An inner metropolitan rail tunnel is the linchpin for Melbourne’s rail growth and without it other network expansions would be impossible, the state’s public transport chief says.
Public Transport Victoria’s chief executive officer, Ian Dobbs, released a plan for a metro-style rail network on Wednesday.
In the plan, Mr Dobbs put the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel ahead of every other future rail project, including the long-awaited rail lines to Doncaster, Rowville and Melbourne Airport, saying the inner city’s stations will not cope with the extra trains without the tunnel.
Mr Dobbs said the PTV ‘‘fervently’’ believed in the need for the nine-kilometre rail tunnel from South Kensington to South Yarra via Parkville and the Domain, estimated to cost $5 billion.
‘‘Melbourne Metro tunnel is the basis of improving that core capacity,’’ he said…
He said without the tunnel project and a new computerised signalling system, the rail system would be crowded for 95 per cent of passengers at peak times.
He said the network’s signalling system was introduced 100 years ago and was holding back service capacity.
A new computer-based, semi-automated system to be introduced over the next 15 years would increase the number of trains through the city centre from about 20 per hour to 30 trains or more. He said the same system was used in 100 cities around the world.
Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the network plan was written by an independent authority and was not a politician’s wish list.
‘‘This plan is not just for the government of the day,’’ Mr Mulder said.
‘‘It is bottom-up and demand-driven,’’ he said.
The wait will be 15 years for rail lines to Rowville and from Melbourne Airport. Doncaster residents will have to wait for another tunnel to be built between Clifton Hill and Southern Cross before their railway line is built.
Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton criticised the elevating of the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel project, saying replacing Melbourne’s antiquated signalling system would do more to improve capacity.
‘‘The plan is fine but the sequence is wrong,’’ Dr Morton said.
‘‘By putting Melbourne Metro – the most expensive project by far – ahead of everything else, they are jeopardising everything else,’’ he said.
‘‘This is a way of putting Doncaster and Rowville on the never-never.
Deborah Gough, The Age, March 27, 2013