THE authority in charge of building a major rail line
through Melbourne's west has been ordered to come up with a new plan to
cut noise levels after experts found that thousands living near the line
would be condemned to excessive noise from high-speed trains.
The advisory report into stage two of the $5.3 billion
regional rail link was uploaded, without an announcement, onto the
website of the Department of Planning and Community Development late on
Thursday, on the eve of the Easter break.
It found that noise mitigation plans for the
30-kilometre stretch of track through existing and planned suburbs
between Deer Park and Werribee's west, were ''extremely limited and … an
inadequate response to the anticipated levels of noise''.
''While already there is some limited housing abutting
the project area … it is proposed that, within a few decades, along
perhaps half of its length, there will be thousands more nearby
dwellings,'' it said.
''Without significant mitigation measures being adopted
along the project area boundary, much of this housing will experience
unacceptably high levels of train noise.''
The report by four government-appointed planning experts
was given to Planning Minister Matthew Guy in January. Last week he
wrote to the Regional Rail Link Authority directing it to come up with a
new plan by March next year.
The report's authors said their findings had
implications for the start of the railway's construction and that the
state would have to pay the cost of cutting noise, such as building
barriers and cuttings.
Mr Guy was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a
government spokesman blamed the previous state government for the
planning failure, which is set to add further cost to a project that has
already blown out by about $1 billion.
Former planning minister Justin Madden spared the
regional rail link from an environmental effects statement on the
condition that a satisfactory noise mitigation plan was put in place.
But the opposition said that as the Coalition went ahead with the
project it had inherited it must make sure to lessen the impact of
The report predicts that the promised rail link to
Avalon airport will also use the regional rail link and so contribute
to the high noise levels, as will an expected increase in V/Line trains
that are expected to travel at up to 160km/h along the line. It found
the Regional Rail Link Authority's noise mitigation plan did not take
into account future increases in V/Line patronage.
When completed in 2016 the regional rail link will
separate Geelong and Ballarat trains from metro lines, reducing rail
congestion in the western suburbs.
Regional Rail Link spokesman Simon Breer said the panel's
report would not delay the project's completion, because the authority
would write a new noise mitigation plan during construction.
''The minister has determined that the authority can
respond to the requirements in two parts. This will enable construction
works to proceed while post-completion operational noise management is
being finalised,'' Mr Breer said.