Badly informed or designed to mislead?
This week the Prime Minister announced a $1.5 billion funding package for small priority projects, including rail. Better Benalla Rail called on Council to investigate the possibility of accessing funds to ensure a satisfactory outcome for the redesign of Benalla railway station. An ARTC “spokesperson” was quick to claim this funding package “would not cover this type of work”.
An ARTC spokesperson told the Ensign this week: “Relocating the railway line would require significant works that far exceeds the scope and budget of the Inland Rail project. While it may appear to be a relatively straightforward solution, our investigations show that it would require complex track work, a major signalling upgrade, additional platform and pedestrian connecting and cost significantly (up to four to six times) greater than replacing or removing the existing overpass”.
Deconstructing the myths.
· “the scope of the project” – Code for how the ARTC aim to get freight through Benalla as cheaply as possible.
· “the budget” – Announced as ten million for Benalla by ARTC representatives at an early public meeting, ARTC last year claimed the Better Benalla Rail plan would cost $40 million and this year claim it could cost $60 million. Our requests for details remain unanswered.
· “straightforward solution” – 1.3 kilometres of new track in a straight line is the Better Benalla Rail proposal. With over 600 kilometres of new track being laid for the whole project an extra 1.3 kilometres is a minor undertaking.
· “major signalling upgrade” – Benalla residents, and railways staff, are well aware of the existing signalling faults and consequent disruptions. These faults need to be fixed whatever the stations final solution.
· “additional platform” – Benalla can, and sometimes does, operate with one platform only, simple “crossovers” permit this.
· “pedestrian connecting” - The Better Benalla Rail “Straight Through Solution” restores the station to the original open fronted design, less “connecting” is required.
If the ARTC insist that funding limitations are the reason we must accept their inferior station redesign, a giant Mt Benalla, they should support our efforts to gain additional funding.
This image was created to illustrate how access would be so much better and safer with the XPT line relocated. This is how the Station originally was designed. This would be the view from around the Victoria Hotel.
Better Benalla Rail's proposal.
“A rule of government is never look into anything you don’t have to, never start an enquiry unless you know what its findings will be.”
From the Yes Minister episode “The Whiskey Priest,” December 16, 1982.
Expect to see Australian Rail Track Corporation ads in local papers soon as their Public Relations team move to establish a Benalla Rail Working Group. Similar to the group established in Euroa last year, the ARTC will be calling for nominations from Benalla people with an interest in rail.
Better Benalla Rail Newsletter has been sent to everyone who has provided us an email address on one of our Conversation Cards. If you would like a copy sent to you please go to the "Your opinion" tab and leave your email address.
The BBR response to the ARTC submission to State Government Minister Richard Wynne is well underway. We are preparing a detailed statement highlighting the many discrepencies and omissions in the ARTC document.
ARTC representatives have been spotted at Benalla Station this week. We also expect them to be talking to Benalla Council. Stay tuned.
Better Benalla Rail asks people to complete a "Conversation Card" (See Your Opinion). Some comments from the cards are below, the same themes emerge continually.
"The tunnel walk under the rail line nearly always has a light not working. No one claims responsibility. A larger overpass would completely destroy the station area. It needs to be user friendly". Benalla resident.
"No overpass, rail line moved to open up the station for easy access for everyone". Benalla resident.
"Preservation of heritage building. Better pedestrian access for walking stick dependents. Bus turning is dangerous." Benalla resident.
"More car parking space, not less. Access to car park from McKeller Street, like it originally was". Benalla resident.
"A functional and aesthicically pleasing environment with easy parking off street". Benalla resident.
"Benalla Railway is a vital part of human access to public transport. I do not want the much needed passenger access removed, hindered or down graded in any way. Actually passenger access NEEDS TO BE INCREASED. I am disgusted that freight and further infrastructure to increase freight, takes priority over passengers. The VERY PEOPLE, THE TAXPAYERS, who once again are being denied" Benalla resident.
"Easier access not added difficulties for pedestrians as well as cars" Benalla resident.
It has been reported that a professional report on the "access tunnel" has been undertaken this week. We will see if the people of Benalla can be permitted to read it when completed. It is understood this was the result of Benalla residents meeting with the Human Rights Commission and respresentatives of V/Line and VicTrack to discuss serious concerns about station access for disabled people.
The disabled entrance from the station platform was protected from turning buses by two steel posts. Both have been demolished. There is now nothing to stop a bus reversing onto the disabled access ramp.
It is reported that it was possible to see the snow on the mountains from the top of the tower. A splendid dining room below was also lost when this was all demolished to make way for a car park. Some have suggested there was a clock in the tower, but this is probably not the case. This photograph by John Collins taken in 1973 shows a circular area, which may have been mistaken as a clock. From the files of the State Library of Victoria.
There are real dangers that current ARTC plans for Benalla Station will make the station even less user friendly.
Badaginnie Railway Station was first opened in 1882, and remained open for passengers until July 1978. The station building and goods shed were constructed in 1908. The original goods shed was demolished in the 1960’s when the standard gauge line was installed. The photograph shows the station in 1905, with several wooden buildings. Two figures appear to be sitting on the platform.
Benalla railway station opened on 18 August 1873, as the temporary terminus of the line from Violet Town, before the line was extended to Wangaratta on 28 October 1873.
The site of the station was a controversial decision at the time, guided by the 1870 flood of the Broken River to the south that engulfed the town. The railway line opened on 18 August 1873, but only temporary facilities were provided. The first permanent building was provided in 1874, of identical design to that at Seymour. It was extended in 1888, including dining and refreshment room facilities and administrative offices, all topped by a large tower, all of which were demolished by late 1974.
The bridge over the Broken River, of iron plate-girder construction, was the longest metal girder bridge in Australia at the time of construction, totalling 241.7 meters. Listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, it was the second bridge of its type built in Victoria, and the first metal railway bridge both designed and fabricated within the colony.
In 1913, Benalla gained a second and third platform, these being a wide island platform, with a cantilevered verandah, located to the west of the main station building. The platforms were linked by an iron footbridge, which was provided in 1888, and was located across the station yard. The island platform was removed in 1937, leaving the main platform only. Two signal boxes were built in 1888, both being extended in 1914. Only the signal box at the Up end remains today, but is unused.
"The Office of the Victorian Government Architect (OVGA) is a leader in enhancing the quality of built environments in Victoria.
OVGA provides leadership and strategic advice to government about architecture and urban design and promotes an awareness about how good design can make great living places and urban environments."
Ringwood Station redesign illustrates how pedestrians and traffic can co-exist and provide safe access to platforms.