Metro tunnel portal plans released

Rail Projects Victoria has released some draft plans for parts of the Metro 1 project.

The plans include both portals (where the tunnel connects to the existing aboveground tracks) and the western turnback – a facility to be added at West Footscray station to turnback (terminate and/or originate) train services through the tunnel.

Below are some brief notes, but if you want details, you should go read the full draft documents and send in feedback to the project team.

Eastern portal

The eastern portal will be near South Yarra station.

The Dandenong line will have a junction near Chapel Street that allows rail traffic to enter the tunnel (likely for all suburban services), or continue on the existing tracks to Richmond (V/Line and freight, and perhaps the occasional sports event special).

South Yarra platforms 5+6 won’t be entirely abandoned – plans released some years ago and newer versions recently leaked both show the platforms being used in the future as the rail network continues to expand.

Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel draft plans: Eastern portal
Metro tunnel draft design: eastern portal (Click to see larger)

Note the lack of South Yarra platforms for the tunnel. This is tricky: the only way they could be accommodated is underground, well west of the existing station – making any kind of passenger connection very difficult. The government also claims it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and require a lot of land acquisition.

Western portal

The western portal near South Kensington station does a similar job for the Sunbury line.

Edit: I had thought the plans indicated the existing Sunbury line tracks to North Melbourne were set to be abandoned, but a commenter below found this diagram which shows them still present after the project is complete.

Under normal operations, it’s expected North Melbourne’s platforms will become dedicated to the tracks from Werribee+Williamstown / Upfield / Craigieburn respectively.

(The left of the first diagram below connects to the right of the second diagram)

Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel draft plans: Western portal
Metro tunnel draft design: western portal (Click to see larger)

Notably the tunnel project will include improvements to South Kensington’s station entrance, but it appears no substantial upgrades to the station itself – it’s one of Melbourne’s dingiest, and with steep non-DDA-compliant ramps. Hopefuly there are opportunities to improve the station, including widening the platforms, once the old tracks are removed on the north side.

Western turnback

The western turnback involves additional track and a new platform 1 at West Footscray (which was itself only rebuilt and opened in 2013 as part of the Regional Rail Link project). The new platform will have a completely separate entrance, and is not aligned with the existing ones. Make your own conclusions about forward planning.

Melbourne Metro 1 tunnel draft plans: Western turnback
Metro tunnel draft design: western turnback (Click to see larger)

I’m not sure why they decided on West Footscray instead of, say, Sunshine. Perhaps it was based on where short starting trains would bring the most benefit in the event of a disruption. As I understand it a similar turnback track is planned near Malvern.

Originating short citybound trains on platform 2 of course is somewhat problematic when passengers will usually board citybound trains on platform 1.

It’s good to see the tunnel project progressing, even if there are questions about parts of the design, and service upgrades are lagging.

Anyway, read more about these plans on the project web site.

The feedback period lasts until 22nd February.

Renaming North Melbourne

It’s perhaps a minor thing, but…

Back in November 2017 the metro tunnel station names were announced, including a new station called North Melbourne, with the current station to be renamed to West Melbourne.

I don’t have a problem with that. It’s logical… but it has to happen well in advance of the new station opening, to minimise confusion.

At the time, there were assurances that this would be done quickly.

A good opportunity to rename a station is when there are other rail network changes, prompting a new edition of the rail map.

Publishing a new map is a big thing. It has to be designed, and then every map around the system needs to be replaced. Web sites are easy, but there’s every station, every train carriage.

Well they missed an opportunity. In August 2018 the Mernda rail extension opened, prompting a map revision. But “West Melbourne” is still “North Melbourne”.

PTV train map August 2018

If you want an illustration that replacing all the maps is a big task, note that many stations, including my local, are still displaying the old pre-Mernda maps.

So, what are the next metro stations to be opened? Well there’s actually nothing definite until the tunnel opens in 2025… including the new North Melbourne.

They could have done the renaming in August, but they didn’t.

Perhaps there are other factors holding them back; some behind-the-scenes issues that need to be resolved. Presumably those can be overcome; just as they were for Melbourne Central (Museum) and Southern Cross (Spencer Street).

There is another chance before 2025. There aren’t any more metro stations expected before then, but there is a V/Line station: Cobblebank, in Melbourne’s outer west, slated for completion during 2019.

Let’s hope they take this opportunity to rename North Melbourne well before the new station opens.

What is Metro 2?

If you live in Melbourne, you’ve almost certainly heard of the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel project (MMRT for short, but to avoid confusion here, I’ll call it Metro 1).

You may or may not have also heard of the Metro 2 project. So what is it?

It used to be the second stage of Metro 1, but around 2012 that tunnel was changed to be built as one big project.

Metro 2 is a second metro rail tunnel.

It was glimpsed in PTV’s rail plan of 2013, and at the time was seen as a tunnel from the South Morang/Mernda line, just north of Clifton Hill station, diving under Fitzroy (possibly with a station there), Parkville (with interchange to Metro 1), then Flagstaff, Southern Cross, and finally out to new development at Fishermans Bend.

The latest thinking has it extending further, under the river to Newport, to connect with the Werribee line.

This modified plan hasn’t officially been published by PTV, so here’s one I’ve cobbled together that shows it (on top of everything else in Stage 4, much of which seems to be under review):

PTV map (NDP stage 4) modified to show Metro 2

So basically the South Morang/Mernda line would be separated from the Hurstbridge line, boosting capacity on both (and allowing the Doncaster line to be built — though some argue that this can be done sooner, with high-capacity signalling). And the Werribee line would be separated out from the Williamstown and Altona Loop (Laverton) lines.

This has a lot of merit. Although the Werribee line has been freed of the contraints of the Geelong line trains thanks to the Regional Rail Link project, it serves a massive growth area to Melbourne’s south-west, and eventually the line will fill up again. South Morang/Mernda is also seeing a lot of growth, and enabling high frequencies on the line might also make possible a branch to Epping North.

Alongside other rail projects it would improve connections, allowing far more trains to run.

Metro 2 diagram (from Infrastructure Victoria)
(Source: Infrastructure Victoria/KPMG Preliminary Demand Modelling/Economic Appraisal)

Passengers on both lines would have a faster, more direct trip into the CBD, which if accompanied by quality local feeder services (buses) and infrastructure (bus and bike lanes, and pedestrian facilities) would better compete with car travel.

From Werribee the new direct route would make the train a better match for the Westgate Freeway. And not just for western suburbs to CBD commutes; it would also cater much better for trips to the Fishermans Bend area — currently completely noncompetitive by public transport.

If the line ran 15 trains per hour (up from about 7 in the busiest hour now), that’s at least 8800 additional people, assuming 7-car HCMTs, well above what the proposed 3-lane West Gate Tunnel could handle.

But that wouldn’t be stretching the rail infrastructure. More can be squeezed out the current lines right now, and a new tunnel should be able to run at least 24 trains, but up to 30 or more using high capacity signalling, and if built for it, 10-car trains.

Singapore MRT under construction

Some think the ideal time to start building such a project isn’t after the metro tunnel is finished in 2026 — rather, it’s in the next few years — starting with detailed planning, surveying, soil testing, property acquisition, all the stuff that the first metro tunnel went through ten years ago in preparation for major works.

And preferably major works (including excavation) start on Metro 2 as they finish on Metro 1 — which isn’t the end of the first project, but some time early next decade. This would allow expertise and equipment to roll off one onto the next.

There’s a cost to all this of course — well above $10 billion, according to Infrastructure Victoria.

But again, the choice between a project like this and Yet Another Massive Road Project means the difference in future between getting thousands more people onto public transport, or thousands more people onto the roads.

The metro tunnel stations will be called…

So the Metro tunnel station names will be, from south to north…

Anzac (working name Domain) — located more-or-less underneath the Shrine of Remembrance, of course. (The Shrine Trustees didn’t want the word Shrine used, by the way. I wonder how they feel about Anzac. Given the usual tight control over the name, I assume appropriate approvals have been granted.)

Town Hall (working name CBD South) — which will have entrances adjacent the Town Hall, in the City Square, as well as direct connections to Flinders Street

State Library (working name CBD North) — entrances along Swanston Street, and connections to Melbourne Central Station. It’ll be a bit north of the library, but takes its name from the nearest major landmark. (I think “Library” would have been snappier, but oh well.)

Parkville — same as the working name, and adjacent to Melbourne University and the hospital precinct. (One of the things the naming panel suggested was signage wording such as “Parkville, for University of Melbourne”, similar to that used at Glenferrie for Swinburne.)

…and are you ready for the twist?

North Melbourne (working name Arden) — yes, they’re going to rename the existing North Melbourne to West Melbourne, to reflect where it actually is located… and use North Melbourne for the brand new station.

It’s not a totally crazy idea. The level of confusion will depend on how well it’s handled.

I’d hope the renaming would happen as early as possible (perhaps when all the network maps are all re-printed for the Mernda rail extension opening in 2019) — well ahead of the new station being completed.

Metro tunnel construction on Swanston Street

As for the others… they’re all good location-based names, which tell you precisely where the stations will be, and that was always the priority in my opinion.

Many people said would have liked CBD South to be named as part of Flinders Street, and CBD North as part of Melbourne Central, but emergency services and others raised concerns about confusion with this in emergencies. Hopefully the new rail maps will show the direct connection — this is done on many networks, such as London.

London Tube map showing station connections

I was on the naming panel which gave recommendations to government. I can’t tell you who gave which opinions, but a wide variety of names were thrown around; some geographic/landmarks, some cultural and historic figures and references.

So all in all, a pretty good set of names, which should help people navigate their way around.

… Though fans of the Simpsons, Game of Thrones and Vegemite may not be happy.

And while we wait for the tunnel to be actually built, let’s not forget that some service upgrades (such as all-day ten minute train services to most stations) are possible now, before it’s built.

What should they call the metro tunnel stations?

Just posted on the holiday blog: Brussels — where I meet my new baby cousin in a tram museum (of course!)👶🚋

The state government are running a competition for naming the new stations to be built as part of the metro rail tunnel.

It’s a good idea to get suggestions. Some of the working names are a little uninformative, and someone out there might have a brilliant name idea that nobody in officialdom has thought of.

A panel will look at the suggestions and make recommendations to the government.

My thinking is the names should be dull but informative.

Melbourne metro rail tunnel alignment map

For all the bright ideas of naming them after people or using historical or cultural references, fundamentally these names are a navigation aid to be used for decades to come.

The first aim is not to honour something or somebody, but to help people get around, so the names have to tell you where the stations are.

As one observer pointed out: Jewell and Anstey stations (which are both named after politicians) just don’t work as names.

Perhaps in time major stations can become landmarks in their own right, but I suspect this is unlikely with underground stations without a big surface footprint.

So for the tunnel, here is my initial thinking, from south to north, and using the working names as a reference:

Domain: To be located underneath the current Domain tram interchange. While Kings Domain (park) is further north, the broader Domain Parklands includes the area around the Shrine immediately next to the station site. So “Domain” or “Shrine” would work, as both are well-known landmarks. “St Kilda Road” would be too vague.

CBD South and North are too similar, so I think it would be unwise to keep the working names.

CBD South: If you were aiming to use a local landmark, then the station’s location is close to Town Hall, the City Square, and St Paul’s Cathedral.

But this station will also have a direct paid connection into Flinders Street Station, so to aid rail network legibility, it would make a lot of sense to simply call it (part of) Flinders Street.

CBD North: Some people have suggested RMIT, but RMIT has multiple campuses including in Bourke Street, and out at Bundoora. The major landmarks are the State Library (so perhaps “Library”) and the City Baths.

But as with CBD South, this station will include a direct connection into Melbourne Central, so again, there is a strong argument for calling it “Melbourne Central”.

There’s also a strong argument that “Melbourne Central” is not a very good name for Melbourne Central Station. It couldn’t stay as Museum after the museum moved away. You could rename the whole complex “Library”, but I suspect that ship has sailed. It may not be a main central station, but there are others around the world called “central” that aren’t the main station (I found one in Exeter) and at least the shopping centre is a landmark.

Parkville: This one will directly serve Melbourne University and the hospital precinct, and I can’t immediately think of any other landmarks in the area. I wouldn’t call it “University” — we’ve only in the past decade or two got away from trams using that name, which is vague given the number of universities in Melbourne. “Parkville” is probably a pretty good name.

Arden: This will be in a new development area. The name Arden is derived from Arden Street, but is that name locked-in as a suburb name? Whatever the suburb is going to be called, I’d use for the station.

Those are my initial thoughts.

Ideas?

Update Friday: