For two weeks the Cranbourne/Pakenham line was shut between Westall and Dandenong, allowing construction crews to complete the ramps and connect the first section of skyrail to the line.
It re-opened on Thursday. I and other stakeholders got a preview on Wednesday, but we weren’t allowed to take photos inside (because construction work around the station was still proceeding apace, so they didn’t want anybody distracted by their phone or camera).
So I went back on Thursday afternoon to see it in action. After all, what is a station without trains and passengers?
If you’re travelling outbound, the line starts to rise after Sandown Park station, to go over Corrigan Road, and then over Heatherton Road. The two tracks diverge as they approach Noble Park station with its island platform, but this has also been done to maximise light and rain below, to help future vegetation growth.
The view from the train is certainly better than that in a below-ground level trench/cutting.
There are barriers along the tracks that prevent you seeing anything of ground-level at close range, though it appears not all of these are in place yet. This is the view over Heatherton Road.
Noble Park station has an island platform, designed to cope with the new 7-car High Capacity Metro Trains when they come into service next year. There seems to be provision for extending the platforms for future 10-car trains, but this will come later.
The wraparound structure is quite impressive, providing good weather cover along part of the platform at the southeast end — though there’s plenty of ventilation in it, so it’ll be interesting to see how well it deals with Melbourne’s diagonal (sometimes near-horizontal) rain.
Some of the structure is wood, which gives it a warm appearance. The top of it includes transparent plastic-like sections which let the light in, and move about slightly in the breeze, a bit like sections of the Southern Cross station roof. Apparently they wanted to avoid glass for safety reasons — perhaps weight too.
Beyond the end of the wraparound roof, there is less cover — more is being installed, but at the moment much of the platform is out in the open.
Apparently this is some kind of architectural flourish. It’s unclear if it’s actually useful for anything.
At the northwest end of the platform is this structure, which is contains an emergency exit down to street level.
The escalators are in place, but not yet operational. Lifts and stairs are being used between the platform level and the concourse.
The concourse is still a work in progress, but is functional. Fare gates (the newer fast Vix design) are installed.
The view of the station from Mons Parade. Pedestrian access is currently limited to this side. As this diagram from PTV shows, it will open up to the other side (Douglas Street) later this month as work progresses. In the mean time, access is via the old pedestrian underpass.
From below, you can certainly hear the trains, though it’s not particularly noisy — certainly no worse than when they were at ground level. Hopefully there will be a proper study comparing the volume of ground/above/below.
After leaving Noble Park, the line goes down to nearly street level, goes over the Mile Creek, then starts to rise again as it approaches Chandler Road.
Note the track structure, which is designed to absorb vibration and noise.
The bridge over Chandler Road almost looks like it could have been standalone, but obviously it made sense to do it with the other two crossing removals in one project. From this angle it looks steep, but presumably meets the 2% gradient standard — it doesn’t feel step when you’re actually in the train.
Either side of the skyrail are Sandown Park and Yarraman stations — destined to remain their drab selves, alas.
But Noble Park? I think it looks good.
It’s not complete yet. Works will continue, including bus replacements right through from Caulfield to Dandenong after 8pm each night from Sunday to Thursday next week.
The Noble Park section of skyrail is the least controversial, thanks to most of it being a reasonable distance from residential properties — an exception being at least one gentleman who was eligible to have his property acquired, but chose not to take the option, and continues to complain about the project.
— Ten News Melbourne (@tennewsmelb) February 15, 2018
This first section of completed skyrail will be the litmus test. The government has shown they can deliver on crossing removals, a new station that looks and works pretty well, and fewer (but not zero) rail disruptions to do it.
But can they also deliver on the promise of more open space, structures that don’t get constantly tagged, and privacy for residents?
And can they convince people that overall it’s been a good project, before the November election? Time will tell.
- PTV information and brochure on the opening of the new Noble Park station
- The Coalition’s plan from 2014 proposed removing 4 out of the 9 crossings. It wouldn’t have removed any of the crossings around Noble Park, but it would have included planning and early works.
- The Labor Government continues to push the line of “more trains more often” being possible once all nine crossings are removed. They’ll need to be held to this, especially given the horrendous peak hour crowding on the line. It’s unclear if this could include the Dandenong to Cranbourne section, given it’s still got single track.