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Toolern not likely the last station to be added to a future electrified Melton line

Earlier this month the State Government announced a new station between Rockbank and Melton would be built at Toolern.  The announcement is one of many which are slowly creating a picture of how an electrified metro line between Sunshine and Melton will look.

In the most recent budget, half a billion dollars was set aside for Ballarat line upgrades.  On top of adding capacity further down line beyond Melton - new passing loops, closing the original alignment that was bypassed as part of the regional fast rail project from last decade - the Melton to Deer Park junction would have a second track added.

The Melton-Ballarat railway line and Western Freeway corridor is one of the major growth corridors of undeveloped land contained within the urban growth boundary.

At the same time as the plans for Toolern station were unveiled - a public consultation phase is set to begin soon - it was also confirmed that Rockbank station rebuilding works will commence and that a consortium of Lendlease, Coleman Rail and SMEC has been announced as the prefgerred bidder to deliver the project.

But wait there's (possibly) another station on the way

New South Wales-based Stockland recently completed a precinct structure plan (PSP) at what it dubs Mt Atkinson, located a little closer to the city than Toolern, between Rockbank and Caroline Springs Stations on the Melton-Ballarat line.

Mt. Atkinson, according to its masterplan, is a mixed-use low-medium density residential and commercial-industrial development to be developed on greenfields to the south of the railway line.

A town centre will be located adjacent to a future railway station and likewise, this is the area where higher-density development occurs in visualisations from the development's website.

When (if?) this station goes ahead, the railway line between Melton and Sunshine would have a station on average every 1-2 km, similar to other outer suburban lines like Pakenham and Lilydale: Sunshine, Ardeer, Deer Park, Caroline Springs, Mt. Atkinson, Rockbank, Toolern and Melton.

Screen capture from mtatkinson.com

The final uncertainties

The Melbourne Metro Tunnel project is going to link the Sunbury line to the Pakenham/Cranbourne lines and a side benefit of it is that it opens up the Melton should, when electrified, to join that service group.

The junction is Sunshine and it's likely a great deal of work will need to be done.

First and foremost, there will be a lot of mixed stopping pattern rail traffic between Sunshine and Deer Park - where the Regional Rail Link (Geelong line) branches off the Ballarat line -  assuming an electrified Melton line would operate stopping-all-stations and Geelong/Ballarat V/Line services would run express.

Foreshadowed in the Melbourne Metro Tunnel business case in its Extended Works Program, Sunshine to Deer Park junction would be quadruplicated - expanded from two tracks to four - that would separate the Vline traffic for Geelong from the Melton metro line and partially separate Vline traffic for Ballarat.

Focus shifts to Sunshine junction & station because adding another track pair toward Deer Park would increase the conflicts between lines if the junction were to be built cheaply by connecting the new track pair across a flat junction.  

The Rail Futures Institute has long had a proposal out in the public domain to build a new dedicated Airport-Bendigo/Seymour rail line which would see a new set of underground platforms (and underground alignment) at Sunshine which would remove the potential conflicts with Bendigo Vline services.

It follows that with Bendigo Vline conflicts removed from Sunshine junction, the only remaining major conflict is the new metro track from Deer Park connecting with the existing Sunbury-Watergardens track - perhaps a single flyover of the Sunbury-bound track rising over the Melbourne-bound track from Deer Park would 'do the job' in this case.

The Federal and State Governments are now assessing options to speed up the delivery of a rail line to Melbourne Airport and the Rail Futures Institute proposal is likely competing against other ideas and therefore nothing is certain in this matter, however the RFI proposal may simplify things for the Sunshine junction and station in the Melton electrification context.

Regardless, Sunshine is the last unknown piece of the puzzle to electrify and bring metro services to Melton.

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