More trains but no extra capacity

The State Government has announced major plans for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line. 137096 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS


THE State Government’s revamped plan to improve the Dandenong rail corridor has been announced – more new trains, fewer level crossings but no high-capacity signalling nor Cranbourne line duplication.
The government will buy 37 trains – each train would carry 20 per cent more passengers, be at least 50 per cent Australian-made and on the tracks from 2018, the government pledged.
The nine promised grade separations are crossings between Dandenong and Caulfield.
A new train depot and maintenance facility will be built in Pakenham.
The government claims the project will boost capacity by up to 42 per cent on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines – more than 11,000 extra passengers on the morning peak.
About $30 million will be paid to scrap a public-private project negotiated by the Coalition for the rail corridor’s upgrade last year.
The pay-out includes buying the intellectual property of the private consortium.
The government stated its plan would remove five more level crossings and deliver 12 extra new trains than the Coalition’s project.
The new project’s cost has been undisclosed but is more than the $2.5 billion slated for the PPP.
The government claimed that the Coalition had, prior to last year’s election, secretly scrapped plans for high-capacity signalling on the line.
The government will trial high-capacity signalling on the Sandringham line rather than install it on the Dandenong rail corridor.
Cranbourne MP Jude Perera labelled the project as a “once-in-a-generation investment in better roads and better transport for Dandenong”.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the project would mean fewer delays and more services on Melbourne’s busiest rail line.
“Removing level crossings will create Victorian jobs. Building trains locally will protect Victorian jobs.
“This helps our transport system and our economy.”
Opposition leader Matthew Guy said the original project would have been completed in 2018 – with the financial contract closed in May this year.
“Daniel Andrews can’t say what it will cost, doesn’t know how it will be funded and isn’t sure when the project will start or finish.
“If the Coalition plan is so flawed, why is Daniel Andrews spending $30 million of taxpayer’s money on buying the blueprint?”
The Coalition denied the government’s claim that under last year’s plan there would not have been signalling upgrades, there would be fewer grade separations and trains.
Greens south-east metropolitan MP Nina Springle said the government’s commitment to fixing the “dangerously overcrowded” lines was welcome but was disappointed by the lack of high-speed signalling.
“Modern digital train signals allow more trains to be run closer together, which is the only way to grow capacity,“ Ms Springle said.
Public Transport Users’ Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said the upgrades would provide “a lot more capacity – bigger trains and more of them.”
“We hope that the upgrades included in the Dandenong line will provide enough of a boost to capacity until high-capacity signalling can be rolled out.”
He said there was “one omission” – the Cranbourne line would continue to be a bottleneck without plans for duplication.
VECCI chief executive Mark Stone welcomed the expected job creation and boost to the rail network’s capacity and efficiency.
Expressions of interest for the level crossing removals and the next generation trains will be released to the market within months, the government announced.