Freight trains may make their way through inner suburbs

The Age: Freight trains may make their way through inner suburbs. February 21, 2014. Adam Carey. Transport Reporter for The Age

Freight trains could one day rumble through the heart of Brunswick and Coburg as part of a future expansion of Victoria’s freight rail network.

The Linking Melbourne Authority has revealed plans to build two extra railway tracks through Melbourne’s north, directly alongside the Upfield railway line, which has in recent years experienced an apartment boom.

The new tracks are planned to run directly to the west of the existing Upfield line, which runs to Campbellfield and passes through North Melbourne, Royal Park, Brunswick, Coburg and Fawkner. Several apartment buildings have gone up in recent years on land next to the railway line, and more housing is planned near stations including Jewell and Batman.

It’s not known how many railway properties along the railway line would have to be bought, as reserve exists on many stretches along the line.

The future rail expansion is revealed in a document that was released this month as part of the planning process for the east-west link.

The authority in charge of the east-west link wrote that the toll road, once built, would not interfere with future plans for two new railway tracks to Upfield.

“In consultation with Public Transport Victoria the [east-west link] design is to make allowance for the following future infrastructure: two additional standard gauge tracks on the Upfield rail line, to the west of the existing tracks, allowing for freight trains (although not double stacked container),” the authority said.

Currently the Upfield line is only used by suburban operator Metro, although it has been used by freight trains in the past.

City of Moreland chief executive Peter Brown said the council was aware of a Transport Department proposal to eventually expand the Upfield line from two tracks to four, but that there were no plans to use it for freight trains.

“All the information that council has had to date was that it wasn’t to be used as a freight train route and really we would have quite a lot of concern if it was going to be used for freight trains,” Mr Brown said. “You’re talking about trains that sometimes are up to 500 metres to a kilometre long, and you can imagine them rattling through our suburbs.”

Academic and rail consultant Bill Russell said adding freight rail to the Upfield line made sense, because it would provide a direct route to the freight and logistics hub at Somerton on Melbourne’s northern fringe.

“It would get a hell of a lot of trucks off the road into a corridor that would be reasonably suited,” Dr Russell said.

He said the line was historically a freight route and the Upfield rail corridor was wide enough to accommodate two extra tracks without acquiring private land in most places.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure said that as part of the development of east-west link, the department has advised Linking Melbourne Authority to provide protection for potential future rail.

“There are currently no proposals to run freight trains on the Upfield line,” she said.

The Napthine government released a long-term freight plan last year, but it made no reference to using the Upfield line for freight. Public Transport Victoria’s long-term rail plan proposes using the Upfield line for V/Line services from Seymour and Albury, instead of the Craigieburn line as they currently do.

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