Stuck Inside of Melbourne With The Metro Blues Again

Public submissions to the Eddington report have been released – some 2042 of them – and one wonders what effect (if any) they will have on the whole process. I doubt much of it will be read, let alone inform decision making within the government. But on a broader level, public pressure to improve public transport has become a key political issue for Brumby and co. and it’s likely that it will come to dominate the 2010 state election.

Intuitively, this seems to be a very positive step for public transport – but will it see better outcomes? Having sat on their hands for so long, it will be difficult for the state government to make meaningful improvements without the public complaining that those improvements should have been made 5 or 10 years beforehand. With potential political gains muted by a decade of inaction, the opportunity cost of spending that money on public transport becomes too high to bear.

On the other hand, the government may see fit to pour resources into public transport, as the apparently impending $20bn Eddington response suggests. But that’s also potentially problematic. The Ribbon-Cutting Effect, as detailed in Riccardo’s Training Track series is a key issue. There’s a real risk the current political pressure may result in a big new project, but the chances of investment occurring in the boring but necessary stuff are much slimmer. Just look at how the Dandenong triplication – arguably the rail centrepiece of Meeting our Transport Challenges, a plan that fell squarely into the boring but necessary category – has been quietly abandoned (not that the triplication was a sound idea but I digress). It is important to acknowledge that many boring but (to varying degrees) necessary track amplification works have been undertaken in Melbourne over the last half century – but what happened to the investment to actually run a decent service over the improved tracks? It never came.

Moreover, many of the problems in Melbourne’s public transport have come to be seen solely through the prism of the Eddington report, an inquiry that was never asked to investigate how best to improve Melbourne’s public transport, instead focussing solely on east-west congestion. I fear that Eddington’s public transport recommendations will be taken as the complete solution to Melbourne’s transport woes, leaving many necessary improvements out in the cold for another few decades. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.


9 Responses

  1. I’m not so sure the ‘boring’ stuff won’t be politically useful.

    The ministers for Ivanhoe and Eltham have already indicated their seats would be under pressure if a ‘missing link’ of the ring road were to be built through their electorates, and I’m sure there’s many other MPs in similar positions (ie, new roads might hurt – Pike and others, for instance).

    With the focus on PT, even simple things would help – track amplifications and signalling upgrades, if presented the right way – “I as your local minister, with Brumby, have funded important improvements to your line…”

    If it’s a time saver, or acts to increase capacity (mention here the extra 60 trains on order…(!)) you could certainly get some mileage out of it, IMHO. Make sure it got a mention in the local paper, and all that.

  2. I think the boring stuff is the really mundane stuff – what used to keep Railpage insiders busy with rebuttals of quite useful ideas by citing trivia:

    “You can’t run 3 minute frequencies to Sandringham – signal number SHM 912 is in the wrong place and needs to be moved 50 metres…the turnout is a low speed turnout…they haven’t been able to do that since the siding at Broadmeadows was take up…you couldn’t run 9 car trains without moving the down platform at Springvale Rd etc etc etc ”

    So your shopping list might be very very long, and have some very very boring items on it, each not expensive in itself, but could add up to several hundred million dollars. It doesn’t even have to be amplification – a double track railway alone should be able to move 50,000 people an hour with long, high frequency trains. Small things help you get to that level.

    And much of it is not going to sound much good as a politician’s speech eg “As a result of moving signal SHM912 50 metres, we now can decrease the average journey time by a WHOLE 15 seconds!” no I don’t think so.

    But this is the only way to get best value out of legacy infrastructure.

    I think one of Mees frustrations is that much of what he says used to be possible is no longer possible because of the ad hoc way sidings, signals and so on have been altered, sometimes detrimentally to high frequency service, to fill another objective eg FSS platform 11 disappearing, the fact that trains that die on arrival at FSS (eg declared unfit) now have nowhere to go because there are no longer any Jolimont sidings, points and crossovers removed because they were “too much maintenace” yet were used in the 1930s to run high frequency services.

    Add to that the things that should go on the operational side of the budget – for example better staffing and fencing for security to keep the trains unvandalised and in service, training and recruitment for more drivers, better rostering arrangements and so on.

    No ribbon cutting effect from any of these things.

    I hope if we do get a new metro, it is a genuine new metro, as all these things you need to do for legacy infrastructure eg high frequency signalling, you actually get FREE with the new metro. It would normally be built for 1 or 2 minute frequency. Even though you don’t run it that frequently, you have the option at a later time.

    But if it isn’t a genuine new metro, you may end up with a through routed line that gets stuck at Newport as it always has, or Dandenongs running via the new line and stopping because there’s been a l-xing prang at one of the 40 odd crossings on this route.

  3. […] be used as a political solution to Melbourne’s public transport woes, something I’ve blogged on before. While some may that the reasons don’t matter – so long as it’s built – I say that […]

  4. I’ve been looking for an outlet to make a comment about eddington, here it is:

    how can a solution developed to solve part of a problem (east-west linkages) be adopted as the solution to the whole problem?

    that’s like asking eddington to make recommendations on dental hygiene, and then saying that a dental clinic is the solution to all our medical woes, and so will be the focus of all new health spending. (hmmm… maybe a punchier analogy can be found…?)

  5. Riccardo/Phin/et al,

    The RTSA Sydney Chapter has opened bookings for the Metro Symposium in Sydney on 12 November. For $330.00 (Inc. GST), it’s a low cost conference and the line up of speakers is really good and worth going too.

    On the other hand, word on the streets is that RTSA is trying to organise a repeat in Melbourne the same week.


  6. Oh yes, and the link is:


  7. Riccardo/Phin/et al,

    The RTSA Sydney Chapter has opened bookings for the Metro Symposium in Sydney on 12 November. For $330.00 (Inc. GST), it’s a low cost conference and the line up of speakers is really good and worth going too.

    On the other hand, word on the streets is that RTSA is trying to organise a repeat in Melbourne the same week.


  8. […] – bookmarked by 2 members originally found by bezzatej on 2008-10-09 Stuck Inside of Melbourne With The Metro Blues Again – bookmarked by 6 members originally found by neilcfreak on […]

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