'Rail over' solution for the Hove Level Crossing Removal
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We are calling on Mr Corey Wingard, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Member for Gibson to listen to the voices of Seaford Line commuters, and to retain the 'Rail Over' option as the final decision for the level crossing removal project at Brighton Rd, Hove.
tldr: Hove residents - opposing a rail bridge that may be 'harmful' towards the local Hove community when it's actually not as destructive as they describe it, while bringing disruptions to train services to everyone else using the line for 10+ months;
Our stance: Utilitarian argument - choosing an option that minimises impacts to rail commuters (the majority), while coming to a design that maximises the benefits for the local community
Local residents in the area have opposed to the option, since they believe that the rail bridge would cause destruction to the character of their local community. However, they have not considered the fact that building a rail underpass will cause months of disruption to commuters using the Seaford Line, especially for commuters in the outer southern suburbs. As a Seaford Line user myself, I do not want to see my service come to a halt for 10+ months, when there is a less disruptive option in store. Similar rail viaducts have been used as solutions in some of Melbourne's suburbs with a similar character as Hove. This includes the coastal suburb of Carrum, which houses a beach along the coast and a high street with shops in the centre of the suburb. These changes have been welcomed by both residents and local businesses, as there is improved access to the beach and enhanced amenities such as improved parking and new community spaces, demonstrating that the additional benefits the project brings to the community can overshadow the visual impacts of the rail bridge.
This shows that with designs suited to the local community, a rail bridge option would not destroy the character of Hove, and instead bring further benefits to the community. The rail bridge option also benefits rail commuters, since the existing rail tracks can be maintained with trains running while construction commences, saving us from months of disturbance to the service we use to travel to work and school. Under this option, rail closure would only occur for weeks, while the existing tracks are tied into the new alignment. To summarise, the following benefits can be achieved under the 'Rail Over' option:
- Minimal impact to rail commuters, as the rail line remains operational at most times during the course of construction;
- Minimal land acquisition, where only 5 properties are required to be acquired, compared to 46 in the 'Rail Under' option, according to official figures;
- Minimal impact on traffic movements, as access to local streets are retained and Brighton Rd remains to open during construction;
- Increased public realm opportunities, where local amenities, such as sporting facilities and playspaces can be built under the rail bridge;
- Improved landscaping, because landscaping works are limited in scope in the other options;
- Increased connectivity between the two sides of the rail corridor, where residents and visitors are free to move between either side of the corridor, under the rail bridge, something that cannot be achieved by the other options.
Concerns that are frequently raised:
But the Oaklands Crossing uses a rail underpass!
Even though the initial proposal of constructing a rail overpass was changed to an underpass with an aim of reducing social impact, the project was able to minimise disruptions to rail commuters because the rail corridor is wide enough to allow construction of the new rail alignment and the retention of existing rail operations concurrently. However, the width of the rail corridor near Hove Station does not allow this happen, causing relatively long periods of interruption to rail commuters, compared to building a rail bridge. Furthermore, the presence of groundwater beneath the surface in the area makes engineering solutions required to tackle the issue, adding significant costs to the project. This can be avoided by using the rail bridge option.
You're going to cut down our iconic pine trees!
This assumption cannot be made, as the government has yet to release final designs for both the 'Rail Over' and 'Rail Under' options. There is a possibility that the trees would be retained or relocated in either option.
The solution will cause environmental impacts to our community!
Suitable environmental measures are required to be taken during the project, as required by Section 25 of the Environmental Protection Act 1993. Proposals that fail to comply with the regulations need to be amended. Past projects following these guidelines have used measures such as noise mitigation measures, air quality control, stormwater management, water quality control and all relevant protection measures for trees. Mitigation measures will be in place regardless of the option chosen.
The solution will undermine the privacy of nearby residents!
Safety screening can and should be installed on the new rail bridge to eliminate views from the rail line into residential properties. Examples can be found in some of Melbourne’s level crossing removal projects, whenever the rail bridge is in proximity of residential housing.
The project will decrease property values!
Studies undertaken on similar projects in Melbourne have actually seen property values increase after the construction of a rail bridge. While rates differ between suburbs, this applies to most houses located within 1km away from the infrastructure. Results have also shown an increase in living quality and a decrease in train noise and crime in the surrounding area, after the construction of a rail bridge.
The solution will destroy the local character of my community!
Same was said about Melbourne's counterparts, but those comments soon vanished as additional community spaces and parkland were provided to the community as part of the project, including in 'historical' suburbs such as Coburg and Preston. The same outcomes can be achieved in this project with amenities that benefit the local Hove community.
This project is not needed in the first place!
According to official figures, the boom gates are already down 20% of the time during peak periods, and this will continue to increase as future demands of the rail line will justify increased train services in the coming years. This would further increase the period when boom gates are down in the coming future, increasing congestion in the surrounding road network. Pedestrian connectivity also pose an important reason why the level crossing should be grade separated, since the level crossing is surrounded by various schools and local amenities, which are currently dangerous to access due to the level crossing.
All in all, as long as the rail bridge is wisely designed to minimise impacts on rail and road commuters, while supporting the needs of the local community, we ask that you listen to us and go ahead with the ‘Rail Over’ solution for the Hove Level Crossing Removal project.
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