Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has pledged to remove a further 25 level crossings from across Melbourne and build two more sections of elevated rail in the city’s north at a cost of $6.6 billion if his government is re-elected in November.
One section of sky rail could stretch more than four kilometres on the Mernda line – from Oakover Road in Preston to High Street in Reservoir.
The other section of sky rail would likely go over Moreland Road in Brunswick and Bell Street in Coburg on the Upfield line.
However, Labor has not decided on the final length of the elevated sections.
The sky rail project in Melbourne’s south-east between Caulfield and Dandenong opened in February but generated some community anger over its impact on nearby residents.
Mr Andrews said engineering had dictated the decision to use elevated rail on the Mernda and Upfield lines.
“There has been some community consultation, there’ll be further community consultation. There’ll be a tender process,” he said.
“You’ve got to let the communities drive this. That’s how you get the best outcomes.”
Mr Andrews said the City of Darebin had been calling for the elevated rail so it could create an urban park underneath the rail lines.
However, Moreland City councillor Oscar Yildiz, who is running as an independent candidate in the upcoming state election, said he had been door-knocking the Coburg area on Sunday and there was widespread opposition to sky rail.
“In fact, everyone I’ve spoken to so far has said they don’t want sky rail. They want rail under,” Mr Yildiz said.
“If it’s happening in other areas, why can’t it happen here?”
New removals completed ‘by 2025’
Labor’s pledge to remove 25 rail crossings follows the party’s commitment at the last election to remove 50 level crossings across Melbourne.
Twenty nine of those have already been removed, with plans to get rid of the remaining 21 by 2022.
The Premier said the 25 additional level crossing removals would be completed by 2025, if Labor is re-elected.
“We’re able to make these commitments because Victoria is in a very strong budget-surplus environment,” he said.
“We’ve delivered surplus budgets every year and we’ll continue to do that.
“We think it’s the right priority to reinvest the proceeds of that sound budget management … into removing these terrible, congested and often tragically deadly level crossings,” Mr Andrews said.
But the Coalition criticised the cost of the plan and said Victorians would likely be asked to pay more taxes to fund it.
“Victorians are already doing it tough with cost-of-living pressures and can’t afford to be slugged with more Labor taxes to pay for Labor’s unfunded election promises,” Shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien said.
The government released the locations of 14 of the 25 new level crossing removals, which it said had been chosen in consultation with the Level Crossing Removal Authority.
The remaining locations will be announced in coming weeks.
New locations include high-priority danger site
Mr Andrews said the crossings had been prioritised due to factors like safety, congestion and the proximity to emergency service bases, so emergency workers could arrive at the scene of incidents earlier.
“It’s what communities have called for for so long, and only Labor has a plan and proven track record of getting rid of these deadly and congested level crossings,” he said.
Other locations for the crossing removals include five on the Frankston Line, and others at Mont Albert Road in Mont Albert and at Union Road in Surrey Hills, which has been identified as a high-priority dangerous site by VicRoads.
Others will be removed in the Sunbury town centre in Melbourne’s north-west, and at Hoppers Crossing.
Labor has not ruled out using elevated crossings at some of those other locations.
It follows further big-ticket infrastructure election pledges from the Labor Party, including a $50 billion suburban rail loop.