I see that Paul Mees has an anti rail tunnel article in today’s Sunday Age. It’s typical Mees fare – he seems to get half way there in his claim that the Loop (defined in a broader sense of the inner city rail system) was built to handle more trains than it gets today, and that there’s scope for squeezing more capacity out of the system. But then he goes and wrecks it all by failing to realise (and convey) that lots of little infrastructure improvements (like flyovers etc.) are necessary to get to this point – the same mistake he made with his Dandenong line paper.
What I find most strange is that he berates the new rail tunnel as an “excuse for doing nothing else for a decade”, but then he only proposes minor alternatives – namely taking crew changes away from Flinders street and reconfiguring carriage seating. Don’t get me wrong, I think that there’s plenty of valid criticism of the new tunnel (although I’d love to see north-south rail, albeit in a different form), and changing seat configuration and changing crews at suburban termini are very useful reforms; but you can’t ridicule DoT for doing nothing and then propose only slightly more than nothing yourself. If Melbourne wants a large scale modal shift to public transport, we’re going to need a lot of targeted infrastructure investment in both outer-suburban commuter rail and inner city metro as well as cultural reform.
I have a question regarding Mees’ article – he claims the loop cost $5 billion in current dollars. But I seem to remember reading that it cost about $350 million or so at the time. If we index that from say 1980 to now, it’s still only just under $1.2 billion. Have I got the wrong numbers here or has Mees exaggerated the cost by over four times?