UPDATE 7:30pm: The government has released details which vary from the assumptions in this post. See this followup post.
As some have feared, it looks like the Napthine government is about to stuff-up the metro rail tunnel, which is proposed to connect the Sunshine/Sunbury and Dandenong lines.
The Herald Sun reports:
WORK on a rail tunnel between Southern Cross Station and South Yarra will begin in 2016, the State Government will announce.
The announcement of the tunnel, which will include stations at Fishermans Bend and the Domain, will be the centrepiece of a big-spending election year budget.
We’ll know more details once this afternoon’s State Budget is released, but it looks like this (probably unofficial) map produced by Liberal-aligned “SpringStSource” in February may turn out to be correct:
This is fraught with problems.
First, the pros:
It avoids digging up Swanston Street. From what I understand, this is a real option, with the originally planned route running just under the surface down the street. For instance, trains would come through Melbourne Central Station at roughly concourse level.
It would serve Fishermens Bend, which the government plans to be a major residential area within a few years. In other words, the Coalition’s version of the Arden precinct. But given the construction time might be 10+ years, presumably other options need to be provided in the meantime.
It would solve the problem of getting the very busy Sunbury and Dandenong lines onto their own tracks.
But the cons are huge, and heavily outweigh the pros
The key one: It bypasses the city centre. Two of the busiest lines would miss most of the CBD… you know, where a lot of those people actually want to go! The only CBD stop would be Southern Cross, which at present gets only about 16% of all CBD boardings.
This in turn would place a lot of pressure on connecting train/tram services, guaranteeing continuing problems for the “last mile” of many CBD workers’ trips if using those lines.
And bypassing the big hospital and university precinct is a huge missed opportunity. And in fact trips to that precinct from these two lines would become positively painful, particularly if, as on the diagram, there would not be a stop at North Melbourne.
While it would serve Domain, it would not do so in such a way that can provide any real relief to regularly overcrowded St Kilda Road tram services. (Yes, it’s true that big tram upgrades and better priority would help resolve this, but it’s unclear if this could be a viable long-term solution.)
It’s a looooong detour for Sunbury passengers going to Domain (perhaps even longer than their current journey), or for Dandenong passengers going to the city (even assuming they want the Southern Cross end).
So in summary, it solves a couple of problems, but creates many others. And it’s unclear if it would be any cheaper.
The original planned alignment has a big problem in the disruption it would cause, but that would only be temporary. Other than that, it ticks all the boxes.
I’m assuming we’ll know for sure what’s planned when the Budget hits this afternoon.
But if the above is correct, this is madness. If you’re going to spend billions on a major rail tunnel, do it properly.
With construction not scheduled to start until 2016, no matter who gets power in November, they’d be well-advised to review this option and switch back to the original alignment… or at least a better one.
- I’ll be watching from afar today. I had planned to join in the Spring Street shenanigans, but instead will be in Shepparton at a funeral for my good friend Tony’s mum, who passed-away suddenly last week. RIP Lois.
UPDATE 7:30pm: The government has released their plans… it’s not as bad as thought. The Frankston line will run via Domain and Fishermens Bend to Southern Cross, then into the City Loop (which will have to have modifications to handle trains in both directions) to Ringwood. The Sunbury/Airport line will be through-routed aboveground to Dandenong. The Werribee/Williamstown lines will be through-routed aboveground to Sandringham. This video explains it: