Won't someone think of the passengers?


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?'

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?


apocalyptoid's picture

Alas Alistair, I suspect that there are still many influential people in government, the bureaucracy and society at large who view public transport users as some kind of subhuman species, unable to afford the superior mode of car transportation which any self-respecting and independent-minded person would naturally choose over a stinky, unreliable, infrequent and crowded train (apparently the preferred mode of transport for pedophiles according to a prominent anti-skyrail activist). Whenever major projects to improve public transport are developed, it seems as if the default position is expected to be an apologetic one, 'sorry, we know it's only public transport but we have to do this'.

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SYmlb's picture

Well, there was similar opposition from Labor at the state election to East West Link due to the land acquisitions required at the Hoddle St entrance and the overpasses at Royal Park - and that isn't public transport (but would have benefited the few.)

There is always this sense of NIMBYism whenever a large project like this is proposed. I don't see people complaining today about land values being affected in many areas which back right onto many freeways, or massive overhead powerlines over many properties in the suburbs.

The only other solution is to go underground, which would blow out the costs for the project and cause more debt. There is no 'good' solution in my eyes, this is probably a middle-ground solution that is affordable yet causes the least distruptions.

The city continues to grow and I would like to see solutions to obvious transport problems and not just 'leave it for the next generation' - this is why nothing gets done.

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theboynoodle's picture

I suspect that there are still many influential people in government, the bureaucracy and society at large who view public transport users as some kind of subhuman species, unable to afford the superior mode of car transportation which any self-respecting and independent-minded person would naturally choose

Nobody thinks this. And I'm not sure it helps to think/say that they do because it means not looking at the real reasons why public policy decisions can be seen as favoring one form of transport over another.

Public transport is not the optimum choice for most journeys - particularly as one moves further away from the CBD. You develop public transport where a large number of people want to get between point A and point B. But a lot more people want to get between all combinations of points C, D, E, F, and G-Z. These people like roads, and these people have a vote just like us A->B types.

So instead of assuming that decision makers are anti public-transport, or simply blind to the needs of those of us who use it (or, they are anti-bike, anti-walk, anti-jetpack etc) it's better to assume that they've weighed up all the competing needs of stakeholders and come to their decision. If you think that the decision is wrong then it should be challenged based on how it was made. If there's prejudice against some form of transport in the decision makers then it needs to be evidenced... and maybe the people in the car-loving outer-suburbs are over-represented, or maybe older/richer people who prefer the comfort and convenience of their cars carry too much weight.. but that's quite different from implying contempt for public transport users.

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krzy stoff's picture

There is a lot of focus on this topic on whether the money should be best spent on rail vs road. However, at its core the Level Crossings Removal Authority was set up to remove level crossings, which benefits both road users and rail users, alike (along with tram and bus users). There is a side-benefit of increased train flow, but the same can be said for road users who drive on the affected roads. Safety is another benefit. The cost differences are the driving factor behind where to use elevated rail vs tunnelling, estimates are typically elevated rail 2-2.5x the cost of at-grade rail, while tunnelling is 4-6x the cost of at-grade. Also the costs vary wildly depending on local conditions and the grades of the track at either end connecting the existing track to the new section (ie. you can't switch from tunnel to skytrain over a short distance). The government had to choose between achieving more crossing removals using elevated rail or fewer crossing removals using tunnelling. With so many unsafe and congested level crossing in Victoria, it's hard to see why so many people are unhappy they are now being removed, at any price. True enough, in some places the station overhead may be an eyesore, but many of these locations are unspeakably ugly now, and a new building overhead can only be an improvement, not to mention the wealth of open space and amenity the development will bring.

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