The Victorian Government is committed to removing 85 dangerous and congested level crossings across metropolitan Melbourne by 2025.
Every level crossing is dangerous and with unprecedented population growth forecast to continue in Victoria, the impact of boom gate closures will increasingly affect movements across the network, access for local communities and safety.
Around 20,000 vehicles travel through the Warrigal Road and Parkers Road level crossing each day (based on pre-COVD data). Over the past decade, there have been 15 incidents and near misses at these two crossings involving motorists and pedestrians. Removing these level crossings will improve safety and reduce congestion.
Around 40,000 passengers travel on the Frankston line each weekday. Together with the Metro Tunnel, we'll create room for 36,000 more passengers every week on the Frankston line during peak periods. That means if nothing is done, boom gates will be down for longer, congestion will be worse, and the risk of safety incidents will increase.
We assess every level crossing site based on its unique characteristics when determining the best solution for a project. No one option is best for all sites.
To help us determine the most appropriate solution for a site, we conduct a range of technical and engineering assessments and consider environmental conditions, urban planning, community amenity, the wider transport network, and construction and disruption impacts.
For this project, the rail line currently divides the community, with little room for improving local amenity.
An elevated rail design not only takes up less room in the rail corridor than a trench but allows us to create a substantial amount of open space, more opportunity to plant trees along the rail line, and improve safety and access for locals so they can get to where they need to go.
In particular, the elevated rail line will make it safer and easier to cross between Como Parade East and West. This will help connect the shopping strips on either side of the line, as well as with community facilities and the beach.
The design also means fewer construction and disruption impacts for locals and traders, and a shorter construction timeframe than a trench, ensuring the new Parkdale station and the Frankston line is ready for more trains and increased capacity when the new Metro Tunnel opens in 2025.
We also have the opportunity for more commuter and trader parking, as well as a new walking and cycling path that would link with the current bike network.
Due to the unique topography of this area, a trench would span approximately 1.5km from before Warrigal Road until after Parkers Road, returning to near road level between the two roads. This is double the length of the trench at Cheltenham or Mentone.
For safety reasons, a trench would also require a continuous 1.8m high barrier and screen along the entire 1.5km length.
Metro Trains Melbourne has strict requirements about what types of trees we can plant along a trench. No large trees can be planted because of the safety issues associated with trees dropping branches into the trench and onto the rail equipment.
A rail trench is governed by the 1:1 rule (where for every metre of height of a tree, the tree must be a metre away from the rail line to mitigate the risk of tree limbs falling onto rail tracks).
Since 2018, our process for announcing new level crossing removals has been with a preferred design solution. In 2018, we announced 25 additional level crossing removals, including 5 on the Frankston line, all with preferred design solutions.
We have currently removed 47 level crossings since 2016 and now have a thorough understanding of what solutions offer the best outcomes in each location.
We use this knowledge and experience that we have gained, together with initial assessments of each site, to determine a preferred design solution for new level crossing removal projects.
Rail trenches are generally open – the trenches at Bentleigh, McKinnon and Moorabbin are examples. Where a trench is covered, this is where there are opportunities for potential development, for example at Cheltenham. No such development is being considered for the Parkdale Level Crossing Removal Project.
Rail trenches are at their deepest when passing under road crossings – in this case Warrigal Road and Parkers Road.
Between the two roads, the trench returns to more or less the existing ground level. This limits the ability for any decking due to vertical clearances as the train and overhead power would be coming out of the trench.
With a rail trench, a wider construction area is also required because a trench is wider than the existing train line. This is to incorporate the trench walls and surrounding rail infrastructure. The surrounding area is fenced off for safety reasons and becomes unusable.
Extensive decking or a roof all the way along the trench would trigger requirements for 'tunnels', significantly increasing cost and impacts to the surrounding area. A tunnel has not been, and will not be, a design solution considered at any of the 85 level crossing sites as it's costly and requires extensive ventilation that can be intrusive in residential areas and involves lengthy road and rail disruptions.
In 2015, the government announced 50 level crossings for removal, including eight level crossings on the Frankston line that included Cheltenham and Mentone. A further 25 level crossings were announced in 2018 and more recently, another 10.
Since Warrigal Road and Parkers Road have only recently been announced, we could not have done this work when we were consulting on Cheltenham and Mentone in 2016 and 2017.