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Delays ‘unprecedented’ as rail building boom heats up

Workers and dig site at southern end of South Yarra tunnel works. Courtesy: Tony Gough

The unprecedented disruption set to hit commuters next month during widespread rail shutdowns will become the new norm for five years as the state’s road and rail building boom gathers speed.

Up to two months of every year are now expected to include some train travel trauma, with school holidays effectively designated as major work periods for projects such as the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel and the removal of 75 level crossings.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal a special control centre has been created for traffic engineers to help manage the shutdowns, with extra CCTV on the road network to help experts see where longer green light sequences are needed for express buses replacing trains.

It will allow them to manage “live” traffic light sequencing to reduce delays, which are expected to be up to an hour in some areas of Melbourne and even longer in regional Victoria.

Passengers are being urged to plan ahead for the upcoming Easter holidays work, which will affect about 1.7 million passenger trips across 10 rail lines.

An incredible 4000 bus trips will replace train trips each day on the metropolitan network, while workers will be on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get the job done within the shutdown window.

The southeast lines will be heavily affected, with buses replacing trains from Caulfield to the CBD for most of the April 6-23 shutdown on the Cranbourne, Pakenham, and Frankston lines.

On some weekends there will also be closures from Flinders St to Westall, and Flinders St to Moorabbin, with bus replacements in place for those longer journeys.

For Caulfield to Flinders St station replacement bus services, passengers will be able to select one of two bus routes.

One will go to the Arts Centre, and the other will head to the east side of Federation Square.

A third option will stop all stations along the shutdown rail lines.

Buses will be on constant rotation at Caulfield during peak times, but Public Transport Victoria chief executive Jeroen Weimar said patience was needed.

Our message to passengers is that we understand and apologise for the inconvenience he said.

When 800-1000 people come off trains in peak hours they will face queues of people but they will move rapidly from the front.

Rail Projects Victoria chief executive Evan Tattersall said months of planning went into the shutdowns to ensure as much work as possible could be done in the time available.

Melbourne Metro construction includes building a structure that will allow for the Pakenham and Cranbourne line tracks to go under the Frankston line in South Yarra, rather than run alongside.

We have to rip both sets of tracks up and build that … and the William St bridge is being demolished,” he said.

Mr Tattersall said while the cluster of works was causing an extended shutdown, there was likely to be similar occupations in years to come, with most of the work to be confined to school holidays.

“We have to do this if we are going to double our population. It’s happening all over the world at the moment, in London, New York and Hong Kong.”

Buses will run throughout the day and night, including for AFL matches at the MCG that will be affected.

In total, 335 buses will run in metropolitan areas, while 265 buses are booked for V/Line passengers.

Traralgon and Bairnsdale services will be replaced by buses from April 6 to 23, with free travel given to those affected.

Warrnambool passengers will have replacement bus services from April 6 to April 21, while Geelong lines will be shut between April 16 and 21.

Mernda services in Melbourne’s northeast and Glen Waverley services in the east will have shorter shutdowns for level crossing removal works.


Metro tunnel

  • Demolition of William St bridge, South Yarra
  • 68 piles installed to support realignment of tracks
  • 800m track removal and reinstatement
  • 3500m overhead wire installed
  • 400 cubic metres of concrete to construct roof slab of eastern tunnel entrance
  • Installation works enabling use of high-capacity trains
  • More than 160km of overhead wires
  • More than 150km of signalling cables
  • More than 180 signalling installations/terminations
  • Platform extensions at seven train stations
  • Extensive works at three substations to help power the network
  • Tram works
  • 793m of single track replaced
  • Installation of 17 overhead poles
  • Tram depot entrance works including 55m of double-track installation