Benalla Working Group
The Benalla Working Group was established in August 2020 to provide a structured process for ARTC to work with Council and the community on the development of the Inland Rail project in Benalla. In Benalla, there is not enough clearance under the station overpass off Mackellar Street for double-stacked freight trains.
The working group’s purpose was to:
- facilitate broader community involvement in the project
- capture local knowledge, issues, concerns, and opportunities
- increase project understanding and awareness
- coordinate responses from the Inland Rail project team to community concerns and requests.
The working group reviewed proposed options for the Mackellar Street bridge in detail, including a bridge replacement or station modification and contributed to the consultation process. In October 2021, ARTC announced it backed the modification of the Benalla Station Precinct, which included realigning a portion of the track at the station. This decision followed extensive community consultation and engagement with the Benalla Working Group.
The members of the working group were:
Representation: Independent Chair
Cr Justin King
Representation: Benalla Rural City Council
Cr Gail O’Brien
Representation: Benalla Rural City Council
Representation: Benalla Rail
Representation: Benalla Rail
The final meeting of the group was held on 16 March 2022.
An outcome of the Benalla Working Group was the development of a Consensus Statement.
This statement summarises the Working Group’s key conclusions and recommendations to date for the ARTC rail project at the Benalla Station precinct.
1. Our Purpose*
The Benalla Working Group’s role is:
- to provide a forum for community interests to be represented
- to provide input and feedback through the design process
- to facilitate broader community involvement and awareness; raise local issues and concerns.
The Group is expected to operate for a period of around 12 months during the design phase of the project.
*As stated in the Benalla Working Group Terms of Reference
2. ARTC Design Process
The Group has worked collaboratively with ARTC and its consultants to develop design objectives for the Benalla component of the project. These have now been included in the Urban Design Framework* for the project and will be used to evaluate the ARTC’s design options.
The design objectives include:
- the station is visually and physically connected to Carrier Street and the Benalla town centre
- safety and accessibility for pedestrians with provision for car parking and bus stops for all abilities.
- a station precinct that has removed, minimised and mitigated the visual impacts of the bridge to Mackellar Street and adjacent properties
- a station precinct that increases the prominence of the existing heritage buildings
- a precinct that is ready for future growth and investment into cross town connections and development of areas to the North of the railway line.
- a station precinct that strengthens the Landscape character of Benalla.
*The Urban Design Framework is also a requirement of the State Government and will inform the Project’ s assessment by both ARTC and the State Departments of Planning and Transport.
3. Assessment of the Benalla Options
The ARTC was considering two main options for Benalla:
- the Bridge replacement option (retains the “XPT” platform and an overpass)
- the Track realignment option (a second through track is constructed north of the station).
The Group has assessed visualisations for both the track realignment (this now includes either a pedestrian overpass or underpass option) and bridge replacement option for Benalla. It was concluded that:
- the track realignment option broadly meets the endorsed design objectives
- the bridge replacement option did not meet any of the endorsed design objectives.
The Group strongly supports the track realignment option as offering the best outcome for Benalla. The Group suggests that any comparative costings of the options separates out the cost of the additional platform (as required by DOT) in the costings for the track realignment option. The majority of the group support the pedestrian underpass option as the best outcome for Benalla.
4. Key areas for Further Consideration in the detailed design phase
The group identified key issues that require further consideration in the detailed design phase:
- platform requirements – verification of the requirement of the second platform with Department of Transport; consideration of the operability issues for the station with a second platform
- emergency vehicle access
- adequacy of bus parking area and car park capacity
- flooding considerations
- the Pedestrian underpass for access to the new platform (if required) – further consideration of safety and security concerns; ease of access for disability; ongoing maintenance requirements; visual impacts and harmony with the heritage character of the station; alternatives to the zig zag approach to the underpass; emergency access
- social impacts including visual impacts
- management of site contamination issues during construction
- design options to minimise the noise and vibration impacts
- the safety issues with level crossings and the need for future signalling improvements.
5. Facilitating broader community engagement
The Group believes the project is highly significant for Benalla and has considered potential ways to ensure up to date information about the project can be shared with the broader community. Members of the group have been active in encouraging community members to get involved in the ARTC consultation activities to develop a greater level of understanding of the current phases of the project, and the current options being considered, and to ensure local issues and concerns are heard by ARTC. Several recommendations were suggested for ARTC to consider:
- that ARTC develop ways to communicate with and capture feedback from youth/younger adults in the Benalla area. Suggestions included via schools, TAFE and youth based organisations.
- that ARTC directly engage and communicate with the diverse range of community organisations in Benalla such as U3A, Sporting Clubs and Service Clubs.
- ARTC to confirm to the community that the ARTC’s Sponsorship & Donations program is unrelated to the rail project.
- a regular Chairs Report be published in the local paper to ensure clear communication on Benalla Working Group discussions.
- the concept visualisations are a great tool for community engagement. Critical dimensions of the designs need to be included e.g. ramp lengths, height of the bridge option.
- in Conclusion, the Benalla Working Group appreciated the opportunity of working with ARTC in this early phase of the project. The group is very pleased ARTC has adopted the Track Realignment option as the preferred option for the project- a great collective achievement for Benalla.
We look forward to further opportunities of working with ARTC to achieve the best outcomes for Benalla from this project. The Group strongly recommend ARTC consider the formation of a Community Reference Group (or similar) as part of the detailed design phase of the project.
November 5, 2020
Benalla Working Group application form
Application form for those wanting to join the Benalla Working Group.
September 10, 2020
Benalla Working Group members confirmed
Following a thorough selection process, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has appointed 12 new members of the Benalla Working Group to help refine Inland Rail’s proposed solution for the Benalla Station precinct.