We recognise that level crossings are problematic for our community. They cause traffic congestion, vehicle accidents, personal injury and limit how frequently rail services can run.
One Integrated Project: Four Level Crossing Removals
In January 2016, the Victorian Government announced it would remove 50 level crossings from Victoria's metropolitan rail system, including three crossings in Darebin at Grange Road, Alphington; High Street, Reservoir; and Bell Street, Preston.
Evidence-based Study: Planning ahead for a growing population
The boom gates at Bell Street are currently closed about 50 per cent of the time during the morning and evening peak.
With Public Transport Victoria predicting train services will double during the next 20 years, this level crossing must be removed or you can see a point in the future when the boom gates will never open.
The population is predicted to continue to grow and local congestion is expected to increase 80 per cent during the next 20 years. Keeping people moving will require significant investment in pedestrian, bus and cycling infrastructure.
We believe the Victorian Government's project presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to address these problems by also removing three level crossings located adjacent to Bell Street at Murray Road, Cramer Street and Oakover Road. This approach would make a serious dent in local traffic congestion and enable greater urban renewal and better community outcomes.
Doing our homework:
Council's role on these projects is as a stakeholder, not a decision maker. That's why we asked experts to undertake an evidence-based study to identify potential community benefits and how they could be maximised.
The study examined the community and economic benefits and consequences of each engineering solution to remove the Bell Street crossing, and what additional benefits would be achieved by expanding the Bell Street project to remove three level additional crossings in Preston.
Key Findings: Realistic options for removing four crossings, not just one
The key findings of the study present a compelling argument for removing four crossings at once using an elevated rail solution. We will use this information as part of Council's own submission to the Victorian Government and we hope you find it useful to inform your own views.
The study initially looked at local topography which constrains how grade separations can be achieved from an engineering perspective.
It found the cost of tunnelling (sometimes referred to as 'cut and cover') is not financially viable. This means the Government will only consider either an elevated or open trench solution.
The evidence presented in the study clearly shows that an elevated rail bridge by far produces the best outcomes for the local community. It is the only feasible way to remove four crossings as one integrated project. And it's the only way to future-proof Preston's rail corridor.
Figure 1 - Section view showing Bell Street Preston level crossing removed through elevated rail.
The Evidence: What convinced Council that elevated rail is the best solution?
A rail under solution does not mean a tunnel. It means a wide trench protected by a wire fence. It will divide our city in half, making it harder to get from one side of the city to the other.
It also means the level crossings at Murray and Cramer Road can never feasibly be removed, which in time will effectively turn them into dead ends.
An elevated rail solution, however, enables the removal of four level crossings, not just one. This could create a new linear green heart for Preston estimated to be the equivalent to two MCG's in size. Council has put its hand up to manage this space, which could be transformed into parks with pedestrian and cycling paths.
Figure 2 - Section diagram of rail under solution showing large area of open trenching and fencing that would be required
Open Up New Space: An area about two MCGs in size could be reclaimed for open space
Elevated rail compared to a trench has many benefits. It:
- Frees up two MCG's worth of new open space.
- Makes space for improved public transport connections between bus and rail services.
- Enables people to travel in all directions more safely and quickly.
- Improves safety.
- Reduces noise, making it quieter for people nearby
- Minimises construction disruption
- Is more cost effective
- Will result in two brand new rail stations
- Removes Preston's east/west divide.
Figure 3 - Imagine the possibilities
A trench does not enable these benefits and would leave Preston with:
- A kilometre long, eight metre deep trench dividing the community forever
- Limited footbridges restricting east west travel
- A 2.2 metre high safety fence
- Level crossings at Murray Road and Cramer Street unable to be feasibly removed in future.
Figure 4 - By comparison, an open trench achieves none of this
Have Your Say: We're Having Our Say And Encourage You To Have Yours
We have asked the Victorian Government to expand their project to remove the Bell Street level crossing to include the removal of three additional level crossings at Oakover Road, Cramer Street and Murray Road.
Our Council Report and feasibility study is available on our website at 3 April Meeting Agenda and Feasibility study or by calling customer service on 8470 8888.
Level Crossing Removal Authority
Make sure you get involved in the Victorian Government's consultation activities to make your preference clear to them. Register your details atyour.levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/bell-street-preston or call 1800 762 667. For languages other than English, please call 131 450.
The Victorian Government's Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) has already asked local people what they felt was most important about the Bell Street level crossing project in Preston. That initial round of consultation ended on 18 November, 2016. The LXRA is now reviewing the feedback. If you would like to see what the community told the LXRA, visit your.levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/bell-street-preston/maps/bellstplacesmap.
The next opportunity to have your say is coming up
The LXRA will present concept designs for the feasible level crossing removal options to the community and invite feedback on those options through:
- community drop-in sessions
- pop-ups at local train stations
- online information
- visits to local businesses.
A printable version of this document is available here, Connecting Preston.