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Level Crossing Removal Update Jan/Feb 2016

The proposed design for the level crossing removals will be announced in the next few weeks. While I am not in a position to provide final details of the plan until it is announced, I can say that following the announcement the community will have the opportunity to make a contribution to the proposed design during a series of local consultations. Residents, businesses and other stakeholders will be able to provide feedback on localised elements of the design put forward by the successful tenderer, like the areas surrounding the rail line and stations as well as other amenity issues like parking and community access. I’d encourage those interested to attend one of these consultation sessions to submit feedback.

(List of earlier local consultations)

I have appreciated the views and suggestions that have been raised with me directly regarding the possible outcomes for the design of the level crossings removals. I understand that with any major project there will be a variety of different opinions on what the best outcome for our community will be. All views raised with me will be provided to the successful tenderer to ensure the community’s voice is heard.

I will be working towards ensuring:

• More green and open space for community use
• Retention of as many mature trees as possible and replanting of native vegetation
• Retention of local businesses and transition support
• Protecting and enhancing the village feel of our communities
• Sympathetic redevelopment of train stations
• Minimal disruption during construction
• The connection of communities
• Accessibility for commuters
• More car parking for commuters and for local shoppers

Just as a way of background, construction to remove 9 level crossings on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line is due to start around the middle of this year.

Level crossings to be removed are located at:

• Grange Road
• Koornang Road
• Murrumbeena Road
• Poath Road
• Clayton Road
• Centre Road (Clayton)
• Corrigan Road
• Heatherton Road
• Chandler Road

Construction is already underway to remove Frankston line level crossings at North Road, McKinnon Road and Centre Road, and the nearby Burke Road crossing has just been removed. These crossings have been a major source of frustration over countless years. I am thrilled that they are finally being removed.

In our area, we will deliver 4 rebuilt train stations at:

• Carnegie
• Murrumbeena
• Hughesdale; and
• Clayton

In addition, 37 brand new trains are on order for this line to increase passenger capacity by up to 42%.

The 9 level crossings on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line are scheduled to be removed by 2018. Across Melbourne, 50 level crossings will be removed over the next 7 years.

Please visit www.levelcrossings.vic.gov.au to find more information or to sign up for email updates
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Some Background:

Early 2014

• The previous Napthine Liberal government revealed a plan in early 2014 regarding an upgrade to the Cranbourne/Pakenham line. This plan was an unsolicited bid to Government which did not go to tender – it was one private consortium’s offer to government and was said to cost taxpayers around $5.2 billion or more over 15 years with repayments commencing in 2019. Link:  Victorians Hit for $1 Million a Day Rail Upgrade

• Reports at the time indicated that the confidential deal could result in major residential and commercial development at and around train stations, including a suggestion of a minimum 15 story building at Murrumbeena Station. At the time of the announcement “no mention was made of the potentially controversial property development component of the project.” Link: Highrise Plan for Railway Hubs

• The controversial proposal involved the effective privatisation of the line and the removal of just 4 level crossings and the rebuilding of only 3 stations. Poath Road and Grange Road level crossings were not to be removed as part of this plan, nor were another 3 further along the line.

• Questions were raised throughout 2014 about Liberal Party influence in the proposal put before Government.Link: On a fast Track

Throughout 2014

• The private consortium held several public meetings around Murrumbeena and Carnegie to show locals their initial very early concept design which was rail under road.

• The then Napthine government had a deadline of end of September 2014 for the signing of the contract – this deadline was missed.

• Nothing more was discussed until October 2014 when it was discovered that contracts to remove the crossings were not signed and would likely not be signed until well after the election “…subject to the evaluation processes demonstrating the project represents value for money.” (Press Release, Terry Mulder, then Minister for Transport 17/10/2014.)

• The Transport Minister made it clear in his press release that the designs for removals had not yet been determined. The Minister indicated a promise to deliver just the 4 level crossing removals by “around” 2019 subject to the evaluation process.

• The proposal from the private sector with the reported $5.2 billion in payments commencing in 2019, had no money allocated in the Victorian budget to complete the removals of the level crossings on the Cranbourne/Pakenham by the previous Napthine Liberal Government.

• By the time of the election in late November 2014, no contract had been signed and plans to upgrade signalling on the line had been quietly dropped. These matters were confirmed in the press release from Minister Mulder on 17 October 2014 and also in an article that appeared in The Age on the same day. Link: Dandenong Upgrade in Disarray

“Dandenong Rail Upgrade in Disarray”

A multibillion-dollar upgrade of the Dandenong railway line is in disarray after the Napthine government said on Friday it would not sign contracts with the consortium delivering the project until next year.

The government’s admission that it could not commit to the project before November’s election puts in doubt a string of promised improvements to Melbourne’s busiest railway corridor, including 25 new “high-capacity” trains, four level crossing removals, three rebuilt stations and new signalling technology. It would deliver capacity for 2 million extra passenger journeys a year on a line that suffers chronic overcrowding.

Labor has refused to commit to the project, arguing there is too much secrecy and uncertainty about how it would be delivered.

31 March 2015 – New Government

• Recently elected Premier Daniel Andrews during a visit to Carnegie announced that the Andrews Government would not be proceeding with the plan outlined by the previous government particularly given no contracts had been signed, it privatised the line, did not provide for local content, did not deliver enough trains and it removed only 4 level crossings. Link: Nine Level Crossing Removals and 37 New Trains

• Daniel Andrews announced that Labor had developed a more comprehensive plan to remove 9 level crossings on the line, rebuild 4 train stations, upgrade signalling and purchase 37 new trains just for the Cranbourne/Pakenham line. He made it clear that this was a completely new plan.

5 May 2015

• Andrews Government first budget allocates up to $2.4 billion to kick-start the removal of 50 level crossings in Melbourne including the 9 on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line. Link: $2.4 Billion to Start Level Crossing Removals

27 May 2015

• Minister for Public Transport called for expressions of interest from the private market. Link: Nine level crossing removals released to market

7 July 2015

• Shortlisted bidders were announced for the removal of 9 level crossings and rebuild of 4 train stations. Link: Shortlist announced for level crossing removals These bidders were not directed or restricted to design rail under or over solutions but were free to come up with what they felt were the best and most practical designs for our area together with input from the community, so long as the following was adhered to:

• Completing the level crossing removals by 2018
• Creating the best urban design and architectural outcomes
• Creating safer and more connected communities
• Improving the reliability of the transport network
• Minimising disruption to roads and the rail line
• Local content requirements and a workforce of 10% apprentice based employees

From July – October 2015

• Over a number of months in 2015, a series of community consultations were conducted by the Level Crossing Removal Authority to better understand the needs of local residents, commuters and traders.

• These consultations included 23 pop up information stands, 7 interactive sessions, 16 community catch ups, the distribution of 300,000 newsletters and resulted in over 1500 pieces of community feedback. Link: Caulfield to Dandenong Consultation Report

• The Community Tender Advisory Panel – CTAP – was established to provide for key community and stakeholder involvement in the tender process. Meetings of this group were conducted in addition to the wider community consultation outlined above. The CTAP comprised of residents (including residents directly abutting the railway line), business and industry groups and local stakeholders. This committee provided valuable input into the tender process.

February 2016

• Expected announcement of the proposed design followed by further local community consultations.

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Major projects such as these generally require a range of different options to be investigated, such as rail over road, rail under road, road over rail and road under rail. There are also a number of technical issues and limitations that need to be considered for each possible design including delivering the project in a timely way and working with existing local infrastructure, major underground cabling and pipes and the local water table.

The community consultation report released by the Level Crossing Removal Authority makes mention of a number of options that were discussed at the local meetings. For example, with regard to design solutions, “some suggested stations and tracks be lowered, while others suggested a heightened rail track to gain more corridor parkland.”

The following is a link to the community consultation report which details many of the issues raised locally.

Caulfield to Dandenong Consultation Report

What this report makes clear is that there are a range of different views in the community regarding the design of level crossing removals, including but not limited to whether the removal of level crossings is achieved by lowering or raising the rail line. I do appreciate that many people in the community will have strong views on their preferred outcome and there will be a need to incorporate many of the ideas and suggestions from the community in the final design – I will be working hard to make sure this occurs.

The Cranbourne/Pakenham line upgrade is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in Victoria’s history. It has required major planning over the last year to ensure safer and more connected communities, to minimise local disruption and provide state of the art transport and urban design outcomes.

I am confident that the successful bidder will provide major local improvement, including:

• that the dangerous and time wasting level crossings are removed as soon as possible with minimal community disruption
• delivering a state of the art, modern and exciting design that connects communities and boosts safety
• incorporating the views of local residents in meeting the urban design outcomes that reflect the modern needs of our community

I look forward seeing the removal of the 9 time wasting and dangerous level crossings as well as the newly rebuilt stations at Carnegie, Murrumbeena, Hughesdale and Clayton. I know that this long overdue project will deliver an enormous boost to our entire community.

Kind regards, Steve

(Some photos below of the local consultations in Murrumbeena in 2015)

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