Sadly as a nerdy Town Planner, this makes me a connoisseur of built form in all its shapes and form and as such I’ve watched with eager anticipation the roll out of many level crossing projects.
This anticipation is based on the long term benefits, if designed right, such level crossings can achieve. However, as a consultant town planner I’ve been professionally involved with projects which have been decimated or completely altered on the basis the changes brought on by level crossings.
For example, where sites previously had access to a road are now at a grade which is completely separated from the street. Previously, a site may have been afforded a frontage to a street whilst after the level crossing the same site has a view to an embankment forming part of a bridge.
In my experience with the level crossing authority is one whereby it is apparent that the project managers have a synthesized approach to dealing with stakeholders whilst simultaneously having to address the complexity of the physical and political settings as well as the bureaucracy associated with an operational rail network during construction.
As such, due to the complex nature of these projects has seen a dichotomy of winners and losers when it comes to stakeholders whom are either adjacent or within close proximity to such level crossings.
Having said that I thought that I would give a critique of a sample of level crossings which have been completed. The three are on
- Main Road in St Albans ( the good),
- Buckley Street Essendon (the bad)
- and Kororoit Creek Road in Williamstown (the yes minister).
When assessing these level crossings, the criteria are not scientific, however, are based on qualitative measures with rather what I think are important and like anything else, and like a lot of things in urban design the assessment is subjective and contextual. I would love your feedback in the comments section on your local level crossing project if not on the ones that I am commenting on.
Main Road St Albans (“Poster Child”)
Prior to the grade separation, the junction which formed the level crossing had approximately six intersecting roads which created a quagmire of traffic jams during peak hour . The great outcome with this level crossing, is that if you were to go there now for the first time, you would not even recognize that there even was a level crossing. The outcome whereby the street level activity remains largely intact with improved pedestrian and traffic flows in and around makes for easy navigation and legibility. Having said that, the fact the level crossing achieved such a great result has little to do with it being in Bill Shorten’s electorate and more to do with the advocacy of Brimbank Council’s Urban design team and the former level crossing authority.
Buckley Street Essendon (“The black hole”)
The one thing I do know about this junction is that if you do go there, a bit like a black hole, is that you don’t know where you will end up after you finish. So much so that my GPS tracker had a meltdown and required me to return it to my local retailer. All I do say, is if you go there for the first time, pack a lunch, as it will probably take the best part of 3 hours to work out were the bloody hell you are. Sadly, the access to many shops, churches and other buildings fronting Buckley Street have been decimated whilst trying to get to these destinations requires a degree in geography.
Kororoit Creek Level Crossing (The yes minister)
I could imagine this one. A couple of bureaucrats sipping their inner city latte’s discussing with their Transport Minster with the white board out as to how in the hell they are going to deliver their Minister’s election promise of 14,000 level crossings completed before the next state election. The conversation would have gone something like this:
Minister: We have to get 14,000 level crossings completed by the next state election;
Bureaucrat: Yes Minister
Minister: and I did notice in your brief, that you have included Kororoit Creek Road level crossing to be done. There’s hardly any need for this one to be done.
Bureaucrat: You did say you wanted 14,000 level crossings completed by 2025