Submission: Assessing Level Crossing Removals in Coburg through a climate change prism

August 9, 2018 at 2:31 am 3 comments

Green light for cars at Bell st level crossing. Level Crossing removal will mostly advantage vehicles and increase transport emissions and eventually more congestion.

We have been working on a submission to the Level Crossing Removal Authority for the proposed removal of the Moreland Road and Bell Street level crossings. This is a complex issue already, just on social factors, and it also needs to be viewed through a prism of new infrastructure for adaptation to the impacts of long term climate change and reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions.

We are also keenly aware that little time was given for public discussion and engagement. Not all options were presented to the public and reasons given why they were neglected to be included from public consideration. So the public engagement and feedback will be essentially flawed.

We are aware that decisions will also likely be taken on cost factors which will reduce the long term climate adaptation or resilience of the infrastructure. Unfortunately the best solutions usually don’t come cheap.


Submission on Level Crossing Removal for Upfield Line Moreland Road to Bell Street

In assessing the options for level crossing removal at Bell Street and Moreland Road Climate Action Moreland maintains climate change considerations should be a high priority for the Level Crossing Removal Authority.

Executive Summary

Climate Action Moreland acknowledges the grade separation will reduce collisions between vehicles and trains and east-west bus service travel may be enhanced in the short term.

The Level Crossing Removal project is an opportunity to adapt major transport infrastructure to our warming climate, however, the level crossing removals as presently proposed will have the most benefit for road vehicles. This will encourage more people to drive, more cars on our roads and ultimately more congestion. The time savings initially gained will quickly evaporate and the transport greenhouse gas emissions will be greatly increased.

Our key recommendations for level crossing removal in Brunswick and Coburg:

1. Climate Change considerations must be a high priority
2. Consultation was a flawed process as whole of line solutions not considered
3. Full cut and cover option (not presented) with landscaping preferred. Rail over road (skyrail) option has advantages over trench option for all level crossings based on value capture opportunities, more open space and parkland, and more social connect opportunities for communities. All level crossings between Moreland Road and Bell Street be removed in one project
4. Full separated commuter cycleway be incorporated as part of the chosen design
5. Concurrent project of Upfield line track duplication between Gowrie and Upfield
6. Enhanced pedestrian/cycle access to stations
7. Low carbon footprint materials used in construction
8. Inclusion of water sensitive urban design, energy efficiency and solar PV
9. Establish Upfield Heritage Museum in either Moreland or Coburg heritage station

These recommendations are discussed in more detail below.

1. Climate change considerations must be a high priority

The transport sector in Australia has the second highest level of carbon emissions at 19 percent after electricity generation (35 percent).

According to Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory transport emissions grew 62.9 percent between 1990 and December 2017. In the year to December 2017 transport emissions were 100 Mt CO 2 -e, and experienced a 3.4 percent increase year on year. (NGGI Dec 2017 update)

Australia’s rising Transport emissions 1990 – Dec 2017

In Moreland transport emissions were 34 percent (500kT) of total emissions per year in 2011. The Moreland Zero Carbon Evolution strategy has a 2020 target of 25% reduction in car trips for personal use and 25% reduction in car trips for work. This needs to be facilitated by improved public transport and cycling facilities and the level crossing removal project should be designed to assist this.

Accordingly, much more thought needs to be put into the level crossing removal project to address mode share change to reduce transport emissions:

Design should encourage behavioural change from use of private cars to increase public transport and active transport share of travel (mode share change), to integrate well with Moreland Council’s Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy principles and actions and Zero Carbon Evolution Strategy.

There needs to be increased benefits for public transport users, pedestrians and cyclists to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

The major benefits to train users will only come once track duplication between Gowrie and Upfield is completed allowing increased service frequency on the Upfield Line, similar to service levels on other suburban lines. (see Track Duplication)

Design should also address climate mitigation, adaptation and urban heat island effect issues, as this infrastructure is likely to be with us for the next 80-100 years and have to perform its function in extreme heat and extreme rainfall events.

Further Information:

Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: December 2017
http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/greenhouse-gas-measurement/publications#quarterly
Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy 2018 and Parking Strategy
http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/about-us/projects/transport-and-parking-projects/transport-strategy/
Moreland Zero Carbon Evolution Strategy
https://morelandzerocarbon.org.au/

2. Consultation Process Flawed

Not all options were adequately presented for community consultation by the Level Crossing Removal Authority.

A whole of line approach, at least through Brunswick and Coburg, is needed but was not presented to the Moreland Community. Consideration of individual crossings removes the community context of the rail line and prevents more worthwhile long term climate friendly solutions for the communities it passes through.

At no time did the Level Crossing Removal Authority present for community discussion a full cut and cover with landscaping solution. Advantages of this option include:

  • Provides an opportunity for linear parkland with trees,
  • Removes visual and noise pollution underground,
  • Reduces structures that add to the urban heat island effect,
  • Enables ground level commuter cycle path with underpasses of major roads.

Neither did it present a whole of line rail over solution (Skyrail), yet what is chosen for Moreland Road and Bell streets will likely determine the level crossing removal solution in Brunswick.

Moreland desperately needs more parks with tree canopy to mitigate the urban heat island effect. Both the Trench proposal and skyrail proposal will contribute significantly to extreme heat in the urban built environment. The Skyrail option may enable more trees and vegetation in the rail corridor so is marginally preferrable. (refer to relevant Moreland Council policies)

From an urban climate adaptation point of view there are more advantages to a skyrail solution than the trench solution, but both have significant flaws when compared to a full cut and cover with landscaping solution.

Our key recommendations in further sections are therefore mostly restricted to the two flawed proposals presented to the community.

Further Information:

See Documentation on community engagement at Level Crossing Removal Authority, in particular ‘Bell Street, Coburg and Moreland Road, Brunswick – Removing a level crossing (1.3 MB) (pdf) which details the reasons for not doing road over rail, road under rail, and the shortlisted options of rail over and rail under, but provides no information on a whole line solution of cut and cover for Brunswick and Coburg and why this isn’t being discussed.
https://your.levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/bell-street-coburg-and-moreland-road-brunswick
Moreland Council Urban Heat Island Effect Action Plan
http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/environment-bins/environment/climate-change/urban-heat-island/
Moreland Council Urban Forest Strategy (2017) http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/globalassets/key-docs/policy-strategy-plan/urban-forest-strategy-2017—2027-council-resolved.doc

3. Full Cut and Cover preferred, SkyRail secondary option

Climate Action Moreland advocates for full cut and cover rail solution from Park street to Boundary Road to allow a linear park and ameliorate the urban heat island effect in the Upfield Corridor in Brunswick and Coburg.

As this solution is not being presented, a preferred but much poorer secondary solution is the rail over road option (Skyrail) rather than the trench option for all the crossings between Moreland Road and Bell street.

An elevated track (skyrail) would not only address safety at the many busy crossings it would also provide much needed open space and parkland at ground level along the Upfield corridor in Brunswick and Coburg. This vegetation would go some way to help mitigate some of the urban heat buildup in the elevated rail structure.

A full cut and cover solution with landscaping should be under intense future consideration from Park street to Tinning Street.

Remove Reynard street Level Crossing

Reynard Street level crossing should be removed as part of the project, whichever option is chosen.

In the designs presented to the community it was indicated Moreland Road, Bell Street and Munro street would be replaced as part of the Rail over road option. What appears to stand out in the Skyrail option is the rail line would come down after Moreland Station to the Reynard Street level crossing, then start to rise immediately to go over Munro street and Bell Street.

This seems to be an incredible waste in not doing the Reynard street level crossing at this time as part of this option. It would allow substantial more parkland and open space under the rail viaduct next to Railway Place and between the houses on either side of the line south of Reynard street.

We strongly recommend that the Reynard Street level crossing be removed as part of this level crossing removal project. This means all four level crossings between Moreland Road and Bell street would thus be removed with one continuous rail viaduct.

Further information/Resources:

Research conducted in 2015 by postgraduate students in design from Melbourne University/RMIT – Lessons from the Graduate Design Research Studio “Rail UP!
http://cur.org.au/project/benefits-elevated-rail-lessons-graduate-design-studio-rail/
See: The Benefits of Elevated Rail – Case Study One: The Upfield Line

4. Separated cycleway needed for commuting cyclists

This is an opportunity to provide a state of the art separated commuter cycling path through Moreland to encourage transport mode shift to cycling.

  • Cycling is zero emissions transport
  • Cycling in Moreland is a rising trend
  • The Upfield path is already congested at peak times
  • Cyclist/pedestrian use needs separation for safety and to reduce conflict.

Best practice transport policies separate road, cycling and pedestrian networks from each other for the comfort, efficiency and safety for each mode. We think commuter cyclists need to be separated from pedestrians as part of this level crossing removal to reduce conflict and satisfy cyclist needs of directness, convenience and speed. (Make Space for Cycling)

Shared use paths for pedestrians at ground level should also be available, with these being designated shared use for local and recreational cyclists if the elevated veloway is built.

A separated commuter bike path could be incorporated as part of Full Cut and Cover solution as a ground level path with underpasses at major roads to maintain cycling flow. The trench option has restricted width available for a separated path and would also be difficult to engineer underpasses at major road crossings.

Elevated Veloway for Skyrail option

An elevated cycle commuting path attached underneath or at the side of the rail viaduct would provide a smooth flow for cycle commuters, and a visually exciting ride with views across Moreland and to the CBD.

We note under the Victorian Transport Department Policy document Victorian Bicycle Strategy clearly states in section 1.7 that:

“All major transport projects currently being planned and built such as the Level Crossing Removal Project and the West Gate Tunnel Project include substantial new and upgraded cycling infrastructure, including infrastructure to fill gaps in the strategic cycling corridor network.”

Further information Reference:
Extend the Upfield Bike Path to Upfield submission:
https://upfieldbikepath.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/submission-level-crossing-removal-for-moreland-road-and-bell-street/
Victorian Bicycle Strategy 2018-2028
https://transport.vic.gov.au/content/docs/Victorian%20Cycling%20Strategy%202018-28.PDF
Cambridge Cycling Campaign: Make Space for Cycling.
http://www.makingspaceforcycling.org/
Littman et al (2018) Pedestrian and Cycling Planning (Victorian Transport Policy Institute)
http://www.vtpi.org/nmtguide.doc

An artist impression of an elevated veloway

5. Track Duplication Upgrade to the Upfield Line urgently needed

The Upfield line should be concurrently upgraded to dual track between Gowrie and Upfield Station. To do this project at the same time as level crossing removal would minimise line closure and disruption and increase reliability and the option of increased service frequency for all train users on this line.

Track duplication upgrade would provide a substantial benefit to train passengers for the whole rail line and balance out the benefits that car drivers will see with level crossing removal. Increased patronage will require increased service frequency on the Upfield rail line.

The Track Duplication major transport project would also entail extending the Upfield shared use bike path from the Western Ring Road Path to Upfield Station. Moreland Council is currently being funded in 2018/19 to extend this path from Box Forest Road to the Western Ring Road Path. There is an active community campaign to extend this path further north as a priority to address cycling issues on Sydney Road Campbellfield and the lack of an arterial north-south cycling route in the Upfield-Craigieburn strategic cycling corridor.

We note this would require increased prioritisation of this work and cite the Mernda rail extension as a similar project that received prioritisation in being brought forward.

References:

PTUA (2012) Single Track bottlenecks
https://www.ptua.org.au/2012/05/21/single-track-bottlenecks/
The Age (2014) Single line to Upfield worsens north-west rail woes
https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/single-line-to-upfield-worsens-northwest-rail-woes-20140122-318u5.html
Sustainable Fawkner (2017): The need for Track Duplication between Gowrie and Upfield
The need for Track Duplication between Gowrie and Upfield
Extend the Upfield Bike Path Campaign
https://upfieldbikepath.wordpress.com/

Single track between Upfield and Gowrie limits service frequency on the Upfield rail line. Until this is addressed, service frequency will continue to be limited.

6. Enhance Pedestrian/Cycling Access to stations

Stations should be fully accessible, and need to be planned to accommodate different access modes (walking, cycling, park and ride, etc.) which require various supporting facilities for convenient and safe access to stations.

We also recommend for the station concourses at Moreland, and Coburg extra pedestrian access should be facilitated by an elevated path across the main road to avoid having to use ground level pedestrian crossing lights. We note pedestrian lights are usually timed in favour of traffic rather than cyclists or pedestrians.

For Coburg station, pedestrians from north of Bell street should not be forced to cross at the ground level pedestrian lights but have the option of using steps or a ramp over Bell street to access the station.

Similarly, pedestrians living south of Moreland Road should have the option to access stations via steps or a ramp across Moreland Road without using ground-level pedestrian lights and the normal ground-level station concourse.

We note there is a Parkiteer secure bicycle parking facility already at Coburg Station. This needs to be incorporated as part of the new station design, and Parkiteer secure parking also added to the new Moreland Station design.

East-west bus route interchange needs to be included as part of station design for both Moreland and Coburg stations to facilitate and integrate convenient public transport mode share change.

Reference:

CRC for Rail Innovation (2013): Improving Rail Station Access in Australia
https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/ATTACHMENT%201%20STATION%20ACCESS.pdf

7. Low emissions construction and adaptation to future climate

The Level Crossing Removal project is an opportunity to adapt major transport infrastructure to our warming climate.

As part of any construction materials we also advocate that low carbon concrete be used for pylons or other structures to minimise embedded emissions in cement, and that the tracks be engineered with high heat tolerances to cope with rising temperatures due to climate change.

We think low carbon cement and other materials is important for sustainable procurement, as well as adhering to the greenhouse gas emissions 15-25 per cent target, reduced water use and reducing waste heirarchy, as contained in the Level Crossing Removal Authority Sustainability Policy

Further information Reference:

Rethinking Cement Plan (2017) from Beyond zero Emissions
http://bze.org.au/rethinking-cement-plan/
Level Crossing Removal Authority Sustainability Policy
https://levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/about/sustainability-policy

8. Water sensitive design, urban forest and energy efficiency

Station concourses should include rainwater capture and recycling facilities to be used for nurturing ground level trees and parklands, whichever option is chosen.

An elevated rail viaduct would enable more vegetation and canopy trees to be planted along the Upfield line, than could be incorporated with the rail trench option. This is very important for the environmental and biodiversity services this vegetation provides in an urban environment, including helping to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

New station Concourse roofs and buildings should incorporate solar panels, energy efficient lighting, with battery systems, to generate and use power at point of consumption.

9. Heritage Museum

As both Moreland and Coburg station buildings are heritage listed and will be retained as part of the new stations in some form, we recommend an Upfield rail line museum be established and located in one of these station buildings housing an historical collection of items, photographs and interpretive display of this rail line’s history and importance to the community.

This should include information on the multiple grassroots community campaigns to Save the Upfield Rail line.

About our group

Climate Action Moreland is a grassroots climate action group that was started in 2008, with a strong local focus addressing climate issues in Moreland, and advocacy at local, state and federal levels for strong and rapid climate action.

Climate change is an important imperative for Moreland citizens:

  • We know that climate change is already affecting us in Moreland with more frequent and intense heat events, more torrential rainfall events producing flash flooding.
  • As a highly urbanised municipality, Moreland is has a strong urban heat island effect.

Climate Action Moreland recognizes climate change is an existential problem that needs to be addressed through declaration of a climate emergency and plans for rapid implementation of emissions reduction to zero carbon emissions and development of carbon drawdown techniques.

We are eager to have input into the level crossing removal decisions as we believe this is a not to be lost opportunity to mitigate and adapt to climate change through the renewal of important public transport infrastructure. After electricity generation, transport emissions are the sector with the next highest level of emissions, and need to be urgently addressed.


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