The need for Track Duplication between Gowrie and Upfield

Is there room for a 2nd track and bikepath? Camp Rd Level Crossing Removal. Photo: Kevin Balaam via Instagram

As more people move into Fawkner, indeed into Moreland and Hume muncipalities and along the suburbs served by the Upfield rail line, it becomes more imperative to upgrade the Upfield line.

The Level Crossing Removal at Camp Road will not do anything to improve the service to commuters on the Upfield line. This work has been done for improved traffic flow only. The benefit to public transport users will only come with adding dual track from Gowrie to Upfield, which would allow for an increase in service frequency and reduce a bottlenecks in the public transport line infrastructure.

Yes, there are other bottlenecks in the system such as the city loop, which the Metro tunnel line will help resolve.

So why isn’t the Andrews government and State Labor MP Frank Maguire pushing harder for upgrading the Upfield Line to dual track?

The following interchange in letters between Denis Watson of the Upgrade Upfield Committee and Frank Maguire’s office highlights the issue:

Letter to Frank Maguire, MP for Broadmeadows from Upgrade Upfield Corridor Committee,
Track Duplication between Gowrie and Upfield
Dear Mr McGuire,

Thank you for your representations to the Minister for Public Transport regarding the rail duplication between Gowrie and Upfield stations, and for your response (from Susan Kelty) to my letter of 8 June. We note in your response that the Minister’s office advised you "that the ability to provide more services on the Upfield line is constrained by single track infrastructure and capacity in the City Loop.

However your letter does not address the issue that one of these constraints could have been removed if the Gowrie to Upfield section of the track had been duplicated while the line was closed for the Camp Road level crossing removal works. This would allow the frequency of Upfield line services to be significantly reduced from the current minimum of 18 minutes, notwithstanding the issues with capacity in the city loop.

It should be noted here that in the most recent timetable changes commencing on 27 August this year, an additional service from Sunbury to Flinders Street via the loop, was added to the morning timetable. Thus a total of 38 services (14 Sunbury, 17 Craigieburn and 7 Upfield) now operate in the Northern Loop in the morning peak (defined here as trains arriving at Flinders Street between 7:00 am and 9:00 am), instead of 37 services prior27 August. So it appears that there still is capacity to add additional services in the Northern loop.

An addition of one service to the morning peak and two services to the evening peak on the Upfield line would provide a 15 minute frequency, similar to the 16 minute frequency that operated on the line in the 1980's and early 1990's, when passenger numbers were about a quarter of those today.

However the more immediate concern for Upfield line passengers is that when services are delayed (and sometimes cancelled) because of the single track, it takes considerable time to restore services to the scheduled timetable. Track duplication would solve this problem.

We are fully aware that there is a feasibility study to establish a service from Wallan to the city utilising the Upfield corridor. We support the planning currently occurring for this project.

However we do not see how this relates to the need for the duplication of the existing Upfield line which currently is solely for suburban services, not a VLine service, and not directly connected to Craigieburn and the line to Seymour. In any case, it will be at least 15 years before this project would be completed. Are Upfield passengers expected to continue to endure no change to the existing service until then? Even when the Metro tunnel is completed 10 years hence, without the track duplication, there can be no increase in Upfield line frequencies.

Yours Sincerely,
Denis Watson,
Upgrade Upfield Corridor Committee.

Letter from office of Frank Maguire, MP for Broadmeadows
Track Duplication between Gowrie and Upfield
Nov 28

Dear Mr Watson

In response to your email of 8 June regarding the rail duplication between Gowrie and Upfield stations, representations were made to the office of the Minister for Public Transport regarding this matter.

The Minister’s office has recently advised that the ability to provide more services on the Upfield line is constrained by single track infrastructure and capacity in the City Loop.

The 2016/17 Victorian Budget provided $5 million for a feasibility study to investigate and plan for infrastructure upgrades, including track duplication. Work has commenced on the feasibility study with planning and development work underway.

The North East Line will benefit from a $140m upgrade as part of the Regional Rail Revival package. The package delivers station upgrades to support growing suburbs and prepares the corridor for new trains. This work includes station works and supporting infrastructure for new standard gauge trains and track improvements.

Re-opening an old section of track to connect Seymour services via the Upfield line and duplication of the Upfield line is part of Transport for Victoria's long term planning of the network.

The Metro Tunnel will free up congestion in the City Loop and enable more services to be delivered across Melbourne.

Thank you for raising your concerns.

Kind regards.
Susan Kelty | Electorate Officer
Office of Frank McGuire, MP
State Member for Broadmeadows
Parliamentary Secretary for Medical Research
Parliament Secretary for Small Business & Innovation
Shop G42, Broadmeadows Shopping Centre, Broadmeadows, VIC, 3047

Is Camp Road rail trench built to future proofing for dual track, shared use path and a station?

Kevin Devlin, CEO of the Level Crossing Removal Authority, responded to my letter to the Minister of Public Transport regarding extension of the Upfield Bike Path to Upfield, which both Moreland and Hume Council support.

The response made clear such work was not in the scope of the level crossing removal work. But Mr Devlin did provide some answers which amount to that the Andrews Labor Government have:
1. no plans for funding the shared path extension to Upfield.
2. no current plans for upgrading single track to dual track from Gowrie to Upfield.

According to photos I have seen of the trench under Camp Road there appears to be insufficient room for a dual track rail line plus shared use path under Camp Rd. See this Instagram photo by local cyclist Kevin Balaam:

I asked in a follow up email to the Level Crossing Removal Authority on December 7: “Can you confirm that provision for dual track and a shared use path has been included, as promised and detailed in the design work at community consultations?”

I am still waiting a response.

There also appears to be a design problem that the rail trench under Camp Road has not taken into proper account future placement of a station at Campbellfield, according to the Upgrade Upfield Corridor Committee.

If the rail trench has not been designed properly to fully accommodate dual track, plus extension of the Upfield path, and future establishment of a station at Campbellfield, what was to be a fairly simple level crossing removal may prove to be a major design stuff up that will ruin the facility to upgrade the Upfield line for decades to come.


3 responses to “The need for Track Duplication between Gowrie and Upfield

  1. Pingback: Carbon emissions and footprint of different transport types | Climate Action Moreland: people in Brunswick, Coburg, Fawkner and Glenroy wanting action on climate change

  2. Pingback: Congestion on the Upfield Line: why we need dual track upgrade as a priority | Sustainable Fawkner

  3. Pingback: Submission: Assessing Level Crossing Removals in Coburg through a climate change prism | Climate Action Moreland: people in Brunswick, Coburg, Fawkner and Glenroy wanting action on climate change

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