Better Benalla Rail

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LET'S GET IT RIGHT


 
SUBMISSION ON LATEST ARTC PLANS FOR BENALLA STATION
 
Better Benalla Rail welcomes the inclusion of a pedestrian underpass connection from the north to Benalla Station in the latest ARTC concept plans. This is a positive outcome in response to community feedback and consultation.
 
However, the concept plans and the limited available information do not fully allay all concerns expressed by the community.  While realising the current plans are concept only, a range of issues have either been omitted or not yet considered.  We include a summary of issues for consideration in the next design phase, informed by previous community feedback obtained by the ARTC, and augmented with our own in-depth considerations and consultation within the community.
 
In essence, the Benalla community has consistently sought an outcome providing safe and accessible access for all, within a design sympathetic to the historic nature of the building and a plan for the total precinct area.
 
Better Benalla Rail continues to offer collaborative assistance as plans develop and believes a seat at the design table will facilitate an outcome which will “Get it right”.
 
FROM THE ARTC – INLAND RAIL WEBSITE


"We are working to confirm an option and share the feedback we receive about the pedestrian underpass and overpass with the community. We are continuing to progress designs and look forward to sharing the next stage of design in early 2023 as well as having more conversations with the community that will help us achieve the best possible outcome for Benalla.
We are always listening and you can continue to share your views by calling into our shopfront at 53 Carrier Street, Benalla, Wednesdays 10am-2pm or contacting us on 1800 732 761."


You can visit the ARTC site and see the drawings and animation by clicking this link:        https://inlandrail.artc.com.au
 
ISSUES FOR CONSIDERATION – BENALLA STATION
 
1.    Benalla seeks a “whole of precinct” design that makes the station attractive and welcoming to visitors to our city and a source of pride for the community, and values and enhances the historic 1874 station building.
2.    Disabled access that fully complies with Aust Std 1428.  This includes no steps, no lengthy sloping walk and parking on level ground.
3.    Direct access to the station entrance and both platforms for all emergency service vehicles.
4.    A passenger drop off and pick up point at the station entrance and a taxi rank area. Adequate bus access to alight near the station entrance.
5.    If the underpass option is adopted, then it needs to be designed and located so as not to obstruct or dominate the station entrance.
6.    If the overbridge option is adopted the design needs to provide personal safety, protection from the weather and be sympathetic to the station building.
7.    A passenger shelter on the new platform should include protection from the weather and toilet facilities.
8.    Opportunity exists to create much needed parking.  At the present there are only 38 parks[DB1] [dm2] [dm3] , 60 would be a more realistic minimum.
9.    Landscaping that requires a high level of maintenance should be avoided.
10.If the proposed underpass option is adopted, then additional car parking area can be gained by building the pedestrian entrance ramps on the Melbourne side (i.e., a mirror image of what is proposed in the plans).   Alternatively, the underpass could be built at the Wangaratta end of the station.
11.A design providing safe access to the station precinct from Carrier St. must satisfy current road safety provisions.  The station precinct successfully operated this way from 1874 - 1962[DB4] .
12.The design must avoid creating conflicts and congestion at the front of the station entrance, especially for the safety of pedestrians.  To facilitate this the bus route would be best designed to avoid going past the front of the station entrance.  It would be desirable if other vehicles could directly access the car park without also having to travel past the front of the station entrance.  Direct vehicle access to the station entrance could be reserved for access to disabled parking, drop off & pick up only (no stay time), and taxis. 
13.Underpass entrances to be constructed above the 1993 flood level to avoid potential future flooding.
14.Lowering the track bed and the line height at platform one to enable passenger trains to properly align with the platform so passengers will not have to negotiate the excessive gap that currently exists.  This requirement should also apply to the new second platform.
15.Is it ideal having long and double stacked container trains traveling alongside passenger platforms?  Would it be better to construct dedicated lines in the centre of the railway yard for freight trains?
16.There is a 2m height difference between the station building entrance and McKellar St. road level[DB5] .  How will this be resolved in the new precinct design?
17.Will the line switching location for the Oaklands Line continue to remain where it, is or will it be moved so that it is past and clear of the proposed new 2nd platform? [DB6]  This would allow the 2nd platform to be more easily accessible, especially from the northern side.
18. The signal box should be included as part of the precinct design. Restoration, repurposing, and possible relocation to be considered.
19.Some operational issues should be resolved to enable a better overall precinct design, specifically the resolution of the Oaklands track which will inform the requirement for a second platform[DB7] .
20.In the long term the connection of the NE Rail line with the Melbourne Airport Rail at Sunshine station must be resolved[DB8] .
 
Better Benalla Rail June 2022
 
https://www.betterbenallarail.com/home
 
 
The web address for the ARTC page is below.
 
https://inlandrail.artc.com.au
 
 
 

MEETING WITH MINISTER ALLAN SOUGHT

 
Hon. Jacinta Allan MP                                                                                                               Tuesday 22nd February 2022
Minister for Transport Infrastructure

 
Dear Minister Allan,
 
                                                Benalla Station Precinct Design
 
The Australian Rail Track Corporation announced proposed changes to the Benalla Station precinct for the Inland Rail Project in 2019 prompting the establishment of community group Better Benalla Rail.
 
BBR successfully fought against these plans on behalf of Benalla rail commuters and the wider community resulting in the ARTC announcing in October 2021 that a small section of railway track would be relocated, and a second platform built. The abandonment of the universally unpopular “big Benalla bridge” proposed by the ARTC, and the adoption of the community conceived “straight through solution” was greeted with great relief locally.
 
The major community concern now is to obtain a Station Precinct design that meets the needs of all users. We believe the ARTC has the skills necessary to design the rail and signal components of the precinct, but not the commuter and community requirements. We ask you to establish a working group to facilitate the design development for Benalla Station precinct. This group should include the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, ARTC, VicTrack, DoT, and local Council and community representation.
 
We ask you to meet with us to enable a fuller outline of the issues we consider vital. We have attempted to arrange a meeting with our local Member of the Upper House, Jaclyn Symes MLC, but have had no response to or acknowledgement of our many communications with her. Our group is apolitical and enjoys a membership embracing a wide cross section of political allegiances. Our data base and social media presence enables communication with a significant proportion of the community, who follow events closely.
 
Having been devastated by previous changes to our station, the community is anxious for a design that provides an outcome that city stations would demand and expect. We believe country stations deserve no less.
 
Yours faithfully,

Suzie Pearce                                                                            Copies to:                                           
Chair, Better Benalla Rail
                                                                                                Premier, Daniel Andrews MP
                                                                                                Jaclyn Symes MLC, Attorney-General
                                                                                                Ben Carroll MP, Minister for Transport
                                                                                                Cr Bernie Hearn, Mayor Benalla Rural City

 

Appendix 1


 
Benalla Station Precinct Design Criteria
 
The complexities involved in meeting the needs of commuters of all ages, including those with disabilities, and the operational requirements of a functioning railway station precinct requires skilled design input from experienced architects. The merging of multiple vehicle requirements – bus, coach, taxi and car movement and parking - with the needs of safe pedestrian access must fit within an existing heritage building framework. This historic precinct must be preserved and enhanced by any design proposals.
 
Design Criteria to include
 
·      Safety requirements of all users to be paramount.
·      Easy access for all, particularly the disabled, all meeting Australian Design Standards.
·      Safe operational facilities for coach, bus, and taxi operators.
·      Adequate and safe parking for commuter vehicles and emergency vehicle access.
·      Maintenance and enhancement of the Historic character of buildings.
·      Development of an attractive precinct with appropriate landscaping.


 
ISSUES RELATING TO THE DESIGN AND SAFE OPERATION OF BENALLA STATION PRECINCT
 
1.The first concept plans for the Benalla precinct drawn by the ARTC show no pedestrian access to either the main platform or proposed second platform from the north except by a lengthy circular detour using the Midland Highway rail crossing. They show only a new pedestrian underpass or pedestrian overpass from the south. This oversight needs to be addressed especially now that it is also known the Oaklands Line will be upgraded and a section of track on the northern side of Benalla precinct relocated.
 
2. Whilst ARTC leases all NE rail tracks including the Oaklands Line, the land and buildings at Benalla Station precinct are owned by the State Government and managed by DoT and VicTrack.  VLine's NE services between Melbourne and Albury/Wodonga use the ARTC leased tracks, as does the interstate Sydney/Melbourne XPT service. 
 
3. Long standing problems with the NE Line were clearly summarised by Infrastructure Australia (Project business case evaluation summary: North East Rail Line Upgrade 3 December 2019). It made clear that the NE Line has not been part of the Victorian Regional Fast Rail Program or Regional Rail Revival program that is a joint venture with the Federal Government, to the disadvantage of all north-east communities. It is still not.
 
4. Infrastructure Victoria's latest report presented to Parliament in November 2021 only refers to NE Line Upgrade works. Importantly, the NE Line is not planned to connect with the newly prioritised NE Link to the airport. This is unfortunate because current news items report the possibility that regional Victoria will host the 2026 Commonwealth games, with events to be held in the North East. This international event could showcase Inland Rail works that benefit both freight and passenger needs, however improved passenger services and an international airport link is vital.
 
5. A whole of precinct plan for Benalla should be created for incremental achievement that will enable additional passenger services and other development opportunities for the foreseeable future.
 
 
 
Better Benalla Rail                                                                                                     February 2022
           

Better Benalla Rail seeks meeting.

EMAIL TO JACLYN SYMES
 
“Hon Jaclyn Symes MLC


Dear Jaclyn,


Alana Johnson, representing Better Benalla Rail (BBR), has written twice and telephoned your office asking for assistance from you and seeking a meeting regarding matters concerning proposed works at the Benalla railway precinct in conjunction with the Inland rail Project.


As Chair, Better Benalla Rail, I am now also asking for a firm meeting date and time to discuss the matters outlined in Alana's communications.


BBR is contacting you in particular because you are Representative for Northern Victoria Region, your previous portfolio, Benalla upbringing and family association with the Benalla Railway precinct.


Of all Victorian Labor politicians, you are best placed to understand the need to 'get it right' regarding any future works undertaken at the Benalla Railway precinct.


I look forward to hearing from you and meeting with you.


Regards,
Suzie Pearce,
Chair, Better Benalla Rail. February 2022”

BYE BYE BIG BENALLA BRIDGE!


 
Time to take a break and celebrate! After much hard work and support from the community and politicians Benalla has achieved its goal, the “straight through track solution” has been adopted and the “BIG BENALLA BRIDGE” will not be built. Hooray!
 
The outcome is a double victory because our poorly operating and unsafe station precinct will be redesigned. This is a wonderful outcome, and BBR is now working to ensure that the needs of all users are addressed.
 
Looking forward to 2022 – the Station Precinct design.
 
The State Government has been approached to establish a design team capable of creating a concept meeting the needs of all users and achieving an outcome “we can all be proud of”.
 
BBR is requesting the State Government to provide the services of the Office of the Victorian Government Architect to work with the ARTC to prepare plans that will 'future proof' the whole Benalla Station precinct.
 
We contend that this combination of skills will ensure that the technical and operational requirements of the ARTC’s freight ambitions are achieved, and the precinct meets all expectations of safety, function, and aesthetics for passengers and the Benalla community.
 
The special historic nature of Benalla's few remaining station buildings requires careful consideration in any design outcome. Inclusion of existing historical remnants, including the Goods Shed and Signal Box must form part of the plan.
 
We propose the design incorporates an area bounded by the Nunn Street crossing and Barkly Street on one side, and Railway Parade and Hannah Street on the other. (See Appendix A)
 
A staged plan will allow work to progress as funding for various stages is obtained. Restoration of the goods shed and signal box would form part of the long-term objectives of a design proposal.
 
Summary
 
Design of the Benalla station precinct must be created by a team of experienced professionals from the Office of the Victorian Government Architect working with ARTC infrastructure professionals experienced in track and signalling requirements.
 

North East commuters face increased travel times…

North East commuters face increased travel times, Member for Indi Helen Haines contacts Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allen.

 

"The Hon. Jacinta Allan MP.      

Minister for Transport Infrastructure

Level 20, 1 Spring Street MELBOURNE VIC 3000

Dear Minister Allan,              

Re: Standard Gauge Platform at Sunshine Station

I am writing to request that the Victorian Government incorporates a standard gauge platform into the design of the new Sunshine Station. 

Trains from the North East Rail Line are currently unable to stop at Sunshine Station because it has no platforms suited to standard gauge trains.

This presents three problems for passengers from the North East.

First, when the Airport Rail link is established, passengers from the North East will have to go all the way into Southern Cross station or catch a bus from Broadmeadows, instead of simply being able to simply change at Sunshine.

Second, when the Melbourne Metro tunnel opens, if passengers want to connect to services along the Dandenong, Pakenham or Cranbourne lines, they will need to catch a connecting service in the city, rather than simply being able to change at Sunshine Station.

Thirdly, a standard gauge platform at Sunshine Station would allow passengers from the North East to connect directly from Sunshine to other regional services to cities like Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. With no Sunshine connection, passengers will continue to have to go all the way to Southern Cross to change.

Each of these scenarios adds substantially to journey times for passengers in the North East. 

It would be simply unacceptable for the Victorian Government to spend so many billions of dollars to upgrade the metropolitan rail network, only to exclude hundreds of thousands of Victorians in the North East from benefitting from those upgrades.

We know that there is space for a standard gauge platform at Sunshine Station because up until recent decades, there was one. Past Victorian Government let it fall into disrepair and eventually removed it. Re-instating the standard gauge platform, and properly reconnecting North East Victorians into the state rail network would be a proud legacy for your Government.

I will be advocating publicly on this issue and I look forward to working with you to make it a reality. 

Yours faithfully,

Dr Helen Haines

Independant Federal Member for Indi

1 November 2021"

Benalla Station - A better design approach

Better Benalla Rail Design Team Proposal for Benalla Station
 
 
BBR believes that the Benalla Station Precinct requires a design team with the relevant skills to achieve the best precinct outcome for Benalla. One that incorporates both 'inter and intra state' freight needs with those of passengers and the wider community.
 
Infrastructure works at Benalla Station should be based on the same level of design expertise as Melbourne stations especially now that ARTC has entered a new partnership with DOT and VicTrack. 
 
BBR is requesting that the State Government provide the services of the Office of the Victorian Government Architect to work with ARTC to prepare plans that will 'future proof' the whole Benalla Station precinct.
 
We contend that a combination of skills will ensure that the technical and operational requirements of the ARTC’s freight ambitions are achieved, and the precinct meets all expectations of safety, function and aesthetics for all rail passengers and the wider community.
 
The special historic nature of Benalla's few remaining station buildings requires careful consideration in any design outcome. Inclusion of existing historical rail remnants must form part of the plan.
 
·      The Goodshed, Signal Box and remains of the 'turntable’ are all that define Benalla's extensive rail history. There are many photographs.
 
We suggest the design incorporates an area bounded by Nunn Street crossing and Barkly Street on one side, Railway Parade and Hannah Street on the other (see Appendix A) and identified in the AECOM design criteria.
 
A staged plan will allow work to progress as funding for various stages is obtained. Restoration of the goods shed and signal box would form part of the long-term objectives of a design proposal.
 
This project offers the chance to 'future proof' freight and achieve passenger rail and City of Benalla aspirations. It is exciting for everyone.
 
Conclusion
 
Design of the Benalla station precinct must be created by a team of experienced professionals from the Office of the Victorian Government Architect working with ARTC infrastructure professionals experienced in track and signalling requirements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

ARTC PLANS AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT

 The ARTC have released sketch plans of three alternatives for Benalla Station. 

BETTER BENALLA RAIL ISSUES WITH ARTC PROPOSALS 

When replying to the ARTC survey keep these points in mind. 

 

Access to the station from the north side of town will require pedestrians to walk across the Nunn Street railway crossing which will carry many more trains. NO underpass access is proposed. 


Reject the “Big Benalla Bridge” proposal. This option includes retaining the current XPT track and platform and solves none of the long-standing vehicle and passenger access problems. It should no longer be included for discussion having been rejected overwhelmingly by the community. 


Benalla’s historic station requires a sympathetic design by experienced architects. The modern planning style of ARTC proposals do not fit with the heritage look of our station precinct. The Office of the Victorian Government Architect has extensive station design experience and needs to be involved in the precinct planning. 


If the State Government deems a second platform a requirement it can be included in the design as part of a staged development for future need.Station staff advise that there is currently no requirement for a second platform for the station to function effectively. The new Wodonga station has only one platform.

 
To avoid steps, people with prams, walking frames, wheelchairs or a physical impediment will need to enter the station at the same entrance as vehicles and walk an extra 200meters to reach the second platform.  

 

THIS ARTC WEBSITE HAS ANIMATIONS OF THEIR CURRENT PLANS.  https://inlandrail.artc.com.au/where-we-go/projects/tottenham-to-albury/regions/north-east-victoria/ 

 

THIS ARTC WEBSITE PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT. 

https://maps.inlandrail.com.au/t2astage1#/sidebar/tab/benalla_designs_feedback_form

 

PLEASE VIEW THE VIDEOS AND POST YOUR OPINIONS. 

 
The Inland Rail project must not impose a new big bridge or an unnecessary second platform at the cost of SAFETY, ACCESS and AMENITY for all passengers, CONNECTIVITY for people living north of the rail track and the HERITAGE value of our station. 

BETTER BENALLA RAIL SEPTEMBER 2021 

 

 

Senate Enquiry Melbourne April 22nd

Our representatives at the Senate Enquiry, Suzie Pearce (left) Better Benalla Rail, and Kate Auty Euroa Connect presented the case on behalf of the North East Rail Alliance.

Hansard proof record of Senate Enquiry

Chair is Senator Glenn Sterle

Mark Campbell CEO of ARTC - Thursday 22nd April in Melbourne
 
CHAIR:  While we're all on a high—things are starting to turn around and things are starting to look a bit more consultative, which is a good thing—let's come back to Benalla. Why can't they have their 1.3-kilometre alternative route? Can they?
Mr Campbell:  The original reference design in Benalla was to raise the height of the bridge that currently goes over onto the platform. The community gave feedback, over a significant amount of time, that they didn't see that as the best solution. Again, long story short, when I visited in February I met members of the Benalla Working Group, the mayor and other representatives. I was shown, like you heard earlier the Deputy Prime Minister was shown, an alternative, which was more of a precinct development, that would help the whole precinct work better. It's a better solution.
CHAIR:  So I don't get confused, is this the 1.3-kilometre alternative route?
Mr Campbell:  Yes. This is, effectively, a solution to move one of the tracks to the other side of the platform, therefore allowing better connectivity. If you go with that solution, you don't need to replace the bridge. The bridge can just go, and the trains can go through. You therefore create a different and an improved precinct area, because you can basically get access to the platforms without having to go up and over a bridge. It's hard without a diagram. Long story short, from a judgement perspective, it's a better solution. The issue we're working through at the moment with the community is exactly what the solution looks like, because it is better. Once we've done that, then we can try and understand what the additional cost will be and have various conversations with various stakeholders, including the government, to try and work through, if it is an additional cost, how we might accommodate that in the project. Both replacing the original bridge and the Benalla precinct redevelopment by moving the tracks are under consideration at the moment.
CHAIR:  So the Benalla crew here today—there you all are—is that music to your ears?
Members of the audience interjecting—
CHAIR:  I love a happy ending.

STATION RALLY SUCCESS

BETTER BENALLA RAIL'S station rally on Friday 19th March was a great success. An impressive turnout representing a wide cross section of the community was on hand to welcome the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and to support our proposals for a better station outcome.

Welcomed by Mayor Danny Claridge and BBR Chair Suzie Pearce, the Deputy PM was thoroughly briefed on existing problems and concerns the community has with current ARTC proposals. The BBR alternative "straight through solution" was outlined.

The visit was facilitated by Member for Indi Helen Haines MP, and also attended by Steph Ryan MLA and Senator Bridget McKenzie.

 

Better Benalla Rail presentation to the Deputy Prime Minister
 
 
Thank you for visiting North East Victoria Mr Deputy Prime Minister, Senator Mackenzie and Steph Ryan, to see and hear for yourselves how the Inland Rail Project will impact our local towns.  Thank you, Dr. Helen Haines, for inviting everyone to come on our behalf.
 
Deputy Prime Minister, I can speak for the community and for our Council when I say Benalla is looking to the future. We support your vision for the Inland Rail Project and we believe this can be achieved in a way which benefits both freight handling and the Benalla commuters and community.

The Inland Rail project provides an opportunity to fix the long-term problems at Benalla Station that have existed since the installation of the XPT line and the current overpass in 1967 … and in a way that benefits both freight and passenger needs.

As Phil Rees has pointed out to you, the obvious and most simple solution is to relocate 1.3km of the standard gauge XPT line from one side of the Benalla station to the other. This will allow both lines to be on west side of station. Details have been worked through and are available to you but suffice to say this “straight through solution” will be faster, quieter, more efficient and cost effective,

The relocation of the line will enable direct vehicle and pedestrian access to the station as was the original 1873 design. It will negate the need for a new overpass, allow for demolition of the existing overpass and solve the flood problems that it causes.

This will increase available car parking, allow taxi facilities and resolve the parking and turning problems of up to 40 coaches per day as is shown on the video.

It will also allow for the demolition of the flood prone, unsafe pedestrian underpass that creates access problems for most people but especially young families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Reclaiming and landscaping the XPT line area will provide a sound barrier and enable creation of an attractive and functional station precinct to cater for increased tourist and commuter travel into the future.  

Importantly, it will enable freight trains to travel on a dedicated freight line straight through Benalla rather than use the existing loop and be quicker, safer and quieter. Freight handling and shunting efficiencies and greatly reduced level crossing delays are additional benefits.

The plan will also allow the main platform at Benalla Station to be used by all passenger trains whether traveling north or south because there is no conflict caused by timetabling, no new platform would be required.

The Better Benalla Rail group has already presented this community solution plan to Senator Mackenzie, to our local state member Steph Ryan, to Dr. Helen Haines and to Senator Jane Hume. It has also been discussed with Benalla Council, the local Liberal Party and Labor Party, Union Reps, Rotary, Probus groups and the CWA plus many hundreds in the wider community through the webpage, Facebook, the shop front and the local media.
 
We are united as a community to work to achieve this better local solution. Now that you have visited the Benalla Station precinct, we hope you see the logic and merit of our proposal.  
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.   We have a package of details and diagrams of the local solution for you to take away with you.
 
 
 
Speech by Suzie Pearce, Chair Better Benalla Rail to the Deputy PM.
 
March 19th 2021
 
 
 
 

 

 

NORTH EAST RAIL ALLIANCE

RAIL ALLIANCE HOLDS HISTORIC BENALLA MEETING
 
 
Action to secure better outcomes for the Station precincts of Euroa, Benalla, Glenrowan and Wangaratta will increase in the near future. This week in Parliament Member for Indi Helen Haines asked a question of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and made a statement on the issue the following day.
 
It is understood the Deputy PM will visit some of the locations in the near future, at the invitation of Helen Haines. Local opposition to ARTC plans for the stations continues to grow, and this week’s historic meeting of the NORTH EAST RAIL ALLIANCE considered strategies to highlight the concerns of residents and commuters.
 
The North East Rail Alliance was formed late last year via Zoom and met in Benalla Thursday evening for the first-time face to face. Comprising representatives of local rail action groups - Euroa Connects, Better Benalla Rail, Glenrowan Improvers and Wangaratta Rail Action Group, the meeting was hosted by Better Benalla Rail at the Pop-Up shop in Nunn St. and chaired by Alana Johnson. 

By invitation local government Councillors attended from Wangaratta, Benalla and Strathbogie to further develop working relationships to achieve a “Better Local Solution”. Mayors of Strathbogie and Benalla attended as did the Dep. Mayor of Wangaratta plus Cr. O'Brien of Benalla and Cr. Hayes-Burke of Strathbogie. 


                                  The purpose and aims of the NE Rail Alliance. 

*          To have a stronger and unified voice about the impact of the Inland Rail project on our local communities and station precincts.
*          To garner the support of each Council to achieve better local solutions for each town and station precinct. 
*          For Councils and State and Federal Governments to embrace the opportunity and synergy the inland rail project can provide for our towns.  
*          To provide our State and Federal MPs with a stronger case in representing community concern and involvement.
*          To petition the State Government to take action about our station precinct design, amenity and functionality. 
*          For State Government to provide the services of the Office of the Victorian Government Architect in the design work. 
*          To provide support to each community in dealing with the ARTC.  
*          For each town to continue independently with their own local community engagement, planning and activities.  

"Think of the paralysis of intellect that gave that idea birth."

Why are our rail systems so disjointed – was it by accident or design?

The Palace letters have ignited interest in a tumultuous period in Australian history. One previously unexplored aspect deals with the reasons behind the complete dysfunction that dictated our approach to rail track gauge.

As Mark Twain, the great American author remarked after changing trains at Albury/Wodonga due to differing gauges: “Think of the paralysis of intellect that gave that idea birth.”

Some light is shed on this in a recent article by Matthew Ehret in Strategic Culture which explores a number of key policies of the Whitlam Government. In one point he notes “Large scale urban renewal programs were launched extending modern sewerage systems to all urban centres, while new roads, rail, electrification and flood prevention programs were built. Highways linked Australia’s capitals for the first time and standard gauge rail was established to accelerate continental development strategies (whether Africa or Australia, the British Empire never permitted common rail gauges in order to prevent internal development while keeping its “possessions” reliant on maritime trade). (My emphasis)

What an astounding concept, deliberately keeping the ‘colonies’ underdeveloped to permit Britannia to continue to rule the waves and dictate our trade.

Today we are still attempting to resolve the damage these policies caused. Indeed, it would appear that our Victorian rail infrastructure has been allowed to decay to a point where increasing numbers of commuters are abandoning rail due to its unreliability and the discomforts rough tracks impose on travellers. We could be forgiven for thinking VicTrack has abandoned commuters and allowed the needs of ARTC freight to dominate the system.

The full article in Strategic Culture can be found at this link:

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/06/13/sacking-gough-whitlam-and-royal-intention-behind-five-eyes/

 

 

 

Badly informed or designed to mislead?

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.

https://www.benallaensign.com.au

 

 

How the Station once looked

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.

The alternative proposal that meets Benalla's needs.

 

 

 

 

 

Better Benalla Rail's proposal.

"Scary on a dull winter morning".

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.

Another view of the historic tower.

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.

Good design - why it matters.

"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." 

https://www.ovga.vic.gov.au/images/documents/Good_Design___Transport-_August_2015.pdf