Consultation on Camp Road Level Crossing Removal (implications for Upfield bike path)

Looking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

Loomking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

Today I went on a scouting trip along the Upfield railway line to Camp Road, the site of a level crossing removal to start in the later part of 2017 and be completed by 2019.

I have come to the conclusion:

The Upgrade of the Camp Road level crossing needs to include either a tunnel for cyclists as part of the railway in trench design, or pedestrian lights to allow cyclists to cross Camp Road in safety.

The consultation and community engagement is at The Meadows Greyhound Racing track.

  • Monday 6 February 2017, 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows.
  • Saturday 11 February 2017, 10:00am to 12 noon. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows

Background

It seems strange that the Upfield shared use path doesn’t actually go all the way to it’s namesake, the train station of Upfield in the suburb of Dallas. Currently the path stops at Box Forest Road in Hadfield.

The route needs to continue along Sages Road past Gowrie station, then onto an embankment beside wetlands and stormwater flood mitigation land associated with Campbellfield Creek, to meet up with the Western Ring Road Path. The railway bridge over the Western Ring Road (M80) has been constructed to carry two train lines and a shared pedestrian pathway.

Up to the Western Ring Road is the responsibility of the City of Moreland Council. North of the rail bridge is the responsibility of City of Hume Council.

The double track on the Upfield line currently finishes at Gowrie station, with single track electrified up to Upfield. The track continues up to Craigieburn but is unelectrified. Eventually we need to see the whole line as double track and electrified to Craigieburn and beyond. This will enable more frequent services on the Upfield line. In 2016 the State Labor Government authorised in the budget $5 million towards reopening the line north of Upfield through industrial Somerton, to connect it to the Craigieburn line. (Kevin’s comments noted)

The Camp Road Level Crossing is a major pinch point for traffic along Camp Road with approximately 2 trains going through each 20 minutes (one up, one down). But there are no cycling facilities along Camp Road or a path north following the railway line.

Community Consultation in two events, no project office

I cycled up to The Meadows to enquire about the plans for the Level Crossing removal hoping I’d be able to talk to someone and see the plans. I thought there would be a project office there.

The notice from the Level Crossing removal people had two artist impression photos. These did not inspire confidence in what needed to be done. They showed a single track going through a trench underneath Camp Road. There was no room for a second track in the trench. Oh dear.

Camp Rd Level crossing removal - artist impression.

Camp Rd Level crossing removal – artist impression.

It seems the design of this level crossing removal has already been mostly decided in planning with other options ruled out. “A number of design options were investigated however lowering the rail line under Camp Road was considered the most feasible.” All the other design options faced major challenges which included:

  • Significant land acquisition.
  • Impacts on adjacent business access.
  • Major re-routing of Camp Road affecting traffic and businesses.
  • Reduced site lines creating safety issues for vehicles approaching Sydney Road.
  • Avoids building a new rail bridge over the Western Ring Road which would cause major traffic disruption.
  • Major alterations to the Western Ring Road.
  • Realignment of Sydney Road.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the trench design per se for this level crossing removal, but the consultation has not started with the community, there has been no debate about different options, and the advantages and disadvantages to each.

The tendering process has already begun, yet the community consultation has only just started.

How can consortiums be asked to submit tenders for removal of level crossings on the Craigieburn and Upfield lines, when the community has not yet been consulted and had meaningful input on design options?

Unless the design has already been selected in the planning stage.

So consultation and engagement really means just addressing fringe concerns?

I attended a forum on December 8 (Facebook) at the Coburg Civic Centre with two RMIT urban planning academics putting a fairly convincing case for elevated (skyrail) through Brunswick and Coburg. You can read a recent The Age article on their research here. It would create parkland space, the option to vastly improve commuter cycling facilities for the Upfield bike path with an elevated cycleway, and allow better interconnection in Brunswick in a community now divided by the railway line. It would improve road access not just at Bell and Moreland, but at all the current level crossings. Is this automatically being ruled out?

The Level Crossing Authority says “The selected construction partner will first remove the Camp Road level crossing and will then have the opportunity to remove the level crossings at Buckley Street in Essendon, Glenroy Road in Glenroy, Bell Street in Coburg, and Moreland Road in Brunswick.”

It sounds very much like the designs have already been chosen in the planning stage. Only small cosmetic changes suggested by the community will be allowed. If this is the case, it is a damn shame.

It seems the Camp Road level crossing removal will be the guide and template to set the standard. If you are concerned about the other level crossings on the Upfield or Craigieburn lines, I suggest you pay great attention to the Camp Road Level Crossing and the community consultation process.

The Level Crossing Removal Project have set up two 2 hour window events for community consultation. They also said “Drop in at any time”, which I misinterpreted as they had a project office where during business hours you could see the designs and plans and make suggestions.”

Silly me, I got that wrong.

The drop-in is only for the times of the two events. That is the only opportunity you get for face to face community engagement to speak with anyone of the project team, see the plans and information, although I am reassured that “we are keen to hear your thoughts and feedback.”

It’s at The Meadows Greyhound Racing track. The dates for your diary are:

  • Monday 6 February 2017, 6:00pm to 8:00pm. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows.
  • Saturday 11 February 2017, 10:00am to 12 noon. The Meadows, 80 Northcorp Boulevard, Broadmeadows

I did speak on the phone to one of the Level Crossing removal project officers who assured me the plans would be available later on the website, that:

  • provision will be made for a second track (unlike the artist impressions),
  • provision will be made for the Upfield Path extension (but no details were supplied)

When I asked if any provision had been made for the tentative project of high speed rail using the Upfield rail alignment, he referred me to contact the MP for Broadmeadows, Frank Maguire. That’s great, when Mr Maguire won’t even acknowledge, let alone respond to, Sustainable Fawkner letters on Camp Road level crossing removal and the Upfield Bike Path extension.

If you cycle to the community consultation events from the south take care crossing the Sydney Road/ Western Ring Road intersection. It’s a real nightmare. Along Camp Road to the Northcorp Boulevard isn’t much fun either. I got abused twice by motorists while cycling along this strip.

Further information and Updates from the Camp Rd Level Crossing Page

Continuation of the Upfield Trail

The railway bridge over the Western Ring Road already contains the space for dual track and a shared pedestrian cycle path. What has been lacking is the fortitude of Moreland Council and Hume Council to extend the path up to the Upfield station at Dallas.

The missing link between Box Forest Road and the Western Ring Road is marked for completion in the Moreland Bicycle Strategy 2011-2021 (See Council Policies page or read PDF) See Moreland Council Bicycle Strategy map (2011) excerpt below:

Excerpt from Moreland Bicycle Strategy 2011-2021

Excerpt from Moreland Bicycle Strategy 2011-2021

I note that the Hume City Walking and Cycling Strategy Action Plan 2010-2015 (November 2010) (See Council Policies page for PDF) included the Upfield Train Line Path, to extend the trail all the way along the railway line to Upfield. In 2010 this was given a priority 3 rating, with an estimated cost of $1,500,000 and funding for this path extension to wholly come from VicRoads. See Hume Council Walking and Cycling Strategy map (2010) below:

Excerpt from Hume Council walking and Cycling Strategy Action Plan 2010-2015

Excerpt from Hume Council walking and Cycling Strategy Action Plan 2010-2015

The Upgrade of the Camp Road level crossing needs to include either a tunnel for cyclists beside the railway, or pedestrian lights to allow cyclists to cross Camp Road in safety.

In conjunction with this Level Crossing Removal this is perhaps an excellent time for Hume Council and VicRoads to build the Upfield bike path extension to Upfield.

Camp Road access to shops and Merri Creek Trail connection

I note in the Hume City Council Walking and Cycling Strategy Action Plan (November 2010) on the Map on Page 17 there is a proposal for on-road bicycle lanes for Camp Road. It’s now been 6 years, with the action plan now one year over it’s expiry date with no cycle lanes to be seen on this part of Camp Road from Northcorp Boulevarde to the Campbellfield shops.

Removing the level crossing will increase traffic speed and only increase the level of abuse and conflict with cyclists who need to use this route. Cycle lanes or a dedicated cycle path are desperately needed here.

Hume Council need to be liasing with Vicroads about increasing the safety for cyclists along Camp Road at least to the Campbellfield shops, the pedestrian crossing at Kathryn Street and to Pipemakers Park. These provide important an important destination or links to access the pedestrian overpass over the Western Ring Road into Fawkner, and the Merri Creek Trail.

While we are talking about the Merri Creek trail, it is about time there was work on this missing link extension from Pipemakers Park to Somerset Road (Stage 2 of Western Ring Road to Barry Road path) at Campbellfield. This was listed in the Hume Council Walking and Cycling Strategy Action Plan as Priority 1, with an estimated cost of $240,000. It was supposed to be built in 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial years with $120,000 funding each year from Melbourne Water & Parks Victoria.

Hello, Hume Council? We are still waiting for this missing link path so cyclists can access the residential areas of Campbellfield safely, as well as enticing cycle tourists to visit Merri Gorge without having to brave the traffic terrors of Sydney Rd (there are no side street routes) or go a very roundabout route via the Galada Tamboore Pathway (Hume Freeway path).

Time for Pascoe Vale and Broadmeadows MPs to support Upfield Path Extension

You may recall Sustainable Fawkner raised level Crossing Removal and the Upfield Path with local Labor MP for Broadmeadows Frank Maguire in a September 2016 letter. This was followed up with a telephone call to his office on 12 December. The advisor had no knowledge of the letter, so I sent him a digital copy. I am yet to receive any acknowledgement, let alone a response, or even an invitation to discuss in person.

In 2013 Christine Campbell, the former Labor MP for Pascoe Vale urged the Liberal State Government to kick in funding to construct the Upfield path from Box Forest Road to the Western Ring Road, as it is a major bikepath missing link in Moreland’s north. Here is her motion which we reported on at the time.

“To move, That this House asks the Government to immediately provide $900,000 to the Upfield shared pathway project so Moreland Council can finish the Box Forest Road to Western Ring Road section, giving cyclists a safe route away from dangerous Sydney Road and notes Moreland Council’s commitment of $300,000.”

I call upon the MP for Pascoe Vale, Lizzie Blandthorn, to move the same motion as her esteemed predecessor in state Parliament, to kick in funding to construct the Upfield Bike Path to the Western Ring Road Path, and urge her to support her Labor colleague Frank Maguire for funding the extension to Upfield along the rail corridor in the City of Hume.

I call upon Frank Maguire to use his leverage as the MP for Broadmeadows to ensure the Upfield path extension is built and funded by the State Government or VicRoads and the Level Crossing Removal design includes a viable cycle tunnel or crossing as part of the Upfield Path extension.


Photos from end of Sage St to Camp Road

End of Sage Street: Path to go onto Melbourne water embankment

End of Sage Street: Path to go onto Melbourne water embankment

The track presently beside the railway north of Gowrie

The track presently beside the railway north of Gowrie

Flood mitigation Wetlands the new path will pass

Flood mitigation Wetlands the new path will pass

Looking south along track to Gowrie Station

Looking south along track to Gowrie Station

Someone with a sense of sign humour at railway bridge

Someone with a sense of sign humour at railway bridge

The connection to Western Ring Road path looking west

The connection to Western Ring Road path looking west

The railway bridge over the Western Ring Road already with bicycle path and facility for 2nd track

The railway bridge over the Western Ring Road already with bicycle path and facility for 2nd track

Approaching Camp Rd level crossing on the track

Approaching Camp Rd level crossing on the track

Approaching Camp Rd level crossing on the track

Approaching Camp Rd level crossing on the track

Loomking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

Looking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

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One response to “Consultation on Camp Road Level Crossing Removal (implications for Upfield bike path)

  1. A very good write-up thanks John. You covered a lot of concerns.
    It does need a correction, a big one, IMHO. You write, “The line continues up to Craigieburn but is unelectrified.” Incorrect. Firstly, it is a track, but I don’t think it can be described as a line, because there are no services along it (understandably, given the state of it). Secondly, this track continues to the Somerton sidings near Roxburgh Park Station, and the Craigieburn line along here is definitely electrified.
    As for the LXRA having a site office at The Meadows, I note that you eventually clarify that the community consultation will occur here. The Meadows is largely inaccessible to the community affected by proposed improvements to the Upfield line that could be affected by the level crossing removal project. I think it would be better for the community if consultation occurred in Campbellfield. Example: Broadmeadows residents do not really benefit from a new Campbellfield station (it’s only if they want access along the Upfield line north of North Melbourne), so the LXRA probably won’t be inundated with requests to develop that station. Campbellfield residents, however, would most likely insist on the station being included. Could they be trying to avoid that?
    As for extending the Upfield Path, I won’t be satisfied with anything less than it reaching Thompson or Sunshine Streets, providing safe access to Campbellfield. Extending the path from Gowrie to the Ring Road Path is not affected by Camp Rd crossing removal – it IS affected by construction of duplicated track which might or might happen as part of the project. Extending the Upfield Path to Camp Rd is of no effective or safe benefit to cyclists as it does not connect to any cycling network other than for cyclists who are happy to ride onroad of an arterial road. The path must go beyond Camp Rd, and as you suggest, it must have a safe crossing of Camp Rd.
    I’ll finish now, by thanking you again for this in-depth blog post. Well done!
    Kevin

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