Jake Coppingers's Blog / Reservoir Station, 2019

In the 2 weeks between the 3rd and 15th of December, the Mernda train line (carrying 33,000 people daily) was shut while the ground level Reservoir Station was demolished and a new elevated station and 1km bridge installed. Fourteen 90-tonne steel bridge sections were lifted into place (they did a stunning timelapse).

At the same time, the most advanced train signalling in Australia was installed between Epping and South Morang for testing before use in the 2025 Melbourne Metro Tunnel railway, using the same moving block signalling the Paris RER A and London Victoria Line use for 120 second train headways, which would double practical capacity on every Melbourne line for just $1.5-3bn (for comparison, The West Gate Tunnel costs $5.5bn and WestConnex $45bn!)

Reservoir Station, originally built in 1889 and situated at ground level, is right next door to a monster 5 way level crossing crossed by 36,000 cars daily.

The 1945 aerial imagery shows how complex the intersection has always been, and there were plans to grade-separate the railway since at least 1970. Train frequencies were limited (to keep car drivers happy) as the boom gates were already down 24 minutes in the hour during peak. The crossing severely disconnected the local town centres and slowed bus feeder routes.

On first sight I was skeptical of the elevated rail-over-road solution as pedestrians must climb to the station or use the few lifts, and the roads have been enlarged below the bridge. However I'm 50 pages deep into a stunning report by RMIT considering detailed case studies and original land use research determining the impact of rail-over-road, rail-under-road and road-over-rail, and so far I'm pretty convinced rail-over-road is the go.

Overall, I'm more convinced the Level Crossing Removal Project is a good step in reducing the immense damage of the well documented post-war shift to prioritising cars in Australian (and US) planning policy and infrastructure spending.

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