The Sunbury Line, a suburban railway line in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, is being upgraded to improve the capacity and frequency of services.
The upgrade project will prepare the Sunbury Line to accommodate more modern trains upon the completion of the Metro Tunnel project in 2025. The Metro Tunnel project involves the development of a new end-to-end railway line connecting Sunbury in the west to the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines in the south.
The Sunbury Line is being upgraded by Rail Projects Victoria, a government agency that is also implementing the Metro Tunnel project. The upgrade will involve an investment of A$2.1bn ($1.56bn).
The project assumes significance as the ridership of the line is rapidly rising while the existing capacity is expected to be under stress as the passenger demand is projected to increase in a decade. It will deliver significant improvements to the rail line between Sunbury and Footscray.
Construction on the project was started in 2019 while the upgraded line is expected to be ready for operations by the end of 2023.
Sunbury Line upgrade details
The upgrade works involve removing the level crossing on the Gap Road in Sunbury, a major traffic bottleneck, and traction power enhancements on the route between Sunbury and the Metro Tunnel entrance near South Kensington station.
Furthermore, the project will extend the platforms between Sunbury and Footscray, equip eight stations with wheelchair boarding platforms to improve accessibility, and upgrade the train stabling facilities at Calder Park, Sunbury, and Watergardens.
The Metro Tunnel will add 65 new high-capacity metro trains (HCMT) that will operate between Cranbourne and Sunbury from 2025. The high-capacity trains will increase the passenger handling capacity of the Sunbury line by 113,000 passengers a week during peak hours.
Removal of the Gap Road level crossing began in July 2021, with work to relocate underground utilities in preparation for the commencement of major construction on a new road underpass by the end of 2021. Work to be delivered as part of the level crossing removal will include the construction of a new rail bridge and a road underpass on Gap Road/Station Street, while new shared paths will also be created to ensure the safe movement of cyclists and pedestrians.
Construction work at the Watergardens station includes the extension of platforms to accommodate longer trains. The installation of three elevators and extension of the concourse at the station to improve station access were completed by August 2021.
A new substation is planned to be built near the train line at the corner of Willaton and Bent streets in St Albans. Construction on the substation is expected to begin in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021, for scheduled completion in 2022.
Other works include the installation of signalling, communications, and power infrastructure, platform upgrades at the Sunshine, Middle Footscray, and West Footscray stations, and improvements to the power infrastructure at the Tottenham substation.
Additionally, the overhead power line infrastructure at the Metro Tunnel’s western entrance will be upgraded.
Benefits of Sunbury Line upgrade
The Sunbury Line upgrade will provide direct access to the Arden, Parkville, Town Hall, State Library, and Anzac underground stations being built under the Metro Tunnel project. It will improve the connectivity between the city’s north-west region and the centres of employment and education.
The removal of the Gap Road level crossing is expected to reduce congestion in the busy town centre. The road-under-rail design will help preserve the character of the heritage-listed Sunbury station.
Contractors involved in Sunbury Line upgrade
Rail Infrastructure Alliance, a consortium comprising John Holland, CPB Contractors, AECOM, and Metro Trains Melbourne, received an A$215m ($145.4m) contract for the first package of works for the Sunbury Line upgrade. The contract includes platform extension works and accessibility improvements at stations, as well as the construction of additional stabling facilities at stations along the Sunbury Line.
The second package of work worth A$534m ($398m) was also awarded to Rail Infrastructure Alliance. The stage two works will include between Sunbury and South Kensington, and at South Yarra. In addition, the alliance will perform signalling power upgrades.