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The Upfield railway line should be converted to "sky rail" from Parkville to Coburg to remove 12 level crossings in one hit, a Moreland councillor has said as part of a wider push for more elevated rail across the city.
The call, from Labor councillor and former mayor Lambros Tapinos, follows neighbouring Darebin Council's push last month to elevate part of the South Morang railway line in Preston and remove four level crossings.
"When you think of the benefits of having a big linear park under the sky rail, and having a brand new bike path with four lanes, there is significant benefit to having the rail line go up," he said.
Cr Tapinos' call will likely find support within Moreland Council as it works with the Andrews government on the removal of three crossings on the Upfield line, at Moreland Road and Bell Street in Coburg and Camp Road in Campbellfield.
Construction has not begun on any of these three and it is not decided if the Coburg level crossings will be removed by putting the road over or under the rail line.
The government's Level Crossing Removal Authority presented to Moreland councillors and staff in January, giving them an overview of the removals planned.
Cr Tapinos wants a long stretch of the rail line elevated to remove a dozen level crossings.
An image produced last year by RMIT students of what an elevated Coburg station could look like. Photo: suppliedHe said the Upfield line had a high concentration of level crossings through Brunswick and Coburg, and there was an opportunity to remove all of them.
The land beneath the rail line could be turned into open space and the busy Upfield bike path widened to four lanes, Cr Tapinos said.
The two-time former mayor of Moreland in Melbourne's north will put forward a motion for elevating the rail line at the next council meeting on June 14.
He said with land in Brunswick increasingly valuable and the suburb in need of more open space the government needed to think long-term. "If you take out the politics, it makes perfect sense."
The Andrews government's decision to elevate rail lines to remove nine level crossings on the Caulfield-to-Dandenong corridor has become a rallying point for political opponents and those living close to the rail line.
RMIT University urban design lecturer Ian Woodcock has advocated for sky rail to remove the need for Melbourne's level crossings. He said elevating the Upfield line made sense.
Some properties, including new apartments in the fast-growing suburb of Brunswick, would be affected by construction of a rail viaduct. But Dr Woodcock said many people would benefit.
"Brunswick doesn't have beautiful streets or big backyards, things a lot of people in other parts of Melbourne might take for granted, and still it's a very popular place to live because of its social, recreational, shopping amenities and its public transport," he said. "This [proposal] is a way of improving all of those things."
The government will remove the Camp Road crossing in Campbellfield by digging a rail trench but designs have not yet been selected for Bell Street or Moreland Road.
Boom gates at Bell Street and Moreland Road in Coburg are each down for more than 25 minutes in the two-hour morning peak, delaying the 57,000 drivers that use the two roads daily.
The level crossing authority's project director Michael Caink said only early planning had been done for the removal of Bell Street and Moreland Road level crossings in Coburg. "We're looking at all options for each site."
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan was asked if the state government would consider elevating the Upfield rail line to remove more level crossings than the three planned at present.
She did not respond to that question, saying instead: "Our priority is removing these dangerous crossings, and we will continue talking to locals about the best way to get this done."
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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