Regional Rail Link tour part 2 braindump

About a year ago, a group of us from the PTUA went on a tour of the Regional Rail Link, a massive 50 kilometre-long rail project providing new tracks from Southern Cross, via Footscray and Sunshine, then along a new corridor through Melbourne’s new outer-western suburbs to West Werribee.

The project will provide extra track capacity for V/Line trains on the Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo lines into the city — in other words, the bulk of V/Line services into Melbourne — but will also allow more trains on the busy Werribee and Sunbury lines.

A few weeks ago we did part two of the tour, to look progress in the last 12 months, which has been considerable. The project is expected to finish up in 2015, about a year earlier than previously expected.

Southern Cross new platforms

The city end

At Southern Cross, new platforms 15+16 went into service in December last year, primarily for Geelong trains. As noted last year, platform 16 is outside the glass, but it’s still undercover, and passengers seem to be surviving so far.

The works have resulted in a greatly simplified track layout between Southern Cross and North Melbourne, and a lot of wiring and signalling has apparently been ripped out and replaced, which over time should cut signal faults in the area.

Apart from into Southern Cross 15+16, extra track has been provided from the existing flyover into platforms 1 to 8. This resulted in widening of the bridge so it almost touches Festival Hall — art has been installed at ground level recognising some of the music history of the Hall.

Along the street nearby, noise barriers are going up — in fact this is now a common sight along the project where housing is nearby to the new and existing tracks along the line.

Rail bridge widened near Festival Hall

Rail flyover near North Melbourne station

North Melbourne

At North Melbourne, you can get a good view of the new tracks into Southern Cross (both the ground level and revamped flyover) from the new(ish) concourse.

View of city and rail flyover from North Melbourne station

Alas, RRL trains won’t stop at North Melbourne, though there is space for platforms to be provided later to serve the ground level tracks into Southern Cross 15+16. We don’t yet know how many trains will use each set of tracks, but if trains from specific lines consistently use the ground level tracks, it would then be possible to stop at least those trains there, for connections to Metro services and the very popular 401 bus. Platforms serving the flyover tracks would be a great deal more difficult to construct.

Along the rail corridor from North Melbourne to Footscray, it’s now possible to see the bridge over the Maribyrnong river, which along with the rest of the new track as far as Sunshine, has just come into use. West of the river, these new RRL tracks have a flyover to get over the Werribee line tracks, so V/Line trains can cross to the middle platforms at Footscray without causing any delays.

Footscray

Signal box being restored at Footscray station

Footscray station

At Footscray, works seem to be largely complete. The two new platforms (1+2) for Sunbury line trains have been in use for some months, and the bridge extension is finished (along with weatherproofing improvements), providing escalators, new ramps to accompany the lifts and stairs. Having used Footscray a few times in the past few months, it’s pleasing that most of the locals have worked out the Melbourne escalator etiquette of standing on the left so those in a hurry can walk past on the right.

The RRL platforms, now known as 3+4, have been extended, like all platforms on the new line, to allow for much longer V/Line trains in the future. 4 is a little bit curved at the western end by necessity due to the confined space, though given V/Line trains have conductors to verify a safe departure, one wouldn’t expect this would be a problem.

Notably, drainage is built into all the platforms at Footscray and the other renovated or rebuilt stations, with a slight slope away from the tracks. Yes, after decades of building stations so water simply drains onto the tracks, the standard has changed This has been the case for some decades now, and is good for safety, given some highly-publicised incidents of unsecured prams rolling off platforms recently.

Although booking offices and so on are at ground level, the bridge includes some concourse elements, including Myki machines and gates for platforms 2 and 3. The Passenger Information Displays (PIDs) are also in place, though at present only showing four departures at once — I’m told they are looking at solutions to show information for all 6 platforms — possibly separate screens for the V/Line-only platforms 3 and 4.

The heritage buildings at Footscray are being completely restored. This has involved a lot of work, in part because of termites, but if restoration work done at Windsor a couple of years ago is any guide, they should look terrific when finished.

As with many of the other new and rebuilt stations, the bike cage has been provided underneath a staircase, making good use of the space.

The doughnut seller has a new kiosk which opened for the first time on a couple of weeks ago. It’s lacking the trademark-defying dodgy upside-down Olympic logo of the old caravan — not that it matters. But you can tell it’s the same doughnut vendor because the dolphin jam dispenser is back.

Parkiteer at Sunshine station

West Footscray

As I wrote in December, West Footscray station has been completely rebuilt, but is looking even nicer now than when I last saw it, thanks to murals built into the bridge, and a few more splashes of colour around the place.

The ramps have been connected to the local bicycle network — apparently they were built to be a full metre wider than the required station ramp standard of 1.8 metres, to make it easier for cyclists to pass each other. Provision is there for a future upgrade of the station to premium status, and thanks to solar panels and rainwater harvesting, West Footscray has gained a 4-star sustainability rating.

West Footscray station

West Footscray station

We didn’t stop at Tottenham station, but there has been work on the road underpass, and there’s some rather nice murals around the station entrance now which it’s hoped will deter tagging.

Sunshine

Sunshine station, which is becoming a very important interchange, has been completely rebuilt — in fact apparently just about the only remaining feature of the old station is a retaining wall on platform 1. The old dingy subway is gone, replaced by an overpass/concourse with booking office, waiting room, and fare gates.

It looks good — though very grey from some angles.

Sunshine station

Sunshine station

Junction at Sunshine station

Northwest of Sunshine, the Ballarat/Geelong and Bendigo lines converge at a junction. This is at-grade, but apparently there’s provision for a future Melton electrification project to include an overpass to allow Melton trains to pass under these lines to connect to the Sunbury tracks. In the mean time, space has been provided for Bendigo trains to wait, clear of both the Ballarat/Geelong line and the Sunbury line.

Level crossings on two sections of Anderson Road have been grade separated as part of the project.

Following along the line towards Deer Park, more noise walls are in evidence, as well as automatic pedestrian gates at the crossings, which hopefully should prevent accidents such as the fatal one in 2008 involving a pedestrian at one of those crossings.

The new line

West of Deer Park, the new Geelong line branches off the Ballarat line. Near the future Caroline Springs station there’s a new road bridge over the Ballarat line, providing additional road access into the area.

A “consolidation train” was running between Deer Park and West Werribee most of that particular weekend, to apply weight to the new tracks, as part of (literally) bedding down.

Tarneit station was closed up, but at a glance much of it appears to be nearing completion.

Tarneit station


Wyndham Vale station

We did get to have a good look around Wyndham Vale station, which looks rather good. Sunk into the ground, it’s currently got two platforms, for V/Line trains, but also has provision for another two tracks in the future, allowing electric trains to come through from Werribee and terminate there. In the short term though, that connection is expected to be provided by buses.

There are also points nearby to allow V/Line to provide short-starting services from there into the city, and would also presumably provide a termination point during major disruptions.

Works at the station seem to be almost complete. The track is in, the basic building structure is there, the lighting and so on is installed. We saw Myki equipment ready to go in, and even the waiting room has its chairs.

At ground level next to the concourse is an extensive bus interchange — it sounds like numerous routes in the area will converge here. There are stairs and ramps down to the platforms.

For anybody who’d fancy working at one of the new stations, V/Line is advertising for “Services Officers” at Wyndham Vale and Tarneit — 5 full time positions at each station.

Wyndham Vale station

Wyndham Vale station: Myki is coming

Wyndham Vale station, looking south

Wyndham Vale station, looking north

Looking south from Wyndham Vale station

The line continues south to West Werribee (aka Manor) junction, where it connects with the existing Geelong line. The entire line from Geelong through to somewhere just west of Sunshine is engineered to allow trains at 160 kmh, so for express services, my thinking is the running time should be similar to now, despite the longer distance.

At the junction, the existing track between Werribee and Geelong has been slewed to get around the new overpass (needed to prevent delays between V/Line trains and freight and passenger trains on the standard gauge line to Adelaide) — this track is now down to 80 kmh, though given it appears few trains will continue using it after next year, this wouldn’t appear to be a huge problem.

Completion next year

It seems the project is running much earlier than expected, in part to the major shut downs which over the past couple of years (including the one just finished), meaning more has been able to be done each time the existing train service is disrupted. This in turn has resulted in huge money savings — for instance some of the funds saved are going into the St Albans grade separation project. So despite some pain for existing passengers on the affected lines, there seem to have been good outcomes for taxpayers — more bang per buck.

And while there have been some problems with the project in the initial design phase, there are undoubtedly benefits in terms of capacity to run extra trains on both V/Line and Metro to the western suburbs lines, with fewer delays.

Parts of the new line from Sunshine to the City have started to be used by V/Line trains (though some trains are arriving early, as the timetables don’t really take the quicker trip into account).

It looks like the full project will be completed next year.

And I for one look forward to my next visit to Footscray station for a doughnut.

PS. Just to prove we were properly authorised and equipt to look around the construction zone at Wyndham Vale: here is bad dorkie selfie of me in high-vis. Thanks to the Regional Rail Link authority for the tour.

Daniel at Wyndham Vale

Updates/corrections: Some minor changes made to the text tense, because some was written a couple of weeks ago.

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20 thoughts on “Regional Rail Link tour part 2 braindump

  1. One thing they didn’t appear to have shown you on the tour is the turnback siding between Greens Road and Black Forest Road in Wyndham Vale. Located a kilometre or two from the Geelong end of Wyndham Vale station, it will help V/Line to run stopping all stations services for Tarneit and Wyndham Vale stations, keeping them clear of the mainline when they turn around, and allowing the longer distance Geelong services to fly past:

    http://www.railgeelong.com/gallery/regional-rail-link/wyndham-vale-west-werribee/F107_0792.jpg.html

  2. Thanks for a wonderful report with great photos. Have the tracks at Manor Junction been built to allow train traffic in all directions (can trains go direct from Werribee to Wyndham Vale if necessary once complete)?
    Cheers

    Tim Baker

  3. Nice post Daniel, good to see it all coming along. Definitely looking forward to Travelling down to Geelong once RRL is completed. Hopefully as expected this will mean an improvement on the Werribee and Williamstown lines as well once they don’t have to wait around for Vline trains and vice versa.

  4. @Marcus, great pic, thanks!

    @Tim, no. That is allowed for in a future project, which as mentioned will include electric trains from Werribee to terminate at an additional platform or platforms at Wyndham Vale.

  5. Fantastic for all people using the city stations that they are all looking great and functioning well. Would be interested to see a similar report on the actual “Regional” stations ie. Shepparton, Seymour etc. to see if funding has extended that far ……

  6. Very interesting to see some details. While at times passengers are seriously inconvenienced by works, our train system should always be a work in progress Hopefully the ‘fat time’ to the west will be cut out. Not much hope for eastern regional trains though.

  7. I went there last weekend with my brother and his family after a visit to 8bit for some burgers. The doughnuts were delicious. It’s worth getting off, buying some, and then getting the next service.

  8. Great report – Good that a project is running ahead of schedule. My work colleagues who live out west or Geelong say they are yet to see benefits, but that could be due to disruptions during construction.

  9. “so for express services, my thinking is the running time should be similar to now, despite the longer distance”

    @daniel, what makes you think there WILL be express services? Highly unlikely.

  10. It is a fantastic project, one of which would be great once it is up and going.

    I had done a little bit of train spotting at Footscray and Middle Footscray, the later after coming across a fellow ARE member taking photos.

    The fun we had at Middle Footscray, thanks to a drunken little guy. The language as he failed to get onto the train, and having a go at my mate for thinking he was the target of the camera.

    It was a delight to see V/Line trains operating along the new tracks, I need only find the time to take my first ride along the same which I hope to do later this week.

    My only regret which is strong, that being their choice of track gauge. It should have been standard gauge. People who know me, know how I feel on that matter.

    It is interesting how future gauge conversions may be impacted by this project. While we have just added a vast distance of brand new broad gauge tracks to the network, the fact V/Line trains are now separated from Metro, should at least make it easy enough to gauge convert one, without changing the other, which would hot have been so possible in the past.

  11. Thanks Daniel for that link.

    Are they your ideas, or official V/Line plans?

    In any case, I would support Traralgon line trains making these additional suburban stops,

    ** Always, Narre Warren & Berwick, perhaps all stops Pakenham to Dandeong.
    ** At selected times, Huntingdale,

  12. Anybody know what is the new building being built atop Southern Cross Station? I can see it as i drive along Wurundjeri Way.

  13. Thanks for the info Daniel. :-)

    699 Bourke St and will sit on an elevated platform above Southern Cross Station.

    The 6300 sqm platform that the building will sit on also has a planning permit for second building at 664 Collins St.

    The platform site was originally purchased for $30 million by Mirvac in 2007.

  14. Were any alternatives considered at Wyndham Vale instead of a 2km long 9m deep trench through basalt? If so, what were they and why were they rejected?

  15. Really pleased that the RRL has made such great progress and looks to be enabling better travel coverage for Western Suburbs commuters. Great write-up again Daniel.

    I, however, am on the Traralgon line so can only look on in envy.

    Since the introduction of the new Metro timetables my commute to and from work (actually sitting on a train) has increased by a minimum of 30 minutes everyday. I enquired with VLine and their response was that I should be happy and looking forward to the changes in 2015.

    Uhmmm … what changes would they be that improve the Gippsland line? More rolling stock won’t help track congestion and given there are no changes to the actual line, like a duplication of the track at Bunyip so we don’t have to wait for a Melbourne bound VLine train, then I’m not sure what there is to celebrate.

    And to those suggesting that the VLine trains on the Gippsland line should be stopping at more Metro stations may I suggest you just get on one of the extra Metro trains and stay off the VLine trains. With the new, improved Metro timetables in place Pakenham should only be used for picking up passengers when heading to Traralgon/Bairnsdale or dropping off passengers when heading towards Melbourne.

    A fair go for all would make such a nice change :)

  16. Very interesting. Can you tell me why VLine trains still seem to be using platform 5 (and presumably 6) at Footscray, instead of exclusively using 3 and 4?

    Also just to point out that while the use of noise barriers is great, they have been applied patchily and according to some rather arbitrary and flawed guidelines. There’s actually no limit to the rail noise level that is permitted without any noise mitigation at all (as long as it builds up incrementally over time, e.g. RRL then airport rail link then …).

  17. @Ben – the V/Line trains on platform 5 and 6 at Footscray are headed to/from Geelong. At the moment the tracks via Newport are the only route they can take out of Melbourne – Geelong trains won’t start using platforms 3 and 4 until the new tracks via Tarneit and Wyndham Vale actually open.

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