Victoria: Urban mobility, in the spotlight of priority projects

The Australian Federal Government will support railway investments in the State of Victoria. On the one hand, an item of 500 million Australian dollars (€ 331.6 M) will be allocated for the period 2017-2018 to the improvement and reinforcement of the regional network.

On the other hand, another 30 million Australian dollars (€ 19.8 M) has been allocated to the branch linking the Melbourne Metro to the airport. In general, Victoria will also benefit from federal funds allocated to urban mobility plans across the country, as well as from an increased speed at the level of regional branches. Beside the federal support, the State Government has a specific plan in place, with the largest investment in the history of public transport. This plan aims to respond to the need for better and faster links so as to address the growing number of people, which is higher than in other states. The Victorian budget 2017-18 follows the investment line from past years regarding this type of infrastructures in cities and communities. The item will be in the amount of 1,100 million Australian dollars (€ 729.6 M) for 2017-2018.

Certain funds will be allocated for the purpose of making the railway networks more efficient, safe, comfortable and sustainable transport means. It will also invest over 879.5 million Australian dollars (€ 595.2 M) in order to increase the frequency of public transport systems. These improvements are coordinated by Public Transport Victoria (PT).

 Revival of the Regional Network

The main regional operator is Australia’s largest company called V/Line, which provides services between Melbourne and Geelong, Warrnambool, Ballarat, Maryborough and Ararat. During 2015-2016, there were records of more than 17.6 million passenger journeys by train and bus. This figure indicates the high demand for its services. Given the increased use of these services, the Government has developed a plan for the revival of regional networks in Victoria. The program, called “Regional Rail Revival Plan”, has been awarded with 1,500 million Australian dollars (€ 1,010 M) to improve the existing infrastructure. The 2017/18 budget has significant investments aimed at improving the links, safety and frequencies. The regional plan allocates 435 million Australian dollars (€ 293 M) to modernize the “Gippsland Rail” railway.

These works include track duplications, station improvements and the removal of 22 level crossings. Another 43.5 million Australian dollars (€ 29.3 M) will be provided for the improvement of transport connectivity between Seymour and Shepparton, with an infrastructure aimed at increasing train services. Likewise, improvements are approved in the Warrnambool, Bendigo and Echuca lines, among other projects. The works on the Hurstbridge Line benefit from an item of 5 million (€ 3.3 M). The 2016-17 state budget includes 518 million Australian dollars (€ 348 M) to double the Ballarat-Melton Line, thus increasing the frequency of services for the region of Ballarat and the Western Melbourne. Updating the Ballarat Line includes the track duplication of 17 kilometers between Deer Park West and Melton, a new parking area in the Rockbank station, additional platforms in the Bacchus Marsh and Ballan stations, and extended platforms in the Rockban station. New facilities will also be created in the garages from Melton and Rowsley and the Bacchus Marsh garages will be renewed.

New Regional Trains

These funds allocate 311.1 million Australian dollars (€ 209 M) for new regional trains; i.e., 39 VLocity carriages. This rolling stock will be linked to 27 additional units that were purchased in 2016 and it will help providing a more comfortable and a faster travel by train within the regional links. In addition, 65 new high capacity trains and units will be purchased for the North-East-Seymour, Gippsland-Traralgon-Sale, Bendigo-Kyneton, Epsom, Eaglehawk-Echuca, Geelong, Marshall and Waurn Ponds, Ballarat-Melton, Bacchus Marsh, Ballarat, Wendouree, Ararat and Maryborough Lines. Victoria’s busiest corridor covering the two population centers of Geelong will be reinforced with 18 additional services per week. In addition, the maintenance of the regional network and the V/Line fleet will be highly encouraged. The investment of 316.4 million Australian dollars (€ 213 M) will support the punctuality, safety and reliability of regional trains.

Melbourne Tramway Network

Melbourne has the world’s largest tramway network with a 250-kilometers double-track. There are more than 1,700 tramway stops across the network, with over 400 leveled access stations (25%). The improvement of this transport means is due to the current train park improvement. Therefore, this year, 218.1 million Australian dollars (€ 144.6 M) is allocated for the purchase of new rolling stock. In particular, 10 high-capacity E-Class tramways from Bombardier Transportation will be built in Dandenong. In the 2017-2018 budget, within the “Keeping Melbourne Moving” program, 62.5 million Australian dollars (€ 41.4 M) is also allocated to reinforce the city’s operating lines. This section includes eight additional trains for the service of the Werribee Line, at Shoulder Peak. In addition, the Government of Victoria has allocated 1,100 million Australian dollars (€ 736.9 M) for the incorporation of additional tramways, as well as for the support infrastructure based on which the entire network will be revived. The plans include improvements to Route 96 (the first to receive the new tramways), the remodeling of two warehouses, accessibility and modernization works related to power supply. 14 substations will be built in strategic locations; two substations that already exist will be modernized and new contact overhead lines will be installed.

Metro Tunnel of Melbourne

The well-known “Metro Tunnel” is a project that includes the design and construction of two nine-kilometer railway twin tunnels from South Kensington to South Yarra. There will be five underground stations: Arden, Parkville, Northern CBD, Southern CBD and Dominio. A Public Private Partnership (PPP) will be in charge of this initiative, the largest in terms of transport in the city, as indicated by the Metro Rail Authority, the public body of the Government of the Australian State of Victoria and promoter of the work. The main objective is to decongest the traffic concentration in the so-called “City Loop”, the city’s business center. While the works are being carried out, 50 additional services have been enabled on the tramway routes no. 57, 58 and 59. The branch will run from Northwest to Southeast and it will link the Sunbury line to the Cranbourne-Pakenham line. While the railway tunnel is the centerpiece of the project, works will also be carried out on the Craigieburn and Upfield lines and the existing projects on the Dandenong line will be complemented for the purpose of creating four independently operating rail lines. These improvements include the provision of high-speed signaling, level crossing removal, track and station improvements. In addition, new high capacity trains will be purchased.

New Line and Stations in Melbourne

The modernization of infrastructures and facilities is also included in the state transport plans. This year, 8.7 million Australian dollars (€ 5.8 M) will be allocated for the design and improvement of the busiest stations in Melbourne. The budget also includes the construction of new stops, e.g. Hawkstowe. It involves the extension of the Morang line, in the South. This project plans to build eight new kilometers between South Morang and Mernda and three new stations in Hawkstowe, Marymede and New York. In addition, new stations such as Southland have also been planned.

Removal of Level Crossings

One of the current initiatives represents the removal of 50 worst level crossings in Melbourne. A program awarded with 846 million Australian dollars (€ 566 M) for the next four years that aims to improve traffic safety. While these works are being carried out, the Hurstbridge line is duplicated. These works benefit from a budget of 5 million Australian dollars (€ 3.4 M)

Improvements in Safety Systems

One of the state programs is aimed at preserving and improving the public transport network infrastructure safety. The initiatives also include the replacement of the control center, train services through the Melbourne train system and the infrastructure deployment for the Digital Train System (DTRS), with more than 70 new facilities in the network since September 2009. The next stage will be focused on the implementation of devices on the train.

Cranbourne Pakenham Corridor

This corridor, the busiest in Melbourne, will experience the greatest transformation in its history. As part of this improvement, works are being carried out for the introduction of new trains. The fleet consisting of 65 trains will transport 20% more passengers and they will be commissioned by mid-2019. Works are also being carried out to remove nine dangerous and congested level crossings and to build five new stations between Caulfield and Dandenong. Works are currently being carried out in terms power and signaling improvement, extension of station platforms and optimization of railway infrastructure between Southern Cross and Cranbourne and Pakenham.