Signalling scrapped on Cranbourne-Pakenham project, jeopardising Rowville Rail

EXTRACT FROM PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES HANSARD

Thursday, 7 May 2015

CONSTITUENCY QUESTIONS

Mr WELLS (Rowville) — (Question 198) The constituency matter I wish to raise is for the attention of the Minister for Public Transport. The Coalition government took plans to the last state election to address rail system capacity in the south‑east. Construction of the fully funded Melbourne rail link was due to begin in 2016, and construction of the Cranbourne‑Pakenham upgrade was due to begin this year, with completion due in 2019. Quite irresponsibly the Andrews Labor government has now scrapped a key component of a critical precursor project for a future Rowville rail: the Coalition’s proposed modern, high‑speed signalling upgrade on the Cranbourne‑Pakenham rail line, which would have allowed increased capacity on the metropolitan rail network.

The information I seek from the minister is exactly what the Andrews government is going to do about public transport in the south‑east now that it has sabotaged such a critical component of the Cranbourne‑Pakenham rail line project, thereby placing a future Rowville rail line in grave doubt?

UPDATE 9th June 2015

ANSWER FROM MINISTER FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT:

I am informed that, as at the date the question was raised:

The Victorian Government’s Cranbourne Pakenham Rail Upgrade project, a billion-dollar upgrade to the Cranbourne-Pakenham line, will transform the road and rail networks in Melbourne’s south-east.

The project will remove nine level crossings and rebuild four stations within the next three years.  The works, combined with the 37 new high capacity trains and significant signalling and power upgrades, will boost capacity by up to 42 per cent on the corridor every day – accommodating an extra 11,000 passengers in the morning peak – and boost capacity across the network by freeing up existing trains.

The previous market-led proposal for the Cranbourne-Pakenham line initially proposed a limited trial of high capacity signalling on a section of one of Melbourne’s busiest train lines. A week before the 2014 State election campaign the former government secretly shelved high capacity signalling and removed it from this proposal. The Victorian Government reviewed this proposal and was not willing to accept the risk of trialling new critical safety systems and infrastructure on one of the busiest transport corridors, which not only services the metro system, but also V/Line and freight.

The advice to government from PTV is that a trial of high capacity signalling technology is better suited to a rail line with a single train type with the same stopping pattern. This is best practice, and this method has been successfully demonstrated on major metro train systems across the world. With this in mind, we will now trial high capacity signalling properly on the Sandringham line, a less congested line with lower patronage. We want to ensure the infrastructure and technology is right for Melbourne’s rail network before considering how it can be used on the wider network.
The Government recently allocated an unprecedented $2.4 billion of the State Budget to kick-start the removal of the first 20 of 50 level crossings to be removed. On top of the nine level crossings on the Dandenong line, the four level crossings already out to market at Main Road in St Albans, North Road in Ormond, Burke Road in Glen Iris, and Blackburn Road in Blackburn will be removed within the next three years.
The Melbourne Metro Rail Project is also key to the future expansion of Victoria’s rail network, enabling our transport system to grow as our community does. Melbourne Metro unlocks the centre of the train system, enabling major improvements in capacity, reliability and frequency of services across our busiest train lines. Delivering these important projects will remove the constraints on our public transport network.