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A controversial sky rail is announced by the Victorian Government in Melbourne's inner-east, in order to remove a notoriously congested level crossing next to the Monash Freeway.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the level crossing on Toorak Road in Malvern would be removed by building a 550-metre section of elevated track.
At its highest point, the railway will be 9 metres tall.
The intersection is used by 37,000 vehicles every day and Mr Andrews said it was one of Melbourne's most congested rail crossings, with boom gates down 35 per cent of the time during the morning peak.
With Labor planning more frequent train services, that percentage is expected to increase.
"This entire area comes to a standstill every morning and afternoon peak when the boom gates are down — that's why we're getting rid of them,'' Mr Andrews said.
Residents fear impact on lifestyle, property valueBut some local residents are worried about the impact of the huge infrastructure project on the value of their properties.
Chris Brownbill, whose property backs onto the train line, said she was trying to sell her home.
"The auction is the 23rd of February and we've had no notification," Ms Brownbill said.
"I don't think we'll be able to sell it.
"Interest at the moment even without the sky rail going through is very low, so this has just added another horrible [factor]."
Lorraine Adler said she and her husband Alan had lived in the area for 54 years and only found out about the sky rail plans when reporters knocked on their door.
They fear the elevated rail line will destroy their privacy and view.
"We haven't been informed or anything, it makes me feel very annoyed, it's a cheap political move," Ms Adler said.
"They could construct that underground. It would be a lot safer, it wouldn't destroy our neighbourhood. It will destroy our lifestyle."
The project is in traditionally safe Liberal heartland, represented at a state level by the Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien and federally by retiring Higgins MP Kelly O'Dwyer, who is the Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations.
Labor strategists said the project would serve as another reminder of the party's strong infrastructure agenda — something that helped it smash the Liberals last November — even in Higgins where the Liberals were once considered safe.
Strategists hope that at a local level, it may serve as a counterpoint to any fear campaign on asylum seekers launched at a national level.
The level crossing removal was part of the original 50, promised by Labor at the 2014 election, to be removed over eight years.
Sky rail needed to avoid interrupting water flowPreliminary planning works for the Toorak Road level crossing removal began last year.
Mr Andrews said a rail bridge, rather than a trench, would be built because it avoided the need to relocate services, including 9,000 telecommunication cables.
"That is the main telecommunications connection to the south-east and the east of the city. To relocate that amount of infrastructure would be an enormous cost and would mean a 12-month delay in terms of getting this level crossing gone,'' he said.
He said there would be no compulsory property acquisitions.
The Government also said lowering the line, which was understood to be preferred by locals, would interrupt the flow of floodwater into nearby Gardiners Creek.
It would also take a year longer to build, the Government said, and require road closures for several months.
Building an elevated track also minimised the need for bus replacements, the Government said.
Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien criticised the decision to build sky rail at Toorak Road.
"Labor's proposed Toorak Road level crossing removal should be done properly, with rail under road, instead of more of their ugly Sky Rail," Mr O'Brien said.
"Labor should also be removing the notorious Glenferrie Road level crossing — located just 835 metres from the Toorak Road project."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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