News / Skyrail

How many stations will the skyrail have?

Growing concern that level crossing project could also remove a railway station

Men working on the Upfield line.
Recent site investigation works on the Upfield line near Jewell Station.

Mark Phillips

Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2022

BRUNSWICK MP Tim Read says he is confident all of the suburb’s railway stations will be retained in the skyrail project following growing concerns that the project designers are considering reducing them to two.

Fears that one of the three stations could be closed by the project have been raised repeatedly at community forums and meetings in recent weeks, including last week’s Merri-bek Council meeting.

There are currently three stations in Brunswick – Jewell, Brunswick and Anstey – along with Moreland station just over the border in Coburg. The three Brunswick stations are each within 800 metres of each other. By contrast, the distance between Moreland and Coburg stations is 1.5km.

The three current Brunswick station buildings are among the oldest in Melbourne and would not continue to be used after the removal of the level crossings but would be preserved for future community use in the same way as Moreland and Coburg have.

Jewell (originally South Brunswick) and Brunswick stations originally opened in 1889, while Anstey (originally North Brunswick) opened in 1926.

In other Level Crossing Removal Project news:

TRAINS resumed on the Upfield line on Tuesday following engineering works on the tracks.

THE estimated cost for the project is now likely to be in excess of $1.5 billion because of soaring construction costs.

MERRI-BEK Council has adopted a community engagement plan that will establish a vision for the skyrail by April next year.

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While no formal consultations have begun, it is understood that some community organisation representatives have been sounded out informally about their views on a permanent reduction of the number of stations on the Upfield line during the removal of eight level crossings in Brunswick.

Under one option, either Jewell or Brunswick station would be closed, with a new skyrail station built on the south side of Dawson Street. An alternative option would relocate the station further north, near Phoenix Street.

Eliminating one station would slightly reduce the overall project cost.

A further complication for the designers is the angle of gradient required for the skyrail bridge to emerge from the railway trench in Royal Park could force them to decide between closing Park Street to through traffic, or not rebuilding Jewell Station.

But if Jewell Station was not retained in the skyrail, the elevation could begin after Park Street, allowing it to remain open to east-west traffic but also preventing the level crossing from being removed there. But that would also present engineering problems given the short distance between Park Street and Brunswick Road.

In a written statement to Brunswick Voice, the Level Crossing Removal Project did not rule out reducing the number of stations.

“We’re removing another eight dangerous and congested level crossings from the Upfield line in Brunswick and Parkville to make Brunswick boom gate-free and will work closely with the community from next year as we progress the project,” said LXRP program director, Andrew Pepplinkhouse

“We’re in early stages of design development on the project and our team has taken the opportunity to carry out geotechnical investigations while trains are not running. This will inform the planning and design of the level crossing removals.”

Dr Read said he was aware of concerns but the Premier Daniel Andrews had committed to rebuilding the three stations when he announced the project in September.

“He said it, it was quoted in the media, so if he’s said those three stations will be rebuilt, then that’s the only information we’ve had from the government about the number of stations there will be,” Dr Read said.

“The Premier is pretty careful not to promise things he doesn’t want to deliver.”

Merri-bek councillor James Conlan also said he was not aware of any specific plans to reduce the number of stations, but concerns were raised at a recent community forum he held on the level crossing removal project.

“There was unanimous opposition to the idea of reducing the number of stations along the line,” he said.

Read more:

New skyrail in Brunswick by 2027

Concern about the number of stations to be included in the skyrail were also raised at Merri-bek Council’s meeting on December 7 which established a community engagement process so that a united position can be represented to the state government next year.

A round table will be established to hear from residents and community groups, and a formal council position is expected to be adopted in April.

This position “will capture the community’s vison for the area impacted by the project and will form the basis for Council’s advocacy to the State Government in a way that will reflect communtiy expectation and achieve the best possible outcomes for Brunswick”, said a report to the council meeting.

Issues that will be considered during the engagement process will include design input including protection of heritage and vegetation; the impact of construction including disruption to transport routes, noise and dust; and post-construction outcomes such as the use of open space.

Cr Sue Bolton told the meeting that it was important for the council to signal to the state government that a reduction in the number of stations would be unacceptable.

“As soon as council can take a position to say we will fight for three stations, that will be really important,” Cr Sue Bolton said.

Cost blowout?

A confidential estimate prepared last year by the Victorian Parliamentary Budget Office put the total cost of removing the eight level crossings at just under $1.4 billion.

But with inflation running at almost 7% per annum and construction costs blowing out, that is likely to be much higher by the time the project commences in 2024.

The Parliamentary Budget Office prepared the cost estimate for the removal of Brunswick’s level crossings in July last year on the request of Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam.

She asked the PBO to cost the removal of eight level crossings between Albion Street and Park Street and upgrade of the three railways stations on that part of the Upfield line. Clearly, removing one of the stations would reduce the overall cost.

The government is yet to release a budget for the project.

But the PBO estimated it would cost $1.362 billion over three years of the project. It based its estimate on known costs of similar projects but warned the estimate was sensitive to final designs, potential escalation in project costs, and site specific characteristics.

Early site investigations for the project began while the Upfield line was closed for almost a fortnight due to the flow on impact of works taking place on the West Gate Tunnel Project. Buses replaced trains during this period. The LXRP used the line closure to carry out site investigations and drilling to determine ground conditions and inform engineering and design for the level crossing removals on this line.

Train services resumed on Tuesday.

This story has been updated to reflect the resumption of train services on the Upfield line and to clarify that no formal consultations have been conducted with community organisations or their representatives.