Melbourne Metro steams ahead

Friday, 17 July, 2015

In a move with serious implications for students at The University of Melbourne, the Victorian state government has being proceeding with a commitment to proceed with the previously stagnant Melbourne metropolitan rail expansion plan, which is to include a major station in Parkville. The initiative comes as new premier Daniel Andrews’ first infrastructure project since being elected in November of 2014, with the debate over the Labor Party’s preference for rail development against the incumbent Liberal government’s plans for constructing the now defunct East West Link road link playing out as one of the most contentious issues of the election.

Known as the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel, the project has endured a long state of uncertainty since it was initially announced in 2009, as part of the state government’s strategy to increase the capacity of its existing public transport network to accommodate growing population and gradual expansion into the suburbs of the Greater Melbourne area. With a projected cost of between $9 and $11 billion, the future of the project has thus far been subject to conjecture over the sourcing of funding. Whilst expected to come from a combination of state and federal government as well as private investors, the Abbott Government’s historical opposition towards funding urban rail project stands as a considerable stumbling block to this end. In spite of this, Andrews announced that $40 million dollars from the 2015 state budget – his first as premier – is to be accelerated and put immediately towards a contingency for planning the tunnel’s construction as contract commitments already put in place for the East West Link are sought out of to secure some funding. The project is tentatively set to begin construction in 2018 with hopes that it will be completed by 2026, with 3500 jobs expected to be created.

The planned tunnel will intersect with the current city loop, providing a second route for the grid through the CBD, running from the Sunbury line at Footscray station to the Pakenham/Cranbourne lines at South Yarra station. Underground stations will be located in North Melbourne (“Arden”), Parkville, the CBD (“CBD North” and “CBD South” near Melbourne Central and Flinders Street stations, respectively), and St Kilda Road (“Domain”), with the new line spanning 9 kilometres in total. The Parkville station is likely to be located on the corner of Grattan Street and Royal Parade, and is expected to relieve the congestion on the Swanston Street trams, and Melbourne Central and Flinders Street stations caused by commuters to the University, Royal Melbourne Hospital, and the Carlton/Parkville area. This project will guide the demographic transition and transformation of the Greater Melbourne area from its current suburban-dominated model to a more metropolitan-based framework.

Alexander Sheko, a researcher at the University’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, believes Melbourne Metro’s construction would “increase capacity across the entire rail network, as well as improve access to key areas such as the Parkville biotechnology and research precinct. This is good not only for the researchers, workers and students that travel there, but improves economic productivity through clustering these high-tech industries.” Sheko similarly expects the development of Melbourne Metro to “help drive urban renewal in industrial areas of North Melbourne and Kensington, helping accommodate our growing population, allowing more people to live close to jobs, and reducing car-dependency.”