Angry Upfield passengers rally in Coburg Mall

The rally in Coburg Mall, Saturday November 30th 2019

Upfield passengers united in Coburg yesterday to launch a new petition calling on the Victorian Government to duplicate the train line during next year’s level crossing removals, and to commit to extending the line to Melbourne’s burgeoning northern suburbs.

Claudia Gallios from Sustainable Cities and Friends of the Earth, who addressed the crowd outside Coburg Library, said the proportion of Melburnians who did not have access to medium-high frequency public transport was 38 per cent, but that this figure shot up to 62 per cent in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. (Source)

Coburg North resident Bec and Fawkner residents Barbara Fairchild and Nasrin Amin spoke about how cancellations and short-shunted services on a low-frequency line affected their lives. Barbara and Nasrin said the unreliability of the line impacted their children, who are frequently late to high school and university. 

Moreland’s new mayor Lambros Tapinos (ALP) said the Upfield Line had the worst frequency in metropolitan Melbourne and said better public transport was necessary if the city was to grow in a way that was sustainable. He called upon the Daniel Andrews government to duplicate the line to improve reliability and future frequency.

Saturday’s rally came a few days after news broke the government is planning to appease southern passengers in six years by installing a crossover (turnaround point) at Gowrie station, rather than duplicate the single track section. Such a move would not only lump current Upfield passengers with frequent cancellations and short-shunted services for at least six more years, but would isolate people living north of Gowrie station at Campbellfield and beyond, denying them better frequency upon completion of the Metro Tunnel project.

Following speeches, City of Moreland councillor Sue Bolton led attendees on a march along Sydney Road to Bell Street.

City of Moreland has endorsed the Upfield Transport Alliance’s call for duplication and was joined in September by Hume City Council. Hume councillor Jodi Jackson (Aitken ward) also addressed the crowd and urged Moreland residents to continue their campaign for fair and efficient public transport in solidarity with Hume residents. 

Cr Jackson’s constituents live on the Upfield Line in Campbellfield (which has no station) and north of Upfield station in the suburbs of Somerton and Kalkallo. She also represents people who rely on the overburdened Craigieburn Line, in the suburbs of Roxburgh Park, Craigieburn, Greenvale, Mickleham and Yuroke. Ms Jackson said trains on the Craigieburn line were struggling to accommodate the growing population in Melbourne’s north – where many new suburbs are also being built.

Brunswick lower house MP Dr Tim Read from the Victorian Greens said the government should prioritise investment in Melbourne’s public transport system rather than investing in new roads such as the massive $16 billion North East Link project. He said much improvement could come of investing in lots of smaller projects such as duplication of the Upfield Line and better bus services. He urged Upfield passengers to continue being “squeaky wheels”. “You never know. There will be a byelection somewhere and suddenly the things we’ve all been advocating about becomes government policy and it was their idea.”  

North East Link opponent Ian Hundley said the “paint was starting to come off” the Andrews’ government’s “Big Build Project”, and said Melburnians were beginning to realise many of the projects would not improve the city’s transport woes in a meaningful way.

Seasoned Upfield Line campaigner, transport academic Dr John Stone, said Melbourne’s north had suffered as a result of poor transport planning by successive Victorian Governments. He encouraged passengers to step up their campaign, saying the line would have been replaced with light rail and trams removed from Sydney Road had local residents not fought hard during previous decades.

Coburg business owner Nabil Hassan (Half Moon Cafe) signs the Upfield Transport Alliance’s new petition to Victorian Lower House MPs in Victoria St mall, November 30 2019. Nabil lives in Campbellfield.

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