By April Shepherd, Editor, Infrastructure Magazine

For Melbourne residents, the Level Crossing Removal Project has become a part of daily life, as many locals take the city-wide works in their stride, with the knowledge that the transformational project will make the city safer and more efficient for generations to come. To make this momentous project as efficient as possible, the Victorian Government has utilised a plethora of digital solutions – garnering international attention, and awards. 

The Level Crossing Removal Project, which began in 2015, aims to eliminate 110 level crossings across Melbourne by 2030, including other network upgrades alongside the new elevated crossings, such as new stations and track duplications.

The major overhaul aims to improve community safety, reduce congestion on major roads caused by trains crossing, and support more sustainable transport for the future. To complete this enormous project, Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) established four alliances to deliver the program, one of which is the Southern Program Alliance (SPA).

This alliance consists of ACCIONA/Coleman Rail, WSP, and Metro Trains Melbourne, with one project in particular capturing the attention of the global infrastructure industry.

Removing crossings the smart way

The Parkdale level crossing removal project involves rail and road removals, constructing a viaduct and building a new station along the Frankston line. The project was awarded in late 2022, and is expected to be finished in 2025, with the overall cost expected to be $450 million.

The project was undertaken in a narrow corridor near heritage sites and required a multidisciplinary team, so to make this challenging process easier, lead design consultant, WSP, chose to adopt integrated digital solutions.

Leveraging open modelling applications and ProjectWise, powered by Bentley Systems, WSP established a digital twin to streamline workflows and help meet project objectives. Using this web-based platform minimised rework and accelerated decision-making, which helped to reduce modelling time by 60 per cent and save 15 per cent in resource hours during the design delivery process.

International recognition

Every year, Bentley Systems holds its 2023 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure, honouring the work of Bentley software users who are advancing infrastructure design, construction, and operations across the globe.

This year the awards, held on 11-12 October in Singapore, included two level crossing removal projects – one of which was the Parkdale project.

The winners were:

Category: Bridges and Tunnels
WSP Australia Pty Ltd
Southern Program Alliance
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Category: Construction
Laing O’Rourke
SEPA Surrey Hills Level Crossing Removal Project Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Building a city for the future

Jaimin Patel, Senior Structural Technologist, WSP, presented the Parkdale project for judging, explaining the magnitude of the project, and how digital solutions are helping to execute this futuristic design.

Mr Patel explained that the scope of the project included removal of the level crossings at Warrigal Road, Mentone and Parkers Road and Parkdale, and replacing them with an elevated rail line.

These works are alongside the construction of a brand new station at Parkdale, building the pedestrian crossing, car parks, and installing open spaces such as a playground, gathering spaces and open air gyms.

Mr Patel explained that working on multidisciplinary projects, such as rail projects, can be challenging as it involves multiple teams with varying expertise each working on different aspects of an initiative.

“To meet these challenges, a software solution was required that was versatile, dynamic and centralised to handle design challenges and stream processes,” Mr Patel said.

Jaimin Patel, Senior Structural Technologist, WSP, accepting the 2023 Going Digital Awards in Infrastructure Bridges and Tunnels category award. Image: Bentley Systems.

Moving the community

For a project this large, community consultation and messaging is key. “This is a community based project, so most of the design and structure – everything – is focused on community,” Mr Patel said. He also explained that ensuring there are no negative effectson the community was a paramount concern.

“With setting up digital models at the early stage, obviously we were able to use those models for animation.” Mr Patel explained that “the biggest help” when it came to engaging with the community was setting up the digital models to allow his team to show residents how the new infrastructure would look, and that there wouldn’t be any major effect on their houses or businesses.

“By providing accurate data and 3D modelling capabilities in the early stage of design, this project will lead to an intergenerational legacy which impacts that extend far beyond the rail corridor itself. It’ll change the way people move around.”

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