Rail will be the enabler of the polycentric city aspirations of Melbourne's West

Comment

There's much to admire about Rodney Maddock's advocacy piece in The Conversation - 'Our growing big cities need new centres of employment - here's Melbourne's chance' - the three projects he advocates for have been in the public domain for quite a while now.

The Vice Chancellor's Fellow at Victoria University says the state government should get a wriggle on with Australian Education City in East Werribee, announcing which site will house the new Footscray Hospital and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

It's worth attempting to add more meat to the bones on two of the VC's favoured projects as they do have a wider context.

Interestingly enough, only today has the Federal Government finally reached an agreement with the State Government to transfer funds in order for the Spring Street-led Regional Rail Revival programme to kick off. At the same time, Victoria has signed up to the federal government's inland rail project.

The agreement is significant as it represents the merry-go-round of new federal infrastructure ministers coming to a stop so focus can shift to other announcements made in both state and federal budgets last year: how to spend the money on studying how the Melbourne Airport Rail Link can be sped up.

Note also that Sunshine is getting the rolls royce treatment from the Victorian Planning Authority as it has been designated a national employment and innovation cluster.

Australian Education City had some more time in the limelight recently when the Herald Sun reported Jacobs were undertaking the design of the new centre which reportedly will have a $30billion value.

The paper also reported that in order to sufficiently service the precinct with Public Transport multiple options are under investigation including a diversion of the Werribee line through the site between Werribee and Hoppers Crossing stations or a dedicated driverless train system linking with Hoppers Crossing and Werribee Stations.

The University campus that will form a major part of the precinct would also eventually enrol up to 45,000 local and international students and the precinct would have a focus on technology industries.

Conceptual render of Australian Education City- from Herald Sun/AEC

With talk about possibly diverting the Werribee Line or linking a standalone system to the existing stations on the Werribee Line, it's a good idea to also look at what else is happening in the region.

Just recently Wyndham council approved the master plan for a new suburb to be built adjacent to the regional rail link called Mambourin which is being billed as a 5-minute city where residents will have a 5-minute walk or bike ride to everything they need, including public transport services (that is of course, when the station at Black Forest Road is built).

We've known the land around the regional rail link was going to be developed for new town centres and suburbs however they are coming into sharper focus.

As its name suggests, the regional rail link, it was originally designed for giving regional services a faster, separated from metro trains, run into and out of the city but the Geelong line is increasingly doing the job of metro.  

The public hearings on Fishermans Bend are underway and as reported yesterday, little by little more detail on the heavy rail line is creeping into the public domain.

Screenshot from GTA Consultants expert witness statement

The above image is from GTA Consultants expert witness statement that's been published on the Fishermans Bend community engagement site and it provides a wider view of the thinking behind where the second metro tunnel might go.  

The Integrated Transport Plan, produced by Transport for Victoria, came up with two alignment options which originally didn't show how they would connect with rail network to the west however the image above makes it pretty clear the heavy rail alignment will connect to the Werribee Line.

With the Fishermans Bend planning work likely to be complete by mid-year, Australian Education City and ongoing suburban & town centre development on either side of the regional rail link, it's not hard to imagine how Melbourne Metro 2 & the Melbourne Airport Rail Link can be used as great enablers for poly-centric aspirations for the West.

Lead image credit: VicTrack

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