Back in March 2013 when Denis Napthine assumed the role of Premier, under his leadership the PTV heavy rail network plan was released. Contained within it were four distinct stages of network infrastructure development and subsequent service alterations.
See the PTV Network Development Plan for Metropolitan Rail forum thread where a summary of the four different stages have been posted.
There's been no reference to an updated plan under the Andrews Government nor was there any public update to the plan when the previous Napthine Government announced their altered Melbourne Rail Link cross-town tunnel proposal.
However it's been useful to glance back at the forum thread every now and again when a new announcement has been made by the current government to see how it relates to the only publicly available network development plans.
Despite the large level crossing removal program currently underway not explicitly referenced in the 2013 plan - as it was primarily an election-initiated suite of projects in 2014 - many of the improvements required as referenced in the 2013 plan can be box-ticked.
The first stage map below merely depicted projects that were either underway or announced back in 2013 - Regional Rail Link, Epping line extension to South Morang, the electrification project from Watergardens to Sunbury and the four new stations scattered around the network: Lynbrook, Cardinia Road, Southland and Williams Landing.
Of note, three of the four new stations have been built and are now in service with the fourth, Southland, about to get underway with a completion date set for 2017. Waurn Ponds (Grovedale) is now open; the Regional Rail Link now has Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong line trains running over its rails; Sunbury has been electrified and now sees every second train extend beyond Watergardens; Greensborough to Hurstbridge has seen upgrades; and the Epping Line is now called the South Morang line.
Moving to Stage 2, all the big ticket items from the 2013 have largely been announced.
The big ticket items that can be box ticked (or partially ticked) are the Melbourne Metro Rail project which is now underway, a new signalling system trial on the Sandringham line has been announced and with this weekend's announcement that Caulfield-Dandenong will be grade separated using an elevated rail design response, this aspect of the 2013 plan is partially ticked.
Likewise last year a Request for Proposal was put to the market for the next generation fleet of trains which included the construction of a dedicated maintenance and storage facility in Pakenham and this week's media release for the Dandenong corridor level crossing project points to what future announcements might entail:
Thirty platforms along the Cranbourne Pakenham line will be lengthened to support 37 high-capacity metropolitan trains. The combined package will create space for 11,000 extra passengers in peak hour.
Blink and you'd miss it however the animation for the Dandenong corridor depicted 9 carriage trains gliding through the new stations.
Does this mean that 9 carriage trains are coming to the Pakenham and Cranbourne line in 2018? I highly doubt it because the Pakenham/Cranbourne lines are still firmly running through the existing City Loop which won't fit them but if I were a betting man the second stage of the Dandenong corridor upgrades - last weekend's announcement being the first stage - which is likely to be the large-scale extension of platforms throughout South east Melbourne will probably occur two to three years before the Melbourne Metro Rail tunnel is completed.
Recent reports involving the VLine wheel flange issues quoted remarks by train drivers that the Deer Park junction between the Ballarat Line and the Regional Rail line have become a choke point - will the Deer Park-Melton duplication and 'supporting works' as shown on the 2013 plan include a proper flyover junction?
Projects that are on the stage 2 map but have not been publicly announced thus far include 'signalling upgrades' of the existing system on the Werribee Line and inside the Northern Loop where Watergardens, Craigieburn and Upfield line trains currently run and the various turnbacks, expanded stabling facilities throughout the network and the duplication of the single-track tunnel between Heidelberg and Rosanna.
Another choke point, albeit a Metro one, is Clifton Hill where a flat-bed junction still exists between the South Morang and Hurstbridge lines: citybound South Morang trains can be blocked by Hurstbridge-bound trains departing Clifton Hill station. Note a train was derailed in this area over the weekend - perhaps we'll see movement on this part of the network development next?
For the crystal ball gazers, you can see the original plan's stage 3 and 4 summaries in this forum thread.