Category Archives: public transport

Fawkner residents urge upgrade to the #Upfieldline

Sheridan Tate from Coolaroo speaking outside Gowrie Station

Fawkner residents rely on the Upfield train line as the primary public transport link into the city.

Residents and others from up and down the Upfield line attended a rally on Saturday in Bonwick Street to push for more trains, track duplication and upgrade of the Upfield line. See full report (including speeches) at the Upfield Transport Alliance: Duplicate the Upfield Line needs to be a priority says Fawkner Rally.

While residents at the very south of our suburb can walk to the Bakers Road tram terminus to catch the number 19 tram down Sydney Road, for most Fawkner residents this is simply not an option. (Sustainable Fawkner supports extending the No 19 tram all the way to Campbellfield)

The bus service that winds it’s way through Fawkner streets linking Coburg to Campbellfield is necessary and important, but also lacks the speed and frequency for city commuters.

Our service frequency on the Upfield line is 20 minutes, but more problematic is the single track between Gowrie and Upfield stations that limits the ability to increase the service frequency. Even when the Metro rail tunnel is complete by 2025, the single track will still limit service frequency on the line.

But it’s not only service frequency that’s a problem, it’s the reliability of the service.

When any problem happens on the line and there is a major delay in the Upfield timetable trains are short shunted at Coburg station. While residents in Coburg and Brunswick might not notice much change, all the residents at Batman station and further north have to wait for up to 40 minutes or longer for a train. This makes people late for work, late for important appointments.

A number of Fawkner residents spoke including John Englart from Sustainable Fawkner, Abdul Aziz a local Fawkner train commuter, and Joe Perri from the Fawkner Residents Association.

Residents along the Upfield train line transport corridor are represented by three state MPs: Tim Read, the Greens MP for Brunswick; Lizzie Blandthorn, Labor MP for Pascoe Vale; and Frank McGuire, Labor MP for Broadmeadows. So far only Tim Read has supported giving upgrade of the Upfield line a more urgent priority.

Sustainable Fawkner resident John Englart hand delivered an invite to Frank McGuire’s office:

We have known for 5 years that Upgrade of the Upfield line is urgently needed. The work is in the Melbourne Rail Network development Plan published in 2012, but listed as not to be done for at least 15 years.

A $5 million dollar report on upgrading the Upfield line and extension to Craigieburn along the Somerton link was completed last year, but the government is refusing to make this report public. See the ministerial response in the article on the Extend the Upfield Bike Path campaign website.

Five years ago Metro Trains urged urgent track duplication of the Upfield line. This has been ignored by the Andrews state government.

Track duplication should be done as a priority project in conjunction with level crossing removal in Coburg that will likely start later this year, to minimise disruption to passengers.

Have a read of this January 2014 Age report by Adam Carey: Single line to Upfield worsens north-west rail woes

A four-kilometre section of single track railway in a sparsely populated part of Melbourne is causing transport problems all over the north-western suburbs, Metro says.

The Upfield railway line, one of Melbourne’s quietest, goes from two tracks to one at the end of the line between Gowrie and Upfield stations.

The single track section can only accommodate one train at a time, creating a bottleneck that has long condemned Upfield line passengers to 20-minute waits between trains, even as several other lines in Melbourne move towards 10-minute frequency.

Metro has called for the single-track section of the Upfield line to be duplicated by 2017, arguing that services on the line should be increased “towards a 10-minute frequency”.

In a proposal to the state government, Melbourne’s rail operator says the single track should be duplicated because it also puts pressure on the Craigieburn and Sunbury lines, two of Melbourne’s busiest and most prone to peak-hour overcrowding, because all three lines are linked in a northern group.” Read more

It’s way past time that Lizzie Blandthorn MP and Frank McGuire MP take up the issue of urgent upgrade to the Upfield Line. Residents of the northern suburbs are sick of being ignored.

Sustainable Fawkner has endorsed the Upfield Transport Alliance campaign

Riff Raff marching band: we need more trains

The Fawkner rally to Upgrade Upfieldline

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Congestion on the Upfield Line: why we need dual track upgrade as a priority

Packed like Sardines on Upfield line due to Craigieburn line closure. Photo by Corey Cresswell @coreycresswell /Twitter

There have been quite a few complaints about congestion on the Upfield rail line this last week from Friday 22 June to Wednesday 27 June. Metro Trains and Level Crossing Removal Authority have badly stuffed up their communications to passengers about closing the Craigieburn train line, provision of replacement bus services, and the implications for users of the Upfield Train line.

“The Upfield line needs track duplication from Gowrie to Upfield as a priority so that increased service frequency can be offered when the Craigieburn line is closed.” said sustainable transport campaigner and Fawkner resident John Englart.

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Stuffing up Upfield Path extension with Camp Road level crossing Removal

Cemented cable ducting on the M80 rail bridge looking north

I wanted to see the Camp Road Level Crossing Removal done as per the plans presented and discussed at the community consultations. I thought this was a fairly straight forward level Crossing Removal. All they had to do was ensure facility for easily adding a shared use path (bikepath), a station at Campbellfield, and facility to upgrade to dual track.

Of course it would have been much cheaper and more efficient to upgrade to dual track during the Level Crossing Removal and do all the earth removal for the station at the same time. As well as providing a shared use path.

But it seems after the community consultation the Crossing Removal plans were changed. There is no provision for a shared use path under Camp Road whatsoever.

I visited the site on February 6 and the John Holland workers said they would be enclosing and locking off the access track that runs from Camp Road beside the railway line, across the rail bridge over the M80 to stop any pedestrian, joggers or cyclists along this track.

Even worse. The railway bridge over the M80 ring road has single track, provision for a second track and a reasonably wide pedestrian path space. The Level Crossing Removal chose to use the pedestrian pathway for electrical conduits, cementing them in, leaving a narrow path, perhaps 90 cm wide to walk over the bridge. This is most unsatisfactory. They have made extending the Upfield Path to Upfield very expensive, if not impossible, with these works.

Let’s get this straight. The Level Crossing Removal at Camp Road only benefits the drivers along this road, not the rail passengers on the Upfield line who were inconvenienced, or the people that were using the service track along the rail line and future users of a shared use path. The Level Crossing Removal appears to have actually made it more difficult to develop the Upfield shared use path in the Upfield Transport Corridor.

This is poor planning and implementation of a relatively straight forward level Crossing Removal. The planners and builders of yesteryear thoughtfully provided space for a shared use path on the M80 rail bridge, which the Level Crossing Removal Authority have utilised with no thought for future use. We have actually gone backwards with this infrastructure project…..except if you are a road user.

I was given an explicit undertaking by Kevin Devlin, CEO of the Level Crossing Removal Authority, in a letter he wrote dated 6 December 2017 as delegated from the Minister for Transport Jacinta Allen (PDF). These assurances included that the work was done to “easily accommodate future improvements to the rail line and surrounding infrastructure such as the bike path.”

Similarly, Devlin assured me that “LXRA is working closely with both Hume and Moreland Councils to ensure the current works deliver the best possible outcomes for the community within the scope of the project”.

I have raised this with Councillors from Moreland and Hume. The ones that have responded have not sounded impressed. Some of the outcomes have actually gone backwards, against Council policy and strategies for development of cycling infrastructure.

Here are some details:

  • Sydney Road is an 8 lane road, expanding to 14 traffic lanes including for turning lanes at Camp Rd/Mahoneys Rd/Sydney Rd intersection at Campbellfield with a 70Km speed zone. I think it is most unsafe to cycle on Sydney Road at this location due to the high volume of traffic and traffic speed.
  • VicRoads has not provided any safe alternative route for cyclists travelling north/south adjacent to or near Sydney Road. This function could be provided by the Upfield corridor and extension of the Upfield shared use path to Barry Road at Upfield.
  • VICRoads has no plans to extend the Upfield path, despite requests from Moreland and Hume Councils.
  • Please note that the residents of Campbellfield Heights have no backstreet route to access the shops at Campbellfield plaza. They have to come onto Sydney Road (or use the unformed footpath) to access the shops. While creation of the Upfield path would not resolve the difficulty of cycling from Campbellfield residential area to Campbellfield Plaza, it illuminates the problem that there is no safe route for cyclists.
  • As there is no provision made for Upfield shared use path to go under Camp Road, the only other option is for it to go alongside the railway on the service track, then a pedestrian crossing across the 4 lanes and two cycles lanes on Camp Road. Putting in pedestrian crossing lights would seem to remove part of the advantage of the Level Crossing Removal in periodically holding up traffic. It would be a nightmare to cross without pedestrian crossing lights. I would be pleased to find out how else planners propose that a shared use path can be installed in an easy, efficient and cost effective manner at this point.
  • The Level Crossing Removal Authority have used the space allocated for pedestrian/cyclist shared use on the rail bridge across the M80 ring road for electrical cabling ducts and cemented them into place. I would like to know how a shared use path can be installed easily and cost efficiently given the work undertaken by the Level Crossing Removal Authority in utilising this portion of the bridge seemingly ruining any prospect of it being used for a shared use path.
  • Developing infrastructure with poor access at Merri Creek Reserve: Note that that the Victorian State Government committed $1.7 million to develop visitor infrastructure, including 6km of new bike and walking paths, at Merri Creek Park in Campbellfield (Merri Gorge) in February 2017. But we are still to see any commitment to build important bicycle shared use paths in Campbellfield: the extension of Merri Creek Trail and Extension of the Upfield bike path to Barry Road at Upfield.
  • Melbourne is growing in population. Cycling infrastructure, as well as mass transit, needs to be expanded into the middle and outer suburbs to enable residents of these suburbs to choose to use recreational or commuter cycling which has positive emissions reduction and health benefits at a societal level. Extending the Upfield path could provide a convenient cycle commuter route for some Hume residents to Moreland and the city.

I did a site inspection of the Camp Road bridge and rail bridge across the M80 on February 6, 2018. I immediately reported the issue to the Level Crossing Removal Authority by phone, an email to Frank Maguire (MP for Broadmeadows) office, Samantha Ratnam as my legislative Council MP.

I am still waiting responses from the Level Crossing Removal Authority project team. I was told a member of the Level Crossing Removal Project team would get back to me within a week. There has been no response after 20 days.

I followed up my initial email to Frank Maguire MP (Broadmeadows) in person at his office on Friday 23 Feb, but other than acknowledgement that my issue has been registered I have received no further feedback from his office.

I am sure there is going to be more to this story…stay tuned.

Photos from site visit on February 6, 2018

Is it time to extend West Coburg Tram route 58 to Hadfield?

Ever wondered why the West Coburg tram terminates at Melville Road and Bell Street intersection? This article in the Argus in 1944 explains that housing commission building needed to be kept within half a mile of the terminus, or the tram line should be extended up Turner and Derby streets.
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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:
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Upfield line passengers wait until December 18 for resumption of service due to Camp Rd Level Crossing Removal

Train services on the Upfield line have been disrupted since 15th November, from Coburg to Upfield. There is a replacement bus service, but it doesn’t provide the same utility as the train service lacking the facility for mobility scooters and to take bicycles.

Camp Road has also been disrupted, but will be reopened with the new road bridge over the Upfield line at 6:00am Thursday 30 November.

Train passengers have to continue to wait until Monday 18 December for reinstatement of train services, due to continuing track work, overhead electricity cabling.
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Passengers forced to help themselves ‘Detrain’ on the Upfield Line

Detraining on the Upfield line from a broken down train south of Park St.

I got to experience a broken down train and the community response in helping each other off the Upfield train yesterday.

Because of level crossing removal work at Camp Road trains are only running to COBURG on the Upfield Line. Yesterday I cycled to COBURG and used the Parkiteer cage for my bike and caught the train into the city for an event. Everything was well, and I caught the 5:02 train from Flinders Street.

The problem with my train started occurring after Flemington Bridge station with the train motor seeming to sputter causing jumps. We made it past Royal Park before the engine pretty well died in fits and starts. “You can do it, you can do it” chanted someone in my carriage as the train inched forward in a few splutters of progress.
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Trains terminating Coburg instead of Gowrie for Level crossing removal

Sign at bus stop opposite Gowrie Station on Sydney Road

Updated 5th October: with a response from Frank Maguire MP, and response from Level Crossing Removal Authority. Update 9 October with response from Metro Trains re disability access for replacement bus service

Public Transport Victoria and Level Crossing Removal Authority have failed to explain why trains will terminate at Coburg Station instead of Gowrie Station.

Due to Level Crossing Removal activity at Camp Road trains will terminate at Coburg station from 8.30pm Thursday 26 October to the last service on Monday 30 October. A bus service from Coburg to Upfield will replace the train. This disruption will be repeated during November and December.

Unfortunately buses aren’t as friendly for wheelchair users, or for cyclists who use the train. What about people who use mobility scooters? Will they be catered for? These people are particularly negatively affected, as well as regular users of Batman, Merlynston, Fawkner and Gowrie stations.

I don’t see why trains can’t terminate at Gowrie, where there are points north of the station before the M80 bridge allowing a train to go beyond the station then come back heading to the city.
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Upfield rail line needs upgrading during Camp Rd level crossing removal

Looking north up the railway line at Camp Rd Level Crossing

The state government will be proceeding with the Camp Road level crossing removal commencing later this year, with the crossing removed by early 2018. Now is an ideal time to push for track duplication from Gowrie to Upfield and extension of the Upfield Bike Path to Barry Road.

When construction starts, services on the Upfield line can be expected to terminate at Gowrie station, with a bus service to Upfield replacing the train. There is no estimate for when or how long the disruption might take. While service is disrupted would be an ideal time to actually upgrade and improve the rail line and associated bike path.
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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

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