Subterranean Homesick Blues

Paul Austin reports in today’s Age that Eddington’s “Paris Metro style”* rail tunnel is looking increasingly like becoming a reality. Apparently, “Some Labor Party strategists believe a commitment to a rail tunnel would help Mr Brumby to go to the 2010 election portraying himself as a man of the future with a low-carbon-emissions plan to cater for the transport needs of Melbourne’s rapidly growing population.” It’s now very clear that this tunnel will 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 unless such a project is done properly, it merely wastes huge sums of money and further ingrains existing poor operating practices.

In other news, there have been some strange developments in the way Melbourne University are teaching transport planning. I’m sure you all recall that the university got rid of Paul Mees for his constant criticism of government (well they demoted him, but I’m sure they knew he was so proud that such a course of action would lead him to resign). There was quite a bit of controversy at the time about the university getting too close to (and therefore unduly uncritical of) the state government, but I believed they just wanted to get rid of him for more personal reasons – and having taken a subject with him before I know how abrasive and difficult he can be.

But I’m coming to reconsider this view – there are signs that the university is actually getting more cosy with the government on transport planning issues. Take for instance the recent piece in The Age by Nick Low and Bill Russell (now Melbourne Uni’s most prominent transport academics) in which they strongly supported Eddington’s rail tunnel while admitting they hadn’t seen detailed reasoning as to why it was needed. Moreover, my eyebrows were raised this morning upon receipt of an email regarding one of Mees’ old subjects – Advanced Transport Planning. I’m taking the subject for a bit of fun (yes, what a nerd I am) and I was surprised to read that Mees’ replacement is “mostly … guest lectures (sic) drawn from industry”. It’s running as a five day intensive in September – I’ll report back on what transpires.

* One would think given Australians’ predilection for international travel, that someone in the media would have picked up on the fact that Eddington’s proposal isn’t anything like a metro at all. Apparently they haven’t.


9 Responses

  1. I know what you mean about Metros. Surely I can’t be the only one to whom “Metro” means “frequent service all day, 7-days-a-week”, rather than “underground railway” — which is something we plainly already have.

  2. Thanks Daniel. It’s strange how in Melbourne specific engineering solutions come to represent a service standard – often without much justification. Thus, people think tunnel=metro, above ground=infrequent commuter rail, trams=high frequency, buses=rubbish etc; when often they are merely referring to the service standard government has chosen to run on them. It’s an important distinction, but one that isn’t made often enough.

  3. Phin

    This is an important point. We’ve both talked about how the City Loop, as built, had poor planning and project justification (though i should make clear lest I be verballed, I don’t mean I am against stations at Parliament, MC and Flagstaff)

    They run the danger of doing the same again (and again, to avoid the same verballing, does not mean I am opposed to stations at Domain Rd etc, rather the project as framed).

    Digging tunnels costs a lot of money and I would rather see it done to pick up NEW custom, not to carry EXISTING custom.

    I would support Upfield as far as Coburg being put underground if paid for by developers (which I don’t see as difficult to arrange) and GWY down to East Malvern on the same basis (with the added bonus that you could install 4 tracks in the process, and use that for trains to new areas like Chadstone or Rowville if you wish)

    But these new “Blackfields” tunnel projects should be to entirely new areas, to pick up new custom.

    A higher priority than tunneling is to get the existing system working better, which would cost a fraction of the tunnel cost. I have blogged about this as has Phin and nothing more needs to be said.

  4. A very important point you make Riccardo. If we’re going to spend billions tunnelling new lines (and I think we should in some areas), we should be damn sure that they are going to attract plenty of new passengers. Framing the whole thing around congestion rather than substantially increasing modal share is a big mistake. For congestion issues – just get the current system working properly, it’s inefficiently run at present.

    Using the Glen Waverley line for the Rowville line/Dandenong line is an idea that I haven’t given enough though to – I’ll have to do a blog post on it some time soon.

  5. I think that the Victorian Government and Melburnians are not the only ones who are confused about what a Metro is, what a metro does and the type of service it implies. In Sydney, the Government has so muddied the waters of what a ‘Metro’ means since the Christie Report that any talk about a ‘Metro’ in Sydney is almost meaningless until you pick apart the detail to see what is really meant. Then once you’ve muddied the waters, you drop a great big rock in it – like the Steer Report.

    On other metro matter, the RTSA (membership of which I highly recommend to readers) are holding a 1-day seminar in Sydney on 12 November on Metro railways for Sydney. There will be some great international and local speakers, a spirited panel discussion and the relatively low cost ($320) makes it a good seminar to attend.


  6. As far as i know a Metro is a system where peak hour services are at least every 2 mins and off peak is every 5 and evening after 10pm is around every 7 to 10 mins.

    These metros normally operate from 5 or 6am to around midnight 7 days a week. The stations tend to be of similar design and these metros have some kind of smartcard of magnetic stored value ticket. Also these metro lines don’t share there tracks with intercity or cargo trains.

    The CITY loop in Melbourne is not a metro by any sence of the word its just a underground commuter railway with a metro like frequency at peak.

  7. Thanks LS – I’ll go to that forum if it is public

  8. Riccardo,

    The Metro symposium should be open for ‘early bird’ bookings in the next couple of weeks. Once I get notice, I’ll pass it through to you on the email.


  9. If you replace “Paris Metro style” with “Paris RER style” then you may have a correct comparison for what Eddington suggests.

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