Dandenong Rail Corridor Upgrade

This article is written in response to my recent reading of the article Napthine Government pledges 25 new trains and removal of four dangerous level crossings


I realise the original Herald Sun article was written up in March, but with the Community consultation process beginning now – 9 July 2014 – now is the time for the local citizens of South East Melbourne, particularly those of us who will be directly impacted by the future road works and construction, to ensure our voice is heard.

The official Cranbourne-Pakenham Raid Corridor project details are documented on the Department of Transport website. In addition to reviewing this material, I also investigated the Community Consultations page, where the greatest level of detail on the conceptual plans for each of the four level crossing/stations is available.

In total, the project targets locations between Caulfield and Dandenong listed in order of out-bound traffic flow:

  1. Carnegie:
    1. Koornang Rd level crossing removal – current plan
    2. Station rebuild – current plan
    3. Grange Rd – future planning/funding
  2. Murrumbeena:
    1. Murrumbeena Rd level crossing removal – current plan
    2. Station rebuild – current plan
  3. Hughesdale:
    1. Poath Rd level crossing removal – future planning/funding
    2. Station rebuild – currently out of scope / future unknown
  4. Clayton:
    1. Clayton Rd level crossing removal – current plan
    2. Station rebuild – current plan
    3. Centre Rd – current plan
  5. Noble Park:
    1. Corrigan Rd level crossing removal – future planning/funding
    2. Chandler Rd level crossing removal – future planning/funding
    3. Heatherton Rd level crossing removal – future planning/funding
    4. Noble Park station rebuild – currently out of scope

The priority of Clayton, Carnegie and Murrumbeena is not clear, when taking into consideration the high risk level crossings well documented and known because of the unfortunate incident of death – elsewhere within metropolitan Melbourne – St Albans. Of the three locations, Clayton is the most deserving given its proximity to not only Monash Medical Centre, but the future adjacent Monash Children’s Hospital. Having personally experienced the common traffic delays of the boom gates being down at Clayton Rd, I have often wondered what would happen should an ambulance get caught up in the traffic jams. From what I have learnt from friends who work as staff at the hospital, ambulance drivers have, over the years, learnt to drive around and avoid getting entangled in the traffic by taking the back streets. Still, the constraint of the level crossing on the ability for the current hospital to grow effectively has been present for a long time, and with the construction of the future Children’s Hospital, the priority and need to provide a grade separation will help to ease traffic congestion of the area.

When the time comes for Clayton’s level crossing to close, vehicular traffic will need to detour via Huntingdale or Westall since both Centre and Clayton Roads may be closed to traffic. It is yet to be seen whether the project developers will stagger development such that only one of the two level crossings is deemed out of service, and thus ensure one of the routes is always available. A study of the proposed designs on the Clayton railway and station reveal the scope of plans and how the grade separation will be achieved. When compared to my highly ambitious plans, the proposed designs would appear to be fairly limited and not as visionary. Of course, given the $2-2.5B budget for the entire project scope, of which Clayton is only one phase, my plans for Clayton alone could be in the same financial range… My ambition and aims for a truly integrated public transport hub require a greater commitment given that underground tunnels and passageways for both train and commuter are much more expensive to construct rather than an open-cut clearing made for the railway line.

The long-term benefits of my plan for Clayton take into consideration the movement of commuters between all corners of the major roads and existing/retained road intersections. Part of the overarching cost-benefit driver is justified because of the development of large-scale property with additional commercial benefits – rental income with the possibility of business-based revenue streams. In comparison, the design timidity now being put to the general public suggests a great reluctance and fear of pursuing such partnerships that could otherwise drive a much grander level of success, efficiency and convenience.

The interesting thing is the same attitude is prevalent throughout all instances of public transport development across Melbourne. The recent completion of the Glen Waverley apartment block on land belonging to Public Transport Victoria reflects the same timidity where the current final stage of construction in fixing up the station forecourt ultimately points to mediocre outcomes – commuters lack a truly integrated system of trains, stations with direct connection to the hubs of activity in the immediate vicinity – buses, shops and residential apartments.

With the public consultation and feedback process underway, it would appear that this project is finally gaining some traction, and perhaps timely given 2014 is a state election year. Numerous comments on the Herald Sun article page reflect this cynicism prevalent throughout our local society – is this merely a case of a Liberal State Government pandering to its local voter base across South-East Melbourne? Naturally, it is quite impossible to know whether or not this is a contributing factor driving the project to commence now, some months out from the November poll.

The Cranbourne-Pakenham Railway Corridor Project is after all, not the first major initiative to have been commissioned by a state government. Indeed, as reported by The Age just over 12-months ago, the most recent media attention before this current 2014 season was in discussions held 2012-2013, which in itself, was a reincarnation of the original Dandenong Railway Line Triplication project. As documented and archived in Wikipedia, that idea was estimated to cost $1B back in 2006, when it was first packaged and announced. Given this history, and how things have changed since then, it becomes more understandable why Melbournians treat these media announcements with greater levels of scepticism. After all, the sad context is that whilst the current Napthine Liberal Government may claim to be investing $2-2.5B into public transport via new sources of funding, it pales in comparison to the $12B promised to the East-West Link between the Eastern Freeway and Tullamarine Freeway. Further, as this community consultation is transpiring, it is important to realise that the government is now operating under a new paradigm of unsolicited proposals process. Only time will tell if this process and the resulting public works is a nice change of successful implementation.

If the government is serious and truthful about the projected increase in population living in the area of the Dandenong railway corridor (600K in the next decade), on top of the existing 1M, this is a 60% increase whereas the documented plan is to increase capacity on the line by 30%. The assumption that results is that 50% of the growth will be supported by non-train methods of transport, which would point to cars in the first instance… Without a clearer understanding of the calculations used to derive the published statistics, it remains to be seen just how these projects pass through the normal budget/funding processes of the Victorian State Government – frameworks such as the Investment Logical Map.