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.
‘‘We really can do little in terms of building on the system and getting into new areas in the city, without significantly improving the capacity through the core of the system,’’ Mr Dobbs said.
‘‘Melbourne Metro tunnel is the basis of improving that core capacity,’’ he said.
Mr Dobbs said the rail tunnel would allow the system to grow to meet the expected patronage of 1.1 billion boardings a year by 2031.
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.
He described the Network Development Plan: Metropolitan Rail as a ‘‘suburb-by-suburb, line-by-line’’ business plan to extend the rail network.
To fund the 20-year plan, governments would have to spend more than $1 billion a year to fund the increased capacity, which Mr Dobbs said might cost $30 billion but said the figure was rubbery.
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.”
He said the new signalling system, to be trialled on the Sandringham line, should be fast-tracked to other rail corridors.
He said new, longer trains would improve capacity, particularly in the south-eastern suburban lines.
Mr Dobbs said the plan would be reviewed annually.
Plans for buses, trams and regional services are all expected later this year.
Mr Dobbs said other proposals may be used to fix other problems on the rail system. He mentioned South Morang railway station’s overcrowding and linked bus services.
Stage 1: The next five years
- Regional Rail Link
- Seven new trains
- Hurstbridge line upgrade
- Eltham stabling
- 33 new high capacity trains, able to carry up to 1100 passengers
- 40 new V/Locity carriages
- Williams Landing Station
- Grovedale Station
- Southland Station
- High capacity signalling trial on Sandringham line.
Some projects already started
Stage 2: Within 10 years
- Melbourne Metro rail tunnel project
- Melton rail line duplication
- Dandenong rail corridor upgrade
- 33 high capacity trains, order and deliver a further 70 trains
- High capacity signalling on the Sandringham, South Morang and Hurstbridge lines, and between Sunbury and South Yarra.
Stage 3: Within 15 years
- Melbourne Airport rail line
- Rowville rail line
- South Morang services diverted to rail tunnel between Clifton Hill and Southern Cross
- Doncaster rail line
- Melton line electrification
- More high-capacity trains
- Extend high-capacity signalling
- Second Dandenong rail corridor upgrade
Stage 4: Within 20 years
- More high-capacity trains
- City Loop reconfigured for seven separate lines through the Melbourne CBD
- Quadruple the line capacity between Burnley and Camberwell
- Altona Junction to Seaholme duplication
- Geelong and Wallan electrified lines
- Extend South Morang to Mernda
- Mooroolbark to Lilydale duplicated lines
- Extend Werribee to Wyndham Vale
- Extend South Morang line from Southern Cross to Fisherman’s Bend with a tunnel