Vic rail work dilemma

Lack of spare buses ignored as Victoria’s level rail crossing removals start next month

More buses are needed in metropolitan Melbourne, the Victorian bus industry has warned, as work on the first two level rail crossing removals starts within weeks.

The contract for the removal of four congested level crossings was finalised this week and rail replacement buses will run on Belgrave and Sunbury lines as work gets underway.

As the Victorian Government prepares to remove 50 level rail crossings that punctuate and congest Melbourne’s suburban roads at a cost of $481.2 million, the reliance on rail replacement buses will grow.

While supportive of the level crossing removal program, BusVic executive director Chris Lowe says more spare buses are required to coordinate rail replacement bus services during level rail crossing removal works.

"We will need to order more buses now in order to have sufficient capacity to move people displaced as a result of the rail line shutdowns next year," he says.

"There is virtually no spare capacity of route buses in metropolitan Melbourne."

His repeated warning to the Victorian Government about the lack of buses has fallen on deaf ears.

"I have been trying to warn government about this fact for when bus has to move all the displaced rail passengers by the level crossing removal program," Lowe says.

These challenges aside, the bus industry is used to responding to coordinating rail replacement bus services sometimes at very short notice.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews confirmed that Leighton Contractors, Aurecon and Hyder Consulting had been jointly awarded the contract for level crossing removals at Blackburn Road in Blackburn, Heatherdale Road in Mitcham and Furlong and Main roads in St Albans earlier this week.

"The Andrews Labor Government is removing our worst level crossings to reduce road congestion, run more trains and get people home safer and sooner," he says.

"These level crossings have already claimed lives, and continue to put lives at risk – they have to go and we’re getting on with it, finalising the contract so works can begin."

Removing the crossings will reduce road congestion for about 60,000 vehicles that use these roads each day, and allow more frequent rail services on the Belgrave and Sunbury lines.

Works at Main Road and Furlong Road near St Albans Station starts next month and will be completed by 2017. 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook