The Dandenong corridor wish list

The Dandenong corridor wish list
The Dandenong corridor wish list

In a series of media releases, Spring Street has announced it has dumped the previous Coalition government's Dandenong corridor project - which was originally pitched to them by a private consortium - and have announced their own.

Much noise was made about the PPP/Napthine scheme only removing four level crossings between Caulfield and Dandenong as well as a smaller number of trains that were to be ordered to run services on this major route. In one of the media releases, the following table was provided as a comparison between the Napthine/PPP scheme and the Andrews Government vision.

The Dandenong corridor wish list
Comparison of project features. Source: State Government media release

According to one media release, expressions of interest are to be called for the grade separations within months and the Premier has preemptively apologised for the shut down of the entire corridor in the name of progress while individual project areas are worked on.

Fair enough Premier, however could we have more detail please?

Given the relative "out of the blue" nature of the project announcement with not much detail beyond the points listed in the image above, here's a wish list of changes Urban Melbourne would like to see happen either in conjunction (priority 1), in the medium term (priority 2) and in the long term (priority 3) with the Dandenong corridor upgrade.

Priority 1

Link the infrastructure investment with more intensive land uses adjacent to the rail corridor

This is a golden opportunity to provide more affordable housing in the middle ring suburbs and Spring Street should make inclusionary zoning as mooted by the Planning Minister (or any other policy targeted at increasing the diversity of urban housing stock) apply to all areas adjacent to newly re-built stations as well as throughout any existing or new structure plan in the corridor.

The Government should work with councils to update structure plans within station vicinities, or create new ones where none exist, in order to capture the benefit of the rail investment. The larger number of trains in the Andrews' Government proposal appears to be linked to increased frequencies of service and therefore the major nodes in the corridor scope: Caulfield, Oakleigh, Clayton, Springvale and Dandenong should see more intense and inclusive development made possible through the planning scheme.

Plan Melbourne has previously designated these areas as Activity Centres with Caulfield and Dandenong as National Employment Clusters, further reinforcing their importance within the wider network.

Dandenong should be a special case building on the existing revitalising central Dandenong principles. According to the Southern sub-region growth fact sheet as part of Plan Melbourne, it is predicted that the area will see another 400,000 to 480,000 people living, for the most part, within reach of a Dandenong corridor station by 2031.

Spring Street should take a leaf out of the New South Wales Government's book and further decentralise public sector organisations and further encourage more private sector investment and employment growth in Dandenong like Macquarie Street has with Parramatta.

Cranbourne-Pakenham Transformation video from the Premier's website.

Priority 2

Mass reconfiguration of the bus network to feed the upgraded rail line

A public transport network is a failure if users are still dependent on a private vehicle to access it. Public transport is a logical extension of walking and where distances are too great between the point of origin and the mass transit mode, other forms of public transport need to be either created or reconfigured to ensure there is no dependency on private vehicles.

Beyond Caulfield and Carnegie, the only other major mode of public transport other than the rail services is the bus network. While a few of the Smart Bus services operate and act as feeder services in the area already, every station - including along the Pakenham and Cranbourne segments - should see less focus on car parking and more on bus service expansion.

Rather than focus on the bells and whistles of a Smart Bus service, bus network/feeder policy should focus on these core principles: frequency, route directness and operating hour expansion. The end-game should be to correct the sheer waste of land at stations like Berwick which has hectares of parking that should be put to better use, especially in the scenario where VicTrack own the land.

The Dandenong corridor wish list
Springvale Station only had two platforms built as part of the recent grade separation project. Source: Daniel Bowen's blog.

Priority 3

At the very least keep one eye on corridor expansion and tell the public about it

No mention was made of expanding the track within the existing corridor however the track and station design should take into account that the corridor will be expanded in future. The logical next step would be to quadruplicate the track between Caulfield and Dandenong thus enabling two tiers of service - stopping-all-stations and express - to operate independently over the longer term.

The future track layout around Oakleigh and Clayton stations should cater for four tracks and four platforms, all other stations should cater for four tracks with only two platforms.

The fastest services on the Sydney Trains network between Sydney's Central station and Parramatta is 27 minutes. This is achieved through extensive and frequent express services which for the most part run on track which is rated for speeds in the vicinity of 80kph.

A direct Flinders Street service from Dandenong according to the current timetable is 41 minutes.

The City-Dandenong corridor (29km as measured from Flinders Street to South Yarra along the projected alignment of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project; South Yarra to Dandenong station along the existing corridor) is 6km longer than the Sydney-Parramatta corridor (23km measured from Central station along the existing Main Western Line to Parramatta).

Given the advantage of a straighter alignment thus enabling higher speeds with express services, should track be quadruplicated - perhaps as part of a second stage of the Melbourne Metro Tunnel project - it is within the realms of possibility that a similar CBD to CBD trip, time-wise, could be undertaken in Melbourne. This should have the effect of improving Dandenong's profile as a employment and growth centre for people living 'up' the line toward the city, not just for those who live beyond Dandenong and commute to the city at present.

At the very least this should be the ultimate plan: creating another fast, frequent transport spine that caters for short and longer trips right through South Eastern Melbourne in both directions, not just for the current peak-time commuters.

Lead image credit: recently grade separated Springvale Station, via Wikipedia.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

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

Tags: 
Trains Urban Affairs Future Public Transport Ideas Level crossing removals

Comments (21)

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Riccardo's picture
Hi Again Thomas the Think Engine I'm still trying to fly the flag for rational transport policy - sadly you can see with the EWL schemozzle that the public are still addicted to irrational transport policy and the political class gladly oblige. And to make matters worse, blogs like this one then give voice to even more irrationalists. Though if you want truly nutty read here https://stopsydneymetram.blogspot.com What is distressing about some of the posters here suggesting that Caulfield to Dandenong can be easily quadded is their implication that the 80km/h transit speed for long distance trains through that section is satisfactory.
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johnproctor
I expect the inner 6 will be trenches but the outer ones (heatherton, chandler, corrigan) might be rail over. As Riccardo posted modern railway standards mean 4 track railways are wider than anticipated when this rail reserve was made and if you were building caulfield-South yarra now that corridor would be much wider as well. There are sections of the dandy corridor where 4 tracks won't fit - generally short pinch points. As I said elsewhere though the capacity generated by the grade separations allowing more trains, use of higher capacity trAins and then in time longer trains means 4 tracks wont be required for quite some time. Hastings will probably drive quadding if it ever happens.
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johnproctor
Ovga are crap.
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michael.bell
The Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA) has made some startling and I believe misguided statements about the suitability of elevated rail following a review of Melbourne grade separations projects: http://www.ovga.vic.gov.au/images/VDRP_Lessons_Learned_Level_Crossing_Removals.pdf VOGA advises avoiding elevated rail grade separations, on the premise that they "have a significant physical presence and impact on a place" and "can impact on visual amenity, permeability, viability of activity areas, the value of land and appetite for future private development". When I read this, it struck me that the same arguments apply equally to rail trenches, which can stretch up to 1000m either side of a road crossing with high safety fencing, creating an impermeable barrier, having a visual impact and virtually eliminating the possibility of beneficial land use due to the high cost of decking over rail. The VOGA paper leaves two questions unresolved: 1. On which Melbourne grade separation projects were the lessons learned that suggest elevated rail is not preferable? Have there actually been any elevated rail grade separations in recent times? (Narre Warren-Cranbourne Rd, Taylors Rd and Andersons Rd, come to mind, but those were road trenches under, rather than elevated rail.) 2. Does the guidance actually refer to rail on earth embankment and buttressed bridging over road, (like Princes Hwy, Malvern) rather than continuously elevated viaduct? If so, this distinction should be clearly stated, as these forms of elevated rail grade separations clearly differ.
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michael.bell
Much of Vacouver's SkyTrain (existing and new lines currently under development) runs on elevated viaducts. It is visually appealing, it has well integrated transport interchanges, and is apparently much loved by the locals. http://www.vancitybuzz.com/2012/10/skytrain-evergreen-line-moving-full-forward-for-2016-arrival/ A 4km section of Sydney's new north west rail link will also be elevated. http://nwrail.transport.nsw.gov.au/The-Project/Skytrain The level crossing removal authority would have to be nuts not to consider overhead rail as a viable and sensible option for rail separation in Melbourne.
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