South-east Melbourne's railway upgrades continue with Cranbourne duplication election announcement

South-east Melbourne's railway upgrades continue with Cranbourne duplication election announcement
South-east Melbourne's railway upgrades continue with Cranbourne duplication election announcement

The ALP Andrews Government has rolled out another November election commitment, pledging to duplicate the Cranbourne line and committed to start the planning process which will see the line extended to Clyde.

The Coalition opposition unveiled plans to extend the Cranbourne line a few weeks ago, however in their election commitment duplication of the Cranbourne line was to come after an extension.

The ALP's commitment also comes with a service frequency pledge - a train every 10 minutes - as well as a package of works at the major junctions along the further up the line at Dandenong and Caulfield.

Tracks will also be upgraded around Caulfield station, where the Frankston line splits off from the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, and around Dandenong station where the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines separate.

This will help move trains more quickly through these stations, cutting delays and getting people home sooner.

Premier's media release

The price tag outlined for the duplication and Dandenong/Caulfield improvement works is $750 million according to the Andrews Government, and adds to the billions of rail investments already committed in the area.

Fourteen of the fifty level crossing removal projects are on the Pakenham/Cranbourne lines. Nine are complete with two on the Cranbourne branch underway and a further three at planning on the Pakenham branch; on Saturday HUGHESDALE re-opened to passengers.

A massive new train maintenance and storage depot for the High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs) is under construction in Pakenham East, the power systems are in a state of upgrade to cater for the new trains and a new signalling system will be deployed between Dandenong and Sunshine once the Pakenham/Cranbourne lines join the Sunbury line through the Melbourne Metro Tunnel.

In terms of yesterday's announcement, $7 million has been committed to the planning to extend the Cranbourne line to Clyde. The Andrews Government, in contrast to the opposition, insists duplication of the track between Dandenong and Cranbourne must occur first before an extension project can occur.

Analysis & Comment

The multiple billions that have been or will be invested into this rail corridor highlight how much underinvestment in rail there has been over the decades.

The power and signaling upgrades represent a multi-generational leap in technology available for rail services in the area (it also highlights how daunting the task will be to upgrade other lines in future) and will no doubt serve the city for many decades.

One thing we have not seen an explicit commitment to is finally putting the entire line on concrete sleepers - there are small sections of old wooden sleepers, particularly through stations that haven't been upgraded as part of the level crossing removal project.

The investment in Caulfield is welcome as well because at the moment trains are forced to slow down to cross over the pedestrian subway which forms the main access to the station and the junction with Frankston line involves sharp movements which make for a less-than-par passenger experience.

What else would we like to see happen? Everything announced, under construction or committed to has ticked all the boxes except for a project to improve speeds between Caulfield and the Metro tunnel portal. 

Pakenham/Cranbourne/Gippsland trains are forced to slow when entering and exiting Hawksburn and Armadale station areas on their express runs. Given all trains on Pakenham/Cranbourne/Gippsland do not stop at any of the intermediate stations, improving track geometry by shaving back station platforms will increase speeds and thus overall passenger carrying capacity on the track pair.  

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

Victorian Election 2018

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