Upfield Line Track Duplication and extension to Craigieburn by 2024 says Rail Futures study

A study by the Rail Futures Institute on development of Melbourne’s public transport rail network has advocated for track duplication and extension to Craigieburn for the Upfield Line by 2024. Further, they argue the line be extended and electrified to Wallan by 2028.

The Upfield Transport Alliance welcomes the Rail Futures Institute’s new report. Calls for investment in the Upfield Line are growing louder with recognition of the impact low frequency and poor reliability is having on passengers every day.

The report’s call for a station at Campbellfield, track duplication, and extension to Craigieburn (2024) and then Wallan (2028) would see the Upfield Line finally playing its role in easing road congestion by providing a reliable, frequent service to the increasing number of people calling Melbourne’s north their home.

But to be clear the current government has no plans – and has made no commitment – to perform any of this vital work.

Where could the report be stronger?

The timelines for all this work should be brought forward with urgency as passengers are suffering right now. The idea that nothing can be improved until the Metro Tunnel is complete in 2025 is a complete furphy.

The Upfield Transport Alliance does not believe passengers should have to wait until 2024 to see improvements to service that only duplication can bring.

520 trains have been short-shunted on the Upfield Line in 2019 (PTV monthly report August 2019) and 345 trains cancelled. With peak frequency already only 20 minutes each disrupted service pushes wait times out to at least 40 minutes, causing chaos in people’s lives.

The Victorian Government should commit to funding the 4km duplication now so that works can take place in 2020 while the line is shut for three months for the Moreland-Bell level crossing removals.

The level crossing removals and Metro Tunnel will only deliver limited improvements to reliability and frequency.

The bottle neck at the northern end of the line must be addressed or Upfield Line passengers will never enjoy reliable 10-minute services and duplication will relieve disruption immediately by providing extra give when the network is under strain.

Extension to Craigieburn (as well as the rebuilding of the station at Campbellfield) should be completed at the same time as the Metro Tunnel.

With respect to the extension to Wallan, planning for this should start now so that extension to Wallan can commence as soon as the Metro Tunnel is complete.

Upfield Transport Alliance would welcome extra infrastructure works in the city beyond Metro Tunnel to increase frequency but we feel the basic works of duplication, extra stabling capacity at Upfield with a second platform and a station at Campbellfield should be carried out with priority.

Sustainable Transport campaigner John Englart adds that one downside regarding the Upfield extension in the Rail Futures report is a failure of advocacy for Upfield line platforms at Roxburgh Park station. “Roxburgh Park is a huge residential neighborhood, while for Craigieburn station most of the new suburban development is a few kilometers north west around Craigieburn Central shopping precinct.”

“It would also be good if the extension to Wallan could be given a much higher priority than 2028 – the new suburbs are being built now and we should be putting in good transport infrastructure sooner than 2028”.

Duplication and Extension of the Upfield line would also enable construction of the Upfield Bike Path from the M80 ring Road to Upfield Station and on to Craigieburn, and eventually should follow the rail line all the way to Wallan.

The Melbourne Rail Plan 2020-2050 (PDF)

Extension recommended for Sydney Road Tram to Merlynston

The RFI report does recommend a short extension of the Number 19 Sydney Road tram to Merlynston Station as a Short distance extension to facilitate network integration.

Phase 1 would be in 2023-2024 with a difficulty rating of 2 and a project scale of 2. Phase 2 would be in 2024-2025. Proposed Phase 3 – Construction, Testing and Commissioning Program – would be in 2028.

RFI: Proposed extension to No 19 tram to Merlynston

For a number of years Local residents have called for Extending Route 19 tram to Fawkner and Campbellfield. This could integrate with a new station at Campbellfield, east-west buses routes 538 and 902 along Camp Road/Mahoneys Road, and either a Medium Capacity Transit corridor (Campbellfield interchange) or the Suburban Rail Loop (Fawkner station).

No plans to extend Melville Road Tram

There are no plans in this report to extend the number 58 tram route along Melville Road that presently terminates at Bell Street.

There have been plans to extend this tram route to at least Boundary Road for over 100 years to supply light rail public transport service in a public transport blackspot in the northern suburbs of Moreland.

Medium Capacity Transit (MCT) & Light Rail Plan

The Rail Futures institute also proposes a Medium Capacity Transit (MCT) model of trams or light rail network, which could be part elevated, part underground, and also at ground level, for one radial corridor (filling a gap in the radial rail network), and 3 major orbital corridors, and 6 major cross-suburban corridors. They propose this as an alternative to the Suburban Rail Loop as proposed by the Dan Andrews Government.

As part of the Medium Capacity Transit model RFI proposes Campbellfield would be a better connecting point to the Upfield Line, rather than a station at Fawkner (Suburban Rail Loop).

Melbourne Rail Plan 2020-2050 Excerpts

September 2019, Rail Futures Institute Excerpts:

5.4.4 By 2024: Upfield to Roxburgh Park (Upfield Diversion project)

RFI: current plan of Upfield and Craigieburn lines

The Upfield line closely parallels the Craigieburn line for much of its length, however both lines serve fast growing populations, generated by inner and middle suburbs residential densification as well as outer northern suburbs growth. Due to capacity of the Northern City Loop being at its limit, there is no remaining capacity to operate additional services during peak periods on either line pending completion of MM1 and removal of Sunbury line trains from the City Loop. Currently, the Craigieburn line has 11 tph scheduled during peak periods while the Upfield line has only 3 tph at all times.

When the constraints imposed by the City Loop are removed, pent up demand on both lines coupled with increased frequency of regional trains on the Seymour/Shepparton line will necessitate substantial increases in service frequency in both corridors.

In this case, it is proposed to physically connect the two lines at Roxburgh Park by reopening, duplication and electrification of the former freight line between Upfield and Roxburgh Park (otherwise known as Somerton). This will enable Metro trains to operate between the CBD and Craigieburn via either Coburg/Upfield or Essendon/Broadmeadows, potentially increasing the train path capacity of the combined corridors from 14 to 24 tph.

Proposed City Loop reconfiguration (see Section 5.5.5) will further increase the combined corridor capacity. This will provide ample future proofing to accommodate the proposed extension of electrification from Craigieburn to Wallan (see Section 5.4.9, below).

The current track and route configuration of the northern part of both lines is shown in Figure 22 below.

The overall scope of the proposed Upfield Diversion project also includes duplication of the existing 4 km single line section between Gowrie and Upfield (see Section 5.3) and a new station at Campbellfield (see Section 5.8), together with the following works:

  • Provision of a second platform at Upfield
  • Potential grade separation of the Barry Road level crossing at Upfield
  • Re-arrangement of existing Upfield stabling sidings
  • Rebuilding, duplication and installation of electric traction infrastructure on the former 2 km freight line between Upfield and Somerton
  • Rail/rail grade separated junction at Roxburgh Park, with the reopened line passing beneath the standard gauge interstate line and the existing Craigieburn line in the vicinity of the Somerton Road overpass
  • An additional electrified track pair between Roxburgh Park and Craigieburn (4 km).
  • Two additional platforms at Craigieburn.

The anticipated track and route configuration following completion of the above works is shown in Figure 23.

RFI: proposed plan of Upfield and Craigieburn lines

5.4.9 By 2028: Craigieburn to Wallan

Several new suburbs are being developed in Melbourne’s northern growth region which spans much of the main north-eastern railway between Craigieburn and Wallan. Between Donnybrook and Wallan, a population of approximately 23,000 in 2018 is expected to increase to 170,000 by 2036. Well before then, the existing V/Line operated Seymour/Shepparton line trains which service this area will be overwhelmed by rapid growth in patronage.

It is therefore proposed that Metro electric services be extended from Craigieburn to Wallan by the late 2020s to form part of the Craigieburn (via Upfield) – Glen Waverley/Alamein Cross-City line (see Section 5.5.5). In addition to Donnybrook and Wallan, new stations will be added at Cloverton and Beveridge either prior to, or as an integral part of the electrification project.

At that time, Wallan will become the interchange station between metro and regional train services, with regional trains potentially diverted in the longer term via the Outer Metropolitan Ring (OMR) corridor and
Melbourne Airport (see Section 5.7). New stabling sidings will be provided at Wallan to support the extended Metro services, with trains for this corridor continuing to be maintained at Craigieburn.

Project scope for extension of electrification from Craigieburn to Wallan would include:

  • installation of electric traction infrastructure extending 21 km from Craigieburn to Wallan
  • new stations at Cloverton and Beveridge (if not provided beforehand)
  • two additional platforms at Wallan for terminating trains
  • additional station infrastructure at Wallan to facilitate passenger interchange with V/line regional train services
  • Metro train stabling sidings at Wallan
  • potential grade separation of level crossings at Donnybrook Road, Donnybrook; Beveridge Road, Beveridge and Wallan-Whittlesea Road, Wallan

According to the report the three phases for planning and construction for the Upfield Line upgrade are proposed as:

Track duplication and extension to Craigieburn

In 2020-21 Financial year Phase one – initial conception, high level scoping, detailed project planning, business case preparation, funding approval, the Upfield Line diversion – is proposed for the Upfield duplication and extension.

Gowrie-Upfield duplication (Includes new Campbellfield station) – with a Project Difficulty rating of 3, and a scale of 3
Upfield-Roxburgh Park re-opening (includes Duplication, electrification & quad to Craigieburn) – with a Prject Difficulty rating of 6, and a scale of 5.

Phase 2 – Proposed Detailed/Reference Design, Planning Approvals, Procurement Program would be undertaken in 2021 and 2022.

Phase 3 -Proposed Construction, Testing and Commissioning Program – would be undertaken in 2023-2024.

Craigieburn to Wallan extension and electrification

In 2023-24 phase one of the Craigieburn to Wallan electrification and extension would be undertaken including two new stations, with a project difficulty of 4 and scale of 4.

Phase 2 of Craigieburn-Wallan electrification would be undertaken in 2024-2025.

Phase 3 -Proposed Construction, Testing and Commissioning Program – would be undertaken in 2027-2028.

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