Submission: Level Crossing Removal for Moreland Road and Bell Street

It’s time for an elevated veloway to provide decent cycle commuting infrastructure as part of the Level Crossing Removal at Moreland Road and Bell Street.

The following submission was sent to the Level Crossing Removal Authority.

Individual submissions can be made online up to Thursday, 9 August at Your Level Crossing. Feel free to use any of the ideas in our submission. More information including an independent engineering report on the two main options put to public consultations is available at Moreland Council.

Submission: Moreland Road and Bell Street Level Crossing Removal

Visual impression of elevated veloway by Nicola Inskip

The Level Crossing Removals scheduled for Brunswick and Coburg on the Upfield rail line will have a major impact on Moreland residents who live in the area or pass through, well into the future.

We recommend to the Level Crossing Removal Authority and the State Government:

  • The rail over road (skyrail) option be proceeded with,
  • That the skyrail option include an elevated commuter cycling veloway, as well as shared use ground level paths for pedestrian, local and recreational cycle use, to meet the present and future cycling needs in Moreland.
  • That all level crossings in Brunswick and Coburg be removed as part of one large skyrail project.
  • That track duplication between Gowrie and Upfield be undertaken concurrently with level crossing removals in Brunswick and Coburg, as a new priority major rail project by the Victorian Government.

About our group

The Extend the Upfield Bike Path to Upfield Group is a cycling advocacy group formed in March 2018 with over 150 members. It is based in northern Moreland but with members in Hume municipality and further afield. We are concerned with public transport and cycling infrastructure along the Upfield-Craigieburn transport corridor.

Our main goals are the upgrade and extension of the Upfield shared use bike path, as an arterial cycling route, initially to Upfield, and as the rail line is extended, to Craigieburn and further north.

We also advocate for increased cycling and public transport infrastructure in Moreland’s northern suburbs and Hume’s southern suburbs.

Need for arterial Cycling route into Hume suburbs

The extension of the Upfield bike path further north into Hume Municipality is a particular focus as there is no dedicated arterial north-south cycling link along the Upfield-Craigieburn strategic cycling corridor.

This arterial cycling link is badly needed to provide sustainable transport options to high car dependency suburbs that are currently experiencing intense housing development and growth.

This is a particular concern considering the dangerous cycling conditions on Sydney Road at Campbellfield which VicRoads has failed to address and refuses to adequately plan for.

The recent Camp Road level crossing removal in Campbellfield also failed in providing cycling infrastructure, even though the Level Crossing Removal Authority had a policy mandate and a duty to construct new cycling facilities as part of this project and were urged to do so by citizens and both Moreland and Hume Councils.

Providing this arterial link is likely to increase two way commuter cycling traffic along the Upfield bike path. We are likely to see more people cycle from southern Hume suburbs to Moreland and to the CBD for work. As there are many industrial, manufacturing and professional car design jobs in Hume, the path will also foster lesser commuter traffic north from Brunswick and Coburg to places of employment in Campbellfield and Somerton.

This future cycling traffic needs to be factored in to the Brunswick and Moreland level crossing removal options regarding the Upfield bike path.

Use of the Upfield Bike Path

The Upfield bike path is presently a highly important arterial cycling route through the heart of Moreland.

It is used for commuter cycling to access the Melbourne CBD, as well as for local recreational cycling, by pedestrians and other mobility devices.

Many of our members use this path as part of their daily or weekly activities to access services, shopping, visit friends and commute to work.

As such the level crossing removals in Brunswick and Coburg are of considerable concern and importance to our members and the wider community.

Demographics in Moreland are changing with a growing population resulting in a transport mode share change to increased cycling, train and tram use.

According to the Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy, cycling is increasing from a small base but presently “accounts for five per cent of all Moreland trips and seven per cent of journeys to work – a relatively small proportion. The vast majority of bicycle trips are less than ten kilometres in length (about 25 to 60 minutes, depending on speed).”

This mode share change is partly driven by a strong awareness of the need to reduce transport greenhouse gas emissions due to climate change, with the need to live more sustainable lives, in an urban environment more conducive to walking and cycling.

Health considerations, including more sedentary lifestyles, the growing obesity epidemic, and the health impact of air pollution, is also a driver of transport mode share change to public transport and active transport.

We note that the Upfield bike path is already experiencing cycling congestion at peak times especially in Brunswick. The southern section of the path from Park street to Bell Street, is already groaning under overuse by pedestrians and cyclists and is far from fit-for-purpose in it’s present form.

We also note the increased volume of cycling and pedestrian use of shared paths results in enhanced conflict and increased levels of stress over safety for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Ideally, commuter cycling needs to be separated from pedestrian and recreational cycling to reduce conflict and risk of cyclist/pedestrian crashes and injury. This is an important consideration for provision of new cycling facilities as part of level crossing removal design in Brunswick and Coburg.

The funding allocation in the 2018/19 state budget of some $3.5 million to upgrade and extend the Upfield path to the Western Ring Road Path will provide a much needed improvement. But in Brunswick and Coburg this still amounts to implementing band aid solutions, far from making it a fit-for-purpose commuter cycling route.

Upfield Path needs to be made fit-for purpose and future proofed

As part of the Level Crossing Removal the Upfield path needs to be not only replaced but made fit-for-purpose and future proofed. Part of this is taking into account increased traffic from future path extension into Hume municipality.

The Level Crossing removal project is a once in a generation opportunity to provide adequate new cycling infrastructure that meets the present and future needs of residents and those who cycle in and around Moreland.

In terms of the possible outcomes for cycling we judge the best of the two options presented to the community at the community consultation sessions is the rail over road (skyrail) option.

The trench rail option would provide for some widened and separated pedestrian and cycling paths but would still result in pedestrian/cycling crossing lights at Bell street and Moreland Road impeding the flow of commuter cycling journeys.

This would simply be a failure to address an important transport need for enhancing commuter cycling flow.

It has been suggested that pedestrian crossing lights could be setup as part of a timed signaling wave to enhance peak commuter cycling traffic, but this is predicated on there being an optimum cycling speed and this is simply not the case, and would prove problematic on this very busy route.

In theory, a particular advantage of the trench option would be the visual amenity this provides. However, this has already been effectively ruined by high rise developments along the rail line.

This option also comes at the cost of restricting vegetation along the side of the trench for safety reasons, at a time when we need to increase the Upfield Urban Forest to help provide environmental services (such as the air we breathe) and to help mitigate the urban heat island effect due to the rising temperatures associated with climate change.

Trench option would also limit path widening and community connections . It would not provide enough separation of commuter cyclists from other path users. It would not sufficiently reduce the risk of high speed pedestrian/cyclist conflict.

Elevated Veloway

We think an elevated veloway should be included as part of the elevated rail option to meet the present and future needs of cyclists.

An elevated veloway could be provided by either a side-strapped path to the rail viaduct or a suspended path under the viaduct. Perhaps even a combination of the two might be used.

Providing such an elevated cycling path, along with enhanced ground level shared use paths, would be in keeping with Moreland’s Integrated Transport Strategy.

The elevated cycleway would follow the rise and decline of the rail tracks and would be accessed at these points and at stations.

We note that stations will need to provide a variety of options to access the station level concourse including escalators, and stairs. A lift will need to be provided to make the station disability compliant. Bicycles should also be able to use the lift at the stations to access the elevated cycleway.

Providing an elevated cycleway as part of the level crossing removal project in Brunswick and Coburg is also strongly in keeping with providing sustainable transport options under the Transport Integration Act 2010.

Such an elevated veloway as part of the elevated rail track and level crossing removals would provide a smooth commuter cycling experience through Coburg and Brunswick which would demonstrate the Government’s commitment to sustainable transport and cycling infrastructure and it’s integration with the main transport networks in Moreland.

Compromise: using the emergency access path as a Veloway

A compromise option would be designing the Victrack access path on the viaduct used for maintenance and emergencies, to make this path a little wider and designing it as a veloway for commuter cycling. This would require some design consideration at the stations.

Expanding the use of this already required access path for multi-use veloway would have minimal extra expense, although may require it to be a little wider and also need some thoughtful innovative engineering for safety considerations.

On the few days of the year When the path was needed for maintenance work it could be closed to cycling traffic with the detour being the slower ground level shared paths.

Reynard Street level crossing

We endorse the proposal to remove Moreland Road, Munro Street and Bell Street level crossings as part of the Skyrail option, but also think this is a unique opportunity to maintain the elevated rail and eliminate the Reynard street level crossing.

This will open up the possibility of much needed park and garden space along Station street. If elevated rail was continued over Reynard street we advocate the provision of an access ramp at this point to access the elevated cycleway.

Upgrade dual track between Gowrie and Upfield

We advocate that the Victorian State Government should fund a new Major rail project of track duplication between Gowrie and Upfield to run concurrently with Upfield Level Crossing Removals. We note the precedence that the Mernda rail extension was brought forward as a priority project.

Undertaking this as concurrent work will minimise closure of the Upfield line and disruption to passengers using this line.

Track duplication will also increase reliability and enable increased service frequency on this rail line, which will be to the benefit of all Upfield rail passengers.

Track Duplication would also enable integration of the construction and extension of the Upfield bike path to Upfield.

John Englart
Extend the Upfield Bike Path to Upfield Campaigns

Rail over and rail under were the only two options presented by LXRA for serious consideration at Community forum
Will cars continue to get the greenlight on Bell St while commuter cyclists suffer ? Elevated veloway required

3 thoughts on “Submission: Level Crossing Removal for Moreland Road and Bell Street

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