Melbourne is a growing and densifying city, entering a period of growth of above 6% and will eventually grow larger than Sydney. The city’s rail system has not been improved for some time and is now over capacity. A few years ago, the government launched a program to remove level crossings between roads and railways and extend the rail system and improve its capacity. A key component of this program has been the Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal Project. This is located on Melbourne’s busiest rail corridor and colloquially referred to within the industry as ‘Skyrail’ and the ‘Underline’. Five stations have been rebuilt, three sections of the railway line have been elevated, nine road crossings have been removed, and 22 hectares of new public space have been created.
The project’s ambitious elevated viaduct-based rail solution sought to address several complex interlocking urban design issues, and its impact has been far-reaching, extending well beyond immediate commuters and residents. This significant infrastructure and urban design project, resulting from a collaboration between Cox Architecture and ASPECT Studios with the CTD Alliance team, has demonstrably shaped and delivered an engaging and participatory public realm and rejuvenated established hubs located adjacent to the railway stations. It highlights the true city-shaping power of integrated transport and land use planning, demonstrating how rail corridors can be transformed to be vital social and structural elements of the city.
By elevating the existing rail line, not only have nine level crossings been removed, but a previously unavailable public realm has opened, generating opportunities for community use and connection. The project has delivered 22.5ha (more than 11 MCGs) of open space, parklands and new community areas, as well as 12km of newly built pedestrian and cyclist paths.
The three new linear parks each have a role and hierarchy in their neighbourhoods. Caulfield to Hughesdale linear park – is now a primary park network for the City of Glen Eira, both delivering open space in a community with the lowest % open space per person in Victoria and creating new green links to existing parks. The Clayton linear park creates public space within a burgeoning activity centre with no central civic or recreational open space for the community. The Noble Park linear park is primarily an extension of an existing park that is augmented with activities that complement the existing facilities and programs.
The station precincts were an opportunity to redevelop the civic centre of each community, with a cohesive architectural language uniting the stations and the public realm design being driven by local context.
The linear parks feature neighbourhood, local and community ‘activation nodes’. Ranging from small areas for local gatherings, with fitness stations, seating and planting, to playgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks and larger community areas for activities such as sport, skating and climbing, these nodes provide attractive, safe and well-maintained places for the community to enjoy. Over 4,200 trees are re-established in addition to those trees saved through the elevation of the rail line.
Stormwater from the elevated viaduct is captured and discharged into the landscape at the base of the piers, from where it is conveyed through surface swales along the alignment to infiltrate through the soil profile and provide passive irrigation to tree planting and mitigate the impacts of the overhead structure on access to natural rainfall.
The project has created diverse and plentiful public spaces. The linear park is a highlight, featuring a number of local and community ‘activation nodes’. Ranging from small areas for local gatherings, with fitness stations, seating and planting, to playgrounds, picnic areas, dog parks, and larger community areas for activities such as sport, skating, bouldering and climbing, these nodes provide attractive, safe and well-maintained places for the community to enjoy. Many of the materials were repurposed materials from the removed trees, demolished rail lines and railway stations and were transformed into seats, play items and landscape features.
Facilities and programs in the parks were carefully developed to complement the more traditional sports and recreation facilities that were provided in the suburbs. The idea around multi-generational spaces was embraced by the Councils and the community as a way of bringing social and age groups together for both more social interaction and improved community safety. For example, the activity node in Carnegie contains fitness equipment, sports courts, picnic facilities, ping pong and a bike repair station. The space is used by grandparents playing ping pong with their grandchildren, young adults playing basketball, and some elderly people sitting and enjoying the communal table.
Landscape Architecture: www.aspect-studios.com
Other designers involved in the design of the landscape (architects and landscape architects):
Project Location: Carnegie Station, Murrumbeena Station, Hughesdale Station, Clayton Station, and Noble Park Station, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Design year: 2016-2018
Year Built: 2018