Skyrail questions grow for Park St level crossing removal
News of the Park St level crossing removal in Parkville has been met with growing concern with many questioning how the design of a skyrail option would work.
As reported by Inner City News in October, the state government announced it would remove eight level crossings along the Upfield line and replace them with a skyrail, covering an entire section from Albion St, Brunswick to Park St, Parkville, with all existing crossings gone by 2027.
The Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) said a new rail bridge “will deliver the best outcome for the community” as it would “suit the conditions of the area and will complement the rail bridge in Brunswick and Coburg”.
The Park St level crossing abuts an abundance of green space including Royal Park, prompting concerns that the rail bridge may compromise the treasured flora and fauna.
The LXRP said it was in the “very early stages” of project design and further detailed design, engineering assessments and community engagement would be undertaken.
Friends of Royal Park secretary Kaye Oddie said the design would need to consider and respect Royal Park’s landscape and environment settings, its heritage status and visual amenity.
“What options are being investigated that would see Park St put under the existing railway line; or see the railway line put under Park St (as has been done in Essendon and Sandringham) … and not only an obtrusive overhead skyrail option?” she said, noting that surveyors were at work at the Park St railway crossing on October 26, “acknowledging they were part of the level crossing removal project”.
“Of concern is that a planning scheme amendment Specific Controls Overlay will be pushed through applying ‘exemption from planning scheme requirements’ as was done for the Bell St level crossing removal project.”
“This measure is being increasingly used by the state government for its Big Build projects,” Ms Oddie said, which “in essence, no meaningful community input is considered in regard to a project, nor consideration of alternative options”.
Ms Oddie said the Friends of Royal Park had passed on their concerns to Melbourne Greens MP Ellen Sandell, who they hope will seek information and answers from the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan.
Ms Sandell said she had listened to the concerns of residents regarding the potential impact of a rail bridge on the local area, which was “so close to our beautiful Royal Park”.
“We do not want something that is very obtrusive or negatively impacts the area or our park,” she said.
“I will be seeking answers and more detail from the Minister for Transport Infrastructure to make sure all these concerns are properly taken into account, and to ensure the community is properly consulted.”
“This Labor Government doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to properly consulting our local communities when big projects like this happen, and so I’m here to hold them to account and make sure they actually listen to the community.”
According to Greens MP for Brunswick Dr Tim Read, the train line descends into a trench south of Park St but “it’s not clear whether the rail line will be elevated above Park St or whether other changes will be made”.
This issue was a sentiment shared by the Parkville Association’s president Rob Moore who said while welcoming the proposal to remove the Park St level crossing, it should not be at a cost to the local parkland.
“What is the length of track to bring it down to ground level? Clearly, it can’t go down into the gully,” he said.
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. secretary Michael Petit was equally concerned about the “engineering challenge of a skyrail heading from Jewell Station that overpasses Park St and then attempts a precipitous drop to reach Royal Park Station”.
“We will join other community groups and individuals in demanding public comment and consultation on the recently announced extension of skyrail along the Upfield line,” he said.
However, Mr Petit noted the creation of open space, separated walking and cycling tracks and creation of playgrounds and sporting areas had been a positive outcome of the skyrail works to date.
“That said, commitment to community consultation needs to be prioritised, particularly on the stretch from Jewell to Royal Park stations.”
According to the LXRP, the stages for the removal of each level crossing would consist of early site investigations, a concept design and initial community consultation, and a refined design based on community feedback before the design is finalised and works start.
Ms Allan has previously said the level crossings – which are used by around 71,000 vehicles during morning peaks – were “death traps” and needed to go to make the roads safer, ease congestion, and clear the way for more trains. •