Category Archives: Melbourne and suburbs

Lacklustre debut for route 58, while other tram routes suffer

On 1 May Yarra Trams commenced running a new tram route 58, a reorganisation of existing routes to West Coburg and Toorak.

This change had been a long time in planning, and was aimed at providing a higher daytime frequency on the increasingly popular William Street route, and providing a direct east-west connection complementing the well-established north-south corridor on St Kilda Road.

On paper, the route reorganisation helps strengthen the overall tram network and the PTUA has supported it. It was understood many travellers (particularly off-peak on the 55) would see an improvement in frequency. Others would see route changes but no reduction in service (specifically from Toorak Rd to the city, where the service now runs direct to William St, and the previous route to Swanston St requires a change).

It’s unfortunate then that the introduction of the new route has been far from seamless. The first week of operation was marred by frequent reports of long delays, overcrowding, and an overall deterioration from the usual standard of service on the former route 55. While the 58 has been advertised as bringing low-floor accessible trams to the West Coburg route for the first time, the actual service has been provided with an apparently random mixture of D-class, B-class and Z-class trams. Anecdotally, of these only the B-class (with step access) has provided adequate capacity to meet passenger demand consistently.

The problems are partly attributed to the service being run from two separate depots: Essendon (the home of the old route 55) and Malvern (home to the old route 8). Up to now only Malvern depot has had access to the low floor D-class trams. The two-depot operation appears to have inherent problems, which were also seen some years ago when an earlier version of route 8 was run jointly from Brunswick and Malvern depots.

Meanwhile, the (partial) low-floor operation has highlighted the absence of accessible platform stops in William Street. The most immediate need is for a platform stop at Flagstaff station, which would then provide an accessible connection via train and tram to the Royal Melbourne, Royal Women’s and Royal Children’s Hospitals.

At the same time, the reorganisation appears to have provided the impetus for a wholesale tram timetable change covering all routes. Aspects of this new timetable are of concern. In particular (as reported in The Age on 4 April) Yarra Trams and PTV have actually reduced frequency on some lines at particular times, defying the obvious growth in patronage over the past two years (and not only inside the troubled Free Tram Zone).

For some time it has been evident that the sudden drop in frequency from better than every 10 minutes to once every 20 between 7pm and 8pm on most routes has placed strain on mid-evening service. This appears to have been exacerbated with (for example) the loss of the 10 minute frequency that had operated on Friday evenings until 9pm – it now reduces to every 20 minutes after 8pm, as it does on other weeknights.

As analysis in an earlier PTUA News has reported, Yarra Trams operates very nearly a ‘break even’ service. Leaving aside the ongoing renewal of the tram fleet, and the contract bonuses paid to Yarra Trams, the share of revenue attributed to tram use very nearly matches the raw recurrent cost of operation. This is a superior level of cost recovery, to say the least, relative not just to other Victorian public transport but to the majority of public transport systems around the world. With this performance should come a willingness to invest in additional service across the board, to cater for burgeoning demand.

This article is from our May 2017 newsletter. Want more? Join us!

V/Line: Jack of all trades…?

V/Line has been very much a victim of its own success over the last decade, with each new investment, from Regional Fast Rail to the Regional Rail Link, resulting in a boom in passenger numbers.

This shows that when governments invest in a decent public transport option, people will flock to it – but unfortunately the number of passengers has grown faster than the number of services, and passengers are suffering from widespread overcrowding, not just in peak times. While infrastructure bottlenecks are a contributing factor on some lines, the reality is that V/Line’s fleet is simply not big enough to cope with demand – in some cases, the problem is not a lack of frequency, but 3-carriage trains running when a 6-carriage train is needed.

The recent state budget includes an order for 39 additional VLocity carriages, which will allow Bombardier to keep producing trains after the current order is completed. Ultimately this will have a positive impact, but unfortunately it doesn’t change the rate the carriages come off the production line at all – so there appears to be little relief coming in the immediate future.

An underlying issue, especially on the Ballarat and Geelong lines, is that V/Line is expected to do two things at once, which means that it can’t do either of them well. It is effectively running a suburban service to places like Tarneit, Wyndham Vale and Melton, which have booming populations and passenger numbers, while at the same time running regional commuter services to places like Ballarat and Geelong.

One effect of that is that passenger loads vary dramatically along the line – there might be crush loads close to the city but more comfortable conditions further away. Another effect is that rolling stock needs to be diverted to short-run services to Melton, Bacchus Marsh or Wyndham Vale, which means longer-distance trains have to run with fewer carriages.

In its 30-year plan released in 2016, Infrastructure Victoria recommended that the line to Melton be electrified within 10-15 years. The government says that it won’t be possible until the Melbourne Metro tunnel opens in 2026, due to a lack of capacity in the CBD – so it’s clearly seen as something that would happen towards the end of that time period. The planned electrification to Wyndham Vale does not appear to even be on Infrastructure Victoria’s radar, but presumably the same rationale would apply as with the Melton line – not until the tunnel is finished (and who knows how long after?)

If that is the case, it’s clear that planning for the electrification projects should begin as soon as possible, so they can be built at the same time as the tunnel, meaning that both open at the same time. If the government is to fix the underlying issues with V/Line overcrowding, moving the quasi-suburban services to the Metro network must be a priority.

This article is from our May 2017 newsletter. Want more? Join us!

PTUA welcomes new Track-free Airport Trains to Tullamarine

PTUA president Dr Tony Morton today welcomed news of the Skybus Citylink Airport Maxi service – an innovative partnership between the state government, Skybus, Transurban and Melbourne Airport.

“We have seen a massive increase in demand for transport to the airport, and something had to be done. This new service makes great sense, it’s immediate and it’s cost effective”, said PTUA president Dr Tony Morton.

The PTUA understands that the State Government and Transurban have agreed that the recently added lane on Citylink and Tullamarine Freeway will be a dedicated lane for the track-free trains.

It is understood the state government will subsidise passenger fares, and that Transurban will receive a “toll” for every passenger carried in the train-lane. Transurban said the train-lane would carry far more people than cars, with capacity for up to 9000 people per hour. “This will benefit all Citylink users. More people will use the reliable express track-free train, meaning less cars clogging up the road to the Airport, which is great news for our Citylink customers.”

Passengers will not be required to carry eTags.

PTUA understands the track-free train fleet will be “all electric” and locally built, benefiting both the environment and local industry. An insider hinted that gantries would be installed at Southern Cross and Melbourne Airport, allowing the track-free trains to recharge as they pass through the terminals.

“Melbourne is growing rapidly, and passenger volumes through Melbourne Airport have increased by 13% in the past 2 years”, said Melbourne Airport. “We have been calling on the government to build a rail link, but something needed to be done sooner. The track-free train service is a fantastic response, and we look forward to working with the state government to make it happen.”

Dr Morton said that “The PTUA still wants to see a rail line to the airport. Although a track-free train might not be as effective as an actual train, this is a big step forward.

“The dedicated lanes will make a huge difference. You’d have to be stark raving mad to widen a motorway but leave one of Melbourne’s busiest public transport routes stuck in the traffic jams.”

The Skybus Citylink Airport Maxi (SCAM) service is expected to commence with the opening of the new Citylink lanes on 1 April.

PTUA calls for Night Network to stay – but must be made more efficient

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has proclaimed the Night Network trial a success, and that it needs to be a permanent feature of Melbourne’s public transport network[1] – but said it must be reformed to improve the service and make it financially sustainable and more useful for passengers.

PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen said that the hourly train services were very inefficient, with trains on some lines spending as much time idle at terminus stations that they do in service.[2]

“On the Sandringham line, for every 30 minute trip end to end, another 30 minutes is spent waiting at the ends of the line.

“Meanwhile, trains arriving at Belgrave spend up to an hour there before returning to the City.

“Right across the network there’s a huge staff and PSO presence on stations for only one train service an hour. This is not just inefficient, but long wait times make connections between services very difficult.

“Night Network should stay as a permanent feature of Melbourne’s public transport, but it must be made more efficient.”[3]

On parts of the Night Network, services duplicate each other – for instance the Upfield train and the 19 tram largely run within 200 metres of each other, while many other tram and bus routes have no night services. “It might be that the tram and a connecting bus is a better option on the Upfield corridor after midnight”, said Mr Bowen.

The PTUA believes that to make the Night Network permanent and sustainable, the government should remove route duplication, ensure more efficient timetabling and operation, and target resources to where they will be best used.

The aim should be a Night Network which provides:

  • train services on the busiest lines on Friday and Saturday nights, running at least every half-hour;
  • coordinated connecting rail buses or parallel trams on sections where patronage does not warrant all-night train services; and
  • 24-hour tram and bus routes filling in network gaps where no trains run.

“Trains every 30 minutes on weekends may be possible for very little extra funding – and would be much more attractive to passengers”, said Mr Bowen.

The PTUA is also calling for rail bus services to run along train routes on weekday mornings, meaning 24/7 service along Melbourne’s rail corridors, a service that has run in Sydney since the 1980s[4].

“24/7 services would be invaluable for shift workers, and would better reflect our increasingly 24/7 city”, said Mr Bowen.

“What few patronage figures have been made public show that broadly speaking, Night Network is a big success, particularly in the summer months.

“But routes and timetables must be reviewed and reformed, to improve the service”, concluded Mr Bowen.

* * *

[1] Night Network was originally to run until the end of 2016, but the trial was extended to mid-2017.
www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-02/melbournes-popular-weekend-public-transport-trial-extended/7681996

[2] Night Trains run on all Metro lines (except Stony Point) on Friday and Saturday nights. PTUA found that on some lines, trains spend up to half their time idle on layovers at terminus stations. For instance:

  • Sandringham line: trains spend two hours doing a round trip that takes just 30 minutes each way, with layovers of 24 minutes at Flinders Street, and 36 minutes at Sandringham.
  • On the Belgrave line, trains arriving at Belgrave spend up to 62 minutes laying over there before returning to the City.
  • Shuttle trains are timed to meet hourly trains from the city, and as a result spend much of their time idle at termini stations: Cranbourne 55%, Alamein 60%, Williamstown 80%
  • While some layover time is inevitable, to ensure the timetable can recover after a delay, the hourly frequency means this can be excessive. The average layover time during Night Network operations is 37.6% (22.5 minutes out of every hour). In contrast on Sunday nights – when trains run mostly half-hourly – it is 21.8% (13.1 minutes of every hour).
Line Running time (outbound / inbound) Layover at inner terminus (eg Flinders St) Layover at outer terminus Percentage of time laying over at termini
Sandringham 30 / 30 24 36 50.00%
Frankston 62 / 61 23 34 31.70%
Cranbourne (shuttle to Dandenong) 13 / 13 4 29 55.00%
Pakenham 72 / 71 22 15 20.60%
Glen Waverley 34 / 34 24 11 Up to 34.0%*
Belgrave 65 / 71* 11 up to 62* Up to 34.6%*
Lilydale 58 / 59 11 5 to 18* Up to 19.9%*
Alamein (shuttle to Camberwell) 12 / 12 32 4 60.00%
Hurstbridge 59 / 60 18 43 33.90%
South Morang 42 / 43 10 25 29.20%
Upfield 34 / 34 5 47 43.30%
Craigieburn 41 / 41 8 43 38.30%
Sunbury 47 / 45 9 6 14.00%
Werribee 49 / 48 17 6 19.20%
Williamstown (shuttle to Newport) 6-Jun 11 37 80%

*Lilydale, Belgrave and Glen Waverley lines run a complex system of through-routing during Night Train hours, meaning layover times vary. Running times also vary widely on the Belgrave line due to single track delays.

[3] PTV figures indicate the cost of the current Night Network trial is an average $45 per trip. www.theage.com.au/victoria/the-high-cost-of-melbournes-all-night-weekend-public-transport-trial-20161013-gs1ll9.html

[4] Sydney’s NightRide bus service has run since 1989, providing service along most rail corridors, each night between midnight and 4am when trains are not running. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NightRide

Services packed while seven trains sit idle – where is the new timetable?

With trains sitting idle, and services getting more crowded, the Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called on the state government to run extra train services on Melbourne’s crowded rail network.

“Regional Rail Link opened more than a year ago. This opened up space on the Metro network for dozens of additional peak hour trains on some of the busiest lines, but almost no extra services have been provided.”

Mr Bowen said that since the last major timetable change in July 2014[1], eight additional X’trapolis trains had been delivered, with another five currently on order.

Leaked documents indicate RRL was to have been accompanied by extra services on most lines around the Metro network[2]. However most of the changes were deferred; instead only one extra service per peak period has been added. With fleet expansion, this means up to seven trains are sitting idle in peak.

In January it was reported that Werribee/Williamstown line patronage had increased by 8% in a year, with Sunbury patronage up by 12%.[3]

Crowded train
Crowded train

“RRL opened in June 2015. The trains are getting more and more crowded, yet only one extra Werribee service each peak has been provided. What happened to all the other services that were planned?

“Altona Loop and Williamstown users still have trains only every 22 minutes in peak hour, and the much-hated Altona Loop shuttle service remains, despite promises it would be fixed.

“Western suburbs trains in particular are increasingly packed – the very situation Regional Rail Link was designed to help resolve.

“It’s high time we saw that freed track capacity used and those new trains deployed, to boost services and cut waiting times and overcrowding”, said Mr Bowen.

* * *

[1] ABC 27/6/2014: “Almost 4,000 new train, tram and bus services to begin in Melbourne from late July”

[2] The Age 22/7/2015: “Train delays as government bungles biggest Metro timetable boost in years”

[3] The Age 26/1/2016: “1200 people on a train is 50 per cent too many: rail overcrowding getting worse”

More on this story: The Age: Melbourne to go more than two years without a peak-hour train timetable boost

PTUA calls for better stations with skyrail

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has called for all stations rebuilt as part of the Caulfield to Dandenong “skyrail” proposal to be upgraded to Premium status, and for better facilities and more weather protection than proposed by the government.

The PTUA’s submission to the Level Crossing Removal Authority called for escalators at all stations to assist passengers reaching platforms, roof structures to provide full platform coverage for passengers, and for high quality bike, pedestrian and bus interchange facilities.

Premium stations include better passenger facilities such as toilets, and Metro staff from first to last train. Of the five stations to be rebuilt, currently only Clayton and Noble Park are Premium stations.

Carnegie and Murrumbeena have Metro staff only in morning peak, and Hughesdale has no regular Metro staff presence. Under current government skyrail plans, this will not change, and these stations will not include escalators.

PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen said with growing patronage, passengers deserved better facilities, and a permanent staff presence at their local stations.

“These stations are used by thousands of people every day, and with increasing density of housing in the area, they are only going to get busier.

“Full time Metro staff at stations can help people with their Myki tickets, give travel advice, and provide a level of vigilance and security – not just after 6pm, but all day.

“This project is a good chance to upgrade station facilities, and ensure that train passengers – as well as motorists – fully benefit from the removal of the level crossings.”

Other improvements the PTUA called for include:

  • Given platforms will be up to 230 metres long, if possible station exits to both sides of roads should be provided, offering better pedestrian access, and direct interchange to buses in both directions
  • Pedestrian crossings with response times within 10 seconds, and placed to make train/bus interchange as quick as possible
  • Bus lane and traffic light priority for buses in station precincts
  • Parkiteer bike cages for all stations, with provision for additional cages to be added later
  • Where practical, bike paths to go over roads rather than force cyclists to cross streets at grade

The PTUA remains concerned at impacts of the project on some local residents, and has urged the LXRA to work closely with the community to ensure construction and ongoing impacts are kept to a minimum, and to be more open with information about the project.

Mr Bowen said the design of the project should ensure that it minimised impacts on residents, and that it had the best possible outcomes for public transport users.

“Skyrail can provide a number of advantages, including far less disruption during construction. Another benefit is the lower cost compared to putting rail under road – the savings should be returned in the form of better station facilities for local commuters”, concluded Mr Bowen.

The PTUA’s submission is available at www.ptua.org.au/files/2016/PTUA_Caulfield_Dandenong_LXRA_201603.pdf

Level crossing removal – all options must be on the table

The PTUA believes the government is right to consider all options for removal of level crossings.

Elevated rail, if it’s designed well, can be done more economically, with fewer disruption impacts and with less of a long term impact on communities than putting the railway under the road, which is expensive and time consuming, and results in large trenches through the suburbs.

Melbourne has several railway lines carried on embankments and bridges, which allow stations above roads to be well-integrated into suburbs (for example Glenferrie, Balaclava). In contrast, modern elevated rail is carried above the ground on a continuous narrow bridge.

Elevated rail is used successfully around the world, with Vancouver’s Skytrain being one of the most popular examples. Closer to home, Sydney’s new Metro Northwest is under construction and includes a 4km elevated section (“skytrain”), with 2 elevated stations[1].

The space underneath elevated rail can be used to provide additional crossing points to reconnect long-separated communities, linear parks, bike paths, or otherwise usable space for communities.

We understand that if the visual and privacy impacts can be minimised, elevated rail can impact less than other solutions in terms of noise.

Elevated rail is not always the best option. For example, in very narrow rail corridors, where residential properties directly abut the railway, and where hills dictate that cuttings would be more suitable.

Most of Melbourne’s recent grade separations have been rail under road, but we shouldn’t automatically assume that is the only way, or the best way of doing it.

The PTUA believes the key will be good design, thorough consultation with the community, and the best solution for each location.

[1] http://nwrail.transport.nsw.gov.au/The-Project/Skytrain

Vancouver Skytrain:
train and walkway
(Pic: waferboard on Flickr)

Chatswood station in Sydney:
Chatswood station, Sydney

Patterson station in Melbourne:
Patterson station, Melbourne

In contrast, rail under road can result in scenes like this: cutting near Nunawading station:
Rail cutting near Nunawading station

World’s busiest airports have rail connections – Melbourne missing out

The majority of the world’s busiest airports have mass transit connections, and the number is increasing every year.

A Public Transport Users Assocation (PTUA) study of airports around the world to be released at a forum on Friday found that by 2021, 83 of the world’s busiest 100 airports will have rail services. Of the top 50 airports, all but 6 will have rail.[1]

At present 64 of the top 100 airports have rail connections, with the most recent being those in Toronto and Helsinki, both opened in June 2015. Another 6 have dedicated shuttle buses connecting to nearby rail lines; and a further 17 have rail connections currently under construction.

Just 17 of the world’s busiest 100 airports have no rail connection – including Melbourne airport – though some of these have rail under consideration.

Among the world’s top 100 airports, rail connections have opened at the rate of about two each year since 1990.

PTUA spokesperson Daniel Bowen said that it was clear that governments around the world recognised that rail was the most efficient way to serve the world’s biggest airports.

“Melbourne is the world’s 50th busiest airport.[2]

“Only mass transit can ensure that large numbers of people – both passengers and workers – can reach the airport quickly and efficiently.[3]

“This is not about city-envy, it’s about how to best serve one of the busiest airports in the world.”

While the state Coalition pledged construction of an airport rail link going into the 2014 state election, full funding wasn’t provided. Labor has prioritised the metro rail tunnel instead.

“PTV has said that the metro rail tunnel is required to add capacity before building the airport line. The tunnel project has started, so it’s time to get planning for the airport line underway as well, so that we don’t wait another generation for it to happen.

“Melbourne Airport is going to keep growing – it’s time to get moving on providing a mass transit heavy rail connection.”

Mr Bowen warned that unless the airport line’s fares were affordable and services frequent, public transport would remain a minority mode.[4]

“High quality public transport can provide relief from the airport’s astronomical parking prices, but we must learn from the problems of Brisbane and Sydney’s airport rail links: fares must be affordable and cost-competitive.”

Mr Bowen called for the state government to get behind the airport rail link.

“The current Skybus service provides frequent services, but it’s being pushed to the limit by growing patronage. It’s overcrowded and gets stuck in traffic. It’s high time our world city had trains to its major airport.”

* * *

The world airports study will be presented at a PTUA event on Friday 30th October. Details and RSVP on Facebook.

Skybus departure, leaving people behind

* * *

[1] Full report to be published after Friday’s event.

[2] Three Australian airports are in the top 100 for passenger numbers: Sydney (ranked 31, with 36 million passengers in 2011), Melbourne (ranked 50, with 28 million passengers) and Brisbane (ranked 69, with 20 million passengers). Sydney and Brisbane both have rail services to the terminals.

Perth has also commenced work on an airport rail link, due for completion in 2020. (Source)

[3] Apart from passengers, around 12,500 workers travel to the airport each day. (Source)

[4] Figures from 2010 indicate that 86% of passengers arrive by car, taxi or limousine. (Source)

Note: Contrary to popular opinion, the Citylink contracts do not prevent construction of a heavy passenger rail link to the airport. See: Myth: We can’t have airport trains because the Citylink contract forbids it


From the forum:

Side Letter sign of road lobby’s anti-democratic desperation

The unprecedented letter of guarantee on the East West Link is part of an ugly, anti-democratic “end game” by the road lobby in the face of public rejection, the Public Transport Users Association said today.

Former Treasurer Michael O’Brien signed the deed on 29 September last year, eight weeks before losing the November state election, but only released it to the public on 5 February.

Cars turning into Hoddle Street

“It amazes us that Mr O’Brien positively trumpets the fact he personally, as keeper of the public purse and with the blessing of the Victorian Treasury, signed up taxpayers to guarantee a stream of unearned profits to a private consortium on a loss-making project,” said PTUA President Dr Tony Morton. “Clearly he only felt pressured to do so because Labor had promised to cancel the project and were in a position to win the election.”

“To stand on the brink of defeat and push this on the Victorian public, with no mandate, no enabling legislation, a shoddy business case and in contempt of the government’s 2010 promises to prioritise public transport, is deviousness of the first order,” Dr Morton said. “For Professor Coghill at Monash University to call it ‘highly irregular and very suspicious’ puts it mildly.”

“This is not 1950s America or 1980s Britain. Governments don’t win elections with big roads any more. The public has seen through the road lobby’s fairy tales – we know you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and suddenly get a different result. But now the road lobby can’t get its way by winning votes, it’s now trying to pressure governments to abandon democracy.”

“Reality check please. It is the will of the Victorian people that this project not proceed,” Dr Morton said. “Victorians have seen the business case, despite the previous government trying to cover up the fact the costs hugely outweigh the benefits. We’ve seen the Comprehensive Impact Statement that found the road wouldn’t reduce traffic in Alexandra Parade but would instead increase traffic on every road feeding the Eastern Freeway. And a decade of polling makes clear that when the choice is put to them, a clear majority of Victorians want funding priority for public transport ahead of motorways.”

“Mr O’Brien and the Napthine Government knew this project was a cruel joke on the travelling public before they signed the contracts. But they wanted to keep the public from knowing this for sure until it was too late. Keeping the business case and contracts secret was all about keeping their Big Lie alive until after the election. They wanted us to believe the East West Link would free up traffic on every single road in Victoria, cost the taxpayer 50 cents to build and give every unemployed Victorian a job for life.”

“In fact – as the business case confirms – the only thing worse for Victoria than paying extortionate so-called compensation would have been to allow the East West Link to proceed,” said Dr Morton. “This would have involved the state paying the consortium hundreds of millions of dollars every year, strangling the transport budget for another quarter century – long after any benefits of the road have evaporated.”

“The Andrews Government is in a tough negotiation, and for the sake of Victoria we hope it’s getting the best advice available,” Dr Morton said. “If the consortium were to insist on the terms of this grubby side letter they’d be guilty of unconscionable behaviour. It shouldn’t have to come to the point where the government has to pass legislation to limit the compensation to a reasonable sum based on costs legitimately incurred. But we should also remember that governments of all stripes have had resort to similar measures in the past.”

East-West travel less than 6% of journeys to work – PTUA study

Fewer than 1 in 17 Melburnians travels between the eastern and western suburbs to go to work.

But 45% work close to home and another 20% in the inner city, according to PTUA analysis of journey to work data from the 2011 Census.

It has been known since at least the 1990s, largely based on work by the late Paul Mees, that around half of all travel in Melbourne is over short distances, and a majority of the rest is to or towards the CBD.

The latest data confirms all the earlier findings about how important local and radial travel are in Melbourne, and how little there is of the kind of long distance cross city travel that the Napthine Government says we need an East West Link for.

Our study, which tallied up journeys to work in Melbourne according to their origins and destinations, found that:

  • 45 % of Melburnians work close to home, crossing at most one or two suburbs to go to work.
  • A further 20% work in the CBD or in adjoining areas like Carlton, Richmond or South Yarra.
  • Where travel to work is over a long distance, well over half is aligned with Melbourne’s radial rail corridors. Less than a quarter (24%) of journeys to work cut across multiple rail corridors.
  • In particular, less than 6% are from the eastern to the western suburbs or vice versa – the kind of travel that the $18 billion East West Link is supposed to cater for.

The study considered journeys to work, because there is loads of reliable, recent data about this kind of travel, and because going to work is still by far the biggest reason people travel long distances within cities. Congestion is at its worst in peak hour, and getting to and from work is the primary cause.

The findings are particularly relevant when one considers journeys to work that use the Eastern Freeway or Alexandra Parade. For every one traveller going east-west, there are nearly 4 going to the city centre. But these are all vastly outnumbered by people on short hops of just a kilometre or two, for whom an East West Link is irrelevant but who still make up most of that arterial road congestion.

Trucks and vans are part of the mix too, but congestion is a car problem, not a truck and van problem. Freight makes up less than 10% of travel on the Eastern Freeway, and 13% on the West Gate Bridge [1]. Most of this moves in off-peak periods.

Our study also looked at different regions of Melbourne to identify where the various kinds of travel are more or less prevalent. The pattern is nothing like that claimed by motorway proponents like the Linking Melbourne Authority.

South and east of the Yarra, for example, eastwest cross-city travel is only 4% of journeys to work, and it shrinks even more the further one goes from the city. In Knox, it’s less than 2 per cent!

Where does the most east-west travel occur? A lot of it occurs between origins and destinations north of Bell Street, where it’s about 12% of trips. A lot more of this kind of travel occurs now because of the Ring Road. But people will not drive from Reservoir all the way down to Collingwood just so they can use the East West Link to go to Broadmeadows.

The other major source of eastwest travel is people who live in Melbourne’s west or south-west and work in the eastern suburbs.

For example, someone may live in Caroline Springs or Point Cook and work in Hawthorn. They would actually be well served by a train into the city and a quick change at Flinders Street – if only we fixed up the trains and feeder buses in the western suburbs.

But this is clearly not a government priority: Premier Napthine would rather use the available money to condemn them to sit in traffic for the rest of their life instead.

Richmond station

The study results sit well with the earlier findings of the 2003 Northern Central City Corridor Study, that only 15% of Eastern Freeway traffic is headed due west.

It is also consistent with Vicroads data showing a slight decline between 2002 and 2012 in traffic on major east-west arterial roads such as Victoria Parade, Alexandra Parade and Bell Street. The latter reveals a definite trend toward less car travel in the inner suburbs as people express a preference for public transport.

Similarly, our study shows that travel patterns in Melbourne are actually very well suited to the infrastructure we have. Our main problem is with dilapidated rail infrastructure and inadequate suburban bus services. A single Richmond train meltdown last April, for example, was equivalent to shutting down the West Gate and Bolte bridges simultaneously for a day without warning.

Critical rail infrastructure is simply not that vulnerable in a well-managed city.

The focus of transport provision needs to be on fixing the trains – just like the Coalition promised to do in 2010 – and building “infrastructure of the 21st century” such as the Doncaster line and eventually the Metro tunnel (in its original Eddington incarnation).

In terms of passenger capacity, the latter provides a West Gate Bridge alternative three times over. Public transport could then take its rightful place as the backbone of our city.

See where people travel from your suburb with our web app: www.ptua.org.au/apps/jtw

[1] Josh Gordon, “Trucks test structure of West Gate“. The Age, 18 March 2013.