Wednesday’s State Budget has a lot of good rail projects funded. It seems the State Government is serious about upgrading the rail network to cope for the future.
Going through the press release and also the Budget Papers (Budget Paper 3 “Service Delivery” has always been my favourite; it has all the juicy stuff in transport), I’ve tried to summarise the new spending below… hopefully I haven’t missed anything, or doubled-up.
|City Loop security upgrade||$134m||Recommendations from the Victorian Ombudsman. By the way, the “platform barriers” are to try and stop people getting into the tunnels, not to stop them falling on the track, which would be almost impossible to implement given non-standard train doors and no automation to ensure trains stop in the right spot.|
|Ballarat line duplication out to Melton, platforms, stabling||$518m||Means Caroline Springs has to be modified with an extra platform before it’s even opened! And it’s only duplication, not electrification.|
|Hurstbridge line duplication Heidelberg to Rosanna||$140m||In addition to level crossing removal projects|
|South Morang to Mernda rail extension||$588m||Great to see this fully funded|
|28 additional High-Capacity Metro Trains||$875m||On top of the 37 funded last year. Includes running costs ramping up to $25.4m/year|
|27 V/Line V/Locity carriages and stabling||$280.4m||Relieve V/Line overcrowding, especially since RRL opened last year|
|5 X’Trapolis trains||$105m||Seems to be a stopgap order while the HCMTs are designed and tendered|
|V/Line North-East line upgrades||$15m||An additional carriage to change from 3 x 5 car trains to 4 x 4 car trains; refurbishment of other carriages|
|V/Line next generation train planning||$10m||The V/Locity design is great, but well over ten years old|
|Other upgrades for V/Line||$198m|
|V/Line major maintenance||$141m||Seems to be directed at the kind of proactive maintenance intended to prevent a repeat of the wheel wear debacle from earlier this year|
|1500 commuter car spaces across Melbourne and regional areas||$19.9m||Not clear if this is included in one of the other buckets. Note the average $13266 cost per space. There are cheaper ways of getting people to stations – without them having to own a car.|
|Frankston station precinct upgrade||$50m|
|Metro rail service improvements||$35m||Additional services, but not detailed precisely what. Hopefully more 10 minute services.|
|Minor regional rail improvement works||$23.6m|
|Bendigo and Eaglehawk station improvements||$15.8m|
|Gippsland line station improvements||$9m|
|Business case for future improvements for Bendigo, Gippland, Armstrong Creek (Geelong)||$7.6m|
|Upfield to Somerton upgrade business case||$5m||Future planning for re-routing Seymour trains via Upfield line, which has more capacity than Craigieburn|
|Planning for Regional upgrades||$5m||Linked to imminent release of Regional Network Development Plan|
|South Geelong to Waurn Ponds duplication business case/detailed design||$3m||Would help increase train frequencies south of Geelong|
|Bus improvements||$25.2m||Numerous local bus improvements, including those pledged in Labor’s 2014 election commitments.|
|Metro rail tunnel funding||$2.9b||$2.9b over four years (the “forward estimates” period) with more to come later|
|Bridge strengthening for E-class trams||$1.8m||The only extra tram spending I spotted; so insignificant it’s not mentioned in press releases.|
- V/Line gets a handful of extra services on the Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Gippsland lines every day, and three more to Wyndham Vale on weekdays as well. They also get extra services to Shepparton (extension of an existing service everyday) and Warrnambool (Sundays only it appears), and a bunch more services to Geelong on weekends (this might fix the dire hourly service)
- The Budget Papers have some amusing references to V/Line’s “Classic fleet” of older carriages – the N and Z-class carriages are getting aircon and seating upgrades.
- There’s continued funding for Melbourne Bike Share ($2.5m per year) and the Westgate Punt ($300,000 per year) — again, not flagged in the press releases. Interestingly the Bike Share seems to be being funded a couple of years at a time.
I’m not going to dwell on the road upgrades, other than to say it’s a relief that the government haven’t sprung a new major road project on the community. One (Western Distributor) is plenty — yet two days later there are already noises about the NorthEast Link. Obviously this is on the agenda for coming years.
In some ways the big surprise is full funding of the Metro Rail Tunnel, assuming the Commonwealth still refuses to provide any funding. I suspected this might happen — yes at $11 billion it’s a huge project, but construction is over 10 years, making it a bit over an average $1 billion per year — it’s within the state’s capabilities, though it probably means other needed projects may not happen during this time if the Feds don’t contribute.
Also somewhat surprising is the large amount of money for V/Line — it’s worth remembering that the regional train network (including the suburban sections of RRL) carry less than a tenth the number of passengers that the metro rail system carries (though over longer distances). But it’s also a natural response to the dire problems the service has had, and also a good strategy to support a vital service in regional Victoria, and better link country towns to Melbourne. Hopefully the investment in V/Line helps bring the service back up to standard, and get more passengers on board.
And plenty of improvements funded on Metro as well, including the logical expansion of the new train fleet to eventually support the entire Cranbourne/Pakenham to Sunbury line when the rail tunnel opens — and of course remembering the already substantial investment in level crossing removal and station rebuilds.
While there’s not much for buses, and even less for trams, but overall it’s good to see so many rail upgrades coming through, including sometimes forgotten but important upgrades like track duplication.