On Wednesday the State Government announced that the first section of “skyrail”, at Noble Park, will open on Thursday 15th February, along with the new station, following a two week disruption to rail services between Westall and Dandenong.
This will mark the removal of three level crossings: at Corrigan, Heatherton and Chandler Roads. Trains will pass over all three of these, as well as over the Mile Creek.
As it happens, I went past there on Tuesday for a look. Here are some photos.
The view looking southeast along Mons Parade. Unlike between Caulfield and Hughesdale, the Clayton and Noble Park sections of skyrail are mostly buffered from houses by roads or parks, which has made it much less controversial.
Here’s Channel 9’s story from Wednesday, showing what it looks like on top of the structure:
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) January 24, 2018
This section will mark the first third of the Caulfield to Dandenong crossing removal project opening. How this goes will be important for the government in this election year, given how controversial the whole skyrail project has been.
Average time saved from crossing removals? Minimal
Also on Wednesday, The Age published figures supplied by the Level Crossing Removal Authority, measuring the average time savings at the various level crossings removed under the program.
An average of one minute saved really doesn’t sound too impressive, does it?
Problem is, it’s the wrong measure.
Firstly, if the only benefit of the project was more and faster traffic, it would be a supreme waste of money.
Obviously LXRA CEO Kevin Devlin realises this – he managed to backpedal on figures supplied by his own organisation.
Head of LXRA Kevin Devlin says it is misleading to measure travel time savings before and after level crossing removals. But he is referring to internal LXRA data. Story is based on their modelling. pic.twitter.com/FDB08RSI80
— Timna Jacks (@TimnaJacks) January 23, 2018
There are numerous other benefits from crossing removals: everything from safety to allowing more trains without locking up the road network, to more reliable street-based public transport, to cutting delays to pedestrians and cyclists and emergency services, to new better railway stations.
But even if you look just at the changes to traffic, average time saving is still the wrong measure.
The problem with level crossings is the time spent travelling through them is so unpredictable. You might get through with zero delay; you might have to wait several minutes.
Standard deviation would be a far better measure for this type of thing. What a proper study should show is that travel time crossing rail lines at these locations is far more predictable – which is precisely why it’s important for buses and trams, which are trying to maintain a timetable.
Maybe next time, the LXRA will think a little more carefully before putting out such a one-dimensional evaluation of their work.