Radio talk back host Jon Faine featured Level Crossing Removal CEO Kevin Devlin on his 774 ABC Melbourne morning talk back show.
Link to the audio recording
FAINE: Upfield Line LXRP – Why aren’t you doing more of it than just the 2.5km because surely it’s cheaper?
DEVLIN: Well it is John but there’s a huge amount going on across the rest of Melbourne. There is a point where you have to draw a line in the sand and do what we think is reasonable and balance the level of disruption and the resources that are available within the market so with 75 level crossing committed across Melbourne, 10 underway, at the moment, there’s a huge amount going on. We do have to stage it and package it in the right way.
FAINE: When you say resources do you mean human? Engineers construction?
Yes a huge amount of planning and effort goes into this and with the amount of construction on the Eastern seaboard there is a real demand for experienced workers particularly in a rail environment… It’s a good problem to have with the amount of investment that is happening so but we do have to plan it carefully and balance the level disruption and manage the fatigue that people can be experiencing.You can’t bite off more than you can chew.
FAINE: James Conlan was one of the objectors to the plan, not the concept but the way you are executing the plan and he spoke to us just yesterday. He raised one important and I thought worthwhile suggestion (THANKS JON THAT IS KIND) which was that the railway stations that are being planned – there’s two of them – at the moment will be on one side or the other of either Moreland Road or Bell Street and he was saying that if you straddle the road there would be access, pedestrian access from both sides rather than people having to cross major roads in order to get the stairs or lifts or escalators (NO ESCALATORS JON!!!) or whatever you build to get up to them. It seemed to make sense to me. What’s wrong with that idea?
DEVLIN: Oh yeah look and we have done that across the program. We’re doing that out at Lilydale at the moment, we’re proposing to straddle the highway there and to do exactly that and from Caulfield to Dandenong at Hughesdale Station we did exactly the same but argh at Coburg there we’ve got a constraint because the rail corridor turns into a bend for those who know it – so the stations have to be on a straight so…
DEVLIN: Well ah for ah accessibility and ah safety so that the drivers can see the full length of the train.
FAINE: They’ve got cameras?
DEVLIN: Yeah they do but at the moment the design standard is that it requires us to have that on a straight.
FAINE: I can think of several stations that are on curves in the existing network including one in Richmond?
DEVLIN: Like a lot of things though when we build something new we have to build it to the current standards the Australian standards and land would have to be acquired if we pushed it, if we pushed it further north.
FAINE: So building those railway lines that straddle the road in either of those locations… and let me think… Moreland is straight?
DEVLIN: At Moreland we’ve got the Brunswick Tram depot which turns down into the rail corridor and the rail corridor is all used for parking for the tram depot so there is not a lot of space there for the station precinct to go on the other side there and south of Moreland Road. So as I say it is something that we do do when we think about and it’s a balanced suggestion but at these locations it is not feasible.
FAINE: At the Bell Street one? I’m trying to think the station is on a straight there?
DEVLIN: Yes but if you pushed it further north you push it into the bend and argh you’d have to straighten the rail corridor out and …
FAINE: And that means property acquisition?
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH TREATMENT FOR WHICH SITE?
FAINE: The concentration at the moment is on the Upfield Line because of yesterday’s announcement but what comes next? (Mentions other lines with LXRP projects)
DEVLIN: We are making very good progress . We are ahead of schedule at the moment. So the next focus particularly in the north is the Mernda Line, we’ll be removing the Bell Street Preston. There’s to be four crossings removed there…. (continues) And we’ve also got a huge challenge that we’ve announced of bringing forward three extra crossings on the Frankston line… so we’re going to remove five level crossings, in a trench this time, down on the Frankston Line. The planning for that is going to be a really complex one so we’re focusing our effort on that.
FAINE: Is Skyrail your default option now for any of these level crossing removals in future unless there’s a compelling reason NOT to do Skyrail, you’re going to do Skyrail?
DEVLIN: Noooo. At the moment we still take a site-by-site assessment and every site is different so at the moment we are averaging about a – of the 75 level crossings – there’s about 45% elevated rail, 35% rail under and about 20% road-based solution (taking the road over or under, leaving the rail where it is).
FAINE: Those are usually minor backstreet crossings aren’t they?
DEVLIN: Not necessarily. We just announced Clyde Road, that’s a major arterial, we’re taking that road under. That was last week we announced that.
Question on the rail crossover at Coburg
FAINE: Michael is in Moreland first-up with a call about the Upfield Line:
MICAHEL: Good morning Kevin. Users of the Upfield Line will be very familiar with the daily practice Metro has of short-shunting trains when they are behind time table, stopping them at Coburg and turning them back so they don’t get fined. In the plans that you’ve announced you’re going to move the switching point that currently exists at Coburg down to Anstey Station, two stations further south. What happens when the project is finished? Will that mean that in future users of the Moreland and Coburg stations will lose services because short-shunting will happen at Anstey into the future?
DEVLIN: No. There will be no loss of services. And um good question. We’re actually installing a turn-out at Anstey Station as you correctly point out. Now we’re doing that to minimise disruption so on the Upfield Line 60% of the users on the Upfield Line catch it from Anstey in. So when we do the major occupation of the rail corridor and build it we’re going to provide that facility at Anstey so as to minimise disruption so virtually 60% of users of the Upfield Line won’t notice any impact on services. And then afterwards, yeah nothing we’re doing will reduce the services.
FAINE: And would it be argued that when you’ve finished an elevated line, a Skyrail and you get rid of level crossings, services are more reliable because there’s less opportunity for things to go wrong with for instance level crossing and breakdowns and things?
DEVLIN: Absolutely and for the 2.5km section and it’s all new rail signalling, power systems – so reliability improves significantly. On the Upfield Line though, particularly, well, not my project but the Metro Tunnel – at the moment the constraint on the Upfield Line on extra services is the city loop. So…
MICHAEL: Kevin you did not answer my question. After you finish the project, where will the turning point be? Because you can’t install it on skyrail.
DEVLIN: No that’s correct. Ah. I’d have to take that question on notice. But it’ll be further north.
MICHAEL: I think you don’t know? Because you haven’t planned to build one north of Coburg Station. So you can’t promise me that services won’t be reduced.
DEVLIN: No well I’m very confident that services won’t be reduced. That goes into our significant amount of planning. I’m just not across everything, every little bit of detail, and location of all the track work…
MICHAEL: It would be great if you could get an answer so that people using the line know where you are going to put the turning point.
FAINE: So I’m not sure Michael whether that falls in between Kevin’s work and Jeroen Weimar’s work. Although I suppose he is your customer. You build to his requirements and to his request?
DEVLIN: Absolutely. Jeroen is the client and he sets the project requirements . Look I can guarantee there’s going to be no reduction in services to the Upfield Line and once the Metro tunnel is completed there is going to be the opportunity to run more services on the Upfield Line.
MICHAEL: No there won’t be Kevin because the constraint is not the tunnel. The constraint is the single-line track at the other end of the rail line to Upfield and you have just completed a project there where you design solution means that you have not enabled the track to be duplicated. Someone will have to go back and do all that work again to widen the rail corridor to allow for the second track to be installed. That’s the sort of short-term planning the LXRA has been guilty of repeatedly.
DEVLIN: Well that’s not right Michael. We installed the Camp Road level crossing removal I think you’re referring to. We’ve actually built the bridge wide enough for the two tracks and done the design work for the duplication to go through afterwards.
MICHAEL: But not the cutting afterwards?
DEVLIN: No we’ve stopped short of doing the physical cutting but that can be done in the future. We’ve designed it for minimal rework as part of that site so we are doing that future proofing as part of that planning ahead. But I can assure you the constraint is the city loop tunnel, the existing city loop tunnel, it’s not the single track section.
FAINE cuts in: Sure. And I suppose the issue is there’s not enough money to do everything all at once is what we’re being reminder over and over again. For what the people want in the outer north there are people in the outer west or outer east who also want upgrades. So, everything gets its turn. We’ll keep that in mind Michael, thank you for your call.
Note: After show response on train turnback points:
Following the discussion with Kevin Devlin on Faine the LXRP has come back with the following response about the train turn back points:
“During the construction blitz for the Bell to Moreland project, a temporary turnback facility will be installed at Anstey station to allow trains to continue to run between the City and Anstey, minimising disruption for about half of the Upfield line passengers. As part of the project, the existing turnback facility at Coburg Station will be moved further north, between Bell Street and O’Hea Street where the rail line returns to grade, to maintain existing network functionality.”
CROSSING FOR PEDESTRIANS AND CYCLISTS OVER BELL ST
Next caller: Welcome Eleisha from Coburg
ELEISHA: Thanks for taking my call. I’m from the Upfield Corridor Coalition so I’d just like to say we’d love to meet with Kevin Devlin. We’ve tried to repeatedly get a meeting with him to talk about our community-driven vision. But my question today is about the Coburg station and the treatment for cyclists and pedestrians crossing Bell Street? I’d really love to see an elevated platform or elevated path for bikes and for pedestrians to be able to cross Bell Street.
FAINE: Sorry, you want the bike path elevated as well as the train line?
ELEISHA: Yes. Bell Street is such a major intersection.
FAINE: OK let me put that to Kevin Devlin are you interested in that?
DEVLIN: OK we’ve heard that from the community but at this stage we have drawn the line… I suppose… Um… We think the scope of the project would start to become very significant if we looked at doing an elevated veloway (NOT WHAT ELEISHA ASKED KEVIN! JUST OVER BELL ST!)
FAINE: Oh come on. We’ve got a bike path that floats on the river. It floats on the river. We can do anything. If you’re putting up the pylons surely you can put an extra couple of metres of concrete path along the side of it?
DEVLIN: You can. But there’s a limit to the available funding for all these infrastructure projects and at the moment we think we can get a very good solution and improvement from separating the pedestrian path and the cycling path and that’s what we’ve heard from the community and that’s what we announced on the weekend.
FAINE: So Eleisha squeaky wheels get oil Eleisha. If the bicycle lobby – formidable as they are – if they get their act together, that is something the politicians will decide about. Won’t it be Kevin?
DEVLIN: Yes. Funding …
FAINE: I they put the money in you’ll get it. If they don’t you won’t. Alright? Eleisha?
ELEISHA: I’m just talking about it being elevated over Bell. There needs to be solutions for safety.
FAINE: Sure but it’s about money.
ELEISHA: We hear that. And we want to see a good project that comes to Coburg.
Cr Natalie Abboud, Mayor of Moreland, on need for bike bridges at Bell st and Moreland Rd
FAINE: Natalie Abboud is the Mayor of Moreland and has called in about the Upfield line. Cr Abboud, good morning to you.
ABBOUD: Good morning John, how are you going?
FAINE: Has the Council been included in the consultation? Are you satisfied with the level of inclusion and consultation?
ABBOUD: It got off to a roaring start, the consultation, and there were some pretty impressive pictures, a bunch of people in the round and lots and lots of submissions were collected and we expected them to be collated and fed back to us for a bit of an overview. I think that is where the ball was dropped. It started well, but I think that…the community is fairly active as you would know and they have an important voice that could have been more of an asset with this project and I think the issue about cycling is the most obvious one. So we have a bit of tension between Department of Transport asking what they want for Sydney Road and focus on whether the bikes should have dedicated paths on Sydney Road and lots of people screaming we should be using the Upfield Bike Path. And so…
FAINE: (Interjecting) I quite agree with that argument. I think you would be foolish to ride a bicycle down Sydney Road in the current conditions, would you not? It is incredibly dangerous.
ABBOUD: Well, then there is the great opportunity for the Upfield to have some investmnent made in it.
FAINE: I completely agree, and if you are going to build a skyrail, an elevated railway line, to have an elevated bicycle freeway with on and off ramps would make a lot of sense. Its just a matter of how much money you spend, isn’t it?
ABBOUD: Yes, thats right. It is a situation with money. So then how do you ease the tension between cyclists and pedestrians and cars on that road, I mean on the Upfield Bike Path. Is there not an opportunity for raising some of the cross overs over busy Bell street and busy Moreland Road? So the bikes that used to race the train down to commute into the city can still get a pretty quick run and its still a viable way to commute down into town from anywhere up in the north as a lot of people do.
FAINE: So you are arguing, if I can reduce it into its simplest, your argument is ‘there is an opportunity here if we just spend a little bit extra we get a lot more bang for our buck’?
ABBOUD: Yes, its a once in a lifetime project. I think the community could have really fed into this: to say sure maybe 2k of elevated veloway is not something the government can really afford, but raising some of the bridges or organising some of the pedestrian lights so if you hit the button you can get across quickly. It seems a bit carcentric, and removing the level crossings is very important and we are grateful for…
FAINE: Would the Peoples Republic of Moreland contribute?
ABBOUD: Financially, in terms of the project?
ABBOUD: Well, we haven’t been consulted, so I couldn’t even answer that. But I know…
FAINE: Well, I am consulting you now…I am consulting you on whether you would be prepared to kick in some of your funds to make sure you get an elevated veloway.
ABBOUD: As the Mayor I can’t speak on behalf of the Council, but I would be up for it.
FAINE: That is a pretty good start
ABBOUD: I wouldn’t say that 2k of veloway is a priority, I just think getting people up and down the pathway with good pedestrian scenarios and elevated bridges over the busy roads is some kind of a compromise to get a better successful Upfield Bike path.
FAINE: We just made a lot of progress. Thank you, the Mayor of Moreland, Councillor Natalie Abboud.
more to come…