A YEAR-long shutdown of a busy Footscray bridge is just one of the signs that work has begun on the 7.5-kilometre Footscray to Deer Park section of the multibillion-dollar Regional Rail Link project.
Buses replaced trains between Footscray and Watergardens stations in Taylors Lakes over the weekend to allow for works. Extensive changes to the road network, including the closure of Footscray's Albert Street, are now in place.
Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, visiting the intended site of the relocated West Footscray station last week to officially launch the works, said the project was Melbourne's first new passenger rail infrastructure since the Glen Waverley line opened in 1930.
Mr Albanese conceded that the loss of homes to make way for the new lines had upset the community, but people understood why it had to happen. "We need big projects in this country. That's what I'm interested in as Infrastructure Minister and I'm very satisfied with the way we're working with the Victorian government and, indeed, with the management of the Regional Rail Link project."
The Footscray to Deer Park section is being constructed by an alliance of the Regional Rail Link Authority, Metro, V/Line, Thiess, Balfour Beatty, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Sinclair Knight Merz.
Gellibrand MP Nicola Roxon said the project would deliver quicker travel times for western suburbs commuters.
Work now under way in Footscray is expected to create noise, traffic and parking issues around Albert and Irving streets.
Albert Street will be closed between Short and Raleigh streets while the Albert Street bridge is demolished and rebuilt to fit new tracks through the rail corridor. Works are expected to be completed by the middle of next year.
Victorian Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder promised that service disruptions and road closures would be made up for with increased rail timetable services and reliability.
"The west is developing quickly because of its close proximity to the CBD," he said.
"Residential development out here is booming. We want to make sure that the stations we build actually become a part of the community, and that's exactly what this project will do."
Work on the 25-kilometre Deer Park to West Werribee section of track will begin later in the year.