Get cracking on Dandenong line upgrade, but Metro tunnel a distraction: PTUA
Signalling upgrades and grade separations on the Dandenong line should proceed immediately to boost service to growth suburbs and enable the Rowville rail extension. But claims that the Melbourne Metro tunnel from Footscray to South Yarra is a prerequisite to Rowville rail are “arrant nonsense”, the Public Transport Users Association said today.
“The most important fact revealed in today’s final study report is that Rowville rail is feasible,” said PTUA President Tony Morton. “But the next most significant is that in the ‘fully developed’ scenario, there would be 24 trains per hour on the Dandenong line. This number of trains can already fit into the existing network, provided we upgrade the infrastructure and signalling on the Dandenong line to match what we already have on the line to Ringwood or Clifton Hill.”
“So yes, it’s vital that we get cracking on eliminating the worst level crossings on the Dandenong line, and start work on new-generation signalling as is being proposed,” Dr Morton said. “The truth is, new signals – like those already in use in European cities with similar train systems – could boost capacity on every line in Melbourne by at least 50 per cent. We need this kind of upgrade anyway, in order to boost services in growth corridors like Dandenong, Werribee, Sunbury and Mernda.”
“But the Melbourne Metro tunnel is a great big distraction,” said Dr Morton. “We’re sceptical that the State Government has any intention to build it at all. We’re already getting the Regional Rail Link which will boost capacity for both suburban and regional trains in the west, and we already have three independent train paths from South Yarra through the city to match the three south-east rail corridors to Dandenong, Frankston and Sandringham.” *
“The Metro tunnel seems to be there for just two reasons,” Dr Morton said. “Firstly to provide the illusion of ‘balance’ for Premier Baillieu’s stinky East West road link, and secondly to provide an excuse for not plugging the gaps in the suburban train network. It’s the kind of project that would be nice to have in 20 years’ time, but right now there are vast tracts of suburbia with no access to the rail backbone at all.”
Dr Morton called on the Federal and State Governments to commit jointly to funding the Dandenong corridor rail upgrade in their forthcoming budgets. “Sure, this isn’t as sensational as a great big tunnel,” he said. “But it’s vitally important it gets done soon – it’s our number one rail priority together with the first stage of the Doncaster line to Bulleen. Every dollar spent on this and similar upgrades is worth ten dollars spent on another CBD tunnel.”