By April Shepherd, Editor, Council magazine

Victoria’s Big Build Level Crossing Removal Projects are transforming the wider Melbourne community, with the project team working with local governments such as Moreland City Council to champion mobility and create a more accessible community.

Victoria’s Big Build is a collection of road and rail projects being undertaken in Melbourne by the Victorian Government, in collaboration with local councils, to make the region’s transport more accessible and mobile, and to cater for the state’s rising population.

As a part of the Big Build, the Victorian Government is removing 85 dangerous and congested level crossings from around the city, with all set to be removed by 2025 and 60 already gone.

Level crossings are where cars, pedestrians and trains intercept, causing traffic congestion, accidents and unstable pathways. The 60th level crossing was removed at Glenroy Road in the Moreland City Council, located in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, by lowering the rail line underneath the road into a trench, and opening a new state-of-the-art premium station which opened to passengers on 6 May.

The area also received two new stations at the end of 2020 – Coburg and Moreland – after the level crossings at Bell Street, Munro Street and Reynard Street in Coburg, and Moreland Road in Brunswick were removed and replaced by a 2.5km section of elevated rail.

A spokesperson from the Level Crossing Removal Project said the team works closely with councils to remove the level crossings and build new infrastructure across the city.

Victorian Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, said, “We’re proud of the work we’ve delivered to bring huge benefits to local communities across Melbourne. We just removed the 60th level crossing at Glenroy, and the new station will be enjoyed by generations to come.”

New stations built for accessibility

By removing level crossings and creating alternative elevated routes for trains, and new modern stations to match, the city is not only safer, but more accessible and inclusive.

The removal of level crossings also allows for new stations to be built to modern accessibility standards, which feature stairs and lifts to connect passengers to platforms and adjoining car parks with accessible parking spaces, to create all-ability access to trains.

“The removal of level crossings by the Victorian Government at railway stations in northern Brunswick, Coburg and Glenroy has greatly boosted accessibility in Moreland.”

Moreland City Council Mayor, Mark Riley

“The upgrades by the Victorian Government have delivered safer options for people travelling through on footpaths and cycle routes, as well as lift access at the new Moreland and Glenroy Stations.”

A spokesperson from the Level Crossing Removal Project said the team works closely with councils to advise on local matters and the demographics of the communities the projects are being undertaken in.

Level Crossing Removal Project staff meet regularly with council counterparts, and to improve this process, said they are working on including disability advocacy groups and community leaders.

Making a safer and more connected city

The Level Crossing Removal Projects also make room for new community open spaces and parks, with the projects so far creating nearly 20 Melbourne Cricket Grounds worth of open space, and planting around 2.5 million trees, shrubs and plants.

The projects also allow for more walking and cycling infrastructure around the new stations and rail corridors, improving accessibility and station access, and engaging people to walk and cycle for transport and connectivity.

Ms Allan said, “On our project to remove four level crossings and build two new stations in Brunswick and Coburg, we also upgraded the Upfield shared use path and created brand-new community spaces including half basketball courts, table tennis facilities and playgrounds for the whole community to enjoy.”

The 60th level crossing removal

The new Glenroy Station is now open and the dangerous level crossing removed, making the area much safer for locals. Works on the western station entrance will continue until September 2022, and once complete, the ground-level Glenroy Station entrance and concourse will provide pedestrians with easy access across the lowered rail line, and improved landscaping for locals to enjoy.

“When our works on the western side of the station are completed later this year, it will connect both sides of Glenroy for the first time in 100 years,” Ms Allan said. The new station features two lifts with stair access to each lowered platform, undercover seating areas and improved lighting for safety.

“I’m delighted that the brand new Glenroy Station connects the suburb’s hub of activity, until now divided by the rail line. The removal means the entire activity centre is accessible to the whole community,” Mayor Riley said.

Passengers at Glenroy’s new station. Image: Victoria’s Big Build.

Working towards an inclusive future

Mayor Riley said that despite the positives of the level crossing removals and the wider community improvements, there is still work to be done in the region to improve accessibility.

“But there is much more that can be done to improve the accessibility of public transport in Moreland and help people feel safe using public transport, particularly in our northern suburbs,” Mayor Riley said.

“Council has also been calling for increased resourcing for accessible tram stops, so that those trams that are accessible on the system can be accessed by wheelchair users, parents with prams, and also older people who use shopping trolley bags.”

Council is not only focused on accessibility, but also creating safe places for all to use comfortably, especially since the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria’s 2019 On Track survey listed Jacana Station as the sixth most unsafe station on the network.

Safety concerns for the station include inadequate lighting and poor maintenance of the station with the presence of litter, including syringes.

“We would love to see the Victorian Government directly engage with local residents, women and non-binary people to increase safety at Jacana railway station and see more people use this conveniently located station,” Mayor Riley said.

Now the Council’s level crossing removals are completed, parts of the pedestrian network that were blocked by the railway line are open to the public, meaning that the Council can plan and outline its priorities for future investment in accessible infrastructure.

Featured image: The new station at Coburg featuring elevated rail in place of a level crossing. Image: Victoria’s Big Build.

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