Level crossings: Which are funded to be removed, which are promised?

I’ve been trying to sort out the status of all the level crossings from the various lists. Some are fully funded, others are funded for planning, and some are merely promises/pledges from the politicians.

I ended up going back to the ALCAM 2008 list, and working through which have already been grade separated, and which are now proposed.

Mckinnon level crossing

The full list is below, and I’m sure will make for a riveting read (note also some footnotes at the bottom) but first a summary of what I found:

The ALCAM list included 1,872 crossings across Victoria. 180 are railway crossings in the metropolitan area. Another 5 are on the light rail lines to St Kilda and Port Melbourne. The rest are on non-metro lines (including on the Stony Point line, and V/Line areas within metropolitan Melbourne), so typically have much fewer rail services and less road and pedestrian traffic.

Of the 180 metropolitan crossings, 9 have already been grade-separated: 4 by Labor between 2007 [See note 8] and 2010, and 5 by the Coalition since then, leaving 171 level crossings around Melbourne (excluding light rail).

The most expensive funded or completed crossing by far is Main Road, St Albans, at $200 million. The cheapest was Kororoit Creek Road in Altona, at $48.5 million, which included road duplication, but no new station.

The average cost since 2007 is $130.1 million. Some have included new railway stations. Some such as the $173.9 million grade separation of Footscray Road in the Port of Melbourne area have included large-scale roadworks. (The project also included two much further down the priority list, and not counted as “Metro”: Appleton Dock Road, ranked 1325 and Enterprise Road, ranked 651.)

8 more level crossing removals are currently fully-funded by the Coalition, either via the budget or as part of the Dandenong rail project. A further 7 have planning or early works funding from the Coalition.

Not hard to see why pedestrians, cars, buses, ambulances get delayed in Clayton. Grade separation needed!

Coalition claims

Strangely the Coalition has repeatedly claimed to have completed or commenced 40 grade separations. I can only count 5 completed, 8 fully funded and 7 partially funded = 20.

The only possible way to get close to their claim is to include Regional Rail Link bridges, which are on a new line, so are not “level crossing removal” because there was never a level crossing there. There’s also Christies Road on the Ballarat line, which is a road extension over an existing line, not on the RRL route but done as part of the project. Again, no level crossing has actually been removed, though at a stretch you might count all of these 13 as “grade separation”. If you did, you’d also need to count three similar instances along the Epping to South Morang extension, funded by Labor.

(There are four river bridges on the RRL line as well, but they can’t count as they don’t involve roads or level crossings.)

So unless I’m missing something, the closest I can get to the Coalition’s claim of 40 grade separations is 33.

I asked anonymous Coalition blogger SpringStSource about this some time ago, but have not had a reply. Since then the 40 claim hasn’t been used as much, but was repeated by Coalition MP David Southwick at the MTF Glen Eira forum a couple of weeks ago, and tweeted by Treasurer Michael O’Brien last week as well.

Update: Michael O’Brien has advised me that funding was provided in the 2014-15 budget for investigating another 7 (as-yet unnamed) grade separations. From page 17 of the Budget Information Paper: Infrastructure Investment: $21 million in new funding provided in the 2014-15 Budget to commence planning for seven priority level crossing removals as the next stage of the Metro Level Crossing Blitz program.

Labor promises

Meanwhile Labor is pledging to remove 50, with 40 on their list from last year, and another 2 so far added.

Their priority list includes many (but not all) of the top crossings in the ALCAM list. They say they’d do this over 8 years (two terms), funded by sale of the Port.

All of the current 8 fully funded crossings are included on the list pledged by Labor so far. Effectively this means those 8 will happen no matter who wins the election… well, if whoever wins fulfils their promises.

Does this make Labor’s pledge empty on those 8? Perhaps, though Labor pledged them before the Coalition funded them.

The top 300 crossings

Note the Location really refers to the types of trains, not where it is. Some “Non-Metro” are in Melbourne. The Risk Score is a formula based on a number of factors, including the likelihood of collisions; the number of trains, motor vehicles and pedestrians; and the consequence. See this document, section 4/page 3.

Edit: This list is only the top 300, which includes all of the Metro crossings. There are actually another 1,572 non-Metro crossings not included here. You can see them on the original list. (Thanks David S for noticing my error.)
Continue reading

Govt flyer sent to #Bentleigh voters missing any mention of their biggest project: #EWLink

Letters that arrive in anonymous envelopes and then turn out to be party political propaganda are not my favourite thing.

This one from the State Liberals showed up the other day.

The Liberals’ signature project, perhaps the most expensive infrastructure project ever undertaken in the state, is the East West road tunnel — around $18 billion in construction costs, but likely to cost much more to taxpayers as a PPP.

Am I mistaken? I can’t see it mentioned here at all — not in the brochure, not in the cover letter. Could it be that they know few in this area think it’s a good idea?

What are other areas getting?

Liberal flyer, September 2014 (front)

Liberal flyer, September 2014 (back)

Liberal flyer, September 2014 (cover letter)

Update:

Labor pledges to grade-separate Bentleigh level crossing

As I walked to the station this morning there seemed to be an unusually long tailback of cars approaching the level crossing.

I found a gaggle of reporters at the station, and shortly afterwards state opposition leader Dan(iel) Andrews showed up, with public transport spokesperson Jill Hennessy and local Bentleigh candidate Nick Staikos, to announce Labor will grade separate the Centre Road crossing if elected.

Labor pledges Bentleigh level crossing grade separation

It’s part of Labor’s scheme to remove 50 level crossings over 8 years (two terms). They had announced 40 based on the official ALCAM (Australian Level Crossing Assessment Model) risk ratings, and said they’d announce another 10 in due course… closer to the election.

Evidently the first of those ten is Bentleigh, which is slap bang in a marginal seat, though this doesn’t mean it’s not deserving — in the 2008 ALCAM list (it appears this is the most up-to-date one that has been completed), it sat at number 60. Since then, numerous others in the top 50 have been completed or funded, and there are many more still are in Labor’s first 40 — though I haven’t yet checked if they are all included.

I couldn’t stay for the full press conference (alas, I had a train to catch), but Daniel Andrews said they wouldn’t comment on costings for individual crossings, as they didn’t want to flag to contractors how much they’d be willing to pay. Costings are a hot issue — St Albans has set a record at an estimated $200 million, but some other recent, less complex, crossings have been much much cheaper — for example Middleborough Road (including a new Laburnum station) was $66 million in 2007. And the Springvale and Blackburn crossings completed earlier this year were three for $350 million, or an average of $117 million each — and you’d expect economies of scale to drive prices down if you were doing 50.

I think most locals will welcome this pledge. It’s not just traffic (including buses and cyclists) which is frequently delayed — people walking to and from the station often have to wait… though the programming of the gates sometimes sees long delays for distant approaching trains, and some people lose patience and skip around the gates.

And though it’s not as big a problem as it is at Clayton, it’s not unknown to see emergency vehicles having to wait as well.

Along with other grade separations along the line, it allows more trains to run without impacting local road traffic.

Bentleigh also has a less than stellar record for safety, with a number of fatal accidents over the years — though fewer since the pedestrian gates were upgraded. Here’s an interactive timeline created by Amy Foyster:

But the pledge raises a question: given North Road is funded to be grade separated, would Labor propose to do Mckinnon Road as well? It’s midway between them, only 800 metres from North Road, and 800 metres from Centre Road. Unless all three are done (preferably as one project, to save money and minimise disruptions) the line could resemble a roller coaster, and play havoc with the freight trains, which already have problems getting up the hill northbound into Ormond.

The local Leader newspaper is seeking comment from sitting Liberal member Elizabeth Miller on the crossing. Nothing yet.

Update 18/9/2014:

Four minutes? Impossible!

I can’t help noticing that when traffic is relatively light, this sign on Kings Way always it’s 4 minutes to Williamstown Road.

4 minutes to Williamstown Road

This seems as optimistically unlikely as those old Citylink travel time promises. Google Maps reckons it’s 7.7 kilometres, and estimates a travel time without traffic of 6 minutes.

The speed limit along the freeway and over the Westgate bridge is 80 km/h, which by my calculations makes it just under 6 minutes if you were able to consistently do the speed limit for the whole distance. To do it in 4 minutes you’d need to be zooming along at about 115 km/h.

The estimate to get to the Western Ring Road seems a little more accurate.

Of course the very reason these signs are needed is because travel times on the roads can vary widely. In peak hour they are crowded and slow… in a city the size of Melbourne, this is inevitable, because it’s simply not efficient to move people in ones and twos in their cars.

Vicroads figures just released show that traffic continues to get slower… and that’s despite a multitude of motorways having been built, extended or widened over the last decade. This graphic from the PTUA:

Despite billions spent on roads, traffic is still getting slower.

In a big city I contend that it’s probably not possible to fix road congestion. But is it possible to reduce overall average travel times for everyone (not just motorists)?

Well yes it is. Vancouver’s managing to do it. How? By not building motorways, but upgrading public transport instead. The more people are off the road, the better.

Airport rail begins here… well, eventually, maybe

There’s some big news on the East West Link today, with Labor saying that if the Supreme Court agrees with the Cities of Moreland and Yarra that the planning approval was invalid, they will rip up the contracts if elected. Read all about it here in The Age.

But meanwhile… Lots of ads for the Airport rail link have gone up around Southern Cross Station in the last few days.

Dear tourists, don't go looking for the airport train. First departure not expected for about a decade.

Wonder how much govt is paying PPP station operator to display all these ads. #SpringSt

Dear tourists, sorry, when they say the airport rail link "begins here", they mean in about ten years

Yesterday morning they outdid themselves, including a massive ad on the steps from Bourke Street. Update: Pic below
Airport rail ad, Southern Cross Station

A bewildered tourist (or blissfully unaware local) might wander around the station looking for this train to the airport that departs every ten minutes and “begins here”.

The problem of course is that the link doesn’t exist. It won’t exist for at least a dozen years.

And that’s if it goes ahead. The 2014 Budget Papers show that in the 4 year budget forward estimates period, there’s $850 million of funding, or about 10% of the total cost of Melbourne Rail Link and the Airport Link.

State budget 2014-15: Asset initiatives

This seemed to be confirmed last night by Liberal MP for Caulfield David Southwick at the Glen Eira MTF Transport Forum, who when asked about it said that the current funds would cover extensive planning and preparatory works, with the rest of the money to follow.

(Note in contrast the East-West Link western section, which gets around $3 billion in funding in the next 4 years — well and truly enough to get lots of actual construction underway, and provide the project enough momentum that it can’t be stopped.)

The danger is that with most of the project as yet unfunded, a government of either flavour could easily put it on ice, just as the Coalition has done with the Metro rail tunnel, which has had many millions of dollars already spent on it.

Meanwhile, the ads pile up. In this post I compared the current crop of ads with the Labor ads in 2010. But these have gone a lot further: At least Labor stuck with promoting initiatives that were actually in the delivery phase.

Promoting an unfunded plan that may never happen, just months before an election? That really is just a pitch at re-election.