The Ballieu/Napthine government's Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport Rail Link study has been released, along with the Rowville and Doncaster studies, this past week.
Direct links to the Public Transport Victoria hosted documents for the MARL - Melbourne Airport Rail Link study are below:
The direct link options - via Footscray and Flemington Racecourse - provide an opportunity to focus new urban development surrounding the stations along the routes (Highpoint SC, Maribyrnong and to a lesser extent Avondale Heights) but are essentially twice the estimated cost of either the Albion East or Craigieburn options. Let's simply rule these two options out based on cost alone - the Moonee Valley/Maribyrnong LGAs have a lot of scope to increase PT usage in their respective areas through better utilising road based PT: expanding tram lines and creating more permanent bus lanes.
The Craigieburn line option is estimated to cost around about the same price as an Albion East, but take a longer time for an end to end journey: not to mention services would be mixed with Craigieburn and Upfield services in the city loop (post Melbourne Metro tunnel opening) and throughout the whole line, thus limiting the ability for faster and more express airport services.
This brings us back to square one - the study by the Bracks/Brumby government a decade ago is essentially still valid and they were right to protect this corridor for a future Rail Link. It's what the study has focused on, in terms of operations, on the Albion East base case that needs picking apart.
The curious assumpton, or at least that's the impression I got from reading through the full report, study findings and executive summary, is that the Albion East route to Melbourne airport will become a 3rd branch of the Sunshine-Dandenong metro line which will be created when the Melbourne Metro tunnel is opened and the Melton line is electrified.
Point 3.4.1 on Page 24 of the full report states:
"Regional Rail Link is a new rail line that separates regional trains from the metropolitan trains. This will provide dedicated tracks from Sunshine to Southern Cross for trains from Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat. The project will provide greater capacity for Melbourne rail services to cater for the residential growth that is occurring in the western growth areas of Melbourne.
This project is relevant to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link because it may present an opportunity to use these new rail lines for part of the alignment or increase capacity on the existing Metropolitan rail network to allow for MARL services. It also presents the opportunity for an airport service to connect at stations that are being upgraded as part of the Regional Rail Link."
It goes on to say:
- A meeting was held on 19 June 2012 with key representatives from the Regional Rail Link Authority to discuss the current status of the project and the likely opportunities/constraints it may have for MARL. The following key points were summarised from the discussion that are of relevance to the AAS:
- there is potential to unlock latent demand at Platforms 1-7 at Souther Cross Station to accommodate new services, as V/Line locomotives are phased out of operation in the future
- The RRL design uncovered a range of constraints, including:
- limited reservation through Footscray for new tracks
- the need to widen bridge spans between Sunshine and Footscray
- the Sunshine Orchid (a threatened flora species) at Sunshine, resulting in changes being made to the design
Then spread across pages 28 and page 29, there's this:
Can PTV please explain why using the Regional Rail Link tracks are not considered suitable in the strategic rail operations plan?
Further questions that need to be asked:
In part two of this series, I'll take a look at how the extra capacity on the new Regional Rail Link tracks could be used with V/Line operating services between Southern Cross and Tullamarine.