Alternatives to Eddington Part 1 – Western Suburbs Options

The recently released Eddingtion report is proposing a lot of new rail infrastructure. Whilst new money for rail infrastructure is most welcome, parts of the 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 problems.

It’s all very well for me to get stuck into Eddington for his general wackiness, but there is a need to invest in new infrastructure to increase capacity and provide service to new areas. So I’m going to have a look at what I’d do if the government signed off on the sort of spending Eddington wants for rail, but gave me the cheque instead. I’m going to split it into two posts – in this one, I’m going to look at alternative capacity improvements in the western suburbs, and in the next I’ll look at the north-south tunnel and better ways to deal with eastern suburbs capacity issues.

The problems in the western suburbs are twofold. Firstly, metropolitan trains are getting delayed by (and delaying) path hungry V/Line trains – an issue which has become more prevalent since the (most welcome) expansion of V/Line services. Secondly, metropolitan services are tangled up by infrastructure (single track, lack of flyovers and a lack of segregation between separate lines) and timetabling constraints and are delaying each other. The improvements I’m proposing are designed specifically to address these problems.

I’ve asked a lot more questions than I’ve answered in this post, and if you think the specifics of my plan won’t work – don’t hesitate to let me know!

Directly below are some diagrams, They show the Eddington plan (from p.40 of the DoI’s EWLNA analysis on rail capacity) followed by my plan in both track diagram and aerial photo form.

Sunshine corridor freight tracks upgrade

Eddington wants another two tracks to Sunshine to segregate metropolitan and V/Line services. My view is that, while this is good, perhaps the corridor could be considered more holistically. Freight is also part of the equation, and the dual gauge freight line suffers from long single track sections. Why not try to fix both problems at once as well as solving the North Melbourne issue?

Exactly what Eddington and the DoI want to do with North Melbourne doesn’t seem clear. Page 32 of the DoI’s report shows platforms 1 and 2 reserved for V/Line and Upfield alone, Werribee running through the loop and Craigieburn running direct. Yet they leave open the prospect of Craigieburn continuing through the loop and Werribee running direct. The map on page 41 shows the latter option. While the first option would be manageable, the second would be problematic.

In my plan, getting the line up to scratch where it parallels the Sydenham line is the easy part – it needs about 5 kilometres of Duplication between Sunshine and South Dynon junction. I believe that the ARTC are upgrading the line anyway so costs could potentially be split. The main cost will come from the works at Sunshine and North Melbourne.

At Sunshine, the whole lot needs to be knocked down and rebuilt with 4 platforms. I’m not exactly sure how to do this though – given the need for several flyovers.

At the city end, even more work is required. The line would run via existing tracks through North Dynon (these would conversion to dual gauge as I’m assuming the North East will go SG soon) and would be served by two new platforms at North Melbourne. The line needs to cross the metropolitan tracks to get to the Southern Cross terminus tracks and is in rather close proximity to the existing flyover. This means that the new platforms would need to be built to the north of the existing North Melbourne platforms to connect with the (substantially modified ) existing flyover, or the whole flyover would have to be rebuilt to the south. Both of these options would be expensive – but North Melbourne is a big problem at present and something needs to be done.

Over Dudley St., the easternmost two tracks would carry V/Line only, the middle two tracks Craigieburn and Sunshine loop services, and the western two tracks direct Laverton and Williamstown trains. The existing freight only tracks could be used for V/Line trains into the newly built platforms 15/16 at Southern Cross.


– Will the double track line be able to handle Ballarat, Bendigo and North East trains as well as the freights? My feeling is that it should if signalled properly. Potential areas of concern are around Tottenham and South Dynon, but cooperation with freight operators and the ARTC, combined with flyovers if required should go some way to solving these problems.

– Should V/Line stop at North Melbourne at all? If the loop running patterns were altered such that Caulfield and Clifton Hill ran clockwise all day, and Burnley and Northern anti-clockwise – as shown below – North Melbourne loses it’s importance as a V/Line/loop interchange. In the morning, V/Line passengers could alight at Southern cross and change to a Caulfield or Clifton Hill loop train, and in the evening, they could catch a Burnley loop train to get back to Southern Cross. This is a much better layout than operates at present. Eliminating V/Line stopping at North Melbourne would substantially reduce the cost of these works as no new platforms would be needed and the flyover would require less modification. It’s an idea that many will no doubt find controversial, but it’s not that crazy if you think about it.

Fishermans Bend line

Werribee is getting messy too, with a poor level of metropolitan service (in both relative and absolute terms) and problems with Geelong line services. The announcement that peak hour Werribee trains would run direct to Flinders St. during peak was a welcome step, but it doesn’t address the issue of poor service standard stemming from interaction with V/Line trains and the single track through Altona.

Eddington wants to build a line through Tarneit to take Geelong trains off the Werribee line, but at a supposed cost of $1.5 billion. How it could be so much is beyond me – Perth just built a 70km line to Mandurah with enough trains to operate the line for only $1 billion. Furthermore, ZH836301 pointed out on Railpage that Geelong trains taking this line would need to maintain an average speed of 115kph all the way to Footscray just to keep existing travel times. Clearly the line is completely mad.

Several people have suggested building a line from Newport to Southern Cross instead. I think this is by far the best idea – it speeds up both Geelong and Werribee services and reduces pressure on North Melbourne and Footscray. Under my plan, Werribee services would run express from Laverton to Newport, thence to Southern Cross. The existing line would be used for stoppers to Williamstown and Laverton via Altona, and would be through routed with Sandringham.


Should the new line be deep level tunnel through Fishermans Bend, or will surface tracks beside the freeway suffice? If turning Fishermans Bend into high density residential becomes a reality, surface tracks beside the freeway could simply be decked over along with the freeway.

– Is the mud under the Yarra stable enough for a tunnel? My understanding is that the geology of the area precluded the West Gate from being built as a tunnel – has technology advanced sufficiently to make this plan workable?

Sunbury and Melton electrification

I included electrification to both Sunbury and Melton as part of the plan, but since I looked into it in these two posts, I’ve wavered somewhat. Electrification works well for high frequency metropolitan services, and in Melbourne, it tends to cause further urban sprawl. I’d rather that Sunbury and Melton functioned as satellite towns rather than suburbs – so perhaps electrification is not the way to go. I could be convinced either way on this issue.


Is electrification to Sunbury and Melton a good idea if we don’t want further sprawl out that way?

Some of the measures I’m proposing are fairly well known (Like building a line through Fishermans Bend), but others (like merging V/line and interstate freight) are not so common. Perhaps there’s a reason no-one’s suggested some of them (like they’re really bad!), so I’m very interested to hear your views. Below is what the Western Suburbs would look like to passengers if I had my way.


18 Responses

  1. Excellent post Phin, I wish it was easy to reply to. This is such a long topic and Rod has said so much that we can only post comments in bits (and it has left me in the middle of my Pakenham project not finished!)

    -Fishermen’s Bend – could use elevated rail along the top of Lorimer st or the Freeway, no different from HK Airport line
    -could tunnel using TBM, a Casino West/Jeffs shed station would be good if doable.

    -all new tunnelling should be for lines that can be run to full metro standard – as you’ve suggested, Werribee all to Laverton, express to station under Newport, under the water, no more than 2 stops, FSS or SCS and either terminate, or run to some other place that can terminate them quickly and frequently eg the Sandringham line.

    -the Tarneit costing is a joke.

    -re Sunbury and Melton, if pure ‘commuter’ service is what they want to deliver, then do it GO-Transit or North American style.

    Melton would be ideal for a North American style operation as:
    -few stations, means few to modify for long trains

    -could be double deck as only 4 realistic stops – Melton, Rockbank, Deer Park and Ardeer then drop-off only at Sunshine then SCS so no dwell time issues

    -very little prospect of off-peak turn-up-and-go service as no major pedshed traffic generators, all stations are park and ride

    -therefore no need for electric, which would run all day empty and could be picked up by Deer Park bus service and Melton as a stop on Ballarats.

    Re Sunbury, the question is probably academic as they seem set to do it. Sunbury corridor will probably have to accept its share of Melbourne’s 1000000 new people. Hence will probably need more trains and these will probably be the electric Watergardens trains.

    -Freight. A fully segregated and adequate freight network can be finished on the west side of Melbourne no sweat, and could be built from Dandenong to Hastings at reasonable cost. The link between the two should be the biggy (Epping-Greensborough-Doncaster-Ringwood-Knox-Dandy) but
    I doubt this would be built and how to otherwise build an Eastern suburbs freight line is not obvious.

    No jokes, maybe we should be kicking the Bellarine Peninsular mob off their narrow gauge and putting in the 1435, then digging under the water there! You could route a corridor from the Mornington Peninsula Freeway easement at Blairgowrie or wherever it finishes, then up to the Merricks/Bittern junction and Long Island…

    -Agree re North Melbourne. A fully counterrotating loop means that FSS and SCS can serve as interchanges and a full time single direction on each loop with a good split of trains going direct and into the loop, means that Richmond and North Melbourne can be interchanges too.
    All interchanging needs to be done on the HK principle, for example, have Vlines do their interchanging with the City Loop at SCS, but have the Werribees do their interchange with Sydenhams at Footscray, and their interchange with the loop at North Melbourne. The passenger movements don’t cross, and the train is as ’empty’ as possible when it receives a new load. Use the actual platform layout in the Meitetsu way (as shown on my blog to enforce the passenger movements.

  2. Thanks Riccardo – I agree that Eddington has been very difficult to respond to. There’s simply so much stuff in the report, and so many other ways it could be done.

    On top of that, many of the costings are insanely high, and little detail is provided as to how they were reached. The economists contracted to do the cost benefit analysis found a negative benefit/cost ratio for the road+PT option, and only a break even for PT only (not including wider economic benefits which weren’t much, 1.0 BCR for the first, 1.2 BCR for the second option). I think I’ll devote an entire post just to the economics of the project…

    Looking at Fishermans Bend, I have no problem with el-rail either. If the area stays industrial, no need for undergrounding for aesthetic reasons, and if it goes high density residential, I think elevated can look pretty good if done properly.

    On a separate note, my plans are basically running the through lines on the viaduct at capacity. What do you think about using Flinders St as the terminus for V/Line trains to Gippsland? I can’t see many Gippsland trips going to the area immediately around Spencer St, and there’s nothing wrong with changing trains anyway. Reinstate platform 11 (should have been done already) and use 10-13 for terminating direct metropolitan and V/Line services.

  3. Proper improvements to the Melton line would mean a new station at Ravenhall (Mel ref 357 G7) with a conecting bus.

  4. Thanks Tom. I agree that the Melton line could do with a station at Christies Rd Ravenhall for Caroline Springs residents. However, it won’t get any walk up patronage, so would need a good connecting bus going up Caroline Springs Bvd and a decent sized carpark.

    Whether Melton needs electrification is another matter. Even with Ravenhall, that’s still only 3 stations for the Melton line in the urban area (I’m not counting Rockbank and Melton) and I can see only two of them getting any walkup patronage. As riccardo points out, there’s no major traffic generators within walking distance so turn up and go style service probably isn’t justified.

    Upgrading the diesel is perhaps a better option.

  5. Good post Phin.

    Interesting point about not electrifying Melton/Sunbury. Sunbury can be easily enough run as an extension of existing suburban services. If you were to *not* electrify, then what kind of services would you provide? If Melton was electrified I could not imagine there being a mass of journeys in the off-peak (and not likely more than a 30min service being provided) given that pretty much all trips from there are semi-long distance, with Sunshine being 20+km away.

    Terminating Gippsland trains at Flinders Street? I’m not sure if I like that idea – I think, apart from being operationally required, one of the reasons that they go to Southern Cross is so that you can interchange with other ‘country’ services. I’m not sure how many people do so actually – the Bairnsdale trains get quite a lot of passengers there, not so many for Traralgon locals.

  6. I’m not sure I understand why you’d spend a lot of money for the tunnel under fisherman’s bend and not just have triple lines from Werribbee to Footscray (and duplicate the Altona loop).

    If you were going to do a tunnel – wouldn’t you want a connection to the Webb dock?

    Could you connect to Webb dock and then on to the Port Melb line – convert it back to a heavy rail and then a short tunnel from the convention centre to Southern cross (I guess you’re not going to put a new rail bridge over Spencer St.).

    If it was passenger (rather than freight) – then you might connect up to the north-south tunnel with a station for the Casino/Southbank

  7. Just a quick reply to Mark – triple (if not quadruple) lines from Newport to Footscray will be required regardless of whether this tunnel is built if ‘turn-up-and-go’ frequencies are to operate on all lines.

    Whether you build the tunnel first or triplicate/quadruplicate the existing lines first really depends on the more pressing issue at the time.

    Riccardo – you suggest Geelong services go via Fishy Bend. I suggested otherwise on Railpage (Eddington Report thread, page 7) because the cost of ventilation to deal with diesel fumes adds significantly and unnecessarily to the cost, particularly when underground stations are involved. I suggested having Geelong services go via Footscray still.

  8. Here’s the Sydney metro advertisement. Wonder if we’ll be seeing Melb version

  9. Thanks DrWaddles. My original idea for Vline tunnel was only for a diesel train only tunnel, to Brooklyn and shared by Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Seymour services (via Albion).

    I agree Vlines could go via Footscray

    I have since changed my thinking, all new major tunnelling should be for metro lines only – only they can get the value for money from the massive cost. All other services can stick to the ‘legacy’ network.

    I’m happy for new tunnelling to be connected to existing lines, but these existing lines would then need to be converted to metro standard, which is why I suggested Upfield and Sandringham which are the two easiest.

    But there is no reason why Williamstown, physically separated from the rest of the system except for perhaps one emergency crossover, could not be upgraded – 2 new extra tracks beside the Newport Seddon line.

    You could even add Altona and Laverton (but only platforms facing the Altona route)

    The real battle is understanding why so many people want rail to take a long way round via Footscray rather than going the same way the road does – onto the Port Melb peninsula and into the city that way.

    Mark, this is Phin’s blog so there is a limit to what I can say. I suggest you have a look at the full extent of Phin’s blog and mine too, there is some good writing on transit theory which will help you understand. Read Paul Mees too (although take don’t take his bus preference too seriously).

    Somebody, re terminating Gippsland at FSS, my compromise is letting the Bairnsdales through but stopping the Traralgons. These trains really do chew paths, carry very few people and if they don’t stick to 13/14, are a nuisance all round.

    Bairnsdale on the grounds that this might be people with genuine “luggage” journeys who need to use the SXS facilities, but the Traralgons have a lot of commuters, who board at FSS.

    When the loop starts rotating properly in November (hopefully) this problem will be solved.

  10. Re Willy, what you would do is:

    -no physical junction at Newport
    -use the lineside stations as Willy stations, place the Werribees and Vlines on new track, as fast as you can go eg 130kms, with all level crossings removed.

    -Willy to enter the Sir Rod tunnel between Seddon and Footscray, with the southern end of the underground platform concourse near existing station, the northern end north of there and as close to VU Footscray or Western Hospital as possible.

  11. Riccardo – I’m not convinced Sir Rod’s tunnel is required at all.

    Williamstown services run as shuttles to Footscray where pax change to St Albans locals for trip to City Loop on the existing tracks. Sunbury express (all to St Albans, Sunshine, Nth Melb) also use the existing tracks.

    Mr Ed’s tunnel from Caulfield, I feel, is better of going to Melb Uni as an interim terminus, pending construction of both the Doncaster via Victoria Park line and the Upfield line.

    I think there’s only one loop for Northern Group trains(?) so perhaps Sunbury Expresses are through-routed via FSS with Dandy/Frankston expresses, which would run via South Yarra.

  12. Thanks Drwaddles

    That’s a good plan too.

    If Sir ROd and others were serious about getting value out of a very expensive tunnel, rather than trying to fix the Connex network problems they would look at the serious transport problems as a whole, and try to move the single largest lumps of passengers they can by the new tunnel.

    It comes back to is the rail tunnel a figleaf for the road tunnel?

    I’m not convinced (and you’ve seen my blog on this) that Caulfield and Pakenham are the big problems.

    I am convinced that much of the network is far from full capacity (and this includes the separated tram easements on Dandy road, Mt Alex Rd and so on).

    I feel the rostering, conflicting moves and some of the expressing is at fault. The Jolimont entrance resolution and Werribees direct are the first two of hundreds of small changes like that that could make a real difference.

    Platform space has been removed wantonly (I think they’ve forgotten why it was there in some cases) as have sidings and loops that were once useful.

    Combined with poor urban planning, they are metaphorically giving the obese patient a heart bypass rather than changing diet and lifestyle.

    I’m going to do a ‘transit textbook’ on my blog for a while, teaching cocepts like service standard, gradient, pulse timing, junction conflict, spaghetti networks, pickup sticks, loops and so on. Welcome everyone’s input.

  13. Riccardo – Ta for the reply.

    Re: the textbook – have a good read of PaxInfo from Railpage’s blog ( – he did an excellent series on a similar topic – but mainly with buses rather than trains – back in June/July 2007.

  14. P.S. – Don’t forget the bus/tram connections to the railway are just as important as the railway itself – they are significant value adders 😉

  15. Many thanks for all the comments.

    Re. Gippsland V/Line services, I think Riccardo’s compromise of Barinsdale services running to Southern Cross but Traralgon trains only going to Flinders street is a good one. Ideally, the Sandringham-Newport and Werribee lines would be getting close maxing out capacity on the viaduct, with 10tph for Sandringham-Newport and 8 tph for Werribee. if V/Line commuter trains cut available capacity, then truncating them could work if the connection to Southern Cross were good enough.

    As to whether a Fishermans Bend line should carry Geelong trains – I hope that it would, but as you mention drwaddles, it depends on how much the tunnel ventilation would cost. On top of this, if Fishermans Bend gets high density development in the future, then 4 tracks would be required to get metro frequency on the metropolitan line with several stations. If Geelong trains didn’t take the new line, then 4 tracks would be required between Footscray and Newport. Either way, money needs to be spent to fix the issue.

    Agree about the network being able to handle much more capacity if a few targeted works were undertaken to remove bottlenecks and disentangle the lines. Something like the NSW clearways project would work well in Melbourne.


  16. Putting sending Geelong trains trough a tunnel would increase the justification for electrifing the Geelong line.

  17. Phin and others, will be posting a full set of these on my blog, transit concepts, would be interested in your feedback on how the usefulness of it could be improved. My first one is ‘turn-up-and-go’.


    1. Concept
    2. Factors affecting the concept
    3. Impact on service efficiency
    4. Impact on passenger demand
    5. Examples in Australia
    6. Examples overseas
    7. Related concepts

    1. Turn-up-and-go
    • A passenger arrives at a transit station or stop and is oblivious to the arrival time of the transport vehicle, because it will definitely arrive within a time that the passenger believes reasonable to wait.

    This would normally be no more than 3 minutes for shortish journeys, possibly as much as 6 minutes for longer journeys and up to 30 minutes for intercity journeys.

    • Turn-up-and-go is the passenger’s perspective; high-frequency is service provider’s perspective on the same concept.

    • Factors which would impact on the potential for turn-up-and-go include the opportunity cost of the passenger’s time (a busier passenger would have less time available for waiting), the length of the journey to be undertaken (the passenger expects waiting time to be a reasonable proportion of end-to-end journey time), the comfort level of the waiting facilities (the more comfort or distraction, the more time the passenger will allow for turn up and go) and the level of information provision (the more information provided about the expected arrival time of the vehicle the more the passenger’s concern at excessive waiting is allayed.)

    Turn up and go depends on fixed routing for navigability; in the absence of fixed routing, high levels of passenger information display need to be provided to achieve the same level of navigability.

    • High frequency services required by Turn-up-and-go can place high stress on a transit system especially if infrastructure is scarce, however, it can reduce other stresses on the system, such as the emphasis on punctuality and on the provision of timetable information, and on the need for comfortable waiting facilities.

    Rail systems need to be generally double track to achieve turn-up-and-go unless single track with passing loop systems can be made very reliable. Road systems require additional vehicles.

    • Turn-up and go increases the demand for transit services compared with other methods because they are more navigable (easy to use by the casual user), reduce wasted time (reduces the opportunity cost), reduce the true end-to-end journey time (by reducing the median wait time) and facilitate seemless interchange between lines and modes. Turn-up-and-go also makes public transit more competitive with driving own vehicle, as this mode is inherently turn-up-and-go.

    • Few Australian transit systems have been designed as turn-up-and-go to the 18/7/365 standard although some have happily worked out that way, either because they are rail or bus locations at the confluence of many routes, or because service provision has grown in response to demand to the level where the service could be said to be turn-up-and-go.

    These services would rarely be navigable as turn-up-and-go, because of a reluctance of operators and planners to design them as such. The best examples would be Skitube in its season (with an infrequent timetabled service provided outside the 18 hour period), the proposed Sydney metro, and the Bondi Junction line is almost at that level. Stations such as Richmond (Vic), Strathfield (NSW) or Bowen Hills (Qld) are rarely without a train arriving in the next five minutes.

    • Turn-up-and-go is the normal service pattern for conventional metros which run in most developed and many undeveloped countries around the world, as well as for countless bus, tram and ferry services worldwide.

    For example, the Barcelona metro is ‘turn-up-and-go’ which is reflected by the platforms having PIDS displaying time to next train (not greater than 3 minutes) rather than timetabled departure time.

    • Related concepts: frequency, high frequency, navigability, true end-to-end journey time, median wait time, pulse timetabling, seemless interchange, punctuality, comfort levels, timetabling, passenger/operator pespective, 18/7/365 service standard, fixed routing, passenger information display.

  18. […] and my ideas hadn’t changed. Moreover, we had some good discussion on the issues here, here, here and here; and Riccardo did a great series of posts on improving […]

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