Buckley Street level crossing removal

The State Government is undertaking a grade separation to remove the Buckley Street level crossing in Essendon. This landmark project will have significant implications for the liveability of the growing Essendon Junction precinct and it is critical we get this once in a life-time opportunity right!

August update

Council received confirmation on Friday from the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) that the contract for the removal of the Buckley Street level crossing is yet to be finalised.

The State Government announced back in May that the contract for the Buckley Street project had been awarded. We now know that the Buckley Street project is part of an additional package of works which would require a further formal approval process before the contract can go ahead.

While we are not surprised, we are disappointed that the LXRA and State Government appear yet again to be trying to keep this community in the dark throughout this process.

By omitting the detail that the contract for Buckley Street is yet to be finalised, the State Government attempted to curb opposition to road-under-rail by leading the community to believe that the project outcome was a done deal.

We are also deeply concerned that the LXRA expect to finalise the design of the project and sign off on the contract before the end of 2017 and yet they still have not completed the traffic study nor have they found solutions for the significant traffic issues that road-under-rail would create.

This project is far from being a done deal. We encourage you to keep the pressure on the State Government. Council are standing right alongside you fighting for a better solution.

July update

We continue to have significant concerns about the delivery of the Buckley Street level crossing removal project and LXRA’s proposed Planning Scheme Amendment.

We are calling for a more transparent approach to be followed and are requesting that the Minister for Planning refers the project to the Victorian Transport Projects Advisory Committee.

We have also questioned why the LXRA has not made the boundary map for their proposed Planning Scheme Amendment more readily available. We are concerned that the LXRA is trying to hide the fact that the boundary extends far beyond the rail corridor and into surrounding areas.

Below is a link to the boundary map and the incorporated document (the LXRA’s proposed document to amend our planning scheme), both of which we understand are drafts and subject to change.

It is probable that the State Government will seek to leverage development opportunities on the land surrounding the site, as is their plan for Ormond Station. If the Minister approves this amendment it gives the LXRA the green light to proceed without having to seek any approvals from Council and without requiring any further public notification or consultation.

What is not clear is whether this ‘free pass’ also applies to any developments on the surrounding VicTrack land, which could leave us at the whim of developers.

The Advisory Committee has been set up for this very purpose – to consider level crossing projects where there are also proposed development opportunities. Given this, we are calling upon the Minister for Planning to act in the best interests of the community and refer this amendment to the Committee.

When significant infrastructure and development projects are constructed in Moonee Valley, Council works with those responsible to limit the negative impacts that construction has on our community. This includes issues surrounding noise, dust, traffic impacts and days / hours in which construction can occur. We will not be able to enforce this during construction if the Minister for Planning approves LXRA’s amendment.

There is also no information available on what the LXRA’s plans are for car parking at the station. There are currently in excess 500 car parks at Essendon Station.

Planning Scheme Amendment

Residents would have received a letter from the LXRA in June, alongside a Planning Scheme Amendment submission form, advising that they intend to seek planning approval from the Minister for Planning for their road-under-rail grade separation to go ahead. The proposed amendment to the Moonee Valley Planning Scheme would allow the project to go ahead without the need for further planning permits for any of the work.

Council is concerned about the planning process that the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) is undertaking for the Buckley Street level crossing removal project.

Residents were asked to provide their feedback on the proposal and yet they were provided with almost none of the information we would expect to see for a planning scheme amendment. There was no map showing the area to be affected by the proposed amendment or where the worksites will be located, and as the LXRA have still yet to finalise their traffic impact study or even complete design the road underpass, there are no plans for the community to actually provide feedback on.

Without key information being available to the public to review, it is not clear how the community is supposed to provide meaningful feedback nor how the Planning Minister can make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the Planning Scheme Amendment.

This is deeply concerning as the Amendment to the Moonee Valley Planning Scheme is being requested under section 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, which if approved, would mean there is no further requirement for the LXRA to provide formal public notification or consultation for the project to proceed.

Most planning scheme amendments go on exhibition with detailed documentation of the proposal, the community provides comments, and an advisory panel is set up to hear from the Community and all relevant stakeholders and experts can be called and all information tested. After the hearing the panel submits an advisory report to the Planning Minister to assist them to make an informed decision. A section 20(4) amendment, skips all of this and requests the Minister to go straight to the decision.

Yes the LXRA say they intend to provide any public submissions they receive to the Planning Minister, but if the public aren’t provided with actual designs to review and make comment on, and there is no formal hearing process to examine all the evidence, than on what basis can the Planning Minister make such an important decision for the long term future of Essendon?

We have written to the Planning Minister to request further information on how this process will work, the timeframe, and the extent of the area to be covered by the amendment which will effectively see all planning controls ‘turned off’. Council is yet to receive a response.

What Council is doing

Following the Public Forum Q&A held on 29 April 2017, we are continuing to advocate on behalf of this community to get the best possible outcome we can.

  • We will once again write to The Hon Jacinta Allan, Minister for Public Transport requesting she meet with Council to discuss the level crossing removal project, which she has so far declined to do,  given the overwhelming community concern shown at the Public Forum.
  • We will write to the Level crossing Removal Authority regarding the new Stakeholder Liaison Group (SLG) they have established to request that they make the membership of this group who are representing this community publicly available. 
  • Council received a draft confidential traffic impact assessment of the road-under-rail option from the LXRA on Wednesday 26th April 2017.  We have undertaken an initial review of the report and have a number of concerns regarding the scope and methodology of the report which we will be raising with the LXRA. Because this report is confidential we are not able to share it with the community until advised by the LXRA.
  • We will continue to hold the LXRA to account throughout this project and make sure that the community is made aware of any new developments or issues.

What you can do

Contact the Premier, Public Transport Minister and local MPs and tell them what action you want on the Buckley Street Level Crossing.

Join a community page to work with others and stay up to date on any planned actions:

Erect a poster or corflute sign at your home or business.

Visit the LXRA at their information hub at 22 Russell Street, Essendon during May and tell them what you think.

Join Council’s mailing list to received major project updates and information.  

Sign up to the LXRA’s e-updates to receive project updates from the LXRA.

What is the LXRA's timeline?

The LXRA have provided the following timeline for the Buckley Street Level Crossing Removal project on their website.

With the planning stage complete, Expressions of Interest have been sought for construction partners to remove this level crossing, along with other level crossings in Melbourne's west and north west. This tender process brings the project forward, meaning construction will begin in late 2017 and finish in 2019.

Project lifecycle

 Date Stage 
Late 2016 

 Planning

  • Site investigations
  • Assessment of design options
  • Lowering Buckley Street under rail line presented as preferred option
Early 2017 

Procurement

  • Community input on design elements (open space opportunities, pedestrian/bicycle access, lighting, landscaping)
Mid to late 2017 

Procurement

  • Construction partner announced
  • Refinement of design including community inputs
Late 2017 

Construction

  • Ongoing community consultation
  • Construction commences (early works)
Late 2017 to 2019

 Construction

  • Ongoing community consultation
  • Project completion, 2019
                                               

View the Public Forum Q&As 

On the morning of Saturday 29 April at the Clocktower Centre, Council hosted a public forum to give residents the opportunity to get their questions answered about the level crossing removal and have their voices heard on this major infrastructure project. The forum was attended by close to 500 residents. 

The public forum included a summary presentation from Council officers, followed by a Q&A session with a panel consisting of:

  • Mayor, Cr Andrea Surace 
  • Council's Major Projects Officer and Senior Transport Officer
  • The Hon David Hodgett, Deputy Leader Of The Opposition and Shadow Minister for Ports & Public Transport       
  • Mr Danny Pearson MP, Member for Essendon  
  • Ms Colleen Hartland, Member for Western Metropolitan 

Invitations were also extended to the Level Crossing Removal Authority and The Hon Jacinta Allan, Minister for Public Transport who declined to attend. 

You can view Council's presentation (pdf, 1.5MB).

You can also view a two-part live stream of the whole public forum below:

For answers to these questions provided on the day please view the videos above. 

  • Why did the LXRA and Council come up with such different conclusions on rail-under-road where Council’s feasibility study by GHD makes rail-under-road appear very possible and the LXRA on their rail-under-road options presented make it look extremely difficult?
  • Why were consultation sessions by the LXRA only held in late October/November when Expressions of Interest appear to have already been released in September 2016? With the contract to be awarded in just 2 weeks, why has there been so little opportunity for real consultation with the people of Moonee Valley about the proposal for road-under-rail by the State Government which is being presented as a fait accompli?
  • How can this Government approve the LXRA’s road-under-rail which will force thousands of cars into quiet side streets and increase safety risks?
  • Given the amount of side streets that will be inaccessible on both sides of Buckley Street with road-under-rail, what do you say to residents that will impacted by the traffic chaos in side streets particularly around the schools? What do you say to businesses on Rose Street that will be impacted?
  • Is the State Government going to listen to residents on this as they have for other level crossing removal projects?
  • Given that both the Government and Council agree that this infrastructure project should last for the next 100 years and we are faced with issues of increased population growth, intense apartment complex approvals and congestion on the Craigieburn line, which option will meet the needs now and in future of our commuter transport requirements?
  • Will the Opposition commit to funding this level crossing removal project if they are elected?
  • Under Council’s rail-under-road option, where would the gradient start for the rail to go under, how far would it go along and where would the gradient end? What land and houses would be taken away?
  • Is there an option to defer this project until all options are properly considered?
  • Will Park and Puckle Street level crossings be removed? How will they be delivered when the Government is unwilling to close the train line to do Buckley Street properly?
  • Why were the LXRA not in attendance and is it because it is a foregone conclusion from the Government?
  • How will either road-under-rail or rail-under-road option cater for our future transport congestion needs/problems?
  • I understand a stakeholder liaison group has been formed by the LXRA and I have been told that they will not release the membership of the group as the members have requested anonymity. Surely the community has a right to be able to speak to the people representing us on this group?
  • What opportunity do we have to stop this unwanted road-under rail solution?
  • How long will the Council’s proposed option of rail-under-road take and how long would the Craigieburn line be closed?
  • Where is the respect for the neighbourhood character under road-under-rail? On the one hand had you want to protect Essendon Station but on the other hand you choose to disrespect the neighbourhood character around it!
  • What modelling have Council and the LXRA done in deciding which is the better option?
  • Of course there will be disruption and costs with rail-under-road but the most important thing is to get the design right. The community should not be expected to do the LXRA’s engineering but it appears that this is just an issue of cost. Has the LXRA actually said it’s not possible to put the rail under the road? 
  • Where has the LXRA’s 1 year construction figure for rail-under-road come from given that the Middleborough Road, Box Hill ‘rail-under-road’ took 30 days?
  • Is this a done deal or are the State Government going to take on board what the community is saying?
  • If the road under proposal goes ahead are works to make Essendon Station Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliance included in the budget? Are the changes required for bus and tram interchange, safety and DDA compliance included? Are the changes required from Violet Street to Lincoln Road to prevent u-turns and rat running included in this proposal?
  • What about another option? How come this project is not being considered alongside broader considerations of the needs of Melbourne Airport? 
  • How can a contract of such magnitude be awarded when there are still so many significant design and engineering questions yet to be answered?
  • Given the higher costs of rail-under-road, how would this be a fair share of the LXRA funds? 
  • How can you realistically move the Essendon Station if the heritage value is in the brickwork?
  • Danny Pearson told me via email that Moonee Ponds station has the same heritage listing as Essendon. But the LXRA will go rail-under-road there so why can’t Essendon do the same?
  • In Cheltenham there was significant opposition to the original proposal of skyrail, the Labor Government capitulated and went with the more expensive rail-under-road, why is it ok to spend significantly more money in marginal Eastern suburbs electorates?  
  • Has there been traffic modelling done? Why has it not been released? Has any economic modelling been done?
  • How has the Council’s feasibility study costed rail-under-road at $186 million while the LXRA costed it at $1.2billion? Why has the LXRA’s costings not been released publically? 
  • Has the State Government committed to removing the nearby Park and Puckle Street level crossings and how will they be removed?
  • If Buckley Street is reduced to 1 lane heading west, how will it be able to cater for the traffic driving through? What will happen to the on-street parking?

What is the LXRA's road-under-rail option?

The Level Crossing Removal Authority is the body tasked with overseeing the removal of the 50 most dangerous and congested level crossings across Melbourne.

At their first community information session held in November 2016, they outlined their preferred option to lower Buckley Street beneath the existing rail line, with the rail line remaining at its current level. View the options being put forward by the LXRA.

We are disappointed that the announcement of a preferred road-under-rail solution was made before the community was fully consulted and due consideration given to how they will be impacted.

We believe the road-under-rail option is short-sighted and will remove one traffic flow problem while creating many more.

The road-under-rail solution will create a divide between either side of Buckley Street from near Mt Alexander Road in the east to Violet Street in the west, preventing vehicles and pedestrians from crossing Buckley Street except at a short stretch of concourse near the railway line.

Who will be impacted by the proposed road-under option?

Local residents and visitors 
Access in and out of connecting streets will be restricted while some residential streets will become more congested as traffic diverts around the Buckley Street trench.

Rose Street traders 
No right turn into Rose Street will mean shoppers will need to continue on Buckley Street until they can perform a u-turn 200 metres down the road. A proposal to relocate bus services into Rose Street will also result in the loss of valuable car parking spaces for shoppers.

Students 
With nine schools in the area and over 4,000 students within a 4 minute walk of Essendon Junction, safety and connectivity is a major concern. Parents doing the pick-up and drop-off for Lowther Hall and St Columba’s College will be affected with access to Leslie Street restricted and bus services impacted.

Public transport users 
Safely and easily moving between train, tram and bus services will become even harder. The restrictions on vehicle movements in and out of local streets has implications for a number of bus services including the 903 and 475.

Pedestrians will be unable to cross from one side of Buckley Street to the other between Lorraine Street and Mt Alexander Road except near the railway line.

What is Council’s position?

We have been advocating for the level crossing removal for many years and we are working with the Level Crossing Removal Authority and the State Government to get the best outcome from this project for our community.

To inform our advocacy, we undertook significant research and community consultation and we have identified that the most effective outcome for the project is an underground rail solution under the existing rail corridor which would not require any compulsory acquisition of property.

Our preferred rail-under-road solution:

  • Would lower the train line beneath Buckley Street and Mount Alexander Road under the existing rail corridor
  • Does not require any property acquisition
  • Would relocate and repurpose the existing heritage station and build a new underground station to meet the needs of the 21st century.
  • Provides the opportunity to develop the land above the rail line into a vibrant economic and community space.
  • Gives consideration to fixing the safety and connectivity issues around the Mount Alexander Road Junction.
  • Provides the opportunity to create an improved public transport interchange for people travelling to and from Essendon.
  • Allows pedestrians to move around the area easily and safely.
  • Provides for Disability Discrimination Act compliant tram and bus stops.
  • Is future proof and takes into account the needs of the whole Craigieburn rail corridor. PTV’s is proposing train service increases in the future which will see service frequency double during peak times, leaving Park Street and Puckle Street boom gates down for even greater periods than the current 78 minutes in the two hour morning peak.

In the long run, the train will need to run underground if our rail and roads are going to meet the needs of our growing city!

View our information brochure (pdf, 1.4MB)

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Our submission to the LXRA

At its 20 December 2016 meeting, Council endorsed our submission (pdf, 890KB) to the LXRA’s consultation on their preferred option of putting the road-under rail at Buckley Street.

What are we advocating for?

  • Our community should be given a meaningful voice in the decision making process.
  • The impacts on the whole precinct must be considered to ensure the project is cost-effective.
  • Fair consideration should be given to an underground rail solution along the existing track which would not require any property acquisition
  • The solution needs to consider the whole rail corridor as any future train service increase will lead to bottlenecks at the level crossings at Puckle Street and Park Street.
  • Attention must be given to how we fix the safety and connectivity issues around the Mount Alexander Road Junction.
Last updated: Friday, 8 December 2017, 5:40 AM