North/Mckinnon/Centre grade separations: update

A quick update on my local grade separations at North Road (Ormond), Mckinnon Road (Mckinnon) and Centre Road (Bentleigh).

In most respects, what I wrote on the detail of the project in this post from July still applies, so read up on that if you haven’t already — or check out the official web site.)

Work is very visible along the rail line — trees are being cleared (in the case of palm trees, going into storage to be put back later), and road closures have started. There’s been piling, and relaying of railway-related cables (such as for signalling), and parts of station car parks are closed.

Nicholson Street during level crossing removal early works
Nicholson Street, between Mckinnon and Bentleigh. Note the gift-wrapped palm tree. I assume that’s what they do when they’re about to go into storage.

Schedule and design

The first (I think?) of the rail closures for this project will occur next weekend and of course there’ll be others.

Road closures are expected in North Road in January, and in Mckinnon and Centre Roads at Easter next year, ahead of the major shut down, still expected to involve stations closed and demolished while trains keep running, then a complete shut down of the rail line during major works.

The Bentleigh Sunday market will keep going throughout the project, but a section of the car park it uses won’t be available. Local traders at all three locations are considering street festivals or other events during works (and/or “welcome back!” events as the project finishes up) to encourage people to keep visiting.

I understand the overall project schedule is being reviewed, and details such as bus replacements (not just replacing trains, but also re-routing of regular local bus services) should get nailed down soon.

Most of the design is as previously flagged, but the project team are trying to incorporate an entrance to Ormond station on the southern side of North Road. Of the three stations, this is the most important at Ormond given the width of the road. It may be difficult to fit the lifts/stairs for platform 3 on that side.

One option might be making the North Road entrance to Cadby Avenue one way. If I were a resident there, I’d happily take a partial one way street (with traffic reduction) in exchange for a much more convenient entrance. Mind you, I wonder if the project team has considered the additional entrance only for the island platform 1+2, given platform 3 is barely used by trains and people?

They’re also still determining the final decision on the Dorothy Avenue underpass, which originally was part of the Rosstown railway. The underpass will still be there, but with reduced clearance, and the question is whether it will be only for walking and cycling, or if cars will be able to use it too. Various locals seem to have views both ways on this. Some would like to see it closed to bring a local traffic reduction, some would like continued local access to destinations such as the oval.

I’m inclined to think traffic will reduce even if it’s still available for cars, as it will obviously no longer be a rat run for those avoiding the North Road level crossing. If it’s closed off, events at the oval may mean additional weekend traffic for Woodville Avenue and other nearby streets.

On the other hand, closing it off may discourage through-traffic along Oakleigh Road across Grange Road — that intersection scares the heck out of me. Either way, clearly this is one of those cases where you can’t consider the level crossing removals in isolation; they have to be looked at as part of the broader local transport network.

There’s still much debate about the possibility of a pedestrian crossing at Murray Road. I’ll have more on this in a post later this week.

Cadby Avenue during level crossing removal early works
Cadby Avenue between Ormond and Mckinnon. Half the road is closed so they can work along the rail line removing the trees.

Two track operation

This part of the Frankston line has three tracks, which allows express trains in peak hour to overtake stopping trains in peak hour. By my count in the current timetable, overtaking is used 8 times in the AM peak, and 14 times in the PM.

From November, the third track will be closed until the end of the project.

This will mean no express trains for about a year. I’m told all trains will stop all stations (presumably this means between Cheltenham and Caulfield, but unaltered between Caulfield and South Yarra), adding up to 9 minutes to travel times — but on the flip side, meaning more services for some stations.

(On one occasion in the past they swapped the stopping patterns between Caulfield and Cheltenham, so some trains could still run express. I’m speculating, but perhaps it didn’t work too well. It’s quite confusing for passengers; trains would be likely to catch up to each other, negating any express benefit; and it’s problematic that with such a swap the express trains would mostly terminate well short of Frankston.)

Obviously only having two tracks operational will allow the project team to do a lot of work on the rail corridor while trains keep running. The track which is closed won’t be constant. Two out of three will be in service, but the closed track will vary over the life of the project.

Updates

A “popup” information session is expected in November, and for locals a community update newsletter will be out in late-October. These are also published on the official web site, which is a good place to stay up to date.

It’s good to see this project moving ahead. Apart from delays to traffic (including buses and emergency vehicles), it’s pretty common as a pedestrian and passenger to get stuck at the gates, so grade separation will bring benefits for all.

New camera

Obviously the best camera you have is the one you have with you.

Normally that’s my phone. Sometimes I’ll also have my ~4 year old Canon IXUS 115, which is compact, but takes some great photos.

But for my birthday I treated myself to a DSLR, a Canon 700D (spotted on sale + cashback offer + birthday contribution from family + birthday present to myself = hard to resist), and have been snapping away during lunchtime walks. Here’s a couple of pics from earlier this week with a telephoto lens borrowed from one of my sons. (We’re definitely a Canon family.)

Footbridge, Princes Bridge, MCG, Melbourne

Looking north up Queen Street, Melbourne

More to come, you can be sure of it.

View of the city from the outer west

If you catch a train towards Geelong, just after Deer Park, where the train branches off the Ballarat line to head south, you’ll see a great view of the city on your left.

Melbourne city, viewed from Regional Rail Link near Tarneit
(View it larger)

Against the bluey-grey skyline, the wheel stands out of course, as do the silos in Kensington-ish. In the foreground is lots of housing from the Derrimut area, and obviously construction going on.

I should probably try it again with a telephoto lens.

By the way, new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a point of talking about the importance of cities while announcing his new cabinet today. Jamie Briggs was appointed as Cities And The Built Environment Minister.

Turnbull also talked about transport, and made a point implicitly criticising Abbott’s roads-only “knitting” policy — saying that Federal investment in transport shouldn’t discriminate against particular modes. Good, that’s a big step forward.

St Kilda Road and Swanston Street

I for one welcome our new public-transport-loving overlord.

As recently as Friday, new Prime Minister-designate Malcolm Turnbull was riding trams in Melbourne:

It’s great that — unlike Tony Abbott — we now have a PM who understands the importance of public transport, as well as other issues such as carbon emissions — though Turnbull has notably said he won’t be changing the government’s stance on the latter.

Here’s a view from later on Friday, around lunchtime, looking north along St Kilda Road and Swanston Street.

For those who aren’t local, that black and white building forming a face is the William Barak building, named for the elder of the Wurundjeri, traditional owners of this land.

Swanston Street/St Kilda Road, looking north from the Shrine, Melbourne
(See it bigger)

This corridor will change markedly in the next ten years, partly aboveground, partly underground, as the Melbourne Metro tunnel gets built. In the short term particularly, much of Swanston Street will be re-routed and closed during construction.

Perhaps with a new PM who is not so roads-focussed as Abbott, it might even get Federal funding.

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New architecture intruding on old

From the Victorian Heritage Database:

The school building was sited for optimal viewing from Alexander[sic] Avenue. The low lying land in the foreground was utilized for a sports oval and the land in between was terraced with steps, paths and roadways. This resulted in uninterrupted views of the impressive building from the north and west. The school has carefully maintained this uninterrupted skyline by limiting the height of all subsequent buildings and locating them to the east and south of the main building.

Well, so much for that then.

Melbourne High School (January 2015)

At a reunion a few years ago, they warned us that this building was coming. At the time I looked at the artist’s impression and thought: no way would someone allow that monstrosity to ruin the view.

But they did. That’s not CGI, that’s how it looks today from the street and/or the passing train.

In fact, it about at its best in that photo. In duller light, it just looks like a rusty blob.

I’m not normally one to cling to the past — progress is important — but so is heritage, and I think that’s a bit of a shame.

There’s another building, out of shot, a respectable distance to the right.

I know this area of South Yarra is growing rapidly, and I know there are cases like this right across Melbourne and the rest of the western world… but I hope the grand old school building isn’t going to get completely dominated by new stuff.

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