Public transport

Jul 26, 2012

Is this rail line too good to be true?

Here's some great news. A consulting team led by Curt

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

Possible alignment (Blue) for Doncaster rail line along Eastern Freeway median. Source: Doncaster Rail Study

Here’s some great news. A consulting team led by Curtin Uni’s Peter Newman has apparently found a way to reduce significantly the stratospheric cost of new urban rail lines in Australia’s capital cities.

Professor Newman reckons a 12 km rail line running down the central median of Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway from inner city Clifton Hill to suburban Doncaster could be built for a mere $840 million. The costing includes five stations and 2-3 kilometres of tunnel.

And for another $300 million, the team reckons a further 3 km of tunnel could be constructed between Clifton Hill and near-city Parkville. And it could fund itself! A tax on the increase in property values arising directly from the rail line would raise enough revenue to fund construction.

Compare it to the likely $5-$7 billion cost of the proposed Melbourne Metro, and Doncaster rail is a bargain. Compare it to the $560 million the Brumby Government spent to extend the Epping Line just 3 km to South Morang and it’s the bargain of the century.

Around half of that South Morang money went on indirect works, but even so the comparison is extraordinary. Professor Newman and his team appear to have found the gunzel’s equivalent of Valyria.

Professor Newman is a credible authority. He’s on the board of Infrastructure Australia and, according to The Age, was the architect of WA’s fabulously cheap 70 km Mandurah rail line (circa $2 billion in today’s dollars). He’s also done this sort of work before – in 2004 he was part of the team who prepared a feasibility study for a rail line to suburban Rowville in Melbourne’s south-east.

I’ve argued before that a rail line to Doncaster can’t be justified for a whole host of reasons (here, here and here). At this price however, I’d have to seriously consider eating my words. The Age’s leader writer also thinks it’s a great idea (no surprise there, though).

The absence of a rail line is a longstanding issue in the Doncaster region. The Baillieu Government promised during the 2010 State election to undertake a feasibility study and it’s now underway and well advanced. The separate Newman study, which was commissioned by the City of Manningham and five other municipalities, is no doubt designed to put pressure on the Government to commit to the line.

Unfortunately I haven’t read the Newman report because it’s still secret. It was splashed across the front page of The Age earlier in the week, but the six municipalities won’t even meet to consider it until Tuesday.

I must say I think it’s appalling that extravagant claims with important public policy implications are made publicly without the supporting information being made available for examination. However since I’m assured by the City of Manningham that the facts reported by The Age, including the costs, are perfectly consistent with what’s in the report, I’ll press on.

The trouble with those reported costs is they’re too good to be true. The most credible estimate we have for the Doncaster rail line was prepared by the Eddington Task Force in 2008. It put the price at $1.8-$2.1 billion. Allow for optimism bias and cost increases and it’s likely to cost $3 billion and counting just to get the line from Doncaster to Clifton Hill.

There’s no spare capacity from Clifton Hill to the city, so an additional 3 km tunnel would have to be constructed to Parkville where it would meet up with the proposed Melbourne Metro. To suggest that would cost a mere $300 million in the current cost environment is……well, to be polite, too good to be true.

As another point of comparison, the Federal Government’s High Speed Rail feasibility study estimated it would cost $1 billion just to build underground station facilities at Southern Cross.

The reason the cost estimates are optimistic is they’re reportedly referenced from WA’s Mandurah rail line, which commenced operation in December 2007. While they’re presumably inflated to today’s dollars, this method is just plain disingenuous because the Mandurah line is a classic outlier.

It’s not clear why Mandurah cost so little compared to more recent projects. It might be because it was built on sand. Or because much of it was constructed through relatively undeveloped country. Or because it was built with a freeway. Or maybe some of the contractors took a bath.

Like most, I suspect a key reason is it had the good fortune to be tendered before the full impact of the resources boom fed through to construction costs (construction commenced in early 2004). However costs have sky-rocketed since Mandurah was built.

Why that is so is an extremely important question and one I’ve discussed on these pages a number of times before (e.g. herehere and here). But the reasons appear to be structural so they can’t just be wished away. Mandurah is simply not even remotely representative of current costs.

There is in any event enormous variability in the cost of projects both at the national and international level. Basing costs on just one project in another State tendered quite some years ago simply isn’t a valid approach, especially when that one project is cherry-picked.

However that isn’t likely to worry the six municipalities who funded the study. As it’s a political stunt, they just want to pressure the Government.

I’m not sure they support taxing the increase in property values though. I like it, although I doubt there’ll be as much value to capture as Professor Newman and his team assume. But it’s too politically difficult to be anything but a liability for most politicians.

There are other problems with a rail line to Doncaster which I’ve discussed before (here, here and here). For example, it would replace one form of public transport (SmartBus) with another (train). I’ll look at these other issues again in the near future when the Newman report is (hopefully) released publicly.

However it’s worth noting some pertinent findings from the recently released Rowville rail stage 1 feasibility study undertaken by the Victorian Government. The proposed Rowville and Doncaster lines have a number of similarities e.g. in length, stations, proximity to existing lines.

Whereas the Newman study claims a Doncaster line would carry 100,000 passengers per day, modelling indicates the Rowville line will only carry 68,000 per day by 2046. That suggests the patronage claim is ambitious, to say the least.

The really interesting bit though is the Rowville line would increase the share of all trips carried by public transport in the metropolitan area in 2046 from 12.6% to 12.7%. Moreover, 57% of the rail patronage would be siphoned away from other rail lines. And the Rowville line would reduce the number of car trips on a typical weekday in 2046 by a relatively tiny 15,000.

There are other transport projects in Melbourne that are far more compelling than a rail line to Doncaster. They include elimination of the city’s 170 odd level crossings and better bus services in the outer suburbs. What is needed is a sensible debate, with reliable evidence. Based on what’s been reported (i.e. leaked), it doesn’t seem like this study will give us that.

Update 27 July 2012: see public statements issued by Arup and the Doncaster Rail Study Team in Comments below, #s 15 and 16.

Update 31 July 2012: see comment (#34) by Peter Newman.

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43 thoughts on “Is this rail line too good to be true?

  1. Alan Davies

    Strewth #42:

    You can read the views of the Doncaster Rail project manager on Prof Newman’s costings above (#16). Here’s his opening sentence:

    Doncaster railway line ‘could be built for $840M’” (Age 24/7), raises important aspects about construction costs and patronage that are misleading.

    See also the comments from Arup (#15) distancing themselves from the cost estimate.

    Two other points:

    Much of your argument comes down to flaws in the competence and/or independence of the humans managing rail projects in Vic. I’m wary of giving too much emphasis to those sorts of explanations – I think structural explanations are more plausible.

    The emphasis on comparisons with road projects mostly misses the point. The debate has moved on – critics of rail projects aren’t usually proposing freeways instead

  2. Strewth

    Everyone has an opinion to contribute to this debate I think, and we’re all as ‘partisan’ as each other here. No-one, least of all Peter Newman or Alan Davies, can expect a free pass as an ‘independent expert’ merely by asserting their independence prior to expressing an opinion that others will read as prejudiced. All we really have to go on is the factual evidence being led on all sides.

    The PTUA contends that the Eddington Report came up with its costing for the Doncaster line as an attempt to retrospectively justify leaving the train line out of the EWLNA’s scope, and that the planners Eddington relied upon have been high-balling rail cost estimates for years because their culture has become deeply resistant to the idea of new suburban rail corridors in Melbourne. It’s worth recalling that Eddington devoted just 12 pages out of some hundreds to dismissing the Doncaster rail option, and even after reading the entire EWLNA corpus of documents there is no more evidence to justify Eddington’s cost estimates than there is to justify Prof Newman’s. Prior history also documents the way high cost estimates have been used by Victorian Government planners to rule out considering public transport alternatives to CityLink and EastLink in their planning assessments, as a truly impartial process would have required.

    So how to weigh these conflicting claims on their factual merits? Newman at least relied for his part on as-built costs for a recent project in a similar jurisdiction. In every sector *other* than urban rail in Australia this is considered a prima facie basis for cost estimation. There is no more recent rail project to serve as a more credible estimate: Sunbury and South Morang do not count as most of the work went toward reinforcing existing corridors.

    Alan asserts the Mandurah project is an ‘outlier’, based on no evidence at all that I can detect: only speculation that the WA government was lucky in its choice of timing. In fact, there have been other train lines built in Perth in the last 20 years or so, construction booms notwithstanding, and the cost levels of those projects are consistent with the Mandurah line after allowing for inflation. Prof Newman is probably too polite to say it, but is it not reasonable to conclude that WA rail project planners are simply better at their jobs than their Melbourne and Sydney counterparts?

    In any case, the salient question is not how the cost of the Doncaster line stacks up in absolute terms, but how it compares with the cost of the East West road link and other alternative proposals to deal with chronic traffic congestion on the Eastern Freeway. If construction costs in general have gone through the roof then they will affect the cost of road infrastructure as much as they do public transport infrastructure. It’s worth noting that a substantial portion of the Mandurah line construction costs involved works to realign parts of the Mitchell Freeway to provide a sufficiently wide median: these have no equivalent in the case of Doncaster as the median is already available as far as Bulleen. Instead there are increased tunnelling costs, which can be estimated using the cost of the Eastlink tunnels (built during the construction boom) to arrive at a figure not much different from Newman’s.

    The primary purpose of the Doncaster train line is to provide a high-quality public transport alternative to the Eastern Freeway and thereby divert car trips to public transport trips with user benefits for both modes of travel. Even today, the Eastern Freeway carries fewer people in peak hour than the Ringwood train line. The Doncaster line would not actually need to come anywhere near 100,000 patrons a day to make a serious dent in freeway congestion, thereby generating the time savings that are generally held to justify road projects all by themselves.

    As for the point about not allowing for future patronage growth beyond the 10 year horizon in which Metro envisages no more than 18 trains per hour on the Epping and Hurstbridge lines: it is a fact that every new road built in Melbourne has become congested within 5 years. All such roads are tacitly built in the expectation that traffic levels will build and create pressure for extending those roads. So for decades we have tacitly accepted that transport infrastructure can be provided in stages, with decisions on later stages postponed until after earlier stages are in operation. When this is applied to rail projects, linking the Doncaster line to Clifton Hill initially can be seen as just a prudent response to the limited availability of funds in the current budget cycle.

  3. Williams Al

    It’s interesting reading the comments here, many are well written with objective information. I have been thinking similar thoughts to some of them myself. I just posted an article on this topic here…

  4. Russ

    Dudley, it depends what purpose you want the line to serve. Headways are a function of stopping time – meaning train speed – which is a function of stop spacing, and expected reliability given other constraints (like branch lines). Effective capacity on the circle line is higher because it is slower with short-spacing on the stops and no branches (strictly speaking it is a spiral, not a circle). Obviously running more than 24 trains per hour is possible, but it would require other configurational changes to implement, and it isn’t clear the trade-offs (like slower services) are worthwhile. Not that service speeds are very fast at the moment, but that is itself a problem, as discussed earlier.

  5. Dudley Horscroft

    Why do people consider that the effective capacity of a railway line is 24 trains per hour? I quote: “Today the southern part of the Inner Circle is one of the busiest section of the London Transport system, with 24 trains per hour on each rail. At peak hours this is increased to 36 and no sooner has a train cleared the platform than the following one is running in. . . . On the northern part . . . At peak periods this is augmented between Baker Street and the City by services to and from the ‘Extension’ line and 32 trains an hour pass King’s Cross” This is from “A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain”, Vol 3 Greater London, by H P White, Phoenix House, 1963. If London can do it, so can Melbourne.
    Incidentally, I understand that at one time LT tried 40 trains an hour on the Inner circle, and found it was too much, so cut back to 36. Note that the Circle Line is bedevilled by flat junctions as well!
    John Proctor (37) estimates the journey time from Doncaster to Jolimont (presumably) would be about 30 minutes. The MMTB estimated the journey time from Spencer Street to Doncaster and Williamsons Roads as 37.6 minutes. This included 12.6 minutes from Spencer Street to Spring Street, so if we deduct half, to match the distance to Jolimont, the timing by light rail comes down to 31.3 minutes. And that was when the other trams in the CBD were ancient W2 trams for the most part. Light rail comes pretty close to the heavy rail times, and at probably a quarter or one tenth the cost.

  6. IkaInk

    further, If Mandurah is based on extending station catchments to 10km then why wouldn,t we just extend the catchments of the 20 odd existing staions that surround manningham already on hurstbridge and ringwood lines without the expensive rail solution?

    This is precisely why I’m not sure if I support Doncaster rail at all. Melbourne’s biggest PT priority should be taking the ad-hoc bus network that has been built over decades and turning it into something rational and planned. Bus to bus and bus to rail transfers should be made as painless as possible.

  7. John_Proctor

    @36 thanks for posting Peter, I don,t think anyone in Melbourne questions the outcomes achieved with Mandurah…

    My main questions relate to comparisons of ridership for Doncaster are catchment and speed.

    A Doncaster route might have a catchment of 200,000 including parts of boroondarra and whitehorse… I imagine Mandurah at 70km with no parallel train line for much of it’s route has a catchment of about 500,000 (Mandurah alone is ~80,000).

    Speed wise Doncaster will be 15km with 9 stations if routed via jolimont – that is two less stations than the 70km Mandurah meaning lower service speeds and probably 30 minute journey times which is similar to morning dart journey times and could be more than matched by dart with better priority for a fraction of even your $840 million estimate for a train.

    further, If Mandurah is based on extending station catchments to 10km then why wouldn,t we just extend the catchments of the 20 odd existing staions that surround manningham already on hurstbridge and ringwood lines without the expensive rail solution?

    At the end of the day I wonder what infrastructure Australia’s analysts would make of your report and costings? I expect they,d say something about adding to the values assumed for the risk premiums, contractor profit, land acquisition costs, escalation, construction management costs (like trafficmangement for an operating freeway), design costs, contracting costs etc. that were probably given relatively token percentage or lump sum costs… (Not to mention the construction costs themselves.)

    Alternatively state governments aren,t the only ones that can submit projects to IA perhaps Manningham could submit this report for adding to the priority list?

  8. Newman Peter

    Professor for Self Promotion here….
    Our report on Doncaster Rail is with Manningham and the other Councils who should eventually release it. Can I say three things about the Mandurah Rail that seems to be a challenge for many in Melbourne to grasp.
    1. The speed of the rail system is 90 kph compared to Melbourne’s at 33 kph. This is because it runs down a freeway and so has few constraints especially level crossings and has stations allowing the max speed of 130 kph to be reached (at least 3 kms between). Thus taking the train is quicker than by car most of the day, especially at peak time.
    2. The area along the corridor is not built up like traditional lines and station areas but already there is much activity to make this happen, e.g. Cockburn Central is a new city centre. However the connections across the corridor by bus and by car are well developed. Only 10% is park and ride so most come by bus. This extends the traditional catchment area out around 10 km either side of the line. You can measure the areas where transit accessibility is significantly improved by such a line and this we have done on Doncaster.
    3. Costs on this rail line are much less than other suggested rail lines in Australia, especially those in Melbourne. There is much discussion about why this should be so. In Perth the authorities believe it is due to the public sector controls that were put in place including a very detailed Master Plan with clear processes to ensure on-budget results.

    The result has been a rail service growing at 19% last year to 70,000 a day and with little suggestion that it will not reach 100,000 a day very quickly.

  9. Last name First name

    Parker Alan •OAM

    Did Peter Newman consider Perth Style secures bicycle cages to access the the rail route. ?

    Bicycles and electric bicycles enlarge public transport catchment areas

    Bicycles and electric bicycles enlarge public transport catchment areas, making cross suburban travel easier across radiating rail and express bus routes. Australia needs to better integrate between alternative transport modes they do in Europe and Japan. Europe and Japan have greatly reduced car use and multiple car ownership in households because of their need to be less reliant on fuel price increases and future fuel shortages.

    The price of Australia’s imported oil is now U$ 95 a barrel and will inevitably double in a few years. Outer suburban households are going to need bicycle networks and shared car
    services that connect with new stations and new trunk express bus routes. The
    Netherlands, Germany, denmark and japan are also promoting bicycle access to stations and other transport stops/hubs which is an effective, practical way of increasing the catchment area of each station.

    Riding a bicycle uses the ergonomic ‘mechanical advantage’ of pedalling over walking to go at least 3.5 times as far, for the same physicaleffort. Cycling rather than walking increases the number of homes with access to stations by around a factor of 10.The electric bicycle increases the number of homes with access to public transport by at least a factor of 20 over walking . The limitation of radiating rail lines for commuting is largely eliminated by the pedelec.

    This is why Australian modal interchanges and rail stations need to become a highly visible focal point of surrounding bike networks and become the objective of land use development and urban renewal. The use of pedelecs could become the main means of local transport and to access rail stations or express and trunk bus routes, providing that secure parking is available.

    Our capital cities have sprawled In the hilly parts of Australia and 250 watt electric bicycle would enable able-bodied people to cycle much more than they do now which is an important safety consideration because of the need to ride up hills without weaving. It reduces the speed differential with motor vehicles when riding in the kerb lane or a bike lane. This why the Australian cycling organisations recommend a 250 watt power output for electric bicycles .

    Electric bicycles could be used to enhance personal mobility in hilly areas much the same way as bicycles do in flat cities. In Japan , housewives and elderly cyclists start to give up cycling when it becomes too strenuous but with 250 watt power assistance they will use them. In the last five years 600,000 cyclists in the Netherlands have bought 250 watt electric Bicycles.

    A strategic transport planning perspective of investing in urban bikeway networks and reduces the demand for coal fired electricity which is the most sustainable way of all to reduce GHG emissions. At night electric bicycles could be charged with off peak mains electricity or from “backup batteries” in ‘car parking spaces ‘at places of work, study, shop or play, The “back up batteries” could be charged from roof top solar cells during the day. This is the way to provide for the cross suburban travel patterns of motorists.

  10. Russ

    Dudley, I don’t really think we disagree. I was merely noting that there are legitimate alternatives that could be considered, particularly given the marginal value of a Doncaster heavy rail via the freeway. The route I had in mind would be to tunnel out of Heidelberg under the Yarra, and then cut-and-cover from Heidelberg along Manningham Road to the Shopping Town, before following Doncaster Road to Blackburn Road. Given a significant number of residents in the area work either along that route, or in Heidelberg or surrounds it is by far the most network friendly (and the most terrain friendly – Manningham Road follows the valley floor).

    The station issue from Heidelberg is just as much a problem for South Morang/Greensborough but noone ever seems to worry about it. Judicious closure of stations and replacement of the gaps with light-rail/bus services would greatly improve services in a number of places. There is no political value in efficiency though.

    I’m not really in favour of a Doncaster heavy rail either. It is still expensive, serves a relatively small percentage of the local community, most of whom work locally. for the same cost, an expansion of the light-rail network – including the Manningham Road route from Heidelberg to Box Hill – is better value. Where I’d differ is that I’d let a Swanston St/Alexandra Parade tram leave the freeway at Chandler Highway, follow the old outer circle line to Kew Junction, and then extend the existing tram along Doncaster Road. Although there is no reason why multiple light-rail routes similar to the existing DART system couldn’t be considered.

    It is also worth adding though: for city-bound trips from generic destinations in that area, I doubt any solution provides as good a coverage or speed as the DART. It is incongruous with the rest of the network, but it serves that particular trip pretty well.

  11. Tom the first and best


    It is not a stand alone line. It is through-routed with the line to the northern suburbs and this is through a tunnel.

    Doncaster Shoppingtown is only about 4 km not 12km from where the freeway median goes down to a single concrete barrier.

    My point about Northern Whitehorse and Boroondara and southern Banyule is that parts of those municipalities are actually closer to the Eastern Freeway than the Ringwood or Hurstbridge lines. That means a shorter bus ride/cycle/walk/drive to the station on the Doncaster line than any other line. For example, in Boroondara, anything North of the Studley Park Rd, High St, Harp Rd, Belmore Rd line is closer to a freeway Doncaster line than the Ringwood line.

  12. Tom the first and best


    Fixed 6-car trains would help. With moving block or other semi-automatic system 7-car trains could be run through the loop.

  13. Tom the first and best

    26`s reply

    The new line would be cheaper than building the east-west tunnel and this is even with a new city connection. The Eastern Freeway could be tolled to encourage use of the rail link and to fund part of its construction as well as any operating losses.

    It is looking like Melbourne will get moving block in the medium term, whether or not the Doncaster line is built. This means that it would not be as expensive as a stand alone system.

  14. Dudley Horscroft

    Re Russ (17) and Jolyon (1). My “Oh Dear” was a comment on the suggestion of a line via Heidelberg and Ivanhoe. Unfortunately it is now almost impossible to find a suitable route for this. The best that I can do is, starting at the intersection of Foote Street/Reynolds Road/Williamsons Road to run the line west under Foote Street (cut and cover?) to Union Street. Then diverge to run in the parklands north of Templestowe Road. It would then follow the HT power cable reserve to approximately Robert Street, Bulleen, where it would turn west and run directly across Banksia Park, then under housing to Burgundy Street (cut and cover) to a junction just north of Heidelberg Station. Tunnelling is limited to the Williamsons Road to Templestowe Road section (1.6 km) and about 1.1 km under and to the east of Burgundy Street.

    But, this line would be on the northern outskirts of the built up area. Apart from the eastern terminus there is little concentrated development in the area, it misses the important Westfield Shoppingtown.

    A major disadvantage would be that from Heidelberg Station there are another 14 railway stations to Flinders Street. No way would this be suitable as a heavy rail line for passengers from Doncaster or Templestowe to the City. Remember that passenger rail lines should ONLY be built where there is high demand for the line. At best, assuming that there is a demand for transport from the Templestowe area to Heidelberg, it would be better as light rail on the surface all the way. But I doubt that the patronage would justify that!

    The next best would be the suggested line from Westfield Doncaster but leaving the freeway in the vicinity of Orion Street, Bellevue, then cutting straight across all the golf courses and reserves and gooing into tunnel at The Boulevard, to a junction just north of Darebin Station. But this still means 11 stations to Flinders Street.

    The original plan for the railway was to leave the freeway close to Alfreda Street (after Koonung Station at Kampman St), cross Manningham Road at Hazel Drive, cross
    Williamsons Road at King Street (station) then to the terminus at King Street and Blackburn Road. All after leaving the freeway to be in tunnel. Very expensive, and hence rejected. And if the Government Study is working on this route, it should be rejected again.

  15. Dudley Horscroft

    Reply to Russ (17). I agree there is not a wide median to the east of Bulleen Road. I did not suggest that one should be used, rather that it would be “far better to build a light rail line as the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board wanted to do.”

    I quote from the MMTB Preliminary Feasiblilty Study (p 2): “The route that has been studied is shown in figure 1. This feasibility study concerns a light rail service which could operate from one of four possible termini in the Doncaster area, then along the side of the Eastern Freeway to Bulleen Road where the light rail route would cross over the motor traffic carriageway by bridge and follow the central median of the freeway to Hoddle Street.” Clearly it was then considered feasible to use the reserve on the northern side of the freeway for the Light Rail. Ipso facto, it would be feasible to use it for a heavy rail line. Alternatively, if you look at the NearMap view of the Eastern Freeway in this area, you will see that there is, to all intents and purposes, a median strip two lanes wide, presumably used for emergency vehicles or as an ‘off-side’ emergency stopping lane. Whether such use is necessary or not I don’t know, but a heavy rail line could be shoe-horned into this median, possible with a slight reduction in the traffic lanes. Again, if the ground level line is not considered feasible, then at a much greater cost, but still far less than a tunnel, the heavy rail line could be elevated, either to the side or using columns set in the centre of this median (or both, using single tracks). I do not suggest such is desirable, as I do not think the heavy rail line is a good idea. Incidentally, there is a narrow median along Doncaster Road, much interrupted by right turn lanes, but an elevated line along this section could be constructed, far cheaper than a tunnel along this alignment. (Remove right turn lanes, use hook turns as elswhere in Malbourne.)

    My preference is for the light rail to leave the Eastern Freeway median by ramp and bridge immediately before the Bulleen Road bridge, where the light rail line would cross the Bulleen Road/Thompsons Road intersection. There would be a bus/LRV interchange at the intersection. The Light Rail line would run along Thompsons Road in the lanes either side of the median (four lane road with painted median), no stops till it reached Manningham Road, into which it would turn – another bus/LRV interchange. It would follow Manningham Road (mostly six lanes with a median) and then Williamsons Road to Westfield Doncaster. With only three stops from Hoddle Street to Doncaster (the two stops mentioned plus an interchange at High Street), and travelling at maximum speed along the freeway median, then at posted speed limits along the three streets mentioned, timings would not be much greater than that of the heavy rail line.

    Light rail in the CBD would be slower than heavy rail, but this should be more than counterbalanced by its far better coverage – all stops in Bourke and Flinders Streets (Collins Street if connected to Spencer Street from the north).

    The Government Study should carefully consider the alternatives to heavy rail, and not just assume that (a) heavy rail is the only way, or that (b) tunnelling is the only way.

  16. Krammer56

    They are absolutely different railways. Mandurah was built in a freeway reserve where the land was already bought, a flat grade already provided, all of the road overpasses were in place. And it was a new line on its own.

    Sure, the bit from somewhere east of the Yarra River to somewhere west of Bulleen Road might be like that (about 6km), but the bits at either end (about 12km just to get to Doncaster Shoppingtown) will be very large engineering feats on a very different scale.

    Railways are an interconnected network with quite stringent technical standards. You can’t just stick a bit on here and there and expect miracles. Timetables have to work, signalling has to work, the trains have to be compatible, power supplies need to be in place, land needs to be provided, grades need to be quite flat, capacity for growth needs to be considered, etc, etc. For Doncaster to work all of these need to be addressed – and paid for!

    And, yes, there may be some potential patrons from northern Whitehorse and Boroondara or southern Banyule – but what will make this rail line so fantastic that they will drive away from closer existing rail lines with higher service levels to this one? The offering would have to be vastly superior to attract these patrons – i.e. more frequent trains, much faster running time, much more parking and seats for all. But it still needs to be basically compatible with Melbourne’s rail network, so I don’t see how it is going to be that much better.

    Just the test the theory I had a quick look at the 2006 census (I don’t have the 2011 data lying around, but I doubt it will have changed a lot) and estimated catchments purely on travel distance to the nearest line (i.e. the boundaries between catchments run equi-distant from the lines).

    Hurstbridge…….195,000……..17………….<50,000? #
    Burnley Group….685,000……..46…………~100,000 *

    I don't see how anybody could expect to get to 100,000 patrons on a Doncaster line. For it to deliver 100,000 passengers it needs to be a magic carpet not a train line!

    2006 Census ERP data at CCD level
    Note station numbers are to Clifton Hill/Richmond respectively

  17. IkaInk

    @Alan – No Alan, I’m not being disingenuous. A train every 7 minutes is nothing to scoff at, even during peak hour. It’s about what you could expect of most of the London Underground for example. Melbourne has a lot of room to increase capacity of the rail network without having to resort to cramming in more trains. The seating arrangements we currently have are by no means ideal for fitting in large numbers of passengers easily or comfortably (they’re also part of the reason boarding and alighting times blow out so much when trains are crowded). We’re also using 6 carriage trains made up of 3 car sets. If new trains were purchased as 6 car sets, then each train would gain the space currently occupied by dual unused driver compartments and the bit that actually links the two sets together (no idea what that’s called, I think much more about the insides of trains than any of the mechanics). Will fitting in more trains per hour increase capacity? Yes of course. Is it the cheapest, and most efficient way of doing so? Certainly not, especially not if we’re talking about needing to dig new tunnels, etc. All of these capacity improvements apply not just to the Clifton Hill group and the Doncaster project, but rather the entire network.

    I should clarify: I don’t think the rail line to Doncaster is the number one priority for our PT network, I’m not even sure I support the proposal at all. But I believe it warrants proper investigation, and I’m simply hoping to shine light on this particular debate and set some facts straight.

  18. Tom the first and best


    The proposal is for 6tph in peak. That leaves best practice capacity for an extra 2tph for the other 2 lines. An increased use of flexible hours and peak frequency spreading would help with the patronage increase as well. There are also moves to have a new moving block signalling system to have higher allowable frequencies on loop and through-routed tracks. The signalling system actually allows 30tph between Clifton Hill and the CBD but it is best practice o run the system at 80% capacity to allow for delays and junctions.

    Also the argument is not that extra capacity will never be needed but that it is not needed at the same time. It can be planned to be built later and could be spread between the Doncaster line and the Hurstbridge line.

    An elevated line down Hoddle St may be an extra capacity option.

    Tom: That’s all well and good, but it’s still short-term. You wouldn’t invest billions in a new line, as well as incur the additional operating losses, without understanding something has to be done at the other end sooner rather than later, whether that be a tunnel, extra track or better signalling. BTW moving block signalling costs a pretty penny too. AD

  19. Tom the first and best


    They are not a completely different styles of railway. They are double track suburban railways. They are for trains of up to 6 cars. I will grant you that Melbourne has a broader gauge and more old fashioned electrical system but they are still the same style.

    You are confusing the local government area and the catchment for the railway. People from the northern sides of Whitehorse and Boroondara as well some from south-eastern Banyule. Many of these people would not be driving past stations to get to the city as they would just be driving to the the Eastern Freeway and they to the city. Providing better buses to stations so people do not get in the car in the first place will also help. No proposal for the (East) Doncaster line (that I am aware of), since the Cain Government sold off the land for the route that ran north of the main shopping areas, lacks a station at Doncaster Shoppingtown.

    Victoria and NSW seem to have relatively poor cost control on PT projects. This is thought o be because of public service cuts under their respective previous Coalition Governments.

    The railway would help students and people going to the CBD for leisure as well. The proposal includes a tax on property value increase to recoup the cost of the project.

  20. Alan Davies

    IkaInk #20, Tom the first and best # 21:

    I think you’re being somewhat disingenous here. There’re currently 16 trains per hour to the city through Jolimont between 8am and 9am. Add another 8 from Doncaster and you’d already be at the max 24 trains per hour capacity of the line between Clifton Hill and the city. There’s no room for growth.

    Rail patronage is on the up and up so we should expect peak frequencies to increase in the future – note the South Morang line is in a Growth Area. Note the Rowville feasibility study used 2047 as the evaluation year. Note the Newman report reckons patronage on the Doncaster line should be a huge 100,000 per day!

    It would make little sense to build a new line to Doncaster without factoring in the almost certain and immediate need to expand capacity between Clifton Hill and the city. The leading options at this stage are either a tunnel to Parkville or a third line on the existing alignment. That’s why any sensible discussion about the Doncaster option has to include consideration of expanding capacity downstream from Clifton Hill. Even the Newman report acknowledges it’s relevance.

  21. David Walker

    In the 1990s I wrote for The Age on some of these issues. Even then its transport coverage had long been peculiar. These days I have pretty much given up hope of being able to rely on the newspaper for decent coverage of urban transport issues. It possesses pretty much a single story template: “The powers that be are stopping us having the wonderful trains and trams that would solve all our problems.”

    The public statements from the manager of the Doncaster Rail Study and from Arup will likely never appear in The Age, and the paper’s readership will be left wondering why Professor Newman’s wonderful plan was cruelly ignored.

  22. Krammer56

    Let’s start with the ETC report.

    The Professor loves quoting the Mandurah railway, but I think its validity as a source for costing a completely different style of railway, in a different city at a different time has been well covered above. He is however, clearly not an expert in rail design, construction, costing or patronage estimation, so what contribution he has made to this supposedly technical study (apart from lending his name?) is unclear. I guess we will need to wait until the rest of us can read what The Age was so ecstatic (and atypically uncritical) about.

    The Manningham catchment only has about 100,000 people in it in TOTAL (, so 100,000 patrons suggests that nearly half of all Mannigham residents would need to ride the train (1 trip each way) or a lot of people who currently use other PT services or who already drive past other rail lines would need to decide to use this one instead for some reason. It is going to have to be a very special rail line to attract that sort of ridership in a anything other than someones dreams! And that doesn’t mean remote stations and trains every 10 minutes. In other words: Not Likely.

    As for the costs – despite wishful thinking, they are what they are, especially at the moment. While Australia’s major project construction industry has few players, appointment to build major infrastructure (via normal construction contracts as opposed to PPPs and other voodoo delivery methods) is still normally on a competitive tender basis. Most bidders are also public companies, so their profitability is both publicly available and not ridiculously high – else others would join the competition.

    What does drive prices up though is shortage – and at the moment in particular we have a shortage of skilled labour, railway engineers, signalling engineers, mining engineers, equipment, etc, etc mainly due to the massive demands from the resource states. Maybe if we wait for the mining boom to collapse we can build it a bit cheaper, but then we probably won’t be able to afford it!

    Finally though, I still get back to the main question we need to ask for any project – is this the highest priority to spend however many billions of dollars it will cost? A project that further subsidises relatively well-off CBD workers’ travel costs (including mine) and inflates private property values (including mine) in the Doncaster area doesn’t sound like it to me.

    If we have billions to spend, let’s put it into projects that make real changes for all travellers. One billion dollars might build a bit of a rail or road tunnel. Or it could build, say, fifty road or public transport projects costing $20m each that improve travel for the 95% of trips that don’t go to the CBD. It would certainly be far less risky!

  23. Tom the first and best


    The link you provide has a stated assumption that there would be a frequency in peak of 8-9tph. This does not have to be the case. Also what is wrong with using the existing capacity now and building extra latter? The author also goes on about single seat journeys when most of the passengers would come by feeder bus.

    There once was a plan for the Doncaster line to be linked to Melbourne Central (then Museum) by single track tunnel with a station at Fitzroy as well as a third track Victoria Park-Princes Bridge. This plan may have also had a version where it was extended to Clifton Hill and this would explain the 3 track bridge over the Eastern Freeway.

    The contention is not that the tunnel gets included to be nice but to add unnecessary cost to reduce the likelihood of approval. Yes, Minister style tactics.

    The purpose of the Eddington report was to justify the east-west tunnel and have a big PT project to appear balanced. Elements of Eddington have already been rejected. Eddington proposed that the rail tunnel be built before the RRL and this has been sensibly rejected as the RRL (for all its faults) fixes most of the capacity constraints holding back the Northern Group from running at 48tph.

    Many of the main problems with Eddington where not what it considered but what it did not. It compared The Manor-Ravelhall Geelong line diversion route only with a third track between Newport and Footscary and not having a more direct Laverton-Tottenham link. It gave little regard to providing extra capacity to the Northern Group by adding an extra pair of tracks between Southern Cross and Flinders St and only considered connecting it to the Sandringham line rather than through-routing it with the Burnley group directs.

  24. IkaInk

    @wilful – “Kiss and ride” simply refers to providing somewhere that cars can drop passengers off without parking. The front of virtually any airport could be considered kiss and ride for example. You’re not likely to get much growth in patronage there, and it still requires people to drive to stations and interchanges. Melbourne needs to focus on its multimode journeys more than anything. That’s where the greatest potential for growth lies.

    @Alan – It’s true that the background papers, etc have been made public. However anyone that has read the background papers and the final documents can see that there was some very questionable accounting and interpretations taking place before the final reports were published. Some of the more blatant examples were the cost-benefit tables on both the Metro tunnel and East-West roads, and the justifications for the East-West Road. There might not have been any specific barrow to push written in the scope, but it does seem a little odd that the Eddington team decided to use such creative accounting and interpretations of data to justify the East-West Road project that their own consultants argued was unnecessary.

    As to the Clifton Hill throughput, I’m not leaning on any PTUA data to make my point. The signalling information comes straight from Metro itself. The planned future services may be hosted on Daniel Bowen’s flickr account, but the information once again came from Metro. The running at 80% capacity of signalling headways is standard practice in (near) best-practice environments (some exceptional environments have pushed operations higher than 80%) and is stated as best practice by the likes of Vuchic. As for the article you’ve linked to claiming otherwise, I believe you’ve misunderstood it. That post claims virtually what I have: the maximum capacity is roughly 24 trains per hour from Clifton Hill through the loop, which on todays operations would allow for 9 trains per hour on the Doncaster line, less if either of the current Clifton Hill groups had their capacity increased. The author see’s that as unacceptably low, but its not the same as saying their isn’t capacity.

  25. wilful

    I’m very curious to know what a kiss ‘n ride public transport system involves. That may be a way to increase patronage!

  26. wilful

    I agree with lindsayb at #2, I cannot fathom the costs of many public infrastructure projects these days. Someone somewhere is making out like a bandit. I’m not much of a union basher (being a member of one myself) but I do wonder just what sort of wages low skilled and unskilled construction workers are getting. Reportedly, a simple laborer at the desal plant gets $75 an hour. Pretty nice work if you can get it! here is an article by Tim Colebatch on the topic:

  27. Russ

    Dudley @ 7. I’m not sure why Jolyon’s comment deserved an “oh dear”. He is clearly correct on a point which you seem to agree: that stops along the Eastern Freeway serve very few users and act only as interchanges (in which case, why not interchange at Heidelberg?). Past Bulleen Road the freeway has no median, so expensive tunnelling will be required regardless. The major difference between the Doncaster line being a branch of the Heidelberg line and coming up the eastern freeway is the latitude from which the tunnelling starts. A northern based route stopping at Bulleen, Templestowe and Doncaster that serves the major employment nodes at Heidelberg, Ivanhoe and the CBD would clearly provide a better service then one emerging from the Eastern Freeway.

    At the western end, merging with the northern group would need a flyover at Clifton Hill instead of 8km of rail and a short tunnel. Significantly too, if a full metro tunnel was used, it would allow the Heidelberg group and Epping lines to be split, allowing the latter to increase services in the growth area. It is a perfectly reasonable option to put on the table. The fact that it isn’t says a lot about the debate.

    [I could make a similar comment about Rowville, that it would be better served by extending the Glen Waverley line through to Dandenong and then Cranbourne – removing 5+ trains an hour from the Dandenong line, and providing cross-connectivity. The Monash justification for a Wellington Road route is a very narrow approach, especially given the university is less than 2km from the proposed rail junction. A light-rail on Wellington Road would work as well.]

  28. Alan Davies

    The manager of the Doncaster Rail Study has issued the following public statement (in the form of a letter to The Age that hasn’t been published):

    “Doncaster railway line ‘could be built for $840M’” (Age 24/7), raises important aspects about construction costs and patronage that are misleading.

    Since October last year, we have been leading a team to study a heavy rail connection to Doncaster, undertaking work to determine some broad engineering alignments and modelling on patronage.

    To suggest that any Doncaster rail line option could be built for only $840M is overlooking the complexities of building a new railway line to Doncaster. One of our options follows the Eastern Freeway, but needs major tunnelling infrastructure to provide a connection to Doncaster Hill at its terminus, and major works to connect either near Victoria Park station or more tunnelling to connect to Parkville. More than half of this alignment is outside of the freeway median, requiring much more complex engineering.

    Furthermore, it is completely inappropriate to compare a Doncaster rail line with a project in Mandurah built nearly 10 years ago, in a different construction environment, using different rolling stock and to different rail standards.

    The article also suggests that the project will attract ’100,000 people per day’. This is extremely ambitious. One of the busiest rail groups on our network, combining the Lilydale, Belgrave, Alamein and Glen Waverley lines, achieves just over this figure. These four lines service a far larger catchment than a Doncaster line could; our work is indicating that a Doncaster rail line would carry a similar number of passengers to just one of these lines. To claim that a rail connection to a catchment the size of Doncaster would carry 100,000 people a day is simply misleading.

    We look forward to receiving a copy of the Local Government Group’s report so we can further understand the work that was done to provide these estimates.

    The report which details our work in phase one of the study and provides recommendations for a possible heavy rail connection to Doncaster will be available for public comment later this year and will assist in promoting informed debate.

    Tim Gosbell
    Doncaster Rail Study Leader

  29. Alan Davies

    Arup has issued the following public statement:

    Following recent coverage within the Age concerning a potential Doncaster Rail Line extension, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a couple of points.

    CUSP, RMIT and Arup were commissioned by Councils with a direct interest in the possible Doncaster rail extension to undertake a technical assessment to inform the current government study. This assessment is focussed on ways to optimise the catchment of public transport in the Doncaster corridor and on options for funding public transport.

    Arup was not involved in providing any advice on cost estimates, engineering or constructability for the Doncaster Rail project.

    We believe the outcomes of our team’s assessment can provide a valuable contribution to the Doncaster rail corridor evaluation process.

    Andrew Wisdom
    Principal | Cities

  30. Alan Davies

    Tom the first and best #8; IkaInk #13:

    Re the issue of capacity downstream of Clifton Hill, I don’t think you can say I’m “wrong”, e.g. see here. The most you can say is the PTUA contests the proposition (do they still contest Melbourne Metro?). Neither Manningham Council nor the Government include the (expensive) option of a tunnel to the city centre in their studies just because they’re nice guys.

    Re Eddington, it’s “most credible” because it was well-funded, had non-aligned independent consultants, had a metro (east-west) perspective, had a relatively objective brief, and didn’t have a specific project barrow to push. Oh, and the reports are public, including background technical studies.

    But my criticisms of the costings used for Manningham Council’s study don’t rely on the reader having to accept Eddington.

  31. IkaInk

    The most credible estimate we have for the Doncaster rail line was prepared by the Eddington Task Force in 2008.

    Given the very questionable numbers that the Eddington report has provided to claim there is a positive cost-benefit analysis on the East-West Road link and Metro tunnel, why the faith that these numbers are somehow more reliable? Who were the players involved in the Task Force that had real experience with rail in Australia? There are a number of claims given here as to why the Newman figures are wrong, but you’ve shown no evidence as to why the Eddington numbers are better, and even then have claimed these numbers are too underestimates without the slightest shred of evidence to support this assumption. I’m not arguing the Newman numbers are right, but I’m more than doubtful about any numbers that have come out of the Eddington report.

    Other commentators have already pointed out that you are wrong on their being no spare capacity on the Clifton Hill group, so at least for now there is no need to tunnel through Parkville, etc; although in future it may well be desirable. Tom has linked to the signalling map, which shows 2 minute headways are possible with current infrastructure and signalling. Metro has at least rough plans to have 18 trains per hour running through this section in the peak by 2021. Adhering to the 80% capacity guideline used in best practice cities, that still allows for up to 6 extra services per hour, during the peak (60/2 x0.8 = 24). Of course some operational changes would have to take place, driver changeovers at Flinders Street would need to go for example.

    As to questions about whether the freeway alignment makes sense for a railway line raised by some commentators, remember that the Mandurah line also follows the freeway alignment for the bulk of the trip well away from key trip generators. Yet it’s managed very successful patronage, through a well thought out and integrated network of feeder services; as this is how the majority of passengers arrive, in contrast most rail passengers in Melbourne walk to stations. Transfers in Melbourne are usually painful, but if designed and timetabled better there would a much higher rate of multimode journeys.

  32. Tom the first and best

    Here is a link to the signalling headways on the Melbourne rail system.

    Remember that best practice is to run at up to 80% of signalling capacity.

    It shows the capacity issues on most lines are not in the city.

  33. Tom the first and best


    Light rail is slower and still has to get into the city.

    The City Loop is not really a bottle neck. The RRL is fixing the issues connected with the Northern Group and thus Caulfield Group direct services. This gives the capacity through the central city for 48tph on each group. This allows a significant increase in services on the Northern group and an increase on the Caulfield group. The biggest bottleneck on the Dandenong line is the Caulfield-Oakleigh section with its level crossings, slightly lower signalling headways and lack of express/stopping separation. A project to fix this is much higher up in need and is also needed for the Melbourne Metro to actually provide extra capacity to the Dandenong line.

  34. Anderson Paul

    I agree with @ Dudley Horscroft – really like the idea of light rail down the centre of the Freeway, with stops spread out where proposed railway stations would be .. this would be done alot cheaper!

    However before we think about adding any extra lines, we need to get the Melbourne Metro Project at least started .. the bottleneck that is the City Loop just doesn’t function without it. This to me is the most important transport project at the moment.

  35. Tom the first and best

    Level Crossing abolition is only really needed from a railway point of view where the level crossings are getting in the way of extra trains and/or tracks or there are trams crossing.

  36. Tom the first and best

    There in fact is capacity for 6 trains per hour to Doncaster on the line to Victoria Park with an extra train each on the South Morrang and Hurstbridge lines.

    The shifting patronage effect would also reduce the need for extra trains on the Hursbridge line.

  37. Dudley Horscroft

    Oh dear! @ Jolyon Boyle. The route does not go through Heidelberg or Ivanhoe, so no stations could be provided there. And if you mean that the line should have gone that way, reflect that the Eastern Freeway route was chosen as a route to serve the Doncaster area, and that needs a fast and economical route. Running via H and I would mean substantial expensive tunnelling even on the shortest route, via Ivanoe Public Golf Course, while via Heidelberg is totally in the wrong direction. Note also that the intermediate stops on the Eastern Freeway are where it runs close to Kilby Road and the Bulleen/Thompsons road intersection. Both for train/bus interchange, and not as major developmental sites.

    @ Lindsayb. The Alice Springs Darwin line was built for $1400M for a distance of near enough 1400 km. Cost of $1M per km. But the line was in almost ideal conditions, no tunnelling, near flat, few earthworks, several major river bridges, a very few stations. The cost of tunnelling is a real killer, as a rough rule of thumb is that for every $1 you would spend on a line at grade it would cost $4 for an elevated track and $10 for a route in tunnel.

    @ Boscombe. “There were experts other than the Professor for Self-Promotion who have always thought that adding two bus lanes to the freeway would have been a much cheaper and better option than the railway.”
    There always are these ‘self-styled experts’ who think that buses are better. Unfortunately for their thesis, people either don’t like buses and bus travel, or make it appear that they don’t, so the buses fail to develop the patronage. In the USA, there is at least one light rail line with a near parallel busway, the Blue Line in Los Angeles. The Blue Line patronage is now around 90 000 persons on Mondays to Fridays, while the near parallel busway is nearer a comfortable 3000 persons. The ‘experts’ predicted about 60 000 for the busway. It is probably true to say that most USA busways have not managed the projected patronage, while most light rail lines have either come cloe or have substantially surpassed the expected patronage.

    @ Melburnite. Yes, local land tax increment funding is used, but it is in addition to Federal, State and City or County funding, and I would suggest that the main intent is to provide the Federal Government with evidence that the local community actually wants the line. Eg, in Los Angeles, this is part of the funding for the ‘Connector’ to link the Blue Line (Long Beach Line) to the Pasadena/East Los Angeles line. And yes, building bus stops and car parks on top of stations has merit. Trouble is cost! Note that in Sydney, where there are numerous opportunities, I believe the only developments over rail lines are at Hurstville, Chatswood and possibly St Leonards Stations. Plus the car park over the electric lines north of Central. I think in all other cases the buildings came first.

    However, Alan you are right to worry about the costings. It seems that all costings are underestimates. The prize example is probably the “Big Dig” in Boston, where an elevated roadway was to be replaced by a wider and straighter road largely in tunnel. The original US$2.8B ended up close to US$14.6B in actual construction costs, and when interest payments are taken into account may be closer to US$22B (see the Wikipaedia article on “Big Dig”).

    Instead of a railway line with some tunnelling, far better to build a light rail line as the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board wanted to do. Their cost estimate was from $29.8M to $46.2M, depending on the location of the terminus. While one may guess at a x 10 inflation since the Report was published, it would still be cheaper than the heavy rail line proposed, and do a better job.

  38. Austin M

    I think ARUP put their name to this report as a large multi national engineering firm familiar with this type of work thus providing some credibility to the report. Obviously they would be willing to offer the government a lump sum D+C price as per the report to build the line?
    Or were they happy to just get some money for having their name on the report with limited due dillagence conducted. Im sure they acted with profesional indeference full well knowing that its in their interest to lure the state government in with a low ball price to only come in with a realistic price around tender time…
    I wonder just how little there proffesional credibility was worth?

  39. Beesh

    I think funding public transport through taxing some of the uplift in land values is a fantastic idea and is sensible. Economist Michael Hudson talks about the Jubilee tube extension in London into Canary wharf, costing the government 3.5 billion pounds but creating up to potentially 13 billion pounds in land-value increase, which was captured by private landlords. So even if some of the uplift was captured to fund the extension, local land-owners still gain – I think thats a good way to convince people, win-win situations.

    The pensioner (or poor) issue for land tax can be pretty easily solved by deferring the extra land-tax payments for pensioners caused by the train-line until the property is sold or death which is what is done at the moment for land-tax anyway.

    Given that this potentially is a win-win situation for landowners and government I don’t really understand how it is politically unfeasible. Difficult yes, but certainly worth exploring.

  40. melburnite

    I know that they use land-value increases in the US for ‘local area improvements’, but they dont raise enough for light-rail, let alone heavy rail metros – even there they cost billions. Costs for the proposed purple line metro on LA are 4bill for half it to to 8bill to get to the ocean from near downtown.

    As to middle-of-freeway being far from potential users – why not build over the freeway as part of the construction to provide bus line stops and car parks (dont a lot of people drive to stations anyway ?) if not whole new shop and apartment developments ?

  41. boscombe

    I’m not sure, but as I remember, a large proportion of the cost of that long, long Mandurah line, was the last mile of it into the city – because it involved a little tunnel. There were experts other than the Professor for Self-Promotion who have always thought that adding two bus lanes to the freeway would have been a much cheaper and better option than the railway.

    And another thing to consider is that the Mandurah Line would have been hundreds of millions more than that cost if it had been financed, the usual way, on borrowed money. The government cleverly avoided the looming disaster by using windfall revenues from the boom to pay up early and avoid the interest bill. Would the government be able to pay cash up-front for this Doncaster project?

    I wouldn’t support taxing people nearby on the basis that their property value inceased because that might mean that pensioners et al. may be forced to sell.

  42. lindsayb

    I am frequently bewildered by the prices quoted for rail projects. When I see a $50 million price tag on a new station, which consists of a building the size of a house on a platform, I do not see where the money is going and suspect someone is becoming wealthy at taxpayer expense. Likewise, if the land for extending lines is already owned by the government, why does it cost tens of millions per km? The cost of rail, gravel, sleepers and electrification must surely be a very small fraction of that amount. After all, rail was recently laid from Alice Springs to Darwin for a couple of billion in total, and that included quite a few bridges as well.
    It was refreshing to see a rail proposal that appears to be a pragmatic “cheapest way to build it” for a change, and I will be pleasantly surprised if it actually stacks up.
    That said, my personal favourite rail project would be to link the Dandenong line to the Alamein line via Chadstone. It would link the Dandenong/Pakenham/Cranbourne, Lilydale/Belgrave and Glen Waverley lines and provide decent public transport to the traffic and parking black-spot that is Chadstone, all for 3 or 4 km of railway line. You could even mandate that Chadstone paid for its station as a condition of future expansion. It would be even better if combined with an extension to Rowville (maybe even Ferntree Gully?) via Monash, which by itself the size of a large town.

  43. Jolyon Boyle


    One aspect of this debate that appears to have been missed is the relative isolation of the proposed train stations located on or adjacent the eastern freeway from existing employment and retail centres. It seems a missed opportunity not to provide the line through Heidelberg and Ivanhoe with stops at the small and large shoppping areas along the way. This is how is however rail would typically operate in most major cities. Further is unlikely that the employment and retail would spring up later given the nature of the eastern freeway environs. This would bolster the existing shops and services in these locations feeding into the states gov overall vision for a more compact city.

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