On Monday the New South Wales Government kicked off the formal planning process for the second stage of the Sydney Metro project. It comes as the heavy work for the first phase - rebranded as Sydney Metro Northwest a few months ago - is nearing completion with the TBM tracker map for the project showing two of the four TBMs in use on the project only having approximately 1-1.5km until they complete their run.
What started as a project to bring rail services to one of Sydney's largest rail service black-spots has morphed into a very long metro line that will eventually run from Sydney's North West through North Sydney and the CBD and out to the South West.
The 'Northwest' section which is under construction, when open, will see passengers needing to change to existing services at Chatswood to continue journeys toward central Sydney.
This point along with the "back to the future" moment of the new metro line not running double-decker trains which are synonymous with Sydney has generated a lot of discussion & dabate.
For the most part the debate around the type of trains to be used on the new line has been derailed (pun intended) and the launch of the formal planning process has neutered concerns over long term viability of moving more people over/under Port Jackson in trains.
While the second City and Southwest phase of Sydney Metro is a natural extension of the first phase, the key lesson for us south of the Murray is to ensure that after Melbourne Metro, we don't play the "balance" card and then go on a publicly-funded road building boondoggle.
The heavy and expensive equipment to be procured for Melbourne metro like Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs), not to mention the vast knowledge people who are working on this project are gaining, should not be wasted and put on the backburner. We should be following Sydney Metro's lead and kicking off the formal planning process for our next rail project during the construction phase of Melbourne Metro.
Two sizeable pieces of a large strategic planning jigsaw puzzle seem to have fallen into place.
A refresh of Plan Melbourne has been launched which seeks to add components such as affordable housing mechanisms, Melbourne as a poly-centric city and climate change preparedness to the original plan and Infrastructure Victoria has been born and will be tasked on providing advice to Spring Street on the State's infrastructure needs and responses.
Fishermans Bend's structure plan will be changing and Spring Street recently announced that the Australian Education City consortium was the preferred bidder to develop a large site in East Werribee.
Melbourne's sole advantage over all other big Australian cities is land, and not just the productive agricultural land that the sprawl-belt is constantly infringing upon.
Fishermans Bend alone will make Sydney's Barangaroo and Perth's Elizabeth Quay look decidedly miniscule in comparison owing to the sheer amount of land that could be redeveloped along the lower Yarra.
There's decades worth of redevelopment potential but before we get bogged down on what kind of urban form Fishermans Bend should take we must first ensure the right type of Public Transport is selected and put in place early. Likewise we must ensure it provides maximum connectivity from both the east and west of the metropolitan area.
I am of course referring to the Fishermans Bend line that was present on the PTV's heavy rail plan, released soon after Denis Napthine took over the Premiership during the last Government. This is the kind of project we should expect to see near the very top of Infrastructure Victoria's initial 30 year infrastructure strategy and similarly in Spring Street's mandatory response.
The Australian Education City marketing material paints a grand picture of urbanism out west and the associated numbers - 80,000 to 100,000 people to eventually live in the new 'city' - is nothing to sneeze at either. Earlier reports in other media suggested that a rail station was to be a part of the project however this still remains uncertain and once again, given the immediacy of the redevelopment project, we should expect Infrastructure Victoria to pay attention to this part of the city.
And that leaves us with the East. Monash University-Mulgrave is a major employment precinct in its own right, very much a player in the drive to bring high quality jobs closer to where people live.
As the SNAMUTS map shown below alludes to, the Springvale Road/Wellington Road area has two smart buses routes and possibly the most appalling thing on that map is that it highlights how there are not many other semi-decent public transport services that run at least every 20 minutes on week day off peaks.
The map shows that back in 2011 the smart bus routes in the area were seeing a higher degree of network stress than other parts of Melbourne Public Transport network. Do we need to see some out-of-the-box thinking for Public Transport in the area?
Plan Melbourne has that aspiration to make Melbourne more poly-centric, or more to the point, a "20 minute" city. There's one giant employment centre in Melbourne at present, it's the centre of the city where our current Publc Transport network excels in moving people in and out of it.
Monash University-Mulgrave is a major established employment node simply lacking in direct rail access and East Werribee could very well become an equivalent major employment mode for the west.
This emerging picture of a Melbourne with three major employment nodes centred around Universities dispersed equally in the metropolitan area - West, Central and East - is not all too dissimilar to the story of Sydney with its CBD/inner south (potential metro station near the University of Sydney) and Macquarie Park / North Ryde (Macquarie University and two other metro stations in the immediate vicinity).
When Spring Street creates the response to Infrastructure Victoria's initial 30 year strategy (which it is required to do under the act), the Melbourne Metro project will likely be kicking off its construction phase.
Given all of the above and after Infrastructure Victoria's advice has been provided, Spring Street should heed the lesson from the Sydney Metro project and keep the major rail project planning and construction cycle rolling so as we get even more mileage out of the knowledge created and the equipment procured for the Melbourne Metro project.