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Twenty-five homes and seven business premises will be demolished, but the wider Cheltenham community will get its wish not to have a new "sky rail" built in its midst when the Charman Road level crossing is abolished.
The Andrews government revealed its plans for the removal of three key crossings on the Frankston line on Monday, at Charman Road and Park Street in Cheltenham and Balcombe Road in Mentone.
The announcement ends months of speculation by residents that unpopular elevated rail would be built, but also means more people in the area will be forced to sell their properties.
The railway line will be put in a 1260-metre trench, passing below the road, at both sites, a more costly option that will also require significantly more property acquisition.
Previous investigations by the Level Crossing Removal Authority had found building a rail bridge over Charman Road would have required the acquisition of just eight homes and two business premises, though the bridge would have spanned 1650 metres across the heart of the bayside suburb.
A third level crossing at Park Street, just north of Charman Road on the other side of Cheltenham station, will also be removed as part of the project, even though it is not on the government's list of 50 to go.
An extended rail trench, about 1200 metres long, will be dug beneath Balcombe Road a few hundred metres south in Mentone.
The crossing causes serious peak-hour congestion. Boom gates are down for about 50 minutes in the morning peak.
There is no need to acquire property at this crossing, the government said.
Cheltenham and Mentone will both get new stations as part of the removal project.
Multi-level car parks up to four storeys high will be built at both sites so that there is no loss of commuter car parking.
The government is yet to unveil its plans for the removal of six more level crossings further along the Frankston line.
Community groups and local government in Melbourne's bayside have lobbied strongly against elevated rail along the Frankston line.
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said "extensive consultation" had helped shape the final designs at Mentone and Cheltenham.
Ms Allan said residents and property owners had been contacted on Sunday night and Monday mornings about the acquisitions.
"That is a difficult time and they need some time to work through the next steps about what that means for them," she said.
Work will begin on the removals in 2018, with the projects going out to tender next year.
When asked if lowering the line for the removals was more expensive than raising it, Ms Allan said cost was "just one consideration".
"It's all a costly exercise but when you consider the cost of not removing these level crossings that is much, much worse."
She said elevating the rail line would have reduced the number of properties that needed to be acquired.
Ms Allan declined to reveal whether further promised crossing removals on the Frankston line would result in sections of elevated rail, saying details would soon be released.
Level Crossing Removal Authority chief executive officer Kevin Devlin said the most disruptive work, known as a "major occupation", would begin after 2018.
A four-storey car park is set to be built at Mentone station, while a small park with trees and a heritage-listed building at the station are also expected to be retained.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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