Regional Rail Link
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (June 2013)|
Route of the Regional Rail Link in orange
|Proposer||Government of Victoria|
|Cost estimate||$4.0 billion (May 2009)|
|Cost estimate (high)||$5.3 billion (July 2011)|
|Start date||July 2009|
|Stakeholders||Government of Australia (major funding partner)
Government of Victoria (minor funding partner)
Metro Trains Melbourne
Train travellers on Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat lines
|Opponents||Fair-go for Footscray Rail Residents|
The Regional Rail Link is a 47.5 km railway line under construction through the inner western suburbs of Melbourne from Southern Cross station, running through Sunshine, Tarneit and meeting the Geelong Line at West Werribee. The line is being built at or above ground with the primary aim of improving grade separation with a specific focus on separating Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo V/Line rail services from the Melbourne rail network and improving public transport services to the city's growing western fringe.
Construction commenced in 2009 and is being managed by the Government of Victoria with an expected cost of $4 billion and completion date of 2016. It is the largest transport infrastructure project being undertaken in Australia.
- 1 History
- 2 Construction
- 3 Impacts
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Lines
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Following Regional Fast Rail project improvements and subsequent growth in passengers and services, an increase in congestion in the Melbourne suburban area, where trains operated by V/Line share tracks with Metro Trains Melbourne suburban trains, caused increasing delays for V/Line passenger services. A single delayed metropolitan service operating ahead of a regional service would severely hamper the on-time running of regional services and late running regional trains are often placed in front of on-time but stopping all stations suburban trains. In major disruptions each operator has been known to blame the other for causing a line to be closed.
A separate line for regional trains from Geelong, then called the Tarneit Link, was included as a possible long-term rail option in the Bracks government's 2006 Meeting Our Transport Challenges report. Costed at around $500 million, the link was also recommended in Rod Eddington's East-West Link Needs Assessment study released in April 2008, by November, 2008 the link between Deer Park and Werribee was estimated to cost $1.5 billion.
The project was expanded and rebranded as Regional Rail Link when announced as part of the Brumby government's Victorian Transport Plan of December 2008. With a revised aim of separating all regional trains between Southern Cross and Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo, from suburban rail movements, the proposed route was from Southern Cross through Sunshine and Tarneit to West Werribee.
In July 2010 the final route through Footscray was announced by the state government. Heading away from Melbourne, the pair of Regional Rail Link tracks will run south of the current four suburban tracks until after the line has crossed the Maribyrnong River, where a new bridge will be constructed. After crossing the river, the line will pass over the top of the Newport bound suburban tracks on a flyover, and then run between each pair of suburban tracks to Footscray station. At Footscray it will use the current platforms 1 and 2, and then run on resumed land to the south of the suburban line to Sunshine, past Middle Footscray and West Footscray stations. Suburban trains towards Sunshine will use the existing tracks except at Footscray, where two new platforms will be built north of the current platforms.
Baillieu Government Review
In February 2011, the incoming Baillieu government announced the project was under review citing chaotic planning and a massive blowout in costs. Afer a review the Baillieu government estimated the price tag for the line to be $880 million more than stated by the outgoing Brumby government. Transport minister Terry Mulder, claimed the project may have not been able to proceed after examining the funding and the timing.
Construction commenced in August 2009 with the commencement of platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross station.
The works have been divided into seven packages - an overall railway signalling and control systems contract, and six sections of track:
- Signalling and Control: consortium of UGL & Manidis Roberts
- Southern Cross station platforms 15 & 16: (overseen by Metro Trains Melbourne)
- Southern Cross station to Maribyrnong River (4.75 km): consortium of John Holland, Abigroup, Coleman Rail, AECOM & GHD
- Maribyrnong River to West Footscray station (2.35 km):
- West Footscray to Deer Park West (13.4 km): consortium of Balfour Beatty, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Sinclair Knight Merz & Thiess
- Deer Park West to West Werribee Junction (25.5 km as a design and construct contract): Baulderstone & Leighton Contractors joint venture
- West Werribee Junction / Geelong Line interchange (approximately 1.5 km): Leighton Contractors & Downer EDi joint venture
- 2 July 2011 - Construction begins, with the shifting of existing railway tracks between Sunshine and Tottenham.
- 18 July 2011 - Sydenham, Ballarat and Bendigo lines re-open after being closed for 2 weeks during the Victorian School Holidays to allow construction of the RRL
- Early 2013 - fitout of platforms 15/16 at Southern Cross completed
- 22 December 2013 - platforms 15/16 at Southern Cross and approximately 5 kilometres of track from South Kensington opened
- 20 January 2014 - new platforms 1/2 opened at Footscray
- 2016 - expected completion of RRL project
Cost and benefits
In May 2010, the estimated cost was $4.3 billion, and economic benefits were estimated to be $6.2 billion.
In April 2011 the incoming Baillieu government stated it would cost closer to $5 billion and two years longer to build. In July 2011 the cost was estimated at $5.3 billion with a completion date was 2016.
All passenger movements from the Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat lines will use the Regional Rail Link, removing the potential conflicts encountered when these services share tracks with metropolitan services, which themselves are heavily overloaded. The link will also allow for more services to run, which combined with the purchase of new trains, will alleviate the heavy overcrowding on Regional Fast Rail services, particularly those from Geelong and Ballarat.
Platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross station will also be added, expanding the number of trains that can arrive and depart from the station.
No time savings
The new rail link will not reduce journey times for Regional Rail Services, but the increase in capacity is planned to increase reliability and reduce delays, while allowing for additional services. The Public Transport Users Association claim travel times between Melbourne and Geelong may increase by 10 minues.
Supporters of investment in public transport have raised questions regarding the high cost of the project, estimated to be up to four or five times more expensive than required. Supporters of public transport have also questioned why infrastructure in existing urban areas, such as the Doncaster railway line, were not funded in priority to such a vast area that is currently mostly uninhabited.
When the $3.4 billion Federal government funding was committed in 2009, the idea of the RRL had been the subject of only a perfunctory analysis and was little more than a line on a map. The scheme was first revealed in March 2008, as an adjunct to the East-West Rail Link Analysis on Rail Capacity which formed part of the Eddington Report. As its title suggests, the analysis primarily examined a proposal for an east-west rail tunnel under Melbourne. The idea of the RRL was only peripherally related to the main purpose of the paper, and occupied only seven of its 60 pages.
In November 2011 the secretary of the Victorian Department of Transport, Jim Betts, told a conference that the planning of the RRL had been inadequate and that "the budget for that project was basically haggled over between the state and the commonwealth one weekend and we end up with a number written on the back of an envelope".
Uncertainty was created by the fact that the precise path of the railway was not fully determined before funding was received and work commenced. One proposal involved the acquisition of up to 49 properties in Railway Place, Footscray to widen the existing railway corridor, and local residents launched a campaign against that proposal in May 2010. Other options floated were the sharing of tracks with freight trains in the existing Bunbury Street tunnel, or the construction of a second rail tunnel under Footscray
The final route through Footscray was announced on 12 July 2010. The houses in Railway Place were spared, with 26 homes and 84 businesses on Buckley Street being acquired instead. Many residents did not find out their homes were to be acquired until told by visiting journalists, waiting up to 24 hours for official notification from Department of Transport representatives. A Government spokeswoman said "every effort" had been made to contact the households affected, but bureaucrats had abandoned their planned visit to deliver the bad news because they did not want to be filmed by the media.
Noise & pollution
Further controversy emerged with the release of reports from the Victorian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), obtained by the Sunday Age through a freedom of information request. These reports criticise the methodology and results contained in assessments submitted by the RRL team to former state planning minister, Justin Madden, as part of the project planning referral. The EPA reports state that, "In Footscray, for the most exposed residents, a vast majority of the population will experience chronic noise-induced sleep disturbance, with very significant proportions highly disturbed...For the most exposed residents in other areas, almost half the community will experience chronic noise-induced sleep disturbance.".
The reports also raised concerns about the Footscray Park Railway Reserve where, the EPA predicted, the public would be exposed to dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide from increased diesel train traffic. The EPA noted that planned risk assessments had not been done by the Department of Transport.
Madden viewed the EPA reports in September 2010, but ruled that an Environment Effects Statement (EES) will not be required for Section-1 of the RRL project, "Section 1 of the Regional Rail Link project– from Moonee Ponds Creek, West Melbourne to Deer Park - is in an urban area along side existing rail infrastructure," Madden said. "I have evaluated the need for an EES for the project against the Ministerial Guidelines for Assessment of Environmental Effects under the Environmental Effects Act 1978 and concluded that, subject to the stated conditions, the proposed works are unlikely to have significant environmental effects."
In response to the emergence of the EPA reports, a government spokesperson accused the former Labor government of a "scandalous cover-up" and vowed that "Potential health and environment issues that have been uncovered will also now be fully investigated".
Destruction of heritage
RRL's initial proposals entailed the destruction of the heritage listed HV McKay Memorial Gardens (Australia's oldest remaining industrial garden) as part of a grade separation along Anderson Road in Sunshine, despite the fact that this impact appeared nowhere in its planning documents. The proposal entailed the removal of more than 130 square metres of land, destruction of path systems, and the relocation of the last remaining heritage fabric. After having condemned the RRL while in opposition, the new Liberal Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder, responded to the community controversy by saying: "you can’t keep everyone happy." After considerable community resistance and strong lobbying by Brimbank City Council, the RRL Authority reduced its acquisition of land to approximately five square metres. Neither the RRL Authority nor the Minister of Transport have ever acknowledged the adverse impact of the initial proposals, nor the distress caused to the local community.
No RRL platforms at North Melbourne Station
RRL platforms will be not be provided at North Melbourne station, so regional passengers will no longer be able to use it. North Melbourne is a key interchange point, which provides access to the City Loop, three other suburban rail lines, the Showgrounds/Flemington Racecourse branch and Sita Buslines' route 401 to the hospital and university precincts.
It should be noted though that the primary interchange point is Southern Cross station, the next station after North Melbourne; and provides immediate access to the City Loop in either direction (North and South). Only the Northern Loop is accessed by North Melbourne station. The RRL bypass of North Melbourne means that regional passengers will have to alight at Footscray or Southern Cross to travel to North Melbourne.
On the other hand, North Melbourne station itself (geographically located in West Melbourne) is not central to any specific precinct, being somewhat isolated from other transport modes (specifically tram routes 55, 57 and 59 which service North Melbourne proper), shopping centres and even North Melbourne residences. Only one bus route (the express route 401 to the University of Melbourne) services the station directly, while Southern Cross is serviced directly by tram routes 11, 31, 35, 48, 70, 86, 96 and 112 and Transdev Melbourne's routes 216 and 219.
Neither of the alternative stations give access to the 401 bus. There has been a suggestion that some amendment to the bus route could be made to lessen the inconvenience. On the other hand, tram route 55 which runs from William Street, close to Southern Cross station, services both the Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne; in the same way bus route 401 is designed to do from North Melbourne station.
|Regional Rail Link|
Railpage Australia RRL discussion thread - A detailed and ongoing discussion with construction updates covering the project
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- Australia's largest public transport project leaps ahead Premier of Victoria 21 December 2011
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- Rail Systems Regional Rail Link
- Southern Cross Regional Rail Link
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- Footscray - Deer Park Regional Rail Link
- Deer Park - West Werribee Junction Regional Rail Link
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- 401 North Melbourne - University of Melbourne via Royal Melbourne Hospital Public Transport Victoria
- City of Melbourne Public Transport Victoria