The Eddington report has finally been released, and to be honest it’s far better than I expected when the inquiry was announced. The road tunnel has been given the green light, which is disappointing but completely unsurprising; but the big news is that Eddington has reccomended the construction of a 17km rail tunnel through the city and inner suburbs, as the “first step” towards creating a Melbourne metro. Also included is the proposal for the Tarneit link. The absence of rail to Doncaster is a disappointment, but again, hardly a surprise.
While the report contains little we didn’t already know about (most of it was leaked over the past couple of weeks), the recommendation of considerable rail improvements is most welcome. Frankly, it’s quite a break from the ‘build a freeway but upgrade a bus and fund it for 30 years’ approach which seems to have informed transport planning in Melbourne of late.
I’m not going to talk about the road tunnel, other than to say that the $9 billion earmarked for the road could do a lot if invested in public transport instead. I’m going to focus on the rail proposals, some of which (like a tunnel down Swanston St. and St. Kilda Rd.) are very sensible, and others of which (like diverting Geelong trains via a new line from Werribee to Deer Park) are positively wacky. Below are maps (from the report and The Age) of the scope of the rail project.
Basically, I really like the idea of a north-south tunnel running under Swanston St. and St. Kilda Rd. Indeed, I posted on this issue, as well what to do about the trams, a while back. However, I planned on sending the tunnel North to the Upfield and Doncaster and south to Balaclava. My plan wouldn’t have taken much pressure off the northern loop.
Sending a branch north-west to link up with the Sydenham and Werribee lines is a good idea, but I can’t see why it needs to go underground all the way to Footscray. There’s space in North Dynon for extra surface tracks, and lots of money could be saved by putting the tunnel portals at Lloyd St. in West Melbourne. Value for money wise, simply talking the Werribee line out of the loop would do part of this tunnel’s job for a lot less money. The bottom line is that tunnelling is still worthwhile, albeit truncated to West Melbourne.
The southern section of the tunnel, from the Sandringham line to Caulfield, probably is only required from a capacity perspective because of constraints in the city. The existing 4 tracks between Richmond and Caulfield would do the job well enough if the investment were made in decent signalling, high speed turnouts and flyovers. An efficient 4 track railway should be able to handle at least 40-60 tph per direction, catering for both expresses and stoppers. The city does have capacity problems, but taking trains out of the loop would mitigate them somewhat. In any case, I don’t really have enough information about city end capacity problems, so taking trains out of the loop may not be a viable long term option.
The big benefit of the Caulfield section is that it makes it much easier for residents of the south east to get to work in St. Kilda Rd. Making the rail system less radial by building these sort of connections between lines is a good idea, and absolutely necessary if public transport wants to seriously compete with cars.
The Tarneit rail line
The proposed Tarneit rail line takes a good concept – separating V/Line and metropolitan trains – and implements it terribly. 4 tracks from Sunshine to the Footscray is a sensible idea, but sending Geelong trains via Deer Park and Sunshine is mad mad mad. Not only will it increase Geelong line travel times, but it won’t solve Werribee line problems stemming from the Altona branch or broader V/Line issues related to the mess at North Melbourne.
Building a new line from Newport to Southern Cross via Fishermans Bend is a much simpler way of fixing the problem. It would improve speeds for Geelong trains and could potentially carry Werribee line trains too. Fixing up the Altona branch with double track and flyovers is a must as part of this project. Here’s what it would look like:
I’ve also been considering a few other ideas for untangling V/Line and metropolitan services in the western suburbs – there’ll be a post on that issue soon.
Whilst it may appear that I’ve been harsh on the report – especially the Tarneit line – I think Eddingtion has done the best job that could be expected given the circumstances. We have to remember that he was originally hired by the Victorian government to rubber stamp a freeway tunnel, but has come out demanding as much money spent on public transport improvements. Furthermore, the report talks of the need decent train, tram and bus frequencies all day every day, as well as a metro style system for inner Melbourne. That is eminently sensible and the man does deserve credit for it.