Yesterday Victorian premiere Daniel Andrews announced the ‘preferred’ route for the new suburban rail loop. Which is basically code for this is how its going to look (if we can pay for it and you all don’t get too upset). This ‘preferred’ route of $50 billion dollar of new train tunnel will consist of 90km of rail, 5 new stations including the well overdue airport station and will connect every major rail line in Melbourne with 11 new interchange stations.
The new line will run from Cheltenham to Werribee and connect every metropolitan train line in-between. It will include new underground stations at Burwood and Monash University in Clayton, along with four new interchanges at Cheltenham, Glen Waverly, Clayton and Box Hill. Other new potential stations will include Doncaster, Melbourne Airport and Bundoora.
WHEN WILL IT BE BUILT?
Here is the part where you need to not get too excited. Daniel Andrews has committed to the work for this project to start immediately with the geotechnical work already underway, however it will be the largest public transport project in the states history and one of the largest in the world. Construction is set to start in 2022 and will be completed in stages. The first section to be built will run between Cheltenham and Box Hill and is said to be entirely underground along a new alignment. This first section should include new stations at Burwood near Deakin University and Monash University. Oh did we forget to mention how long until this project is actually complete? 2050. Yep that’s right in 31 years time. So it might a while until we are actually going for a ride on this train. The good news is projections show that they anticipate this to be Melbourne’s highest used rail line when it is actually built moving over 400,000 people per day. We should also see the first section which includes the much needed University links within 10 years.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
Yes, they have announced an estimate of $50 Billion for this project, however the estimates have varied wildly and none of which seem to be backed up by a solid business case. Most seem to be quoting in the region of $50 billion, but the new Federal Minister for Cities Alan Tudge claimed it could be $100-150 billion? Where he has pulled this figure from we have no idea.
The more concerning cost to the public will be in the form of land acquisition. Daniel Andrews has mentioned that as the project is still in very early stages it was unclear how many properties would have to be acquired to build the new stations and rail line. But he said his government would seek to “minimise the amount of impact on local residents”.
ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL?
Will this rail loop that is touted to “connect Melbourne’s middle suburbs to priority growth precincts, and link all Victorians to major health, education and employment centres” be the solution to Melbourne’s growing transport problems? Many major hubs will miss out on being connected such as Chadstone and Knox City. The western suburbs seem to have been overlooked for new stations that will be needed by the time this project is completed in 2050. This new rail plan is certainly a BIG step in the right direction, but when are we going to finally see a masterplan that links up all these projects and plans for the states future?