Infrastructure has been a major focus for the Andrews government since it came to power in 2014. Its $90 billion Big Build project includes removing 110 level crossings, digging five major road and rail tunnels, and building the $50 billion suburban rail loop, among other sizeable projects.
Big Build has attracted criticism from across the political spectrum for cost blowouts and a “build first, ask questions later” approach that’s left planning and consultation by the wayside.
Now the project is gearing up for its “biggest summer” of construction to date, planned to coincide with many Melburnians being out of the city. From rail to roads, there will be major delays for the next few months. The West Gate Bridge, Domain Tunnel, City Loop, Monash Freeway and other roads will be affected. The project leaders suggest Melburnians check Victraffic and the PTV apps when planning trips in the coming months.
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West Gate Bridge maintenance – December 26 to January 4
Starting Boxing Day, four out of five outbound lanes on the West Gate Bridge will be closed for maintenance. The lanes will reopen 11 days later, but road delays are expected to be significant during that time – up to 90 minutes.
City Loop upgrades – 9pm January 2 to late on January 15
Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament stations will be closed for two weeks for smoke detection, extraction and sprinkler systems upgrades. No trains will run in the City Loop’s northern segment during the works, but Flinders Street and Southern Cross will remain open, with trains running between the two. People who usually get on and off the train at one of the closed stations are being encouraged to walk or tram to and from Flinders Street or Southern Cross. Buses will replace trains on part of the Hurstbridge, Alamein and Sandringham lines during the works.
South-east rail upgrades – from January 4
Due for completion in 2025, the Metro Tunnel (actually two parallel tunnels) will connect the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines directly to the Sunbury line, creating a new north-south rail line that bypasses Flinders Street Station and the City Loop. Tracks across the south-east need to be prepared accordingly, meaning buses will replace trains on sections of the Cranbourne, Pakenham, Frankston, Stony Point and Sandringham lines from January 4 until an unannounced point in the future.
Level crossing removals in Surrey Hills – February 27 to late May
Buses will also replace trains on sections of the Lilydale and Belgrave lines for two months, to allow a 1.3-kilometre rail trench to be excavated, a new station to be built at Union Road and level crossings to be removed on Union and Mont Albert roads.
Monash Freeway closure – nights only, January 15 to 19
The M1 will be closed in both directions at Warrigal Road for five consecutive nights, including the surrounding ramps and roads between Warrigal Road and Eastlink.
Princes Freeway closure – nights only, January 9 to 24
The stretch of the Princes Freeway between the Princes Highway and Beaconsfield Interchange will shut for a little over two weeks – again only at night. Detours will be in place via Princes Highway and Princes Link Highway.
“We thank Victorians for their patience as we get in and get these important road and rail works done, and urge everyone to plan ahead when exploring our wonderful city this summer,” says Ben Carroll, minister for public transport.