Comment: South Yarra platforms for Melbourne Metro Rail ruled out

The Minister for Public Transport, Jacinta Allan, has announced that South Yarra station will not receive extra underground platforms as part of the Melbourne Metro Rail (MMR) project owing to costs ranging from $700 million up to $970 million under differing scenarios.

The media release distributed on Friday morning cites a cost-benefit ratio of between 0.20 and 0.33 and thus deems the overall outcome as being "very poor". A ratio of less than 1 means net public benefits are lower than the amount paid to build the infrastructure.

The MMR tunnel is to run from South Kensington through Arden, Parkville, the CBD, Domain interchange and join the existing Caulfield group of lines to the south of South Yarra station and one option for an expanded South Yarra station was to locate the underground platforms 200 metres away which attracted a price tag of $700 million.

The Minister's media release further states that in the above scenario 100 properties would need to be removed in order for the station to be built.

Under another scenario, building underground platforms closer to the existing station, the price tag rises to just shy of a billion dollars and would have required the removal of 82 homes and half of the Jam Factory.


So there we have it: a price on expanding South Yarra station from 6 platforms to 8. In the most ideal scenario of locating the new platforms closer to the existing station it would cost upwards of $1 billion. Fair game, I wouldn't want to argue that price is justified either.

The focus on how passengers are going to change between lines now shifts further down the line to Caulfield, a station which hasn't rated much mention in discussion around the MMR project or the level-crossing removal program for the Dandenong line.

Assuming the current stopping pattern for all Pakenham / Cranbourne line trains will remain in place once the MMR project is complete - that is Malvern, Armadale, Toorak and Hawksburn won't see Pakenham/Cranbourne trains stop there - the focus for transfers with the Frankston line centres on Caulfield station.

The first concern for Caulfield, given it's future prominence being enhanced with the completion of the MMR project, is how well the station's ramps comply with accessible public transport standards. If memory serves correctly Caulfield has been highlighted as a concern for accessibility compliance in the past. Likewise the pedestrian subway located underneath the tracks immediately to the west of the station platforms has a train speed restriction.

Furthermore as anyone who frequently uses the Pakenham / Cranbourne Line will be aware of, as trains pull into and out of Caulfield station, the convoluted track layout which forms a complex junction between the Dandenong and Frankston corridors to the east of the station, coupled with curved platforms and an ageing pedestrian subway mandate that trains slow down at a greater distance from the station than what would otherwise be necessary if the rail infrastructure was streamlined.

All in all, despite the disappointment that South Yarra station will not be a full interchange between lines, the costs cited are a significant benchmark and are likely to be used in the years to come if and when new rail lines are proposed across dense inner city areas where roads are narrow and property acquisition requirements go through the roof.

In today's piece by Adam Carey in The Age, he notes that the 5 new stations are to be built with capacity increases in mind; each station will have 230 plus metre platforms which could fit 9 car trains in future (Melbourne trains currently run in 6 car configurations) and this is reported to be the primary reason why building two new platforms at South Yarra is uneconomical.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few in this case and after seeing the South Yarra station numbers it's time this was put to bed.

Expansion of our rail network - like the Clifton Hill-Fishermans Bend tunnel from the 2013 PTV heavy rail plan - is going to be prohibitively expensive if Government insists on total system inter-operability; not to mention we'd fail to take full advantage of the innovation that has been proven in cities around the world when it comes to building new transit lines.

Media release in full:

Lead image credit: Wikipedia.


Melbman's picture

I agree that the price quoted for a SY station can not be justified if it is correct.

In regards to station transfers, work on traveler education and expectation setting will be required to ensure the same outcry from some does not become most prevalent complaint.

People have become used to going direct in most cases, but If the services are as frequent as possible on all lines, this should not be an issue though.

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Aussie Steve's picture

All well and good, but what about the MATH people who live in Stonnington and don't get to use the new Domain Station on St Kilda Rd and Parkville Station at the University of Melbourne and Parkville hospital precinct? They could and should be given the opportunity of getting off the Frankston line at South Yarra and connecting through to Domain station and beyond.

There are many Stonnington residents who work and/or study along St Kilda Rd; at the University of Melbourne and the Parkville Hospital precinct and would love the opportunity of getting to use these new stations which they otherwise wouldn't be able to, but instead still have to use the slow trams along their inner city high streets.

I do wonder what type of underground platforms they had used to cost this figure.

I don't want to sound too simplistic, but cut and cover at South Yarra siding with platforms and entry and exit to the south side of Toorak Road is all we are after.

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Laurence Dragomir's picture

All I'll say is it's not that straightforward.

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johnproctor's picture

Steve - Andrew Lund posted some pics on his twitter of one of the design solutions.

also re: stonnington residents... if they want to go to St Kilda Road they can catch one of the myriad of trams through the munipality directly to their St Kilda Road destination and if they want to go to Parkville they can get on a Frankston train at a MATH station and interchange in the city to the Melbourne Metro line at either Flinders STreet or Melbourne Central heading north.

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Alastair Taylor's picture

^ edited your comment so the tweet is embedded.

also re: stonnington residents... if they want to go to St Kilda Road they can catch one of the myriad of trams through the munipality directly to their St Kilda Road destination and if they want to go to Parkville they can get on a Frankston train at a MATH station and interchange in the city to the Melbourne Metro line at either Flinders STreet or Melbourne Central heading north.

pretty much this. Yarra Trams/Stonnington should be getting together and working out a way to clear the roads of obstacles so trams can run faster and more frequently along Toorak Road, Commercial Road and High Street.

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gobillino's picture

Surely there'd be some contemplation of upgrading Hawksburn, and using that as a Sth Yarra interchange station. Close enough to Chapel St/Toorak Rd that it could provide a reasonable walk to the same destinations at Sth Yarra Station.

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Aussie Steve's picture

I still don't understand why they would need to acquire those properties for a station yet not for train tunnels. Hmmm... Maybe I am missing something here. I still think its a poor outcome.

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Alastair Taylor's picture

At a guess: Given the rail line's going to be very near the surface (as it has to come back to the surface to connect with the existing train lines), excavating on what little exposed land there is then excavating underneath all the buildings the station box would be under probably adds a tonne of risk to the effort.

Better to acquire the properties, utilise the newly exposed land to dig down and build the station area quickly - that requires property acquisition.

By the looks of the track route, it needs to swing south east further up Toorak Road so if they were to place the station directly under Toorak Road the platforms would be located a great deal away from the station (and there's multiple properties between them thus you lose the internal / paid-area connectivity anyhow).

And no-one wants curved platforms, we have too many of them already.

This is going to be the same problem all over inner Melbourne if other new lines in future are built to the specification of existing train lines - something's got to give. This type of rail construction is ludicrously expensive and orphaned lines utilising different, slimline specifications - the turn-key solutions the likes of Alstom, Bombardier and Hitachi have - need a serious look in.

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Llib's picture

Yarra Trams/Stonnington should be getting together and working out a way to clear the roads of obstacles so trams can run faster and more frequently along Toorak Road, Commercial Road and High Street.

They need to look at the issue of free parking supply in the Stonnington area shopping centres and many new parking spaces created with new apartment developments as a large amount of unnecessary car traffic is what hinders these trams.

Additionally investment in improved infrastructure in bike and walking facilities is required in the inner southeast areas.


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Simon wxtre's picture

People who live and work in South Yarra or Domain are inconvenienced, people transferring to or from the Sandringham line are inconvenienced. It is not even worth constructing if it is not done properly with a South Yarra interchange station. Why do the government bother only half completing infrastructure.

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Alastair Taylor's picture

If the figures the Government released are to be believed, then it's a very high price to pay for convenience. $700m-$1bil? That could enact massive improvements on the bus network on both the Dandenong and the Sunshine side of this new line that's going to be created when the MMR opens.

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Andyando's picture

Couldn't they shift the Domain station north, run the track under Domain road instead of Toorak road and then run it under South Yarra Station?

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