Thanking the gunzel Gods: PTV and High Speed Rail synergies in Melbourne

Thank the gunzel Gods for both the Victorian and Federal Governments releasing their grandiose plans within the space of two weeks.  So much to analyse, so much to salivate over.

On Thursday when Federal Transport Minister Albanese released the Phase 2 study into High Speed Rail, the immediate thing which drew my attention was the preferred path to be taken into Melbourne.

The Federal Government's High Speed Rail (HSR) study favours the Upfield corridor path as the primary access to central Melbourne with the terminus at Southern Cross.  Putting my past-life Business Analyst cap on: hello project synergies!

Public Transport Victoria's (PTV) plan for heavy rail in Melbourne states that in 20 years time, the Upfield corridor will be upgraded to allow far more frequent service than currently exists (a paltry 20 minute all day every day service regardless of peak or off peak).  Let's try and reconcile both plans for a moment.

The HSR plan sets out:  Sydney to Canberra as Phase 1.  Canberra to Melbourne Phase 2.  And all those areas north of Sydney in later stages.  It's not completely absurd to assume Phase 2 will more or less co-incide with PTV's Phase 4 in about 20 years from now.  

As a 2 year resident of the City of Moreland, I've long loathed using the Upfield line as a means to get to/from the city or any further up and down the Sydney Road corridor owing to the substandard frequencies that currently opeate (I prefer, and do, walk 25 minutes further west to Moonee Ponds to catch far more frequent Craigieburn services).  Upfield requires more frequent trains and far more frequent cross-town bus routes feeding it to make it a real mass-transit corridor.

You don't need a crystal ball to predict the response from naysayers and the foamers over the High-Speed Rail plan, but if you assume:

  • it will go ahead in some shape or form, in the phased stages as outlined in the study,
  • Melbourne airport will receive some kind of heavy-rail treatment within 10-20 years (PTV estimate is within 15 years),
  • the Federal Coalition stops brain-farting and starts to look at the benefit of investing in Urban as well as National Rail - to keep the PTV and High Speed Rail plan momentum alive if the Gillard government loses power on September 14

... you can easily draw this conclusion:

Despite the Phase 2 of High-Speed Rail being a minimum 15 years away, the difficult and most expensive work at this end of the whole Brisbane-Melbourne line could be done sooner by combining the national and local projects.  PTV's plan studied an Upfield (and Craigieburn) line option, and assumes an Airport metro service will branch off the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, but let's take 3 steps back and look at it this way.

The Victorian and Federal governments can go into a joint venture in building the Southern Cross - Upfield section of the eventual High Speed Line sooner.  

  • Shut down the Upfield corridor for 2-3 years,
  • Add longer clearways to Sydney Road and then double the amount of tram services on the Sydney Road route to cater for the temporary loss of Upfield Train services,
  • Rip up the existing track in the Upfield corridor and associated infrastructure, all the way from Park St in Brunswick to Mahoneys Road in Campbellfield,
  • Dig a long trench, wide enough for 4 tracks - the two outer tracks would become a subterranean Upfield Metro corridor upon re-opening and the two inner tracks would be the High-Speed through lines,
  • Re-build Jewell, Brunswick, Anstey, Moreland, Coburg, Batman, Merlynston, Fawkner and Gowrie stations underground to interface with the outer Metro lines,
  • The new airspace created above this trench will provide a small benefit in financing the construction of the cut and cover tunnel by allowing developers, subject to a new Moreland City council structure plan, to build on the newly created surface above the rail corridor,
  • PTV and/or Melbourne Airport Rail Link study partners can re-factor this newly created train path into a revised PTV project to bring heavy rail to Tullamarine along the High Speed Lines into the airport from the East.

There is enormous scope for synergising the PTV and High Speed Rail plans - with numerous urban benefits as outlined above.  And it shouldn't be dependent on the later phase 2 Canberra - Melbourne construction of the High Speed Rail line.  

And it's over to you.

Editor's Note: too much gunzelling can be bad for your health, seek professional help (or just stop waiting for a damned Hitachi to roll on by) if you feel it is getting the better of you. 


1 comment

Dangerous Beans's picture

I fear you are making too much sense for it to ever happen as you laid out... but I wait in hope.

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