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 …
The Melbourne Airport rail link would also connect to Melbourne Metro…
A Rowville line has also been judged unfeasible without Melbourne Metro…
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.
Adam Carey, The Age, March 15, 2013