LXRA’s Merits Questioned

pakenham cranbourne skyrailAt the site of one of first level crossings to be removed, Daniel Andrews said. “This is the best engineering outcome.” Many people are now questioning the approach of the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) in its Sky Rail design.

A recent report stated that drivers are only shaving a minute off their average commute times. This may be the result of these routes attracting more traffic, because level crossings are removed.

Local protest groups like LOTI (Lower Our Tracks Incorporated) on the Dandenong Line and NSRFL (No Sky Rail on Frankston Line), have always questioned the engineering rationale for elevated rail. Unfortunately, the Government has supplied no details about how they compared the different engineering solutions to arrive at the Sky Rail decision. If Sky Rail is the best engineering outcome, the Government should supply the details to other engineers to prove Victoria did get the best option. So far none of the details having been supplied, and simple engineering questions by protest groups’ engineers have gone unanswered.

A report by the Victorian Auditor General released in December 2017, found that the Level Crossing Removal Project was unlikely to represent value for money for the State. The report criticised the LXRA for its haste in delivering the program, and found that the rapid pace of the project had contributed to a failure to properly assess the merits of each grade separation. The Auditor General stated that the value of the project was compromised by the apparent political motivation for some crossing removals, at the expense of more dangerous or congested intersections. The Auditor General stopped short of calling it “Pork Barrelling”.

In the Government’s haste to complete the Sky Rail section of the Dandenong line, over 1000 trees have been destroyed, some over 100 years old. In early 2017 a motion to delay Sky Rail, raised by Hon David Davis MP Victorian Legislative Council, was not supported by the GREENS, and the motion was lost. Now to hear the Auditor General’s criticism of the pace of the project, one questions the wisdom of the Green’s decision not to support the motion.

Moonee Valley Council looks likely to challenge the LXRA regarding elevated rail in Buckley Street Essendon, after spending $50,000 on a previous report in 2014, which recommended a rail under road solution costing $186 million.

Maintenance and upkeep still seems to be an issue, with the Government handing over $10 million to Councils on the Dandenong Line. One former Mayor was quoted as saying, “these funds will not last long”, so who will foot the bill then? And who will pay for the graffiti removal?

LOTI challenged the Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s right to proceed with Sky Rail on the Dandenong line, without consulting the residents. Justice Timothy Ginnane ruled that the Minister was “not required by law to undertake any consultation”.

With the rapidly approaching State Election in November, the resolve of angry residents appears not to have changed, and sitting members in marginal seats who supported Sky Rail, will have some anxious moments before the election.

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