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More trains on the Upfield Line

Our trains are crowded and infrequent and our population is growing. Sydney Road and the Upfield path are congested. We need trains every 10 minutes on the Upfield.

FIXING THE PROBLEM

People in Melbourne’s north deserve a reliable and frequent train service. Currently the Upfield line operates every 18 minutes, or just three services per hour during peak, while other lines have services every 4 or 10 minutes.

Those campaigning for more frequent services are constantly told it’s impossible because the city loop is at capacity and there is only a single track north or Gowrie station.

Melbourne Metro will solve the problem at the city end, when that is completed in 2022. Duplicating the line from Gowrie to Upfield would solve the other end of the problem and is part of PTV’s long term plan.

The Victorian Transport Action Group and the Upfield Transport Alliance are calling for duplication of the this last leg, in time for the completion of Melbourne Metro, so that people along the whole Upfield line can have more frequent trains.

A short term solution, without building anything, would be to add additional short services from Coburg station to Spencer St, between each existing service. This would provide a service every 10 minutes to the CBD to the majority of passengers using the southern part of the line.

Given the rapid population growth to the north, this would only be a band-aid; we need duplication from Gowrie to Upfield. In the future, we will need more frequent services running to the north of Upfield. The track continues north from Upfield, to join the Craigieburn line, but has not been used for decades. This line could be replaced and reopened, to create an Upfield – Craigieburn loop.

As our population grows, the congestion on Sydney Road will only worsen, and the demand for a decent train service will only increase

SkyRail / Level Crossing Removal project FAQ

In March 2019, I met with the Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) to discuss their plans for the Upfield Line.

I hope this FAQ answers your questions, if not, please feel free to contact me. 

What are the plans?

LXRP are still working with their partners, John Holland and KBR, and claim they are still exploring options of a continuous Sky Rail, or elevated sections and then returning to the ground.

It seemed a continued elevated solution (SkyRail) was preferred, but no definite answer was given. Once the plan is finalised, it will be put out to tender. Construction is due to begin in the middle of the year.

I found it surprising that the design is still being worked on, given the short timeline.

Why SkyRail?

LXRP confirmed SkyRail was their preferred solution because it’s cheaper, has a smaller footprint, and is faster to build. It also can be built without buying any property.  

LXRP explained that due to the width of the Upfield line, a trench would require more space and so the LXRP would have to acquire properties. A trench needs extra space to fit the reinforcement for the side wall. Underlying basalt (Pentridge was built from this) makes a trench even slower and more expensive to build. A bike lane is very difficult to hang inside the trench because of overhead electric wires and would also require more property.

What is the timeline and what communication can residents expect?

Construction will begin around the middle of the year and there are a series of end-points: the first is the removal of the boom gates, the second is when services begin to run on the new line, and the final will be completion of landscaping and fit-out of stations. Overall it could be a six-month project from the beginning of construction.

Once the plan has been finalised, the community information period will commence. Information will include construction delivery programs and discussing what open spaces the community wants to see. Options may include basketball courts, skateboard parks, and table tennis tables, for example.

Will the trains stop running and what replacement services are being planned?

Train services will cease for several months during construction. LXRP said they would use buses and trams, but it was not clear that any additional trams would run.

Gandolfo Gardens

During construction, there will be a number of ‘lay down’ areas for trucks and equipment.

When asked, LXRP said Gandolfo gardens, next to Moreland station, would be one of these locations and that trees would be removed. They said that trees had been assessed by an arborist and that for every tree removed, twice as many would be replanted.

I showed the LXRP a picture of the gardens and stressed that it should be possible to save most of these well-established trees, except those right on the edge of the rail reservation. I emphasised that these trees were precious to the community and should be saved.

What will happen to the Upfield Bike Path

The Upfield bike path will close during the construction. Cyclists and pedestrians will be diverted a ‘couple of hundred metres east and west’.

LXRP said they planned a high-quality bike path, with separation for cyclists and pedestrians

They also mentioned that they are considering sequencing pedestrian lights for the cyclists, to replicate the ‘Upfield Wave’ effect (where a group of bikes rush down the path, taking advantage of the period when boom gates are down). I pushed for priority signalling at all crossings, just like the one on Brunswick Rd at the top of Canning St. They would not consider an overhead veloway because of the long access ramps apparently required by the Disability Discrimination Act. I still think an overhead veloway would be a good option for longer distance commuters and should be built.

What’s next and who should I contact for information?

Information sessions will be announced when the design is finalised. The LXRP will contact various community groups, and if you are one of these groups and you are yet to hear from them, please let me know.

We need to take the pressure off Sydney Road, by giving people a frequent train service to the city.

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