By Daniel Bowen
If you live in Melbourne, you've almost certainly heard of the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel project (Metro 1). You may or may not have also heard of the Metro 2 project. It used to be the second stage of Metro 1, but around 2012 that tunnel was changed to be built as one big project. So Metro 2 is now a second metro rail tunnel project.
Metro 2 was glimpsed in Public Transport Victoria's rail plan of 2013, and at the time was seen as a tunnel from the South Morang / Mernda line, just north of Clifton Hill station, diving under Fitzroy (possibly with a station there), Parkville (with interchange to Metro 1), then Flagstaff, Southern Cross, and finally out to a new development at Fishermans Bend. The latest thinking has it extending further, under the river to Newport, to connect with the Werribee line.
Why do we need Metro 2? Basically, the South Morang / Mernda line would be separated from the Hurstbridge line, boosting capacity on both (and allowing the Doncaster line to be built ‒ though some argue that this can be done sooner, with high-capacity signalling). And the Werribee line would be separated out from the Williamstown and Altona Loop (Laverton) lines.
This has a lot of merit. Although the Werribee line has been freed of the constraints of the Geelong line trains thanks to the Regional Rail Link project (which opened in 2015), it serves a massive growth area to Melbourne's south-west, and eventually the line will fill up again.
South Morang / Mernda is also seeing a lot of growth, and enabling high frequencies on the line might also make possible a branch to Epping North.
Alongside other rail projects, Metro 2 would improve connections and allow far more trains to run.
Passengers on both the Werribee and Mernda lines would have a faster, more direct trip into the CBD, which if accompanied by quality local feeder services (buses) and infrastructure (bus and bike lanes, and pedestrian facilities) would better compete with car travel.
From Werribee the new direct route would make the train a better match for the Westgate Freeway. And not just for western suburbs to CBD commutes; it would also cater much better for trips to the Fishermans Bend area ‒ currently completely without rail transport.
If the line ran 15 trains per hour (up from about seven in the busiest hour now), that's at least 8,800 additional people, assuming use of the new seven-car High Capacity Metro Trains, well above what the proposed three-lane West Gate Tunnel could handle.
But that wouldn't be stretching the rail infrastructure. More can be squeezed out of the current lines right now, and a new tunnel should be able to run at least 24 trains, but up to 30 or more using high capacity signalling, and if built for it, 10-car trains.
Some think the ideal time to start building such a project isn't after the metro tunnel is finished in 2026 ‒ rather, it's in the next few years ‒ starting with detailed planning, surveying, soil testing, property acquisition, all the stuff that the first metro tunnel went through 10 years ago in preparation for major works.
And preferably major works (including excavation) start on Metro 2 as they finish on Metro 1, allowing expertise and equipment to roll off one onto the next.
There's a cost to all this of course ‒ well above $10 billion, according to Infrastructure Victoria. But the choice between a project like this and Yet Another Massive Road Project means the difference between getting thousands more people onto public transport, or thousands more people onto the roads.
The Metro 2 project is included in the new #GetOnBoard Community Powered Transport Plan.
Right now our transport system is a mess. Government after government keep building bigger and bigger roads. They keep putting the road lobby and private interests before smart transport solutions. These mega-roads don't relieve congestion, they create it.
We've got amazing academics and urban planners with bright ideas. The community is hungry for better public transport to reduce congestion on our roads. But successive governments have failed to put in place smart transport policies to cope with a growing Melbourne.
It's up to us to #GetOnBoard and get on with the job. In February 2018, community members gathered to #GetOnBoard the new Community Powered Transport Plan. There were people from across Melbourne. There were people who usually voted Labor, Liberal, Green or for minor parties. But we want to set our differences aside to get the job done.
The community is coming together to demand a fairer, healthier, more connected Melbourne. If we don't want mega-roads, what do we need to do to get Melbourne moving? Melbourne Metro 2 is one idea – read about the others here.
Published in Chain Reaction #132, April 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia.