Eddington report released – two new rail lines recommended

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.



Tunnel issues

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.


21 Responses

  1. Oh, Phin. Your excellence makes me cry tears of anguish in comparison to the mediocrity of the bureaucracy (not Eddington, who as you say seems to have done a good job given the circumstances, but those circumstances themselves).

    Given that your thoughts for Melbourne PT all come from a perspective of what’s economically viable as well as what’s structurally/developmentally/environmentally effective, I don’t understand how the divide between the proposals of a young, free-minded thinker like yourself (or Riccardo, etc.) could be so far removed from the governmental reality. Sigh.

  2. Hey Phin, I think the Tarneit line is based on the availability and ease of acquiring the land out there to build a rail line, unless you can shed some light on the rail reserves set aside for the lines you have proposed…I know at some points of the lines that you propose there is Rail reserve but for the most of it, especially Footscray to Sunshine, it is fairly built up…(Go Phin, Rebuttal)

  3. This stuff is too crazy to know where to start – not even talking about the road bit, just the rail bit.

    Wish we could educate him and DOI on service standards.

    They keep going on about third tracks for peak hours, all this rubbish. Did you see the Caulfield-Richmond pair of tracks for the Dandenong line will have TWO TRAINS PER HOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!once the underground is built??????

    Will post on my own blog. Too whacky for words.

  4. Andrew, the line from West Footscray to Sunshine is ‘built up’ with redundant freight trackage and sidings mainly – and could be significantly rebuilt to add extra tracks (though like Phin, I’d really like to see ALL options explored, including Vlines using extra tracks on the South Dynon freight line too, if appropriate)

    Even the line from Newport to Footscray could take one extra track without too much trouble (most of the stations had sidings) but again it means the railways confronting their demons: NIMBYs, historic practices, “inefficiency displacement” where the wrong inefficiency is tackled.

    And before an extra track is added to the Newport Footscray line I’d like to see the REAL evidence it is needed. And how will it work being only one extra track, not two.

    Eddington complains about past timetabling being no guide to the present, but forgets that even with an up Geelong crawling behind an up Willy from Newport, its time ex Geelong to Melbourne CBD still beats driving. Hence what need to do anything about it, if the Footscray-Newport-South K section could easily handle 20 trains an hour.

    It is not this section with the troubles – it is Altona Junction and Laverton Junction, it is the insistence on running Willys direct rather than shuttles, and it is the North Melb-City Loop complex that causes the problems.

    I haven’t modelled this section myself the way I have with Pakenham and the Vline pattern is more complex, but I still suspect what is true for Pakenham is true for most of the lines – they could work them a lot harder and get a lot more efficiency if they dropped the sacred cows, such as swapping drivers at FSS/SCS, having excessive focus on ‘lateness’ rather than ‘service standard’ and reducing the peak-off peak gradient.

    BTW Eddington has a very poor, lame defence of the claim that the 1950s timetable can’t handle the 2008 demand despite the overall level of demand being the same. He focuses on extra journey length (which I rebuked on my blog) but also talks about changing urban settlement and work patterns AS IF THE GOVERNMENT HAD NO CONTROL OVER THEM.

    Likewise with the ‘peak spike’ AS IF THE GOVERNMENT NEVER HAD ANY MECHANISMS TO DEAL WITH THIS. They are now supposedly waking up to the reality that:

    -government sets the working hours of its own employees

    -government sets the hours of school and uni students

    -a handful of large employers eg NAB, ANZ, BHP and Myers could have been negotiated with to change working hours

    -the fare levels have always been able to be adjusted to reflect the time of travel

    -a lot of the compression is gradient related (people rush to leave work before when the expresses stop running, or to catch the connecting buses that stop running)

  5. Wonderful comment on Age blog: “Eddington Report is already in Brumby’s bin” 🙂

  6. Hi Phin/Riccardo,

    I’m a long time reader of your blogs/first time writer. I wasn’t sure who’s blog to post this in but it’s a bit more pertinent to something you mention in your comments here Riccardo.

    You mention Eddingtons’ lame excuse regarding 1950’s demand vs 2000’s demand. I see this comparison brought up a lot in reading. Mees is fond of the idea that we moved more people in the past therefore increases couldn’t be that hard.

    The thing is, whenever the notion arises that we could run more services along our train lines, I’ve noticed people (well, at least I’ve noticed people on railpage) immediately regurgitating excuses about constraints like signaling limits or track cross overs, etc. As if they’d just been asked to put down their dinner and do it themselves right now please.

    Now I’m not an engineer, or a planner, or anything more than a slightly concerned observer but aren’t we now proposing to dig some 35 kilometres of assorted tunnels to help alleviate the problem? Surely signals and tracks are minor in comparison? I’d love some insight into this. I just want to be sure I’m looking at this the right way.

    Anyway guys, I love your respective blogs and enjoy your insights. Keep up the good work.

    My 2 cents on the enquiry –

    – He made a big point of thoroughly rebuking (his words) the many submissions claiming that “Melbourne cannot build it’s way out of congestion”. I’m at a loss to think of a single large road infrastucture project that has successfully calmed congestion in the long term anywhere in the world. Does he know something the rest of the world doesn’t?

    The projections in the Now/Future section have 78% of people driving to work today versus 75% in 2031. It seems the Melbourne he is anticipating is almost exactly like the one we have now, just with more people. That might just be Sir Rod being pragmatic. Or maybe he’s not trying hard enough. I can’t decide.

  7. Too true Kieran – you’re on the same wavelength as us.

    The reason he gives for ‘path-chewing’ express trains is somewhat vague because he doesn’t really say it in these 2 words “political pressure”

    He says the expresses are needed to be competitive with car travel, but not sure exactly where he means. Some of the lines that are not very competitive with car travel eg Werribee, have few expresses (and the expressing makes little difference to travel time).

    Say we ran the system Riccardo style with all stations high frequency from Greensborough, Mooroolbark, FT Gully, Pakenham, Frankston, Sandy, Willy and Werribee via main, Sydneham, Craigieburn, Gowrie and Keon Park, every three minutes, with simple through running and an uncongested loop that ran the same way all day…where does the political pressure then come from?

    I’d really like to know, where is the political pressure?

    A journey time of 65 minutes from Pakenham, versus what via the Monash Freeway – I’d be very surprised if you could consistently do better than that in morning and afternoon peaks to/from CBD.

    Mooroolbark and FT Gully, not a hope.

    Gowrie is about 35 minutes by train and I can’t see Sydney Rd offering that, and the freeway is expensive and a long way round.

    Greensborough has no direct way to the city, as people who live there know, and I’d be surprised if people were doing it well under an hour consistently.

    Frankston to the city under an hour every day is not easy either.

    Werribee and Willy could probably suffer from competition but if the problems of the Westgate are getting worse, then maybe not. Their main problem is the indirect way via Footscray.

    So my rhetoricla question stands – where is the pressure for competitive times coming from?

    This is not to say I wouldn’t like to see journey times decrease – my blog posts on Pakenham make plain my ideas for doing exactly that.

    But walk before you run.

    Get rid of some of the junk stations – Laburnum would have been number one on my list by replacing Mont Albert-Surrey Hills-Chatham with 1 or 2 stations would also work. Ditto those stations between Heidelberg and Clifton Hill that get negligbel walk up traffic and are too close together.

    Stop the Dandenong line trains from stopping at SY.

    Too much easy stuff to do.

  8. Another thing to consider with the removal of Dandenong line trains from Caufield to South Yarra is that all the non-peak services stopping at Armadale, Toorak and Hawksburn are from the Dandenong line and many of the peak ones are too.

  9. By the way, there is a large amount of interchange on the Dandenong lines inbound at SYS. From Oakleigh, SYS is the largest amount of people getting off the trains (still packed with practically no standing room in most services from Murrumbeena)
    Like tom says, who is going to take the loads from Armadale – Hawksburn?

  10. Nice discussion – I’m trying to work up a combined submission on this issue.

    I think there would be no problem with surface links between the city and Footscray – as some have mentioned. I think the issue is three lines from north melbourne to Sunshine – and three lines from Footscray to Newport. This will allow a mix of express and slower trains. It would also be cheaper and service more people than a link across the mouth of the yarra to Fisherman’s bend. This would be problematic also for container boats.

    I think serving the west better with the Tarneit line could certainly be considered.

    We also need to have a third line to Clifton Hill – which again eases congesion – and could link with a doncaster line for alternative routing on weekends in particular with sporting events at the MCG.

    I’m not sure about the need for a tunnel from Caulfield to the CBD. What I think ‘should’ occur is a connection to the north and east. If we start from Flinders St (new underground platforms with links to loop going to Southern Cross or Richmond as required). If down the track we want to extend this, leave that as an option.

    But to continue – have stops at Bourke St Mall, QV market – I’d then say go three ways.

    1. Split off to north Melbourne (it gives an alternative for trains from the West not going through the loop.

    2. Go north – to Royal Melb Hospital (and Melb Uni 1) and connect up with the line north before Brunswick Rd.

    3. After Royal Melb Hospital, head east with a stop at Elgin St (for Melb Uni 2 and Lygon St), then link up to Alexandra Parade and the Eastern Freeway. Take the line down the Freeway to Bulleen then more work would be needed to work out the best options from there. Ideally you’d have stops in Bulleen, Doncaster Shopping town, Doncaster east and ending at say the Pines shopping centre.

    For option 3 – also split this to follow the old outer circle line and link up to the Alamein line – then continue this to East Malvern Station, Chadstone shopping centre and say to Oakleigh.

    (eventual option to continue this around to Moorabin and Brighton beach and make a true outer circle loop but hold off for the moment :))

    This gives us an alternative option into the city not using the loop. But, as noted, could divert to the loop past Collingwood and Jolimont.

    I think the tram extensions mentioned on this site could be considered – along with extensions from Vermont South to Knox.

    I’d still like to see an airport line – but maybe this could go from the lines west before Footscray around the other side of the river from Flemington, to Tullamarine via major shopping centres 🙂

    Some things would help train and car movement. I don’t think we can ignore cars – but just not make them the priority.

    We need to get rid of a number of crossings – but ‘some’ could be funded by selling space above them (or around Stations) with private sector. This would include Springvale Rd Nunawading, various ones on Glen Waverley line, Bell St and Brunswick Rd going north etc.

    The only major road works I’d consider would be to link the ring road to the eastern freeway. Do this with a 6km tunnel from Doncaster/bulleen (around where we take the train from the freeway so works done together) and link to the Greensborough Highway near the military base. Duplicate the road there for 1.5km and just remove the major intersections. Less than 10km of works and take pressure off traffic intending to bi-pass the city or go north.

    Some thoughts – sorry, not a map to post at present.

  11. Tom, not sure this is really a problem as the stopping pattern is easily changed…but you have highlighted the lack of detail (and some of the strange logic) in the Eddington Report.

    I think like rosary beads, someone should have given Sir Rod some strands of rope, and helped him to remember how many separate ‘traffics’ go through the city and therefore how much track amplification is ACTUALLY needed, because I think he has got himself and numerous others very confused.

    Assuming Willy and Alamein remain shuttles, and Vline/freight is one traffic, there are from the East: Sandy, Frank, Dandenong, Vline, Glen, Ringwood, Hurstbridge and Epping. 8 Traffics

    From the West: Werribee, Vline, Sydenham, Craigieburn and Upfield. 5 Traffics. There used to be 7 – St Kilda and Port Melbourne too.

    The imbalance is therefore only 3 traffics greater from the East. And it was only 1.

    Now the City Loop has the capacity to reverse three Eastern traffics back on themselves – effectively balancing the system.

    The remaining traffics have to fit across three pairs of tracks between FSS and Southern Cross.

    Given that five traffics have to use these tracks, you could terminate two of them easily – one being Vline (with no regular running between FSS and Southern Cross maybe, except the Bairnsdales) the other being the Sandy line for argument’s sake.

    You would therefore need at FSS three platforms for the reversed traffics on the City Loop, another six platforms for the through traffics via the viaducts, and another 4 platforms for the terminating traffics. A total of 13 platforms.

    Now it doesn’t take too much brain power to realise that until recent times FSS had 13 platforms, they went and removed the one closest to the river for no obvious reason, and closed the ones under Federation Square (again, no obvious reason why they couldn’t have continued to be used, under Federation Square, not like they weren’t under a building before.)

    So the pairing of lines would go something like this:

    -Frankston:itself via the Loop
    -Glen Waverley:Sydenham
    -Ringwood:itself via the Loop
    -Hurstbridge:itself via the Loop
    -Broadmeadows:itself via the loop

    Notice the through lines don’t ever have to cross each other.

    Set the Hurstbridge loop on permanent clockwise and the Caulfield Loop too. Set the others on permanent anti-clockwise.

  12. I`m sure that the Frankston line passengers would love 3 extra stops.

    If the new line is metro style then that also would mean no expresses on the Pakenham/Cranbourne line between Caufield and the city.

  13. Tom I’m not sure you can say that.

    But fact is, we don’t really know what is intended in the Eddington Report as it doesn’t say.

    If the two Caulfield-SY tracks are now ‘spare’ you could easily move Frankston expresses on to them.

    But does Eddington propose that they stay “spare”? And his report, if you recall, was specifically tasked to NOT suggest any improvements to services outside the East-West corridor.

  14. […] project seem poorly thought out. For some background on the potential pitfalls, have a look at my post on the topic and Riccardo’s summary of the […]

  15. Many thanks for all the comments and apologies for my lack of them. I’ve tried to address some of the issues raised in my most recent post.


  16. Hey, some great ideas on here! Just wondering your reasoning for running the train through Fishermen’s Bend which would have little if no passengers at nights and weekends, than diverting it a bit further south to touch, say, the Garden City bus interchange or further towards 109 tram territory? Would a station at the west end of the Melbourne Convention Centre be too close to Southern Cross Station as well?

  17. The Eddington report seems to highlight the areas where we are lacking rail lines in inner city areas….but it doesn’t go into any detail about the lack of rail lines in rural areas…But it should. Since the late 1970s the Victorian rail system has been slowly and methodically destroyed. You can’t catch a train Yea anymore and you can’t catch a train to Daylesford for that matter…Just as you can’t to Orbost, Warburton, Mansfield, Leongatha, Mirboo nth, Port Fairy, Colbinabbin, Bright, Redesdale, Coleraine, Casterton, Yanac, Carpolac, and Bolangum…But the list goes on. When these lines were closed, the excuse was, that many of these lines weren’t being used, and guess what, a lot of them weren’t because they had been allowed to fall into a state disrepair which gave rise to slow inefficient track speeds, and it was this that turned people off rail, which in turn more or less killed these railways one by one. It’s a shame because back in the 70s and 80s when this happened it all seemed like a logical thing to do…But today there are more people living in provincial victoria than there was back in those days, and with that comes the potential for more passenger traffic. In the days before people knew about climate change, it made more sense to cart frieght with trucks. Now that we know Climate Change is a reality, it’s only now that we can see the sense behind moving freight by rail, and the error behind ripping rail lines out of the ground. And where are all of these the rail lines now? That’s right…gone. Ripped out of the ground… It wasn’t a smart thing to do. Nothing on the planet moves bulk tonnage with minimal environmental impact like rail does. Be it Passenger or Freight..nothing does nothing moves it better…or cleaner. And of course we need more lines rail in inner city/urban areas, but we need a lot more in rural areas too. I only hope that some politician wakes up to this, and fixes our rail system permenently.

  18. Indeed the Tarneit Rail Line is a real puzzel. After all the money which was spent on allowing Geelong trains to run faster into Melbourne then to make the journey longer at enormous expence to tax payers, when the money could be used for yep – the Doncaster and Rowville Lines!

    However recently I was visiting the new-model-middle-class-ideal-suburbia of Eynesbury and was impressed with the develpoment, but was very concerned that there is no public transport out there. Considering that they envisage 12,000 people living there alone by 2020 and for the fact that the huge land wedge between Werribee and Caroline Springs will be home to at least 500,000 more residents by about 2030, when Melbourne is to hit a min of 5 million therefore laying out a heavy rail corridor along the Tarneit Rail route isn’t such a bad idea after all. However narrow Government thinking has it as merely a country rail line – not primarily a suburban rail corridor.

    Since the Eddington Cross City Rail tunnel will serve the Sunbury / Melton Lines en route via the City towards Caulfield then additional lines / stations in the Tarneit corridor should be seriously considered.

    In my transport planning fantasy I have allowed for an Eynesbury Stn (39KM to Domain Stn – via Caroline Springs, Footscray, Nth Melbourne – yes better than Arden, Parkville, City Nth, City Sth) on a branch line from the scenario Truganina Stn (25.8KM – Domain Stn) located on the already planned Tarneit Line at the NE of Hopkins / Boundary Rd.

    Back to the point of your arguement, and nudging a few more of my own plans into the equation, the option of yours for a new link from Newport to Fishermans Bend is a good idea. It was actually proposed in about 2005 by the Brumby Gov., but was only another broken promise. However I beleive this line shouldn’t go to Southern Cross / City Loop, but instead out east towards Rowville, en route interchanging at Domain, first via Yarras Edge, Southbank and then on to South Yarra and out to Rowville, via Monash. Therefore Interchanges are at Newport, Domain (Platforms 3 / 4), South Yarra (new underground Pl 7 / 8), then of course via Huntingdale and Monash complimenting your proposed Monash – Camberwell Line. Including your proposals for a Camberwell – Chadstone – Monash Line and my options for extending Camberwell – Essendon / Melb Airport , in effect this is making a truely Inner Circle Line linking virtually all of the existing radial lines – swifter cross town travel potential. London and Moscow have similar lines and Melbourne is of comparable area, while less density nonetheless.

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