transformed as part of the largest rail corridor upgrade in Victoria’s history.

The project includes a range of signalling, power and infrastructure upgrades along and Cranbourne-Pakenham corridor, as well as initial readiness works and further design and development work on the Sunbury line. These upgrades will increase capacity, improve system resilience and accommodate the new High Capacity Metro Trains on the Sunbury to Cranbourne-Pakenham corridor.

It also includes planning and development activities for a future Cranbourne line duplication and associated works at the Dandenong and Caulfield rail junctions.

The funds for the Cranbourne-Pakenham part of the upgrades is as follows:

Year Million $
2018-19 113.1
2019-20 375.1
2020-21 51.4
Total 539.5

Hmm – $539 million? That’s a quarter of the Sunbury line works bill!

More buried figures

Turns out the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line Upgrade isn’t the only project currently underway to get the corridor ready for the new High Capacity Metro Trains – the Level Crossing Removal Authority is also responsible for delivering upgrades, as part of the “CD9” Caulfield to Dandenong (CTD) Level Crossing Removal Project.

The April 2018 media release for the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line Upgrade touched on this:

The Victorian Budget 2018/19 will provide $572 million to deliver further upgrades to Melbourne’s busiest rail corridor – delivering power upgrades, and modern signalling from the city to Cranbourne and Pakenham.

The existing project to remove the level crossings between Caulfield and Dandenong has included the delivery of upgraded power, new track, longer platforms and modernised signalling.

This new project will expand these upgrades along the entire corridor to ensure new, high-capacity trains can reliably run all the way from Cranbourne and Pakenham to Sunbury – linked through the CBD by the Metro Tunnel.

While the Level Crossing Removal Project business case dated May 2017 spelled out the interdependencies between the projects.

The LXRP plays a critical role in enabling the full benefits of major rail projects such as the Cranbourne Pakenham Line Upgrade (CPLU) and the Metro Tunnel to be achieved. This business case also includes a combined appraisal of these three critically interdependent transport projects.

Many of the level crossing removals are critical components of the Victorian Government’s program of major rail network upgrades. In particular, the removal of nine level crossings on the Caulfield-Dandenong corridor and three level crossings on the Sunbury corridor, allow for the rail service increases planned under both the Cranbourne Pakenham Line Upgrade (CPLU) and the Metro Tunnel.

But it is the Auditor General who gets to the bottom of the money trail, in the December 2017 “Managing the Level Crossing Removal Program” report, where three areas of scope creep are raised.

Poor network integrity

Poor network integrity has already contributed to cost increases for some rail projects, such as those along the Cranbourne Pakenham rail corridor that include the HCMT, CTD and the MTP.

In March 2017, PTV predicted that the long lead times of projects in the CPLU program would necessitate parallel development and delivery to meet key delivery dates. However, detailed consideration of the appropriate network requirements, and their subsequent application to the projects currently in delivery, highlighted some scope gaps and interface management issues that need to be resolved.


The business case was set up on the assumption of like-for-like replacement of existing infrastructure, but this was not realistic. For example, as the program progresses, works at level crossing removal sites along the Frankston and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines—such as required traction power upgrades and High Capacity Metropolitan Train (HCMT) requirements—are being identified. These requirements were known at the time of the business case development.

The business case provides for the construction of futureproofing works for 13 of the 16 crossings identified as requiring such works. These works include:
– increasing station platform length
– widening the rail corridor
– building wider road bridges.

LXRA will make provisions for the remaining three crossings — for example, by setting aside the required land — but will not construct the works as part of the current program.

Power upgrades

MTM and PTV have an agreed electrical network standard requiring a minimum 1 300 volts under normal conditions and 1 150 volts for first-order traction power failure conditions. The standard allows for changes to the service plan including the integration of HCMT rolling stock and proposed service level changes. The majority of the traction power network does not comply with the new standard.

The LXRP business case is based on maintaining existing network capacity. LXRP provides for the removal and replacement of overhead systems and associated infrastructure only where the removal requires new track. New substations for future traction power requirements were specifically excluded from the business case cost estimates, as the LXRP is not a network upgrade project.

And gives a dollar figure for two of the three areas:

An indicative cost estimate for addressing poor network integrity issues was $381.3 million — $158.6 million for additional work required in 2017–18 and a provision to cover associated risks of $222.7 million. The business case estimates the cost of futureproofing works at all 16 sites to be $148 million.

Giving a total of $529 million.

The final sums

So it looks like the “$539 million” for the Cranbourne-Pakenham Line Upgrade got a lot of work done for free by the Level Crossing Removal Authority! Track, signalling, stations and overhead built from scratch thanks to the level crossing removals between Caulfield and Dandenong, and longer platforms, upgraded overhead and additional substations thrown in after the fact – and all completed at the same time to avoid additional spending on rail replacement buses.

However there is 35km of track between South Kensington to Sunbury – far less than the 11km of track between Flinders Street and Caulfield, 14 km between Dandenong and Cranbourne, and 27km between Dandenong and Pakenham to be done under the “$539 million” budget on the eastern side of Melbourne. Perhaps there is more cost shifting onto other projects going on?

Remember the South Eastern Freeway dead end?

Ever got to the city end of the Eastern Freeway and thought “if only this freeway went somewhere, all of these traffic jams would disappear”? Well Melbourne has already tried doing that to every other freeway, and it doesn’t seem to be working.

Transdev bus citybound at Hoddle Street and the Eastern Freeway

We’ll jump back to 22nd May 1970, when The Age covered the opening day of the South Eastern Freeway, which then run between Punt Road in Richmond and Toorak Road in Kooyong.

Even in the 1970s ending a freeway with traffic lights was the butt of jokes.

Fine and fast on the freeway
But, oh that dead-end corner

Their job done, police watch as traffic lights take over at the Toorak Road end of the new freeway section

Motorists were delighted when they used the new $19 million second stage of the South-Eastern Freeway for the first time last night. Until they came to the gasometers at the Toorak Road intersection! Here the 60 mph freeway almost ran into a dead-end.

Motorists had to wait five minutes at the lights before they could go on to Tooronga Road or turn into Toorak Road. Traffic from the freeway also disrupted traffic travelling east in Toorak Road. And cars were banked up from the freeway intersection back to Kooyong Road at the height of the peak period.

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Hamer) opened the freeway. He said it would save the community $15,000 a week by reducing accidents and cutting travelling time. “The Board of Works was justified in using all reasonable means to get the road ready and in use at the earliest date,” he said.

While one wag managed to run out of petrol, blocking the new road.

One chap just had to run out of petrol

Mr. Paul Armstrong, with thousands of others, is hurrying home from the city along the new $19 million, four-lane section of the South-Eastern Freeway yesterday.

He is 50 yards from Toorak Road when suddenly his rented car (below) splutters and stops. No petrol. Mr. Armstrong, a 21-year-old Canterbury estate agent, is the first to break down on the 2.5 mile expressway from Burnley to Tooronga Road – half an hour after its opening.

“The gauge said the tank was still half full, but I knew straight away that I had run out of petrol,” he said. I had to rent this car when my own broke down, otherwise I don’t think this would have happened.” Mr. Armstrong walked 300 yards to a service station in Toorak Road and got enough petrol to get home.

But the reasons for rejecting freeway building were also the same – they are expensive and polluting, delivering marginal savings in travel times while moving congestion elsewhere.


Mr. Hamer was jeered by a small group of banner-waving trainee teachers as he cut a blue ribbon to open the new section. One of the demonstrators, Andrew Moffat, of Hallam, said the money should have been spent on schools. “Freeways, with the increased number of cars they handle, add to pollution of the atmosphere. “I can’t see why this money could not be spent on schools or something else more worthwhile,” he said. The chairman of the Board of Works – (Mr. Croxford) said rain had stopped workmen painting traffic lanes on the new freeway.

Travel time

He advised motorists to drive carefully and not to overtake other cars until the lanes were painted. The new freeway section cuts about 2 1/4 minutes from the travel time to the city. From the traffic light forest at the Toorak Road intersection it lops less than a tenth of a mile off the trip. Last night’s times along the freeway averaged 10.5 minutes.

In off-peak traffic – even with the level crossing trams and four sets of traffic lights – the average time was 13 minutes. Under the yellow sodium lights cars ducked and weaved to keep up to the 60 mph speed limit. They banked up 20 and 30 deep at the Toorak Road intersection and other bottlenecks. There were no lane markings, apart from two short strips of reflecting “cats’ eyes”. And warning lamps guarded an unfinished section of one ramp.

Still, some people thought the new freeway would solve Melbourne’s traffic problems, such as MLC Geoffrey John O’Connell for Melbourne Province during the 25 March 1970 debate on the Richmond and Hawthorn Lands Bill.

My party has no objection to the Bill. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works has performed good work on the South Eastern Freeway. When this four lane highway is fully operative, many of Melbourne’s traffic problems, particularly in this area, will be solved.

But the traffic problem was never “solved”.

Siemens train crosses the Cremorne railway bridge, with peak hour traffic grinding along the Monash Freeway

Throughout the 1970s the Mulgrave Freeway was progressively extended toward the Melbourne CBD from Dandenong towards Chadstone, reaching a dead end at Warrigal Road in 1981.

Melway Map 69 Edition 14, 1982

During a 1981 debate on funds for rural roads, Labor MP Steve Crabb questions whether ‘salami tactics‘ were driving the expansion of Melbourne’s freeway network.


The fact is that everybody in the community is disadvantaged in terms of roads because the Government continues to pursue the construction of crazy freeway schemes
that have been on the planning books for a decade. The people who are disadvantaged are the people who want to use the ordinary, basic infrastructure of roads both in the city and its suburban areas and in the country.

Mr Maclellan-

We have stopped building freeways.


I am surprised that the Minister keeps raising this matter. He raises it every time we discuss this subject.

The Government has never come clean on what it proposes to do about linking the Mulgrave Freeway with the South Eastern Freeway, but it intends to proceed with a project which will
cost some $120 million and which will require, by definition, an expansion of the capacity of the South Eastern Freeway to at least three lanes in each direction.

That will inevitably lead to a linking of the F19, the West Gate Freeway, with the South Eastern Freeway by means of a tunnel under the Yarra River. Nothing is surer than that, if the Country Roads Board is allowed to continue with the policy the Government has given it, that is where we will end up!

Insufficient road funds are spent in both country and suburban municipalities, as all honourable members know. The money that ought to be spent on those roads is being expended on the grandiose schemes of a Government that has not got the capacity to reorient its policies from those established ten or twenty years ago.

The “missing link” between the South Eastern Freeway and the Mulgrave Freeway was eventually opened as the “South Eastern Arterial Road Link” in 1988, but in a nod to freeway objectors, was built with traffic lights at intersections instead of flyovers.

Melway Map 59 Edition 20, 1990

But even that wasn’t enough to solve Melbourne’s traffic – a flood of other upgrades have been completed on what is now known as the Monash Freeway.

  • 1994 – Warrigal Road traffic lights replaced by overpass.
  • 1996 – Tooronga Road, Burke Road and Toorak Road traffic lights replaced by overpasses.
  • 2000 – CityLink project widened freeway to three lanes between Toorak Road and the city, along with connection to West Gate Freeway via the Domain and Burnley Tunnels.
  • 2010 – freeway widened to four lanes between Dandenong and the tunnels.
  • 2018 – freeway widened to five lanes between EastLink and the South Gippsland Highway.
  • 2019 – work starts on widening to five lanes between Warrigal Road and Eastlink.

Money well spent?

Monash Freeway citybound at Church Street


Here is a map showing the development of Melbourne’s freeway network from 1970 to present day, from the North East Link Project, Appendix C “Transport Assessment – Existing Conditions and Future No Project Scenario” report dated February 2018.

It only details the opening date of freeways, not the endless procession of widening projects.

Southern Cross Station – what could have been

With all of the recent talk about Southern Cross Station’s failings – in particular failed escalators and gross overcrowding in peak times – what better time than now to look at what could have been.

Wide angle overview from the Collins Street concourse

The backstory

On February 28, 2000 then-Premier Steve Bracks announced the Linking Victoria program, which included a joint private/public sector redevelopment of Spencer Street Station.

“Spencer Street, the central facility for metropolitan, State, and interstate rail services, has been allowed to die a slow death,” Mr Bracks said.

“Our plans include a multi-modal interchange for passengers on country and metropolitan rail services, the airport rail link, trams and regional buses, and commercial development so the station can better serve Victoria as an international business and tourism centre.

“The Government has commenced work on a master plan for the redevelopment of Spencer Street to give it new life and ensure it plays a pivotal role in linking Victoria.”

A development plan for the project will be undertaken by the Department of Infrastructure over the next six months. Tenders are expected to be let later this year, with construction expected to commence in 2001.

In August 2000 Flagstaff Consulting Group was appointed to develop a concept plan for the Spencer Street Station redevelopment along with options for the financing, delivery and operation of the project. This culminated in October 10, 2001 with the shortlisting of three consortia to build, operate and maintain the new station:

  • Civic Nexus: ABN AMRO Australia Ltd, Leighton Contractors P/L, with architects Daryl Jackson P/L, Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners
  • Spencer Connect: Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd, John Holland P/L, Australand Holdings Ltd, with architects Ashton Raggatt MacDougall, Alsop & Stormer
  • Multiplex Rothschild Consortium: Multiplex Constructions P/L, NM Rothschild & Sons (Australia) Ltd, with architects Denton Corker Marshall, DEGW Asia Pacific P/L

So what did the three proposals look like?

Spencer Connect: Ashton Raggatt MacDougall

Hold onto your hat – you’re in for a wild ride with Ashton Raggatt McDougall! From their archived page on the project:

Imagine seeing this at the Spencer Street end of Bourke Street!

A bizarro world concourse.

And these claustrophobic platforms.

I wonder how it would have translated to reality?

Multiplex Rothschild: Denton Corker Marshall

Somewhat more conventional was the design by Denton Corker Marshall – artists impressions from their page on the project:

Plenty of open space on the concourse.

And even more above the platforms.

And topped off with a ‘blade’, just like their other 1990s Melbourne projects – Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne Museum and the ‘Cheesestick’ over CityLink.

So what happened?

In February 2002 a five person design panel was appointed to review the proposals:

Peter McIntyre
A practising architect with 50 years experience, he has designed key icons for Melbourne such as the Olympic Swimming Stadium, Parliament Station, the Melbourne Arts Centre Spire. A former Professor of Architecture at Melbourne University, Mr McIntyre has also been involved in the Museum of Victoria and Crown Casino Melbourne, and will chair the panel.

Leon Van Schaik
Mr Van Schaik is a Melbourne architect, Pro Vice Chancellor and a professor of architecture at RMIT. He has a long history of promoting local architectural culture in Melbourne through the university’s capital works program.

Scott Danielson
An international architect, Mr Danielson will bring an international perspective to Melbourne. He has strong experience in transport interchanges, having been associated with Mass Rapid Transport system in Singapore and Taipei.

Peter Crone
A well-known Melbourne architect, Mr Crone leads his own award-winning practice based on inventive architectural design.

Gerry Neylan
Mr Neylan will contribute almost 30 years experience in major projects. He has an extensive background of planning, architecture and business development.

The Multiplex Rothschild consortium was knocked out of the running in early 2002, leaving a two horse race when the winner was announced on July 2, 2002:

Mr Bracks named the winning consortium as Civic Nexus. Members of the consortium are: ABN Amro, who led and financed the proposal; Leighton Contractors, who will build the new station; and world renowned Australian architect Daryl Jackson and UK-based architect Nicholas Grimshaw.

Civic Nexus will:

  • Construct a new transport interchange, worth $350 million, including associated track and signalling works.
  • Maintain and operate the new railway station for the next 30 years, with total costs of approximately $100 million.

In return, the State will pay Civic Nexus $300 million through regular payments over the next 30 years.

Mr Bracks said the Civic Nexus redevelopment included the construction of a new retail plaza, and three office and apartment towers, within the Spencer Street Station precinct.

Features of the new station included:

  • An open design with vast, light-filled spaces, and all-glass street frontage on to the Collins St extension and Spencer St;
  • Secure, sheltered parking facilities for 800 cars plus drop-off areas;
  • A 30-bay bus station accommodating terminating and transiting coaches and buses, and providing ticketing facilities and waiting areas for their passengers;
  • Convenient access to the main terminal complex for trams travelling along Spencer Street and the new Collins Street extension
  • An innovative ‘wave roof’ design spanning across all platforms;
  • Links to Docklands via the Collins and Bourke Street alignments, with direct access to these bridges from all platforms;
  • In addition to the Bourke Street Pedestrian Bridge, a new footbridge will link Lonsdale Street with Colonial Stadium and connect with a retail plaza;
  • The Transport Mural is heritage listed and will be retained and located within the new facility;
  • Fully sheltered, high-quality waiting areas, equipped with comfortable seating, lighting, heating and air-conditioning and providing access to toilets, telephones, passenger information displays, catering facilities and other retail outlets;
  • Passenger security facilities throughout the Interchange Facility – including CCTV monitoring – and readily accessible passenger help-points and alarms connected to an on-site control room;
  • Efficient baggage handling facilities for interstate and long-distance intrastate rail and coach operations.

But it appears that the opinion of the design panel was trumped by beancounters, if this 2006 article from The Age is anything to go by:

The Age also reveals that the Southern Cross Station project, designed by British-based architects Nicholas Grimshaw and Melbourne’s Daryl Jackson, was not the scheme preferred by a Government-appointed design panel.

High-level sources confirmed this week that the three-man panel, led by Professor Peter McIntyre, favoured an alternative design by local firm Ashton Raggatt McDougall, but the Government opted for the cheaper bid.

Industry sources said they believed the difference between the bids was about $80 million.

Mr Batchelor defended the Government’s choice. “Victorians have a new, world-class railway station that has set the standards in design, engineering and technology,” he said.

“What we sought was value for money. In determining value for money, all aspects of the bids were considered including bid price and design.”

Enter scope cuts

It turns out that Southern Cross Station as it exists today is quite different to the original design that Civic Nexus proposed.

A major omission is the lack of roof over the Bourke Street Bridge.

But other changes include the substitution of the highrise tower at the south-west corner facing Collins Street with a low-rise office block, and the replacement of office towers along Spencer Street with the tin shed that is the DFO Outlet Mall.

But there were even more elements dropped – which The Age revealed in July 2005:

Key features of Melbourne’s troubled Spencer Street Station project, including the signature wave roof, have been scaled back or scrapped amid bitter infighting and cost blow-outs.

The wave roof will now cover only about three-quarters of the station, not all platforms as planned.

Other aspects of the $700 million redevelopment have been dropped or shelved as construction delays inflate costs, which the warring parties have sought to recoup through litigation.

The Age can reveal:

  • A footbridge linking Lonsdale Street and Telstra Dome will not be built.
  • A plan to extend the wave roof over the Bourke Street footbridge has been abandoned after heated rows. The bridge will now be only partially protected from the elements.
  • Plans for tiled platforms have been modified to a mix of tiled and asphalt surfaces, although construction company Leighton says this is not a cost-cutting measure.

The original plan, proposed in 2002, included a high-rise tower on the corner of Collins Street and Wurundjeri Way, and a wave roof spanning all platforms. The plan was varied in 2003.

A lower-rise, linear building along Wurundjeri Way will now replace the high rise. The building will be built on a raised concrete deck that will also form the roof above platforms 13 to 16.

This means the wave roof will now cover only platforms one to 12. Platforms 13 to 16, under the concrete deck, will effectively be covered by a high, flat roof.

Grimshaw project director Keith Brewis told The Age the change, (which effectively deletes some of the wave roof to allow for the deck/roof and linear building), had been cost related.

Because the competitive process was so short, the project had not been “absolutely set” when building started, he said. Civic Nexus later decided a high-rise tower was “less commercially attractive” to tenants.

The change to a linear building had been made “to give Civic Nexus some development profit back into the project to help to offset some of the costs of the project”, he said.

Mr Brewis confirmed that a plan for a footbridge to link Lonsdale Street and Telstra Dome would not go ahead because “someone’s got to pay for it”.

Civic Nexus and Leighton Contractors’ joint statement said the footbridge “was considered not necessary, given access is provided over Collins Street, the Bourke Street bridge and La Trobe Street”.

Mr Brewis confirmed there had been plans to extend the wave roof over the Bourke Street bridge, but that this would have involved realigning tracks to allow for supports.

Mr Brewis said there had been disagreement among the companies and organisations involved.

Bourke Street bridge will now be partially covered and have a windscreen on one side.

Civic Nexus and Leighton Contractors’ said the original covering over the bridge had been modified “at the request of the planning authorities who wanted to preserve pedestrian views from the bridge”.

Transport Minister Peter Batchelor would not be interviewed by The Age.

He emailed a statement through a media adviser stating that changes to the Bourke Street footbridge, the Lonsdale Street footbridge and the commercial building on Collins Street had been made in consultation with relevant authorities.

The government’s official line at the time was far more terse:

October 2003 – Design changes to commercial developments approved

Civic Nexus made several architectural and functional improvements to the office, retail and residential buildings being constructed alongside the main station. The $350 million airport-style transport interchange remained essentially unchanged.

But the end result was the same.

Asphalt everywhere.

Empty platforms at Southern Cross platform 3 and 4

Tin roofs over the northern end of each V/Line platform.

Stream of passengers exit their train at the north end of platform 3

A poorly lit concrete ceiling above platforms 13 through 16.

Second barrel light tower in place at the north end of platform 13 and 14

And no rain protection on the Bourke Street Bridge.

Pedestrians on the Bourke Street Bridge only have a narrow section of covered walkway

And don’t get me started on the shops crammed onto every piece of empty space.


Some more plans showing a different Southern Cross Station – they include the Lonsdale Street footbridge and a roof over the Bourke Street Bridge, but include the low-rise office block and DFO Outlet Mall as eventually built.