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.
Filed under: Eddington, politics, trains | 18 Comments »