The rail corridor between Southern Cross Station and North Melbourne Station is one of the busiest in the city. Besides the hundreds of Metro trains that travel these lines every day, there are also dozens of diesel powered regional, interstate and freight trains passing through. The majority of these diesel trains have, until now, used the lower train lines along this route, and for the most part they go unnoticed by the residents of West Melbourne.
Along side Railway Place is a pair of train lines that lead to a train flyover. These two lines are dedicated for the use of diesel trains.
As part of the recent Regional Rail Link development, the decision was made to permanently separate diesel train operations from Metro operations. To do this, the flyover adjoining Railway Place was given a major overhaul and, as of 2014, the number of diesel trains using this flyover will increase from a dozen trains a day to over 200+ diesel trains a day. These trains will be operating within 12-metres of homes.
Most West Melbourne residents agree that rail infrastructure is essential to the city, but there is concern about the health impacts on the community caused by the effects of diesel pollution, noise and vibration occurring so close to homes.
By way of reducing the noise from these diesel trains, the Regional Rail Link has built a sound wall along Railway Place in West Melbourne, but this wall is only a partial solution. For one thing, most diesel trains have their exhaust located on top of the train and not only will the all not contain all the noise, it will reflect most of the sound back towards buildings in the the E-Gate. The wall is also unlikely to contain air pollution from the trains.
There are other concerns with the current flyover. There are only two train lines, and it is predicted that these two lines will be operating at capacity by 2016. Two train lines also suggest that there is minimal redundancy if there was to be a derailment on this line. Then there is the fact that while these diesel trains are using the flyover, there is no way of connecting regional and interstate trains to North Melbourne Station.
The Division Factor
With regards to the Western Connection proposal, our biggest concern is that while diesel trains continue to operate at street level along Railway Place they will divide West Melbourne from Docklands. Short of building a bridge up and over the trains, there is no elegant way of connecting the two suburbs. For this, West Melbourne and surrounding areas will always be reminded and constrained by the area's industrial past.