Traffic congestion to rise as boom gates come down earlier on Frankston line

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Motorists will be forced to wait longer at train level crossings on bayside lines. Photo: Patrick ScalaMotorists in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs will spend more time waiting at level crossings as Metro increases the down time at dozens of railway boom gates.

Boom gates will lower as much as 15 seconds earlier each time a train approaches a level crossing on the Frankston, Werribee and Williamstown lines from this month, in preparation for the arrival of eight new X’Trapolis trains later this year.

The trains have faster acceleration than other trains operating in Melbourne, and Metro has made the change to avoid the risk of a road-rail smash.

In all, 46 level crossings and 33 pedestrian crossings will have their wait times extended.

The safety-related change will increase traffic congestion in many of Melbourne’s southern and western suburbs.

In the most extreme cases on the Frankston line, boom gates will drop for an extra 9½ minutes all up in the two-hour morning peak between 7am and 9am. There are 38 Metro services in that period.

Metro said level crossing times needed to be adjusted to fit in with the X’Trapolis train fleet’s “different acceleration and braking characteristics”.

“The crossing timing is specific for each level crossing and needs to be assessed individually, but generally boom gates will go down between one and 15 seconds earlier,” Metro spokeswoman Pauline O’Connor said.

“The reason for this is to ensure the safe operation of the level crossing for road, pedestrian and rail users.”

The change will be felt hardest on the Frankston line, which has 29 level crossings. Eleven are on the Andrews government’s list of 50 to be abolished in the next seven years.

Twenty of those crossings are in the city of Kingston, which stretches from Moorabbin to Carrum, and eight are set to go, although none are yet on the government’s list of 20 to go in this term.

Kingston mayor Geoff Gledhill said that with no level crossings in the municipality locked in for removal yet, he feared congestion was set to worsen before it improves.

“At this point I’m disappointed that we haven’t managed to secure one yet and I can tell you it hasn’t been through a lack of lobbying,” Cr Gledhill said.

He said level crossings at Cheltenham and Mentone stations already created “appalling congestion” during school opening and closing times.

The X’Trapolis trains are about to be introduced to the Frankston and Werribee/Williamstown lines as part of the former Napthine government’s $115 million bayside rail improvement project, which is in its final stages.

The first new train started running on the Frankston line in October last year, weeks before the state election and well before necessary engineering changes were made.

The train’s acceleration was throttled for safety’s sake and the Coalition was accused of introducing it prematurely as an election stunt.

In April, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union made a failed bid through the Fair Work Commission to force the train off the line, citing safety concerns.

Boom gate times have been progressively lengthened over recent weekends, most recently at five level crossings on the Altona loop.

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