Okay, I didn’t see this coming.
Orbital rail for the middle ring of Melbourne, announced on Facebook this morning.
Labor say they want to build a 90km suburban rail loop from Cheltenham (by which they appear to mean Southland), Clayton, Monash, Glen Waverley, Deakin Burwood, Box Hill, Doncaster, Heidelberg, Latrobe Uni, Reservoir, Fawkner, Broadmeadows, Airport, Sunshine, to Werribee.
Some of the detail is a little hazy, and would be subject to further study, but it seems to be aimed at hitting the biggest suburban traffic generators that don’t currently have rail.
It’s unclear where (or if) intermediate stops might be located, particularly between the Airport and Werribee.
At least from Cheltenham to the Airport would be underground tunnels. The whole project would support a more polycentric city, which makes a lot of sense, enabling cross-suburban trips in a way that Smartbuses don’t quite manage, and help Melbourne develop more jobs not just in its CBD and inner suburbs, but across the greater city.
Train services on both the new and existing lines would need to be frequent of course, with easy connections to and from the existing network. It would also provide regional train connections at Clayton, Broadmeadows and Sunshine.
Labor say the line would not only be Melbourne’s longest, but also Melbourne’s busiest, with around 400,000 passenger trips per day.
The project might divert some people away from the busiest inner-city part of the rail network, but would inevitably generate more public transport trips as well.
Doncaster would get rail – just not in the way most people expected… Doncaster to the City via Box Hill would become a more time-competitive option.
I wonder if they assume the orbital trains would be similar technology to the existing fleet, or something different? To support frequent services, perhaps they would build the stations for full-length trains, but initially run shorter ones.
Business case funding of $300 million will be provided if Labor is re-elected, then construction starting 2022, in a phased approach but most likely concentrating initially on the southeastern section first, with the Airport to Sunshine portion falling under the existing Airport rail project, which would share the same alignment.
And yes, suddenly some other Labor ideas make sense in context, such as Monash Uni/Rowville light rail instead of heavy — the heavy rail option would be Clayton to Monash instead.
This is Big City thinking, and should be applauded, though who knows how much it will cost and how long it’ll take to build. Billions and decades, I would expect.
It’s incredibly ambitious, which is great to see. Not that it lets them off the hook on other, smaller things like fixing Melbourne’s buses (particularly to help people access railway stations) and all-day frequent trains on the existing lines.
But if they can pull it off, it’s huge, a game changer for the city.
- Transport campaigner Garry Glazebrook proposed a similar rail line last year
- Paris is building an orbital line; London’s Overground is developing into a similar network; Singapore’s Circle Line is also similar
- State government: Underground Suburban Rail Loop To Connect Victoria. Suburban Rail Loop project information
- Media: The Age, Herald Sun, ABC
- This blog post has been adapted into an Age Opinion article