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Trenches and elevated rail - Melbourne examples

There's been a fair bit of level crossing removal spin in the mainstream media this week, with terms like 'skytrains' and the State opposition taking an apparent position on the 'best' method of grade separating level crossings.

The 'best' solution for each grade separation project depends on many different factors and each and every site requires a bespoke design and engineering response. From various reports it appears one organisation that is tendering for the Dandenong corridor projects (nine level crossings will be grade separated) has proposed to use a rail above road grade design.

The ensuing commentary, especially from the State opposition, has sought to paint elevating railway track above the ground level as an inferior solution.

My view is that elevated railway tracks create valuable public space and removes pedestrian barriers. Likewise rail under road grade type engineering solutions are just as appropriate where the 'trench' effect can be minimised.

Here's a street view which looks at the trench effect created as part of the Rooks Road and Mitcham Road (Mitcham Station) grade separation project.

Much has been made of the existing elevated rail grade separations: Glenferrie and Balaclava are the most referenced, and they're both great examples of how space is well utilised around the station precincts.

Yet Balaclava, Glenferrie and all the other examples cited were created by building an earth-filled embankment and then installing steel bridges across the roadways.

This is the 1970s era design and construction for the City Loop viaducts between Flinders Street and Spencer Street: no embankments, just pylons holding up a track deck and catenary.

The difference between elevated approaches should be apparent and the City Loop example has had the benefit of 30+ years of public realm design re-think and action resulting in a new public space right in the heart of the city. Why can't we take this good urban design and apply it in the suburbs?

Parks, walking trails or cycle tracks - valuable public amenities whether you live in the suburbs or the inner city - are possible with an approach like the City Loop viaducts on the Dandenong corridor.

Lead image credit: Google Street View.

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