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Greg Hunt's 2200 vision: why rebuild rail underground when we can expand? (Parts 2 & 3)

Following on from yesterday - Greg Hunt's Melbourne 2200 Vision is an expensive flop, but... - here is a summary and links to the subsequent episodes on Adam Ford's blog.

Part two centres around looking at the blackspots in the current network and walks through projects which could extend the reach of the network into these areas. Upfield, Alamein, Glen Waverley line extensions and new lines through Fishermans Bend, Doncaster to Ringwood and through Monash and Rowville to Ferntree Gully are all discussed.

Melbourne's rail network with its black spots (in white).
Phase 1 rail network expansion overlaid through the current network's black spots.

In part three, Adam looks at how 26 heavy rail-connected CADs can be used to create a polycentric city; likewise the airport could have two rail lines with the addition primarily of a new outer circle orbital railway from Cheltenham to the Airport.

Why spend all that money "undergrounding" the existing network when you can expand?

Lead image credit: Wikipedia

7 comments

johnproctor's picture

just because Greg Hunt wants to waste money on undergrounding the rail network doesn't mean that anyone else should suggest other illogical projects to wast money as well...

will there ever be enough demand for Doncaster to Ringwood travel to justify a train line? does Rowville/Wantirna/Mulgrave really need 2 train lines running through to the Belgrave Line? What is the outer northern ring line actually serving? do East Bentleigh/South Oakleigh really need a train line from Caulfield or would decent bus services up to the Dandy line or west to the Frankston line suffice?

The focus should be on ensuring that development isn't allowed to proceed at densities that require train lines (and therefore billions in investment) in the white areas and instead have it focused along the existing rail networks between now and 2200, or even just now and 2050 by which time Melbourne is currently projected to have doubled in population to 8 million.

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gobillino's picture

And not to be a pedant, but your CAD discussion is very out of date, in terms of the planning framework for metro Melbourne activity centres. Its seems a little document by the name of Plan Melbourne may have passed you by, unnoticed... (see Metropolitan Activity Centres and National Employment Clusters) http://www.planmelbourne.vic.gov.au/Plan-Melbourne

If your underlying objective is to create a dense metro network, why run a Newport Line through Fishermans Bend TO SHARE THE MELBOURNE METRO TUNNEL? I assume you're anticipating another twin tunnel running along that alignment (if not, you've just created the same situation on this that exists on much of the balance of the inner part of the network), however it seems an enormous waste to not increase coverage/interchange opportunities by using an alternative alignment (eg the Southern Cross-Flagstaff-Parkville-Fitzroy idea that's oft discussed).

Also, why have you flagged Ringwood as the emerging successful CAD? Based on your Alan Davies chart, it's far from that. A shopping centre expansion and a handful of mid rise apartment towers does not an important metro centre make (otherwise Doncaster would be the bees knees).

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gobillino's picture

And agree with JP. Your 'black/white spots' are not, based upon land use or likely development pressure, the areas which require urgent attention from a rail infrastructure perspective. You seem to have fallen into the trap of looking at a 2D plan and identifying gaps, with only tokenistic attention to the task of improving the network in that part of the city where land use and development pressures will demand it. Your network gets us nowhere near the London network you start by citing as an ideal model.

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Adam Ford's picture

Righto. Well I'll go through it all again, shall I?
"will there ever be enough demand for Doncaster to Ringwood travel to justify a train line?"
Not if we maintain a radial public transport network with car usage the main transport mode in the suburbs, no. And not if the train line doesn't exist, no.

The whole point of this is a RADICAL revision of existing Melbourne transport patterns. Everyone seems to be analysing how this would operate if it dropped from the sky onto the city tomorrow. Like, I find it a bit bemusing that after I've just written hundreds of words on the topic, that I'd need to answer a question like "What is the outer northern ring line actually serving?" twice, but OK.

1. CADs - enabling a vastly expanded number of them, which is necessary if the comcept of twenty minute cities is ever going to be more than hot air. Six CADs isn't remotely enough to enable that.
2. Supporting those CADs and expanding their catchments through radial heavy rail
3. Creating a metro-style network of interfaces between lines so that the network can be used for trans-suburban travel rather than just radial travel to or from the CBD.

Yes, you could address any one given suburban need via other transport modes. Frigging obviously. Why wouldn't you? Because you're moving away from a system with genuinely transformative capabilities. You're moving away from a metro network. We can argue till the cows come home about whether and how much and when real benefits from such a system would accrue, and everyone is of course jumping on this before ANYONE has seen part four, which starts out by looking at likely cost-benefits, how you could stage all this, where the most pressing needs are, etc.

Do you guys do book reviews without reading the final chapter?

But the brief here was big-picture. I'm NOT wearing criticism for being too big picture as a result. The flipping cities minister thinks we should spend about the same amount of money putting all existing suburban rail underground. And he gets paid a six figure salary. And the media reports on him saying it. Don't anyone try and tell me what I'm pushing here isn't a valid exercise.

The question here is not "do East Bentleigh/South Oakleigh really need a train line from Caulfield?" The question is "what can be facilitated at those locations by way of agglomeration effects once you have rail operating radially into them"?

This ridiculous "hmm, how many people will need to get from x to y" analytics completely debases the point of the exercise.

And seeing as you're so well informed G, do you want to tell me what you think the blackspots are based on then? Hmm? OK. They're based on "land use or likely development pressure,". That's land use in the east, and likely development pressure in the west. Current land use is pretty easy. That's all in Google Maps. Future land use is pretty easy too.

If it's in white on the map, it's either being built on right now, or it's been broadly identified as a growth corridor. So, Gobbilino. You're right. The white areas are NOT " the areas which require urgent attention from a rail infrastructure perspective". nowhere did I remotely make that statement. Did I?

As you can see (and again it's written in the text, had you been bothered) all the western blackspots are basically unaddressed by my plan, left for a nebulous "stage four". Yes, we should try and develop along rail corridors as much as possible. And insert all other necessary variants on the bleeding obvious that aren't the topic of the paper here.

So, Gobbilino YOU seem to have fallen into the trap of mistakenly responding to somebody else's article. And I suspect very strongly that you don't actually have a plan for " improving the network in that part of the city where land use and development pressures will demand it" because you don't actually mention a single idea of your own towards that end.

Don't like this plan? Fine. What I said I wanted to do was to explore the transformative possibilities of re-imaginging the rail network. Nobody is putting this forward as "the optimal cost-benefit-maximised, best value for money network development plan possible". Literally. Nobody. Nowhere is that written, not even in part four. OK? Clear?

In fact the brief was the opposite - maximise the transformative potential of the network if, as per Mr Hunt, we suddenly have buckets of money at our sides. If you want to have arguments with yourselves be my guest. But I set the goalposts at the outset of this. Complaining I'm not aiming at the set you subsequently erected is completely stupid.

And Gobbillino, in terms of the completely rhetorical statement, unsupported by even rudimentary analysis "Your network gets us nowhere near the London network" .... OK .... what aspects of the London network does my plan fail in? Distribution of heavy rail stations across the ENTIRE inner city zone? CHECK. Metro-style integration of suburban lines allowing for significantly more distributed suburban travel modes? CHECK. So?

"why run a Newport Line ...." because under your proposal we have to build a whole new tunnel to get from Fisherman's to Southern Cross, under the river, with all the related logistics and to deliver what? How do you deliver better amenity to werribee line passengers by only giving them ONE CBD stop?

So sorry, but THIS seems like a really stupid way of doing rail to Fishos. I still create new stations in the inner north AND get us to Doncaster AND provide both a Punt Road and East-west traffic connector (in part four).

And the only meaningful thing Plan Melbourne adds to the existing concept of CADs is a "La Trobe" cluster. It does absolutely nothing to enable anything. In no small part because none of it is ever going to happen without radically revisioning suburban mass transit.

It's only one way of looking at the problem, and it's only one solution. And it's the flipping motza in financial terms. All that.

But I do feel that if you have the energy to write fully four stanzas of nit-pickery, there's some onus on you to advance at least one original idea of your own??

Oh yeah, and I picked Ringwood as a successful CAD because it will be. Obviously. To anyone with eyes and a functioning set of mental faculties.

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gobillino's picture

"the only meaningful thing Plan Melbourne adds to the existing concept of CADs is a "La Trobe" cluster. It does absolutely nothing to enable anything. In no small part because none of it is ever going to happen without radically revisioning suburban mass transit."

Well it increases the total number of CADs (or in PM parlance, MACs and NECs) to 14, in addition to the CBD/Parkville (discounting the two suburban NECs that also include/abut a MAC). This includes Clayton/Monash, which AD's graph demonstrates as a particularly important centre (without being a 'centre'). I'm not suggesting PM satisfactorily responds to the transport network improvements to make these work, and that's a very common and justifiable criticism of metropolitan strategies. But it sets out a metropolitan planning framework that you've not taken account of in your plan.

"why run a Newport Line ...." because under your proposal we have to build a whole new tunnel to get from Fisherman's to Southern Cross, under the river, with all the related logistics and to deliver what? How do you deliver better amenity to werribee line passengers by only giving them ONE CBD stop?"

Well, yes we would have to build a new tunnel. At significant cost. In much the same way that Melbourne Metro comes at significant cost. And much the same way as your plan would come at a very significant cost. But so what? You seem to talk about metro systems, and then espouse all the things that constrain our current commuter system. Multiple lines converging on common track. All lines must lead to Flinders St. These are the very things that need to be addressed if we're going to ever have a hope of developing a network that remotely resembles a metro.

Leaving aside the fact that in the context we're talking about, Fishermans Bend and Parkville are very much part of the expanded CBD, the alternative Fisho option i talk about provides for access to two existing CBD stations (SXS and Flagstaff) as does yours, and provides interchange opportunities to cross city/viaduct lines at SXS, city loop (and hopefully in time, through-routed) services at Flagstaff, and Melbourne Metro services at Parkville.

"Oh yeah, and I picked Ringwood as a successful CAD because it will be. Obviously. To anyone with eyes and a functioning set of mental faculties."

I won't make comment about the relative maturity of this as a response, compared to the regular contributors to this site (although I guess I just did), but it's not at all obvious to me that it's any better placed than any other important metro centre. If you talk about broader catchment growth, it's well below the likes of Footscray, Sunshine, Dandenong, Broady and Epping. If you talk about existing government services and employment, its overshadowed by all of those again (except Epping), as well as Box Hill. If you talk about private sector employment and services, none of the centres do particularly well, including Ringwood. If you talk about existing residential and commercial development activity (not including retail) it's definitely overshadowed by Box Hill and Footscray, marginally ahead of Dandenong, and with Sunshine a sleeper which will probably be streets ahead in 10-15 years.

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Adam Ford's picture

No, and this isn't a response to Plan Melbourne, this is a response to inadequate planning around what I'm going to continue to call CADs. Hence it's optimised to those the transport network can address, not PLan Melbourne's wishlist.
And I did forget to add above the other main benefit of an outer circle is plugging the majority of existing blackspots out east.
The problems of the network as a whole are not going to be constrained by running Caulfield and werribee line trains through the one tunnel. In many ways you could argue its a silly indulgence to build Metro rail at such expense to serve commuters on so few lines. I still don't see why we need all these new station entrances so much as just really good interfaces with existing Melbourne Central and Flinders Street concourses.
Though you are right, the network development plan did also allow for a Flagstaff connection.
As for Ringwood, OK, if you really want my response to make this thread longer, Ringwood is already a major shopping destination, and there's some really good residential going in right on top of the station, one of the few in the entire metropolitan area that interfaces in any way properly with a major shopping mall. Chadstone is finally having some success at getting office space to work, and I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect we'll see the same at Ringwood in the coming decade or so. It's also very well serviced by Eastlink and the bypass and is basically the only existing designated CAD that has an EXISTING "three spoke" heavy rail catchment. Those are all the reasons, and probably more if I weren't busy right now. Is that mature enough?
But I won't argue with you that it's presently probably overshadowed by Box Hill and Footscray, possibly in perpetuity. But if you're arguing Box Hill has all the success factors, you have to say those are all also present in Ringwood.

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Steve Raider's picture

'bus that networks with the train system knows which train it connects with and it has no journey start time until it's loaded all the passengers from that train.'

I drive a bus part-time. I'll have a journey starting at Mitcham station. I know trains are often a few minutes late and I always wait when they are. (I know I can make up the time.)

But I can tell you that's not how we're meant to do it and I doubt that any of my fellow drivers would do this. They just leave right on time with an empty bus.

I don't know why such simple system improvements as the one you suggested are not done. How many more years will it be like this? It's not pleasant working in a system that you see is screwing passengers.

I guess PTV's solution is to just run the trains on time. But when they say they have a 96.5%* punctuality record this month, the asterix is indicating within 5 minutes of the scheduled time. Well guess what? At Mitcham there is a 2 minute window from when the train arrives to when the bus leaves.

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