Early works will begin in 2020 to build two new stations and a two-kilometre skybridge to remove four more level crossings in Melbourne.
Around 82,000 vehicles pass through level crossings at Bell Street, Cramer Street, Murray Road and Oakover Road in Preston.
More than 52,000 vehicles pass through Bell Street’s boom gates each day, with the level crossing blocking traffic for up to 40 per cent of the morning peak.
The Victorian Government said in a release that detailed planning and engineering have determined the best way to remove the crossing is through an elevated rail section with a U-Trough design.
New stations will be built at Bell and Preston, with a section of track to be straightened to reduce the amount of property acquisitions, enable faster services and deliver more trains in the future.
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“Another four level crossings are being removed so we can run more trains more often, with work to begin next year,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
“This project will deliver new stations, faster services and less congestion on local streets – as well as new, green open space for the community.”
Owners and residents are being contacted by the Level Crossing Removal Project team to work closely with them throughout the process.
The project will use a voluntary purchase scheme on any eligible homes, following the same principles used on previous projects.
Because the Mernda line provides access to the Epping train maintenance facility, which services around half of Melbourne’s train fleet, the line can only be closed for a short period without impacting services across the network. Due to this, the project aims to be delivered without any major extended closures of the line.
“While we get in and remove the level crossings, we’ll also build two new stations and work with the community on the two kilometres of open space they will get to enjoy,” said Victorian Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan.
Community consultation will begin soon, with locals encouraged to provide feedback about what should be done with the open space. A community advisory panel will also be established to enable locals to directly contribute to the design of the open space created by elevating the line.
“Preston residents can’t wait to see work start on this project. I encourage locals to get involved with the community advisory panel in shaping the open space,” said Member for Preston Robin Scott.