Gippsland, in regional Victoria, is home to natural resources, a commodities economy and over 150,000 people. It’s also home to The Gippsland Line, a critical rail link for people in growing communities to access employment, education and critical health services.

As part of VicConnect, our alliance with UGL Limited and Decmil, we are helping upgrade the line to deliver more frequent and reliable train services by providing community engagement, architectural and urban design, sustainability, rail engineering, structural engineering, safety and security, and building services for four station upgrades and community precincts.

Our design vision places each station at the heart of the community, improving public amenity, accessibility and providing a strong sense of place. From the start of the project, we worked with the community and stakeholders to understand their needs and perspectives. We also developed a creative arts strategy for local Indigenous artists to create public art installations.

Collaboration, and transparency guided our approach for a holistic and purposeful design. We took a systems-thinking approach, incorporating architecture, track design, structural engineering, civil engineering, fire engineering, safety and security, urban planning and landscape architecture, to create better connected regional communities

Bringing humanity and purpose into design

While patronage is smaller in regional communities, rail is critical for connectivity and stations are an integral part of the social fabric. Each of the four communities had unique needs – our challenge was to balance our client’s vision, transport needs and each community’s identity and sense of place to create a functional yet desirable public transport experience.

At the start of the project, we created an urban artwork design strategy to reflect each community’s culture, and to increase awareness of the local Indigenous communities.

Local artist Marilyn Fenton designed traditional Gunaikurnai line patterns which were sandblasted into the new forecourts at Morwell and Traralgon stations. The patterns depict men and women, travel, meeting and the five Gunaikurnai clans. 

To understand local needs and perspectives, we engaged communities early in the project. With the pandemic preventing face to face communication, we invited a diverse group of community members to digital workshops and used Fuse, our digital collaboration tool, to show community members a virtual representation of the station design. We then collated the ideas and perspectives on a digital whiteboard to help inform the design.

We took a social procurement approach, making a conscious effort to engage local Indigenous suppliers and contractors. We engaged with RASP, a 100% privately-owned Indigenous company, for engineering drafting services. In conjunction with the wider Alliance approach, the Alliance has exceeded its targets for Indigenous and social procurement to make a real difference to people's lives and careers.

A safe, accessible and sensitive station design for Traralgon

Traralgon has a masterplan foreseeing the area’s predicted growth, and currently has the most rail patronage in the Gippsland region. Our team referenced the masterplan to improve access and amenity. 

The station, located in a heritage precinct, had an old narrow footbridge for passengers to access the station – the tallest structure in the town. The footbridge provided no weather protection and had limited lighting and accessibility for people with limited mobility.

We designed a new overpass to replace the footbridge, featuring four lifts, stairs, a light-filled interior and cladding to protect users from weather. For the structure, we chose geometry and materials, such as perforated walls, and colours to compliment the surrounding heritage buildings and the community’s aesthetic.