Victoria

Elevated rail could run through Melbourne's south-east in level crossing project

The Dandenong rail corridor would be rebuilt on a viaduct for much of its length, with trains running above street level through Melbourne's south-east, under a proposal to upgrade the city's busiest railway line.

The proposed elevated rail line between Caulfield and Dandenong would form part of the Andrews government's upgrade of the Cranbourne-Pakenham railway corridor, including removing nine congested level crossings and rebuilding four stations. 

Thirty-seven new, longer trains with space for an extra 200 passengers will also be designed and built for the line, increasing capacity by up to 42 per cent, according to the state government.

Labor has committed to complete the multibillion-dollar upgrade by 2018, with work due to begin early this year but has not yet revealed designs for the complex project. It is believed that designs for an elevated rail line have been submitted by a bidder hoping to work on the project. 

The Opposition seized on the proposal as evidence Labor is looking for a "cheaper option" to remove the level crossings, which it said would blight neighbourhoods and increase noise.

David Davis, the Coalition's planning spokesman, said elevated rail would be a suburban eyesore and create barriers between neighbourhoods.

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"The complete structure of the elevated rail, including poles and overhead wires, will be around three to four storeys high, making it a visual eyesore in suburban areas," Mr Davis said.

"The negative visual and sound impacts will also result in falling property values in the vicinity of the elevated rail line," he said.

But Ian Woodcock, an urban design lecturer at RMIT, said that if done well, an elevated rail line would be a less intrusive way to remove the level crossings than digging a long trench. Other cities including Berlin and Vancouver provided good examples of how to build elevated rail well, Mr Woodcock said.

"Rather than dividing communities it actually maximises the connection at ground level," he said.

"Yes you do have a structure to look at at ground level but ... elevated rail has much more potential for doing things with the space that is under the tracks than putting the rail in trenches."

Elevated rail already exists in sections across Melbourne, including between West Richmond and Clifton Hill, through Hawthorn on the Lilydale/Belgrave lines and through Balaclava on the Sandringham line.

Any move to rebuild the line overhead instead of beneath ground would need to factor in V/Line and freight trains.

There have been recent calls from rail experts to put two extra tracks on the Dandenong corridor, which would widen the line from two tracks to four, to provide express services for the outer suburbs and a dedicated line for V/Line and freight rail. 

The level crossings between Caulfield and Dandenong have long been identified as one of Melbourne's worst transport bottlenecks, for both road and rail users.

Crossings at locations including Murrumbeena Road in Murrumbeena, Clayton Road and Centre Road in Clayton are notorious for creating long traffic jams and capping the number of trains per hour, which worsens the peak-hour overcrowding problem.  

The Andrews government said it had not finalised designs for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line upgrade. 

Acting Premier James Merlino said the government was considering the "best way" to deliver its commitment to remove nine level crossings and would not rule anything in our out about the design. 

"We are currently in the middle of the tender process. No final decision has been made," he said. 

"The responsible thing for the government to do is to look at all of the options to deliver on the removal of the nine level crossings."

 

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