Commuters rail against tunnel vision: Do we need a new Melbourne Metro tunnel?

BUILDING extra lines and tracks in the outer suburbs and modernising slow signalling systems would do far more to ease rail congestion in Melbourne than a new tunnel under the city, the state’s public transport lobby group says.

In its submission ahead of the state budget, the Public Transport Users Association says the Baillieu government should put aside its top public transport project, the proposed Melbourne Metro tunnel, in favour of plugging the many gaps in the existing network.

This includes duplicating nine sections of single track, building extensions to Doncaster, Rowville and Mernda and introducing high-speed signalling to enable trains to run closer together.

The association’s president, Tony Morton, said these steps would do more to bolster Melbourne’s rail network than the multibillion-dollar tunnel, and could be achieved sooner.

”Several suburban railway lines and commuter belt regional lines still include sections of single track that limit capacity and cause delays to reverberate across the network when disruptions occur,” Dr Morton said.  ”These could be duplicated much sooner and at lower cost than the government’s current high-cost infrastructure wish-list.”

The nine-kilometre Melbourne Metro tunnel would run beneath the city from Kensington to South Yarra, linking the Sydenham and Dandenong lines.

It is the top-priority rail project of both the state government and Public Transport Victoria, which argue it is essential to be able to run more trains and reduce crowding.  Infrastructure Australia, which advises the federal government on funding major projects, has also given the proposal high priority, ranking it as ”ready to proceed”.

But Dr Morton said that while the project would help commuters in the west, it would do nothing for those travelling on the congested lines that service the south-eastern suburbs because the Dandenong line’s ageing signalling could not let through more than one train every three minutes…

”If you look at the Dandenong line, the thing that’s stopping you running more trains is the limited capacity of the signalling between Caulfield and Oakleigh.”

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder conceded the Dandenong corridor needed new high-speed signalling the Melbourne Metro project to succeed but he said the line’s many level crossings also inhibited the number of trains that could run each hour.

Adam Carey, The Age, February 26, 2013

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