In a not-so-surprising move, the commencement of construction on the level crossing removals at Edithvale (Edithvale Road) and Bonbeach (Bondi Road) have been delayed by at least a year due to the Level Crossing Removal Authority determining an environmental effects statement (EES) must be conducted for the two sites.
At the same time, the Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, on Sunday morning also announced that Station Road in Seaford will be fast tracked and a hybrid lift-one, lower-the-other design solution has been chosen. Seaford Road is set to be sunk by 1.5 metres and the Frankston rail line will be raised on an embankment either side of Seaford road and cross the sunken thoroughfare.
"Detailed technical investigations have found that it is not feasible to lower the line into a trench to remove the level crossing in Seaford, due to the impact a rail trench would have on groundwater and its effect on Kananook Creek and nearby Ramsar-listed Edithvale-Seaford wetlands".
On Saturday, the Public Transport Minister announced that Skye/Overton Road between the terminus at Frankston and Kananook station is to be fast-tracked with construction scheduled to start this year. A rail bridge over road was the selected design response.
Final designs are still under development, however the images used on the Level Crossing Removal Authority's website for consultation depict the bridge as being 900 metres long and have an approximate height of 8m.
If proximity to sensitive wetlands or other hydrographic features is a key determinant after conducting initial tests that leads to ruling out trench rail design responses then at Carrum, it's hard to see how this could work. Carrum and Aspendale Stations are the two stations on the Frankston line located closest to the foreshore (Aspendale is not on the list of 50 level crossings) and the Patterson River complicates things at Carrum.
With the station precinct surrounded by water on two sides and Eel Race Road in effectively the same boat, perhaps this is why the initial investigations are still underway.
The Herald Sun yesterday published a report that said "the budget for eight level-crossing removals along the Frankston line could blow out by between $1 and $2 billion if suburban sky rail options are dumped. Five sites have the option of expensive rail trenches while three, in Carrum and Frankston, are earmarked for rail bridges."
The Frankston line along with the South Morang and Upfield lines are perhaps Melbourne's worst for the frequency of level crossings and a casual glance at the PTV Network Development plan paints a picture of how train services will increase dramatically over time and it can't happen with so many level crossings still throughout the metro area.
Whether the Herald Sun report has any truth in it or not, no-one can afford to kowtow to local opposition groups at every turn when there's still a lot of work to do beyond the government's initial list of 50.