Saturday, March 17, 2007

A subway system for Melbourne and less secretive planning

Melbourne urgently needs improvements to its train network to make the city more efficient and liveable. The current radial network was laid out in the 1890s and has served Melbourne well, but no new lines have been built in Melbourne this century with the exception of the city loop. Over this period the Kew branch line and the Outer Circle railway have been closed, and others such as St Kilda have been replaced by light rail services. Melbourne's rail network is now smaller than it was in 1930.

Visiting European cities such as London, Paris and Naples, it is apparent that their subway systems work well to improve transport, particularly in and around the city centres. Melbourne could have a similar subway system that connects the busy regions of South Yarra, South Melbourne, Brunswick, North Fitzroy, North Melbourne, Docklands and Richmond. Travelling to these areas by either tram (or train if there is one) can take up to 30 minutes from central Melbourne. These trips would take about 10 minutes on an efficient subway system.

We need a transparent planning process with public consultation to address opportunities for developing the rail network, rather than the secretive and confidential processes of the Bracks government. For example, Operational Double Fault, the proposal to put sections of the Glen Waverley line underground, appears to be driven by commercial opportunties to develop the real estate that would be created above it. Confidential briefings to the premier and behind the scenes lobbying by commercial interests may not address the concerns of Melbourne residents and rail users, or deliver significant improvements to rail services.

Secret plans have also been prepared by the State Government for a $2 billion cross-city rail tunnel linking North Melbourne station with Caulfield station that would also add eight new inner-city underground stations .

The government only allocated a paltry $61.8 million in the 2006-07 State budget for funding rail services on existing tracks and planning for more services in the future out of total expenditure of 2.6 billion for transport related infrastructure. There are no new rail services planned for Melbourne's growing outer suburbs - the Government only plans to provide bus services to them.

To seriously address issues like climate change and pollution, significantly more investment in rail infrastructure and services is required. A new subway system could cost up to $2 to 3 billion, but the social, enviromental and economic benefits would be huge. It is time that Victorians had some say in such important matters for our future.

$4 billion rail tunnel back on track
$4bn plan to convert rail line into a subway
Bracks' $10.5bn transport plan
The incredible shrinking railway lines
Underground revolution - $2bn secret railway plan
Victorian State Budget 2006-07: Budget Overview

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