City transport plan revealed

The Age: City transport plan revealed (4th December, 2008)

A multi billion-dollar expansion of Victoria’s rail network and the go-ahead for some of the most controversial roads ever built in Melbourne are the key elements of the State Government’s transport blueprint. The Age believes Premier John Brumby will announce a “metro-style” rail tunnel from the western suburbs to the south-east, a new rail link to free-up the Geelong and Ballarat lines, and an extension of the Epping line in the rapidly expanding outer north-eastern suburbs.

Mr Brumby is also expected to flag the Government’s intention to build the so-called “missing link” in the Metropolitan Ring Road through some of the city’s most environmentally sensitive areas in the north-east and east.

He will also signal plans to start work on a new outer-metropolitan ring road, and to build the long-mooted Frankston bypass. But it is understood the plan will pull up short of an immediate go-ahead for the contentious east-west road tunnel recommended by the Government’s transport adviser, business leader Sir Rod Eddington.

Instead, the Government plan is expected to include only a new road in the inner west, designed to cater for increased freight traffic from the Port of Melbourne and to free up residential roads such as Francis Street, in Yarraville, that are clogged with trucks.

Mr Brumby will sell the plan as a blueprint to ease Melbourne’s road and train congestion and to transform a suburban transport system into a modern, metro-style network.

But the Opposition, which expects transport congestion to be one of the major negatives for Mr Brumby in the lead-up to the 2010 election, will accuse the Government of failing to act quickly enough to enable Melbourne to cope with its population boom.

The Government last night refused to comment on the plan, expected to be released within days. But The Age believes it will include:

    ■ A rail tunnel from Caulfield to Footscray via St Kilda Road and the central business district, which the Government will describe as the start of a European-style underground network. It is expected to cost about $8.5 billion, and construction is unlikely to start for several years.■ A “Tarneit link” surface rail line from Werribee to Deer Park, providing services for residents in that growth corridor, and freeing up the Geelong and Ballarat lines. The new link will cost about $1.5 billion.

    ■ An extension of the Epping rail line to South Morang, with construction to start in the election year of 2010 and the first trains to start operating in 2013, at a cost of about $650 million.

    ■ A detailed study of routes to extend the Metropolitan Ring Road from Greensborough to the EastLink tollway at Ringwood, possibly through environmentally sensitive areas such as Diamond Creek and Warrandyte.

    ■ A bypass road around Frankston to Mount Martha, costing about $750 million and jointly funded by the State and Federal governments.

    ■ Setting aside land for a road in an arc from Avalon Airport to the Hume Highway as the start of a new outer ring road.

    ■ Extra bus services for Doncaster and the eastern suburbs.

    ■ About $30 million for more transit police on train lines that have high levels of violence and vandalism.

Fast-tracking the extension of the Epping line will be welcomed by public transport advocates and residents.

The Bracks government two years ago promised to begin duplicating the track from Keon Park to Epping in 2016 and to extend the double-line to South Morang from 2021.

Mr Brumby will announce that both projects will begin in 2010, to provide services for the booming Plenty Valley.

South Morang will be a “premium station”, staffed from first train to last, with about 380 services a week, a 500-space car park, a taxi rank and timetables linked to local bus services. Trains will run about every 10 minutes in peak times and 20 minutes during off-peak.

As part of the project, Thomastown station will get a second platform and will be upgraded to improve access for disabled and elderly passengers — as will Epping station.

Once the second rail bridge now being built across Merri Creek at Clifton Hill and the South Morang extension are finished, the line will have two tracks all the way from South Morang to the City Loop.

“This time it’s actually going to happen,” one Labor insider said last night of the long-promised project.