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 (RRL) is a 47.5 kilometre length of railway through the western suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria. The main aim of the project was to separate regional V/Line Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong services from the electrified Melbourne suburban services, thereby increasing rail capacity and reliability. The Regional Rail Link, as part of the PTV Network Development Plan, will be electrified and turned into part of the future Grovedale-South Yarra Line by December 2032, a line that will go from Grovedale, Geelong to South Yarra railway station, with a branch line to Avalon Airport.
The project involved the building of an extra pair of tracks from Southern Cross station to Sunshine, parallel to the Western line, and a new double-track line from Deer Park, which joins with the Warrnambool line west of Werribee, near the site of the former Manor railway station.
New stations were built at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale, and West Footscray and Sunshine stations were rebuilt. Additional platforms were built at Southern Cross and Footscray stations, and two level crossings near Sunshine were replaced by grade separations.
Construction commenced in 2009 and was managed by the Regional Rail Link Authority on behalf of the Victorian Government. 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 the rail infrastructure improvements provided by the Regional Fast Rail project, and subsequent growth in passengers and services, there was an increase in congestion in the Melbourne suburban area, where trains operated by V/Line shared tracks with Metro Trains Melbourne suburban trains, caused increasing delays on rail services. late running by V/Line or metropolitan rail services affected the reliability of other trains, and V/Line trains, running express through most suburban stations, affected the timekeeping of stopping suburban trains. After major disruptions each operator might blame the other for causing the problem.
A separate line for regional trains between Geelong and Melbourne, 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 re-branded as the 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 four existing platforms.
To accommodate the final route, 26 homes and 84 businesses on Buckley Street, Footscray were acquired. Many residents did not find out their homes were to be acquired until told by 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 reduce 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 blow-out in costs. After the 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, admitted that the lack of a mature plan, and the urgency of spending the money provided by the federal government as part of its economic stimulus package, meant that there had been a rush to finalise the financial arrangements of the scheme. He commented 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 21 June 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 that journey might not have be optimal or even typical, it gave an indication of the possible 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 40 km/h
- Footscray Station to Sunshine Station: up to 105 km/h
- Sunshine to West Werribee junction with original Geelong Line: up to 160 km/h.
On the return journey from Little River to Southern Cross station, the following speeds were achieved:
- New Track - West Werribee to Deer Park - 160 km/h
- Junction of RRL and Ballarat rail lines to Sunshine Railway Station - 130 km/h
- Sunshine Railway Station to near Currajong Street, West Footscray - 130 km/h
- Currajong Street to Footscray Station - 80 km/h
- Footscray Station to Lloyd Street underpass - 80 km/h
- Lloyd St underpass to Southern Cross Station - 40 km/h.
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 trains on the Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong lines use the Regional Rail Link to and from Melbourne, removing the capacity problems and potential conflicts encountered when these services shared tracks with metropolitan trains, which are themselves heavily loaded. The link allows more regional and metropolitan trains to run, which, combined with the purchase of new rolling stock, will help alleviate peak hour overcrowding on regional services, particularly those from Geelong and Ballarat, and free up capacity on Melbourne suburban tracks to allow more trains to run. The new rail link has not reduce journey times to any great extent. The Public Transport Users Association claimed travel times between Melbourne and Geelong might increase by 10 minutes.
As part of the project, the partially-built platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross station were completed, which increased the number of trains that the station can handle.
Regional Rail Link platforms were not provided at North Melbourne station, which had previously served as an interchange point for regional passengers accessing the northern suburbs, the City Loop or the Route 401 bus to the hospital and university precincts. Passengers now have to alight at Footscray or Southern Cross instead, and then catch another train to North Melbourne.
Noise and 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, "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
Despite the immediate advantage to commuters in the Wyndham Vale and Tarneit areas, there has been some disappointment regarding the irregular spacing of services at these stations. For example, on Monday to Friday morning services, there is a 26-minute gap between the 8:42 AM and the 9:08 AM city-bound trains at Tarneit Station.
Ballarat line passengers have been particularly upset about their services since the full opening of the RRL. Due to a rolling stock shortage, some Ballarat trains had fewer carriages than before, and timekeeping of services worsened, despite the promise of greater reliability after the RRL opened.
Following the opening of the Regional Rail Link, V/Line trains on the Ballarat line failed to meet punctuality targets for 14 consecutive months.
- 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. 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.
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- 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.
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- 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.
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- 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. The Sunday 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.
- "V/Line Geelong Line" (PDF). 27th June 2016 to 25th September 2016 Printable timetable (major stops only). Public Transport Victoria. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
- Schetzer, Alana (2015-08-08). "Ballarat train commuters suffer after Regional Rail Link opens". The Age. Retrieved 2015-08-26.