Federal funding urged for Upgrading the Upfield line for Northern Melbourne region

Single track at Upfield station

Sustainable Transport activist John Englart sent an email to Wills Labor MP Peter Khalil and Labor’s Shadow Spokesperson on Cities, Infrastructure and Regional Development on April 26. It outlines a vision for upgrading the Upfield line to vastly improve the service frequency and reliability for the Upfield line and public transport in the northern region, from Royal Park to Wallan.

John Englart has allowed us to publish this as an open statement.

All the State and Federal MPs should get behind this vision. The Federal MPs Peter Khalil (Wills), Maria Vamvakinou (Calwell), Rob Mitchell (McEwen) should all be working on federal funding for improving the public transport and active transport in Melbourne’s Northern Region and urge their counterparts in the Labor state government to bring forward the work to upgrade and extend the Upfield line.

Population is rapidly expanding along this transport corridor and the infrastructure needs to be addressed by funding at both Victorian State Government and Federal levels in a much earlier time frame rather than proposed in the rail network plan. What John proposes is all in the 2012 Network Development Plan as updated in 2016 but with a much more rapid timeframe(1).

According to the Network Development Plan:

  • Upfield is due for a second platform within 10 years (by 2022)
  • Reinstatement of the Somerton to Upfield link within 15 years (by 2027)
  • Electrification project to Wallan (by 2032)

We also note the Extension to Mernda and new stabling facilities was in the Network Development plan as a 20 year timeframe (2032) but was re-prioritised and the seven kilometre train line extension now runs to Mernda, thanks to a strong community campaign. This is an important precedent.

Infrastructure Victoria in a profile of the northern region published on 16 April 2019 clearly identifies population growth in the northern region as an issue and that public transport within this corridor is already assessed as poor.(2)

We receive many complaints about service cancellations and short shunting at Coburg station, which really hurts residents relying on public transport from Batman station further north. Duplicating the track between Gowrie and Upfield and a second platform at Upfield would substantially increase the service reliability on the Upfield line. This can be done as a priority project which would bring immediate service reliability benefits to rail users. Once the Metro tunnel is complete increase in service frequency becomes possible.

Demographic growth in the northern region transport corridor requires the Somerton Link, electrification and extension to Wallan, to provide the increased service frequency. This needs to happen sooner rather than later. 15 years is too long to wait when the need is here and growing.

Dear Peter Khalil and Anthony Albanese,
Great to see you making announcement on active transport (cycling) in northern Melbourne region today.

I am also keen to see greater investment in greatly improving the public transport network in the northern region of Melbourne, particularly upgrade and extension of the Upfield Train line.

This train service is still assessed as poor with a 20 minute service frequency and poor reliability with frequent short shunting of services at Coburg. Single track from Gowrie to Upfield and a single platform at Upfield are major hindrances to improving reliability and frequency on this train line, but also capacity restraints in the present city loop.

I’d like to see the track duplicated and a second platform at Upfield by the time Metro tunnel is completed. This might then allow a 12 minute peak service on the Upfield line.

I would actually like to see much more spent to increase the Upfield train service frequency to a six minute peak service: essentially a turn up and go metro service. But this will require as well as track duplication:

  • 1. extension of the line from Upfield along the Somerton link crossing the inland standard guage track at Roxburgh Park (bridge or tunnel) to Craigieburn and the new residential developments at Mickleham and Wallan.
  • 2. Removal of all level crossings on the line
  • 3. New stations at Campbellfield, Upfield, station extensions or upgrades at Roxburgh Park and Craigieburn, Mickleham, Wallan.
  • Extension of the line through Craigieburn would also allow improved stabling and maintenance of Upfield rolling stock at the Craigieburn rail yards.

    The business case is already strongly argued in the ‘Economic, Social and Environmental profile: Northern Metro Region’ published 16 April 2019 prepared for Infrastructure Victoria: “Melbourne’s New Growth Areas and the Northern Growth Corridor are poorly serviced by public transport.”

    Population is rapidly expanding in the Craigieburn-Wallan corridor, but we are also seeing urban consolidation and apartment growth in Brunswick and Coburg (think Pentridge development) which justifies a vast improvement to the Upfield train service

    Whittlesea and Hume LGA also have high car ownership and dependency due to poor public transport options, with car use from outer suburbs contributing to inner suburban road congestion. Provision of decent public transport is as much a social justice and social equity issue.

    The 7km Mernda extension cost approximately $700 million.

    I suggest a ballpark figure for a future proofed ugrade and extension to the Upfield line to Wallan including all level crossing removals and new stations might be in the order of $1 billion, but would benefit the Federal electorates of Wills, Calwell and McEwen, and vastly improve social equity and social justice outcomes in the northern region of Melbourne.

    I’d really like to see a future Labor Government step up with public transport infrastructure funding in the Northern Metropolitan region and to work with the Dan Andrews Labor Government to make this happen.

    Providing better public transport reduces vehicle usage, air pollution, transport climate emissions, and increases population health outcomes. This is an important part of transitioning our cities with the climate crisis underway. A majority of people already acknowledge we have a climate emergency according to a recent Australia Institute poll.(3)

    We need to address the infrastructure imbalance that has built up over many decades of poor city planning that has locked us in to high carbon lifestyles.

    Naturally, I would also like to see a good arterial bikepath in the Upfield-Craigieburn strategic cycling corridor built as part of the upgrade and extension of the train line to Wallan, as well.

    John Englart


    1. PTV, Network Development Plan – Metropolitan Rail 2012 (Updated 2016) https://www.ptv.vic.gov.au/assets/default-site/footer/legal-and-policies/growing-our-rail-network-2018-2025/5290c0d0b4/PTV_Network-Development-Plan_Metropolitan-Rail_Overview_2016update.pdf
    2. Infrastructure Victoria, April 2019 – SGS – Economic, social and environmental profile Northern Metro Region – April 2019 http://www.infrastructurevictoria.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SGS-Economic-social-and-environmental-profile-Northern-Metro-Region-April-2019.pdf
    3. The Australia Institute, 17 April, 2019: Poll: North/South Divide on Climate Action Exposed as Political Myth http://www.tai.org.au/content/poll-northsouth-divide-climate-action-exposed-political-myth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s