There’s plenty of confusion over the various rail tunnel proposals. The Coalition is pushing theirs, Labor’s saying they’ll stick to the original plan.
On the bright side: The major parties aren’t arguing about whether a rail line should be built, but which route it should take.
Both schemes appear to achieve the goal of separating the major train lines as they reach the city centre, in particular the Dandenong and Frankston lines (currently sharing the Caulfield Loop), and the Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines (currently sharing the Northern Loop). Some lines would still share, but it should be plenty of capacity for several decades’ growth.
Here’s a comparison of the current situation, with the two schemes:
So you can see, the biggest difference is that under the new plan, the Dandenong and Sunshine lines are connected aboveground rather than underground… and the Frankston and Camberwell lines are connected via two of the City Loop tunnels.
A few other notes:
Capacity: I’d been wondering why the new Melbourne Rail Link plan was claiming so many more passengers able to be carried (35,000 per hour) than the older Metro Rail Tunnel plan (20,000).
I had to dig to find any kind of justification for the higher figure. I eventually found this sentence on the PTV web site: The project will also enable the delivery of 30 additional peak hour services across the network, moving 35,000 extra passengers. — so it appears the total figure is using a higher figure of 1,166 passengers per train. In other words, it assumes the new high-capacity trains being ordered for the Dandenong line upgrade will be used — even though the initial order will only be for 25, and they won’t be enough to run the full Dandenong to Sunshine service. (They won’t run via the tunnel, but the tunnel will enable that service.)
Interestingly, the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan originally quoted a figure of 40 additional trains, carrying 40,000 additional passengers. Clearly all of these figures are a little rubbery.
Perhaps somewhere there’s a better justification for them. If so, I’d love to see it.
Edit: It seems the MRL project assumes higher-capacity trains and high-capacity signalling, whereas the older Metro rail tunnel figures assume neither. This of course means that the comparison is not really valid — either project could have both, one or none of these.
Which plan is better?
This is a hard question. In an ideal world, the old plan is probably slightly better. It may be more disruptive during construction, but that would be temporary. Notably a few months ago the government said perhaps two years of construction in Swanston Street… now they’re saying anything up to 5-10, in an attempt to talk up their version.
The old plan would serve both new (Arden) and established (Parkville) precincts, and both better than the proposed Montague station, which is flawed, serves Fishermans Bend.
Montague/Fishermans Bend is a Jack of all trades, but a master of none. It isn’t really close enough to the casino and exhibition precinct to be more convenient than the trams. It’s so far from where most of the new development will be that it’ll have to be supported by connecting trams. In which case… why not just stay on the tram a few more stops to the city? Why bother changing at the station to a train that arrives in an unknown number of minutes?
Update midday: It’s been pointed out that there are at least 9 developments planned within a short walking distance of the proposed Montague station. Which is not to say a beefed-up tram service couldn’t cope with that.
If Parkville isn’t to be served by a station, then as Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has identified, buses and trams will need boosting. The first step here would be re-programming traffic lights to give them more green time — both the 401 shuttle bus and the trams get a lot of red at the moment — and the next obvious step is to enhance the lights to detect approaching buses/trams and give them the green. Make the trips from the nearest stations faster, and help boost the frequency, particularly of the 401 bus, which suffers from long queues at peak times.
The old metro tunnel plan has more lines running through the centre of the CBD, where the retail and business core is located, and all lines still connecting at Flinders Street (for now; later stages of the PTV plan, decades in the future, moved away from that). The new plan has more lines running via either Melbourne Central or Flinders Street, but not both. It would emphasise Southern Cross for interchanges, which is perhaps no bad thing given how congested Flinders Street can get at peak times.
The newer tunnel plan has an interchange at South Yarra, which the old one didn’t — a clear advantage. But the new plan also results in much longer trips, roundabout for people from Frankston going to Parliament or Richmond, unless they change trains (twice for Parliament). For other CBD stations the travel time is probably comparable… except Flinders Street of course.
Both projects appear to provide the benefits of separating out the lines, thus reducing conflicts and providing capacity.
And as I said the other day, the revised Coalition plan is nowhere near as bad as what was at one stage proposed. And the Coalition claims it will be cheaper and easier to build — that the reduced cost makes the Airport line affordable. But unlike the old tunnel plan, it appears little in-depth planning has occurred, so it’s hard to say precisely why this is the case.
Tenders, contracts and work are unlikely to have started by the November election, leaving Labor to switch to the old route if they get into power.
So I guess it’s up to you, voters.
And one thing’s for sure: late last year, Labor probably thought they had the Coalition on the run in the key policy area of public transport. Not any more — the Coalition have pulled out policy after policy in the last few months, leaving Labor dramatically outbid.
Clearly Labor will need to beef up its public transport policies to re-capture the agenda.
There’s plenty of other stuff that needs doing that both parties could look at: duplicating single track lines like Altona; clearly pledging the goal of trains every 10 minutes; all day every day; suburban tram extensions to connect up the network to railway stations; more Smartbus routes, and more services on existing routes; upgrades to regional services, including V/Line train frequencies to big cities such as Shepparton and Warrnambool; implementing the terrific (but unreleased) PTV bus plan to give middle and outer suburbs high quality frequent public transport… the list goes on.