Regional Rail Link
Route of the Regional Rail Link in orange
|Proposer||Government of Victoria|
|Cost estimate||$3.65 billion|
|Start date||July 2009|
|Completion date||June 2015|
|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 was a 47.5 kilometre railway line project through the western suburbs of Melbourne. The primary aim of the project was to increase capacity by separating regional Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong services from suburban services.
This was done by building an extra pair of tracks from Southern Cross station to Sunshine parallel to the Western line, and a new line from Deer Park to join with the Warrnambool line at West Werribee. New stations were built at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale with West Footscray and Sunshine stations rebuilt, and Southern Cross and Footscray stations receiving additional platforms. Two level crossings were replaced by grade separations.
Construction commenced in 2009 and was managed by the Government of Victoria. At the time, it was the largest transport infrastructure project being undertaken in Australia. The final part of the project opened in June 2015.
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 West 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.
Several route options were investigated. 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 A preliminary route between Sunshine and Werribee was released for public consultation in June 2009.
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 run south of the current four suburban tracks until after the line has crossed the Maribyrnong River, where a new bridge was built. After crossing the river, the line passes over the top of the Newport bound suburban tracks on a flyover, and then runs between each pair of suburban tracks to Footscray station. At Footscray the line uses the existing platforms 1 and 2 (since renumbered 3 and 4), 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 use the existing tracks except at Footscray, where two new platforms were built north of the current platforms.
To accommodate the final route, 26 homes and 84 businesses on Buckley Street were acquired. 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. The proposals would also have acquired 136m² the heritage listed HV McKay Memorial Gardens, (Australia's oldest remaining industrial garden) as part of a grade separation along Anderson Road in Sunshine; after community resistance and lobbying by Brimbank City Council, plans were altered to reduced the acquisition of the gardens to approximately 5m².
Baillieu Government Review
In February 2011, the incoming Baillieu government announced the project was under review citing poor planning and a blowout in costs. After a review, the Baillieu government estimated the price tag for the line to be $880 million more than stated by the outgoing Brumby government. In November 2011, the secretary of the Victorian Department of Transport, Jim Betts, was critical of the planning and funding arrangements with the Federal Government, commenting 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".
Construction commenced in August 2009 with platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross station.
The works were 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 Group, 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
- 28 April 2014: new platforms 3/4 opened at Sunshine
- 16 July 2014: commissioning of the new dedicated V/line tracks between South Kensington and Sunshine
- 16 July 2014: new platforms 3/4 at Footscray opened
- 6 October 2014: first test train operated on the new line via Tarneit
- 19 April 2015: originally scheduled opening of the new route and stations at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale, but delayed due to a lack of V/Line trains
- 21 June 2015: completion including opening of Tarneit and Wyndham Vale stations
Route and Achieved Train Speeds
On June 21st 2015, a journey from Southern Cross Railway Station to Little River (and return) was undertaken with the intention of measuring the actual train speeds on that one journey. While this journey may not be optimal or even typical, it gives an indication of the achieved train speeds on the first day that Geelong - Melbourne trains ran on the Regional Rail Link.
On the outbound journey, the following speeds were achieved:
- Southern Cross to Footscray Station: up to 40kph
- Footscray Station to Sunshine Station: up to 105kph
- Sunshine to West Werribee junction with original Geelong Line: up to 160kph
On the return journey from Little river to Southern Cross Station, the following speeds were achieved:
- New Track - West Werribee to Deer Park - 160kph
- Junction of RRL and Ballarat rail lines to Sunshine Railway Station - 130kph
- Sunshine Railway Station to near Currajong St West Footscray - 130kph
- Currajong St to Footscray Station - 80kph
- Footscray Station to Lloyd St underpass - 80 kph
- Lloyd St underpass to Southern Cross Station - 40kph
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.
In the 2015/16 State Budget the final cost of the project was given as $3.65 billion, down from the previous estimate of $4.1 billion.
All passenger movements from the Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong lines 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. The new rail link was not expected to significantly reduce journey times. The Public Transport Users Association claimed travel times between Melbourne and Geelong may increase by 10 minutes.
Platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross station were added, expanding the number of trains that can arrive and depart from the station.
Regional Rail Link platforms were not provided at North Melbourne station, which previously served as an interchange point for regional passengers accessing the northern suburbs or the city loop, with passengers havng to alight at either Footscray or Southern Cross instead.
Noise & pollution
Controversy emerged with the release of reports from the Victorian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which criticized 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 had viewed the EPA reports in September 2010, but ruled that an Environment Effects Statement (EES) was not required for Section-1 of the RRL project, In response to the emergence of the EPA reports, a government spokesperson accused the former Labor government of a "scandalous cover-up" and vowed to investigate the environmental and public impact.
|Regional Rail Link|
- Peter Begg (26 April 2011). "Regional rail link to go ahead". Geelong Advertiser. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- Australia's largest public transport project leaps ahead Premier of Victoria 21 December 2011
- Jason Dowling & Natalie Puchalski (6 June 2009). "Regional rail travel booming, despite delays". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Mex Cooper (11 May 2009). "Geelong, V/Line Connex rail delays after fuel spill". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Mex Cooper (14 January 2009). "Melbourne train commuters warned of more delays". The Age (theage.com.au). Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Royce Millar & Clay Lucas (29 March 2008). "West may get new rail line". The Age (Melbourne: www.theage.com.au). Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Rod Eddington (March 2008). "Fact sheet - Recommendations". East West Links Needs Assessment final report. www.transport.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Clay Lucas (3 November 2008). "Planned $1.5bn rail link will free up bottlenecks". The Age (Melbourne: www.theage.com.au). Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Regional Rail Link to Streamline Train Services Premier of Victoria 8 December 2008
- Regional Rail Work to Start this Year after $4 Billion Project Secures Federal Funding Premier of Victoria 14 May 2009
- Mex Cooper (18 May 2009). "Tough decisions necessary: PM". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Clay Lucas (7 May 2010). "Rail plan with at least one obstacle: Footscray". The Age (Melbourne: theage.com.au). Retrieved 2010-05-07.
- Clay Lucas (16 June 2009). "New train line and ring road road routes to be unveiled". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19.
- Proposed Route of Regional Rail Link Revealed Premier of Victoria 17 June 2009
- "Houses to go for new regional rail link". The Age (Melbourne: theage.com.au). 12 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-16.
- "Footscray residents slam plans to acquire homes for transport upgrade". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2010-07-16.
- Robyn Grace (13 July 2010). "Rail demolition: Footscray residents fume over notification blunder". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2010-07-16.
- Clay Lucas (13 July 2010). "Residents not told their homes will go". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2010-07-16.
- Laura Wakely (14 February 2012). "No Opportunity". Star Community. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
- Gough, Deborah (13 February 2011). "Fears review of rail link scandal may be tainted". The Age (Melbourne).
- Jason Murphy (2011-11-16). "Vic project railroaded". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
- Construction Starts on the $4.3 Billion Regional Rail Link Premier of Victoria 27 August 2009
- Rail Systems Regional Rail Link
- Southern Cross Regional Rail Link
- New contract moves Regional Rail Link into high gear Premier of Victoria 12 May 2012
- City - Maribyrnong River Regional Rail Link
- Footscray - Deer Park Regional Rail Link
- Deer Park - West Werribee Junction Regional Rail Link
- Full steam ahead on the Regional Rail Link Premier of Victoria 8 June 2012
- West Werribee Junction Regional Rail Link
- "Commuters face snarls as $5.3bn rail project digs in". The Age (Melbourne). 4 July 2011.
- Regional Rail Link works to kick off in July Premier of Victoria 17 May 2011
- Platforms 15 and 16 Regional Rail Link
- "Ballarat services now stopping at new, dedicated platforms at Sunshine station" Railway Digest June 2014 page 21
- "First RRL test train was an N class light engine for signal sighting trials". Wongm's Rail Gallery (Melbourne). 6 October 2014.
- "Andrews government delays Regional Rail Link opening by two months". The Age (Melbourne). 20 February 2015.
- Geelong and Warrnambool trains to run via Regional Rail Link from 21 June 2015 V/Line
- Lucas, Clay (22 May 2010). "Cost won't put a stop to freeway: Brumby". Melbourne: The Age.
- "Rail link delay as bill nears $5bn". The Age (Melbourne). 5 April 2011.
- "Relief from commuter crush years away despite billions in budget". The Age (Melbourne). 5 May 2015.
- Lucas, Clay (21 March 2009). "Melbourne's Big Squeeze". The Age. Retrieved 2009-05-15.
- "Bombardier Awarded Contract for a Further 32 DMU Cars for V/Line Passenger in Australia". Bombardier. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
- "Coalition Orders 40 New Carriages for V/Line". Department of Transport. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
- $4.3b link won't cut travel times The Age 15 June 2010
- Project Benefits Regional Rail Link
- "Users ask the government how much slower the new rail link to Geelong will be". Public Transport Users Association. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
- Deborah Gough & Melissa Fyfe (6 February 2011). "Residents face lost sleep over rail project". The Age (Melbourne).
- Minister for Planning (7 October 2010). "Reasons for Decision Under Environmental Effects Act 1978 : Regional Rail Link 1 – Moonee Ponds Creek to Deer Park". Department of Planning and Community Development. DPCD.