Victorian train passengers are being warned to brace for long delays, as nine train lines across Victoria’s regional and metropolitan networks will be shut down for three weeks in April.
From April 1 to 23, passengers on the Cranbourne, Pakenham, Frankston, Sandringham, Glen Waverley, Mernda, Gippsland, Geelong and Warrnambool lines will have buses replacing trains.
Richmond station will be closed for some AFL games, so during April the free tram zone will be extended to the MCG.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the closures were necessary for Metro Tunnel and level crossing removal works.
“We’re getting out there early to advise people there will be significant, indeed unprecedented disruption during April,” he said.
“It can’t be avoided … if we don’t build these projects, we’ll have nothing but disruption and chaos into the future.”
The Metro Tunnel project, which will see the construction of five new underground stations, is due for completion in 2025.
“Here at South Yarra station, we have the Sandringham, the Frankston and the Cranboune, Pakenham or Dandenong lines converging all in one place,” Mr Andrews said.
“The eastern portal, which is the mouth to the tunnel, we need to separate those train lines and we need to basically provide for the Dandenong line to go underneath the other two lines and head into the other tunnel, which is where all of our passenger rail services will go.”
Kevin Devlin from the Rail Infrastructure Alliance said the massive closure was due to the need to de-energise eight tracks between South Yarra and Flinders Street Station, or the “inner core” of the network.
“We’ve got the final works to upgrade those power and signalling works vital to run the new high-capacity trains,” he said.
Gippsland set for more train pain
Regional passengers on the Gippsland, Geelong and Warrnambool lines will experience delays of up to an hour as a result of the works.
Minister for Public Transport Melissa Horne said trains would be free to Gippsland during the period.
“Because they have put with about 150 days of disruption over the previous year, free travel will be offered to them,” she said.
Gippsland passengers faced major delays during the summer period when trains were replaced by free buses throughout December while track upgrades were undertaken.
Extreme weather meant coaches continued to replace trains until mid-January.
Mayor of Baw Baw shire Councillor Mikaela Power told ABC Radio Melbourne commuters would need express buses to get to work during the work.
“We’re still a bit battle-scarred from the number of times the Gippsland line has been closed or suspended and we’ve been diverted onto buses,” she said.
The temporary bus replacements will be a mixture of express and normal services, authorities said.
Ms Horne said the government would publish a six-month rolling calendar of further disruptions to come for the region so they could better prepare.