Won't someone think of the passengers?

Won't someone think of the passengers?
Alastair TaylorMarch 3, 2016


Something's amiss. The needs of train passengers don't appear all that highly valued when it comes to the commentary and debate surrounding the level crossing removal authority's preferred elevated rail solution for the Dandenong corridor.

Underground rail lines might be the best type of rail infrastructure from the perspective of not disturbing property owner views and forgetting the fact it's the most expensive way to build (or retrofit) a rail line, the passenger experience is rubbish.

Trains have windows which allow passengers to look out of them and in a tunnel or in a prolonged trench situation passengers are afforded the views of nothingness. Services that run at grade or elevated afford passengers views both near and far.

According to the bastion of Internet encyclopædic accuracy, Wikipedia, Oakleigh was connected to Dandenong by rail in 1877; Oakleigh and South Yarra were connected by rail in 1879. Five generations have passed since the rail line was built through the area.

If the claims that an elevated rail option was not present in the initial community consultation for the Dandenong corridor turn out to be true then the level crossing removal authority deserves a right royal slapping. There might be an acknowledgement of this as lessons appear to have already been learnt.

The price paid by property owners whose houses back on to the rail corridor will have reflected the decreased general amenity and risk that change is almost guaranteed to occur in the rail corridor in future; and if I were to give any piece of advice to directly affected property owners your energy should be focused on extracting information from the level crossing removal authority, Victrack or PTV on eventual corridor expansion plans.

The most pertinent question to ask of the authorities: 'will my property eventually need to be acquired should the rail corridor expand from two to four tracks?'

Won't someone think of the passengers?
The proposed redevelopment of Clayton Station

The rail corridors around Melbourne carry many thousands of people every day - people who would conceivably be driving to their destination if there was no or a really poor, infrequent, rail service - and it follows that these people, their comfort and their needs are also important.

The Government and the community have accepted that level crossings need to be removed in order to squeeze more capacity out of both our principal public transport & road networks. Train passengers are the biggest beneficiaries of the new infrastructure proposals in the Dandenong corridor: less disruption during construction and at the end of it all, passengers will be provided with superior amenity and a new perspective on the areas they've been travelling through prior to the infrastructure changes.

Time will tell if the superior amenity from the train windows in an elevated train situation has induced more passengers on to train services and increased economic activity around the newly rebuilt stations (especially if the Frankston line sees elevated sections retrofitted which in turn would provide grand views across Port Phillip); but one thing is for certain, there has been a proper design process and it's quite rightly focused on train passengers just as much as on lessening the impacts on directly-affected property owners with the inclusion of noise and visual barriers in selected areas.

We have a habit of building freeways at grade with art installations along the corridor which I've always been mildly amused by given that adding distractions along freeways runs counter to the basic requirement of operating a car at higher speeds: driver concentration. Regardless, this to me says designers and engineers understand there's more to transport infrastructure than just providing a right-of-way, there is a thought process which addresses amenity.

So why must we banish mass transit to the underground or in trenches where passenger amenity will be at its poorest?

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.

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