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Melbourne’s ‘Big Bang’: Report urges rail growth

Hundreds more trams similar to the Bombardier cars currently being built will be needed under Melbourne plans. Image courtesy of M. Rowe

A blueprint for rail development in the capital of Victoria (Australia) has been produced. The Melbourne Rail Plan 2019-2050, released by the Rail Futures Institute, recognises that car dependency levels are becoming unsustainable and existing trams and trains are near capacity. Patronage on the world’s largest tramway is up 13% in the last five years alone.

The plan seeks to provide new connections from middle and inner suburbs to the city centre, cross-suburban journeys, and improved links to heavy rail interchanges. New medium-capacity cross-suburban transit corridors would be developed, while the electrified commuter rail network would be extended to outer growth areas (11 schemes). A key target is to create a cross-city grid network.

Five new metro-style lines are proposed: Footscray – Caulfield; Southern Cross – Airport; Newport – Southern Cross – Croxton; Southern Cross – Pakenham (perhaps Gippsland); Glen Waverley – Knox City. A new fleet of 206 metro trains would also be required by 2037.

The plans include 13 tramway extensions, three cross-suburban tramlines and eight supplementary suburban routes, needing a further 483 trams by 2034. A new city line would run from Clifton Hill station via Alexandra Parade, Barkly St, Grattan St and Hawke St to Spencer St, while new links from Collins St to Westgate Park and Sandridge/Wirraway are also suggested. Medium Capacity Transit (MCT) is defined as light rail, bus rapid transit or light metro, with 231 route km on ten corridors, including a northern/eastern orbital line from the Airport via Broadmeadows, Keon Park, Heidelberg, Doncaster and Box Hill to Monash University, and a Ringwood – Knox City – Dandenong – Mentone line.

The total cost of infrastructure in the plan is suggested as AUD108.2bn (EUR67.2bn) – with rail at AUD69.6bn (EUR43.25bn), tram AUD8.6bn (EUR5.35bn) and MCT AUD30bn (EUR18.6bn). AUD3.4bn (EUR2.7bn) would be needed for the tram fleet, AUD2.4bn (EUR1.7bn) on the MCT fleet and AUD5.3bn (EUR3.3bn) for heavy rail.

The plan is now subject to consultation and political consideration.