Back in the Mother Country, they just opened the new rail line across central London. Known as Crossrail during construction, it’s officially now called the Elizabeth Line.
In an article in the Australian Financial Review, Crossrail CEO (and former PTV CEO) Mark Wild compared Crossrail with two of the biggest Australian rail projects: the Melbourne Metro tunnel and Sydney Metro.
He noted that the real problems began when they started integrating the new signalling systems, and in particular where the new has to interface with the old.
Melbourne Metro in particular has a number of similarities to Crossrail: they’re both central city rail tunnels connecting existing lines, with the aim of adding capacity and cutting travel times.
So I thought I’d do a quick comparison.
|Project||London Crossrail||Melbourne Metro Tunnel|
|Brief description||New central rail tunnel connected to existing lines||New central rail tunnel connected to existing lines|
|Tunnel length||2 x 21 km||2 x 9 km|
Tottenham Court Road
|5 – all underground:|
Plus East Pakenham, opening 2024
(technically part of a separate project)
|Interchange stations||All 10 provide interchange to existing lines|
All named for their existing interchange stations
|Interchange at State Library (to Melbourne Central) and Town Hall (to Flinders Street)|
Stations were given brand new names
|New development precincts||None that I can see?||Arden|
|Total route length including existing line||118 km||111 km|
|Total stations||41||41 (including East Pakenham)|
|Platform screen doors||At new stations in central London||At the new underground stations|
|Outer branches||4: Reading and Heathrow airport (west)|
to Abbey Wood and Shenfield (east)
(5 if you count the Heathrow branches separately)
|3: Sunbury (west)|
to Cranbourne and Pakenham (east)
(4 once Melbourne Airport rail opens)
|High capacity signalling||Yes, multiple systems depending on the section|
(Source: Crossrail: What’s the hold-up?)
|Watergardens to Dandenong using Bombardier CITYFLO 650|
(See also: Marcus Wong’s blog on HCS)
|Shared tracks||Heathrow branch, sharing with Heathrow Express trains|
(Not sure about others; it looks like the new line takes over from most other existing stopping services to Reading, Abbey Wood, Shenfield)
|Sunbury to Sunshine – V/Line|
South Yarra to Pakenham – V/Line and freight
|Expected opening||2022 Initial opening|
|Cost||£18.9 bn (approx A$33.6 bn)|
|A$12.4 bn (Source)|
|Fleet||70 x 9-car Class 345 trains||65 x 7-car Evolution HCMTs|
Future expansion to 10-cars
|Initial service frequency||Paddington – Reading or Heathrow: about every 10-15 minutes|
Paddington – Abbey Wood: every 5 mins (6am to 10pm Mon-Sat) – Sunday service coming later
Liverpool St – Shenfield: every 6-8 mins (6am to 10pm Mon-Sat), every 15 mins (Sundays)
|Sunshine – Dandenong: about every 4 mins (peak), every 10-20 mins (off-peak)*|
(Source: the Metro Tunnel Business Plan, Proposed Service Plan (2016), which the government subsequently said was a base case, not a service plan… even though it’s called a Proposed Service Plan.)
|Eventual frequency||Up to 24 trains per hour||Not clear, but probably similar given the deployment of high capacity signalling|
Corrections and additions very welcome.
It’s not just the concepts that are similar. The total route length and number of stations, the fleet size are all very similar.
But a key difference (which probably accounts for a lot of the cost) is longer tunnels and more new stations on the Elizabeth Line. It’ll also run a lot more trains, particularly outside peak times.
Hopefully the Melbourne Metro actual service levels turn out to be far better than the rather sad off-peak frequencies (to the west at least) flagged in the Proposed Service Plan – especially given how important it is post-COVID to provide for all kinds of journeys, not just peak trips.
The recent funding for recruitment of “over 100” additional train drivers is a good sign.
Mark Wild’s warning about mixing signalling systems is relevant – V/Line and freight trains will run through the sections where the Metro trains are using the High Capacity Signalling. After testing started on the Mernda line, it’s now happening on the Cranbourne/Pakenham line.
Hopefully the right people are working on it (Wild mentioned some of his team had headed to Australia as Crossrail wound down), and the rest of the project goes smoothly.
I may not get to London soon to see Crossrail while it’s new, but I am definitely looking forward to catching a train through the new Melbourne Metro Tunnel in 2025.