The Age: "Attention passengers, your expanded rail network has been delayed"
Adam Carey, The Age
Here is The Age's transport reporters analysis of the three recent rail reports (as seen on-line 15 March 2013)
It has taken just two years for the state government's grand plans to expand Melbourne's suburban rail network to vanish down a hole. Or rather, a tunnel.
After ambitiously launching studies on long-proposed railway lines to Doncaster, Rowville and Melbourne Airport in its early days, the Coalition government has in the past week dropped three separate independent reports that all reach the same conclusion: nothing will be built before Melbourne Metro.
Melbourne Metro – a proposed nine-kilometre rail tunnel beneath the city centre – is at least a decade away from happening but heads the government's wishlist of public transport projects and, perhaps more significantly, of the bureaucracy that advises them.
The Transport Department and its successor, Public Transport Victoria, were never interested in the Coalition's vision of new suburban rail extensions because they had already looked at these projects years ago and found reasons not to go ahead with them. Evidently they won the argument behind closed doors, because the government has rushed to release its reports, as if to purge itself of the embarrassing baggage of its pre-election optimism.
Released on Thursday, the Doncaster rail draft report appears so expensively elaborate it is as if it were designed to fail.
A brand-new tunnel would be required not just for the Doncaster line but also from Northcote into the city along the South Morang line, where it would join Melbourne Metro in Parkville before terminating at Flagstaff. Passengers would hope that station is open on weekends by then.
The Melbourne Airport rail link would also connect to Melbourne Metro and run alongside the Sunbury line before detouring to Tullamarine at Albion East. At 30 minutes, it would be a slower run to the airport than the average ride on Skybus.
A Rowville line has also been judged unfeasible without Melbourne Metro because of congestion in the City Loop. Voices outside government argue a new rail tunnel is not the only answer to Melbourne's rail capacity woes. High-speed signalling, for example, could double capacity at much less cost.
Ted Baillieu stood at Doncaster Hill and said it was a great place for a train station, but now that he's gone and the reports he promised are out, that hope seems more distant than ever.
pt4me2 is a project of the Metropolitan Transport Forum, which advocates on transport issues on behalf of the cities of Banyule, Bayside, Boroondara, Casey, Darebin, Hume, Kingston, Manningham, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Moonee Valley, Moreland, Port Phillip, Whitehorse, Whittlesea, Wyndham, Yarra and Shire of Nillumbik.