Given the discussion about a north-south city tunnel on this blog recently, combined with an excellent post on problems with the city loop over at Riccardo’s blog, I thought it might be a good idea to have a closer look at what such a plan might involve.
What’s the plan?
A north-south rail tunnel through the city should really be expected to handle services towards the north, from Doncaster and Upfield (or the airport if I have my way), and towards the south, from St. Kilda. This isn’t a new idea, but it’s certainly a good one. The map below shows the proposed line.
I’ve included two separate route options for the northern section of the line. Option A is based on station locations suggested by Riccardo, and option B shows my thinking for station placing. Ultimately however, the plans are basically the same and would serve exactly the same purpose. The biggest difference is that option A is somewhat shorter than option B (just over 8 km to Flinders St. compared with 10.25 km), largely because a tunnel from Clifton Hill to the eastern freeway would need to be longer than one from Victoria Park. Both plans would require 6 new underground stations to get to Flinders St.
The southern section of the line basically runs under St. Kilda Rd. until Moubray St., where it heads curves westward to St Kilda. and then runs east to terminate under Balaclava station on the Sandringham line. The total length of the line would be 6.875 km and 5 stations would be constructed; at Domain Interchange, Commercial Rd., Fitzroy St., Acland St. and Balaclava station.
How much would it cost?
Using my old friend the NCCCS, I can estimate construction costs for the line. In 2001, the NCCCS costed double track underground railway at $40 million/km and underground stations at $50 million. In 2006 dollars (the most recent full year figures the RBA has on their calculator), that’s $46.07 million for the rail and $57.58 million for the stations. The cost of stations for the project would be in the order of $633.4 million. The cost of building rail would be $685.3 million for option A and $788.9 million for option B. Total costs would be in the order of $1318.7 million for option A and $1422.3 million for option B. Obviously, option B is not $100 million better than option A, so option A seems to be the better plan. I would however suggest placing Fitzroy station in Johnston St. between Brunswick and Nicholson, to maximise integration with route 96 as well as 112. Bundled with the $495.2 million Doncaster line and the $127 million airport via Upfield line, total cost of the project would be $2044.5 million.
Interestingly, the $100 million saving would more than pay for the construction of a tram line between Clifton Hill and North Melbourne, which would more than cover the catchment area of an Alexandra Pde. station. The 4 km line would only cost $43.5 million. Here’s what it would look like:
The bottom line
Basically, $2 billion buys us a Doncaster line, an airport line and an inner city metro line. This provides for additional growth, not only on the newly constructed lines, but on existing lines as well. Integration of the rail system would be considerably improved. When the state government is spending $3 billion on EastLink, and possibly even more for an inner northern freeway tunnel (we’ll see what Eddington says!), $2 billion to massively increase the usefulness and efficiency of the rail system shouldn’t seem like such a big outlay…
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