It’s a great failure of urban planning that two of the biggest trip generators in the south eastern suburbs were built away from the rail system, especially given how much rail is in the area. Chadstone sits halfway between the Glen Waverley and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines, slightly too far away for either of the lines to be of use. Monash is just that bit too far for the Cranbourne/Pakenhem lines to be useful.
But even if these trip generators were situated on existing rail corridors, the rail catchments would be limited because of the radial nature of the rail networkand the absence . Even Chadstone and Monash were built along the Cranbourne/Pakenham line, passengers living along the Glen Waverley, Belgrave/Lilydale and Alamein lines would still be unable to use rail as an effective substitute for car use, because they would have to travel all the way to Richmond and back out again to get there.
Clearly, a cross town rail link would be required to better integrate these lines with one other. Given that Chadstone and Monash aren’t even on the rail network anyway, such a line could be built to travel to them as well.
The good news is that most of such a line already exists as the Alamein line. Alamein is presently badly underused – extending it could create a viable cross town link and make existing infrastructure earn its keep.
The line would head south from the Alamein line terminus for 1.4km, along the old outer circle alignment to East Malvern station, where an interchange with the Glen Waverley line would be built. The no. 3 tram would be extended 1.1km to meet the new rail interchange.
The line would dive underground at the East Malvern station car park and head south east to Chadtsone shopping centre, where an underground station would be built. The line would then head south and surface at Paddington Rd., Hughesdale. Total length for the underground section would be 2.6km.
From here, an extra pair of tracks would be built beside the Cranbourne/Pakenham lines to Huntingdale, where the line would branch off and follow North Rd. to Monash University. Extra platforms would be required at Oakleigh and Huntingdale stations, and a new station would be built at Monash University. Total length for this section would be 5km.
Cost using the NCCCS
6.4km surface rail @ $4.12m/km = $26.37m
2.6km underground rail @ $47.14m/km = $122.56m
Chadstone station = $58.93m
East Malvern, Oakleigh and Huntingdale station extra platforms @ $10m each = $30m***
Monash University station = $15m***
Monash fwy/Gardiners creek, Huntingdale Rd. and Princes Highway bridge works @ $15m each = $45m***
Substations x 2 @ $0.59m each = $1.18m
= $299.04 million
(*** costs not included in NCCCS – estimated by me)
Cost using empirical data from the Mandurah and Epping-Chatswood lines
6.4km surface rail @ $13.7m/km = $87.68m
2.6km underground rail @ $78.72m/km = $204.67m
= $292.35 million
Interestingly the NCCCS and empirical methods work out about the same because the per km costs that I calculated for Mandurah and Epping-Chatswood were inclusive of stations, bridges etc. whereas the NCCCS figures were not.
Existing line upgrades
Tacking this onto the end of the existing Alamein line wouldn’t work – the line needs upgrading to work efficiently. The 0.8 km of single track from Ashburton to Alamein needs duplicating and Riversdale and Prospect Hill roads need grade separating. Although you could probably get away with keeping the level crossing at Prospect Hill rd, it would be reletively cheap to do if Riversdale rd is being done at the same time (and RIversdale rd really needs doing on account of the tram square alone).
Current station placement is poor – basically none of the existing stations are usable in their current form. The rebuilt line would have stations at Riversdale rd, Toorak rd and High st – a net loss of three stations from the current arrangement.
At Camberwell the decision has to be made whether to run the line as a shuttle or continue it all the way to Flinders St. If the line were to run as a shuttle, a dock platform would be needed at Camberwell (requiring changes to the flyover), and if it were to continue, four tracks would really be needed from Camberwell to Burnley. I’ve got no problem with running the service as a shuttle, but to work properly the Belgrave/Lilydale line needs to be ultra frequent – not just for the expresses, but for the stoppers as well. This may warrant quadruplication to Camberwell or Box Hill anyway. I’d be interested in your thoughts on how to proceed here.
Cost of Alamein line upgrade
0.8km duplication @ $4.12m/km = $3.3m
New stations x 3 @ $10m each = $30m
Riversdale rd grade separation = $15m
Prospect Hill rd grade separation = $8m
Camberwell station works = $10m
= $66.3 million
Cost of Burnley – Camberwell quadruplication
4.7km @ $13.7m/km*** = $64.39 million
(Mandurah line cost used to approximate extra track cost – bridge spans, extra platforms and some earthworks would be required)
Trains should run every 6 minutes (10tph) all day every day, giving passengers an average wait time of 3 minutes. Demand variations should be dealt with by running 3 or 6 car sets – not by running less frequent services off peak. Supplier induced demand and low marginal cost makes this a false economy. Because of the nature of the trip generators on the line (a shopping centre and university), there’s unlikely to be a traditional AM-PM peak demand function.
The trains don’t need to be especially comfortable because the average trip length will be reletively short. It’s exactly the sort of line that could see the Comeng trains live out their days over the next 20 years. Interior layout should be similar to now, but with more longitudinal seating around the doors.
Here’s what the line could look like to passengers if it ran as a shuttle from Camberwell.
Costs and Benefits
The total fixed infrastructure cost of the project from Monash to Camberwell would be 292.35 + 66.3 = $358.65 million or 299.04 + 66.3 = $365.34 million, depending on which costing method were used. To upgrade Burnley – Camberwell to enable the line to reliably run to the city, an extra $64.39 million would be required on top of this.
The benefits would be considerable – public transport would be a serious option for the first time for trips to Monash University and Chadstone. Public transport could compete with the car for these trips not just on the Dandenong corridor, but throughout almost all of the middle ring eastern and south eastern suburbs, as well as out to Ringwood. On top of this, the Belgrave/Lilydale, Glen Waverley, Alamein and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines would be properly integrated with one another, making rail useful for a large variety of cross town trips between the various lines. Furthermore, the capital already invested in the Alamein line would be actually generating a return in the form of a service people actually want to use. These works would make it reletively easy to extend the line to Rowville. This project really should be a top rail priority, virtually on par with Doncaster.
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