Restoring the Victorian Rail Network
V-Locity: Nice train, shame about the track. (Image: Wikipedia)
After decades of neglect and misguided projects the Victorian rail network is in poor
shape. On this page
- Scrap billion worth of new freeways and the Footscray-Domain subway.
- Greatly improved track and signalling - Stop track buckling and other problems.
- Two-Minute Peak Headway in Melbourne - More Trains Throughout the Network.
- Standby drivers on hand at Flinders Street and key locations.
- 50% Longer Trains - 50% More Capacity
- Clockface-Burst Timetabling - Faster Express Trains.
- Eliminate road level crossings in an affordable way - More Safety.
- Eliminate Rail Flat Crossings - Less Delays.
- Add Monorails to the Network - A highly cost-effective alternative to rail subways.
- Long Term Plan to Convert to Standard Gauge - More Freight by Rail.
Many problems with Victorian network are caused by poor train running practices, especially in central Melbourne.
Here are some ways to enhance train running in Melbourne:
(1) Two-minute City Loop Headway
Existing timetables show some services running as close as 2-minutes apart. This implies that the city loop is a long way short of capacity and many more services could be run through it even in peak hour. This would allow additional services to new destinations such as Rowville to be added to the network without expensive new subways.
If a 2-minute headway is used in the North Melbourne loop it would be able to service six trains / hour to Altona, Werribee, Sydenham, Broadmeadows and Upfield. This would also need a new overpass is built to connect the Werribee trains into the loop without all the flat crossings.
(2) Consistent Train Running
All trains on particular routes should follow the same stopping pattern all day. This improves train running and makes the system easier to understand for passengers.
- All loop services to run to Flinders Street / southern Cross first then via the city loop all day. Delays at Flinders Street minimized by having standby drivers on the platforms ready to go.
- All Frankston trains should run express from Cheltenham - Caulfield - South Yarra. (Stopping-All- Station service provided by Cheltenham trains)
- All Pakenham trains should run express from Dandenong - Oakleigh - Caulfield - Richmond. (Stopping- All-Station Dandenong - Caulfield service provided by Cranbourne trains)
- All Cranbourne trains should run express from Caulfield - Richmond.
- All Cranbourne trains should run express from Oakleigh - Caulfield - Richmond.*
- All Belgrave & Lilydale trains should run express from Box Hill - Richmond. (Stopping-All-Station service provided by Box Hill trains)
(3) "Clockface - Burst" TimetablesOn lines carrying express services space is needed in the timetable to allow the express service (e.g. a Gippsland passenger train) to travel through the Metro area in a reasonable time. This can be achieved by running the Metro trains in "bursts" as shown in the following sample timetable segment:
|Gippsland Service1||Pakenham Service1||Pakenham Service2||Cranbourne Service1||Cranbourne Service2||Rowville Service1||Rowville Service2||Gippsland Service2|
To make this work incoming trains arriving at the CBD have to be allocated to target destinations on their loop 'on the fly' based on the actual time they arrive at FSS or SXS.
This timetable provides space for:
- Six new Rowville Trains per hour.
- The maximum number of Pakenham and Cranbourne trains that run now - but they are express.
- Three Express Gippsland or Pakenham services per hour.
This is quite feasible with the existing rail network provided the minimum 2 minute
headway seen now in the city loop can be achieved throughout the network. A similar
timetable for Frankston/Cheltenham/Hastings trains is also possible.
Sample 'Clockface-burst' timetables show the simplicity of this type of timetabling for the passengers. Note that in peak hours each 'core' service is followed by another service 2 minutes later.
At off-peak times the second service to each destination would be dropped, but passengers could rely on the simple 20 minute clockface timetable still giving them the time for the remaining service.
Sample Dandenong Line 'Clockface-burst' train running diagram.
- If instead services are spaced 10 minutes apart all services are limited to the approximately the same speed as the slowest train.
- The graph shows there is potential to either add an additional service or increase the speed of the Gippsland service beyond what is indicated.
- Stopping-All-Station service from Richmond - Caulfield provided by Cheltenham services.
- See Schedule.xls for details including estimated speeds.
(4) "Clockface - Continuous" TimetablesWhere services are provided at less than 10 minute intervals the timetable should cease and the service become "continuous".
Services should run as fast as they can and turn immediately at the end of their run to provide maximum throughput. At off peak times the 20-minute clockface timetable would resume.
This type of timetable is appropriate for non-express lines such as Sandringham, Epping, Hurstbridge and tram services.
Increasing Train Capacity
One of Sydney's new Millennium trains (Images: Wikipedia)
Once line-capacity has been reached (approximately 2 minute headway between trains) adding extra capacity will involve either increasing the capacity of the trains running or building new rail lines. As the latter option will be prohibitively expensive increasing the capacity of each train should be looked at first. There are several options:
- Double-Deck Trains: A Double-deck train used to run on the Ringwood line (4D). It is known that the Jolimont - West Richmond tunnel is too small for double-deck trains. However, they should be able to operate on the rest of the network.
- Longer Trains: About 150 new 3-car train-sets could be purchased to increase
most trains to 9-car trains. This would involve extending platforms and adjusting signalling. Signs
would be needed to warn passengers that there was no exit from the first or last carriages in the city loop and disabled
passengers would need to get on or off from the central carriage which would carry a guard - as is the case in Sydney. Other
than the city loop all most all other stations can be extended and signalling system needs to be upgraded anyway. This option
likely to be cheaper than double-deckers, makes use of existing rolling stock and would not increase dwell times.
Regional train capacity should be boosted by ordering more intermediate carriages to progressively stretch VLocity trains to match demand. (22 intermediate carriages were built recently)
- Monorails: On many lines out of central Melbourne there is no space to add additional rail tracks to increase capacity. However, there is ample space to add new monorail lines. Monorails can service areas not reached by the current rail network such as Highpoint SC, Chadstone SC & Doncaster SC, Monash Uni. and the Airport. (See Monorails Australia's Skyrail page.)
A new 3-car VLocity train. More intermediate carriages should be purchased to expand the train sets to six carriages so that old loco-haul carriages can be retired. (Image: V/Line Aug 2008)
The MET system suffers many avoidable delays. Here are some solutions:
- Expansion Joints: Insert breather switches to allow sections of Continuous Welded Rail to expand and contract without buckling the rails.
- Calling Ahead for Sick Passengers: Instead of the patient waiting on the stationary train, why not wait on a moving train? When a sick passenger is identified, call ahead to arrange evacuation of the passenger from where the train will be in the average ambulance wait time (~15 minutes). So if a person collapses at Parliament arrange for an ambulance at Caulfield. The wait for the patient is the same and there is easier access to the patient at Caulfield.
- Reduced Dwell Times Trains frequently wait at platforms for over a minute. Most dwell times should be reduced to a standard 20 seconds and heavily advertised as such on the platforms and trains. This would require passengers to move much more quickly and discourage people standing in the doors. (Longer dwell times would occur for disabled passengers and at Flinders Street and Southern Cross.)
'Breather switches' such as the above allow Continuous Welded Rail to expand and contract without buckling. (Image: Wikipedia)
Removing Flat Rail Crossings
Currently flat rail crossings prevent the efficient use of existing rail easements as trains regularly are delayed to allow other train services through. The worst affected areas are North Melbourne and Southern Cross stations where V/Line services regularly cross Metro rail trains. Other flat crossings exist at nearly every rail junction.
Overpasses need to be built to remove the regular flat crossings starting with those in the inner city that affect the most services.
Removing Level Crossings
All level crossings in Melbourne should be removed. Most can be replaced fairly cheaply with 3 meter clearance road underpasses as their are already alternatives for large trucks. Bus routes can be changed to run between stations to avoid the need to cross the rail lines. See Replacing Hundreds of Level Crossings with Road Bridges. A few would be replaced by foot / bicycle bridges, especially where other road crossings are within a few 100 metres.
Extensions & Improvements
- Skyrail: A large-capacity monorail system joining the airport to the city and suburbs.
- Cranbourne: New stations at South Dandenong, Lynbrook, Cranbourne East and Clyde. Duplication of existing line. (Ultimately the rail line to Leongatha should be restored.)
- Yarra Glen: Extension of the Lilydale line to Coldstream and Yarra Glen.
- Double Tracks: As far as possible all track should be duplicated, especially where it is close to town (E.g. Clifton Hill - Wesgarth). In some areas such as UFTG - Belgrave it would not be feasible.
- Moving Stations: Some inner-city areas have too many stations. Where stations are within 500m of each other they should be consolidated and a walkway added where required. (E.g. West Richmond, Collingwood, Macaulay, Jewel, Anstey, Middle/West Footscray.) New stations will be added on the extended lines.
The Gauge Problem
Proposed standardisation of the Victorian rail network. (Click to enlarge)
The continued use of both broad gauge (1600mm) and Standard Gauge (1435mm) prevents the use of the rail system being used to carry significant quantities of freight and must be addressed.
- Where existing sleepers have to be replaced they should always be replaced with dual gauge concrete sleepers (that is, sleepers suitable for broad gauge and standard gauge track.
- Where the existing track is in a poor state (which much of it is) it is likely to be more economic to replace long sections of track with track fabricated elsewhere and delivered to the site on flat wagons.
- When all the sleepers on a line are dual gauge the line could be closed for a week to allow conversion of the rolling stock and shifting of the rail from the broad gauge to the standard gauge clip.
- Lines through Caulfield should be targeted for accelerated conversion to allow standard gauge access to Hastings and East Gippsland. North-Eastern lines via Clifton Hill and Burnley are of a lower priority.
Two dual gauge concrete sleepers at Carnegie. Note the extra mounting bracket at the left. Using this type of sleeper allows for easy conversion of the line to Standard Gauge from Broad Gauge at some future time.
Currently management of some minor aspects of the metro rail system are outsourced to private operators at great expense. These aspects include organisation of cleaning, payroll, staff rosters and the like. All significant decisions are still made by the Department of Transport and the Minister.
- One agency for the heavy rail system.
- One agency for the light rail and tram system.
- One agency for the bus system.
- One agency for any new monorail system.
- One agency to oversea and promote all of the above.
31st Jan 2013: New Monorails Australia site and company launched.
Desal and tunnel disasters
25th Nov 2013: Ken Davidson analysis of the desal and east-west road tunnel projects.
Labor's transport plan
19th Nov 2013: Labor to go along with EW road tunnel as long as it is signed. Not enough funding for the Metro Rail tunnel.
Ken Davidson on the EW tunnel
24th June 2013: Why the East-West road tunnel will cost us billions for decades. more...
East-west road tunnel fail
26th May 2013: A suppressed government study finds the proposed ~$8 billion road tunnel from the Eastern Freeway to City Link will be a waste of money. more...
Melbourne Metro blow out
5th Apr 2013: Cost now put at $9 billion for 9 kilometers, up from $4.9 billion originally. more...
PTUA slams tunnels
26th Feb 2013: PTUA Cans road and rail tunnel proposals - again. more...
Libs Pledge Rowville Line
25th Aug 2010: Liberals promise to build Rowville Rail line, Labor says they will not. Previous estimate was $413 million more...
High cost, doubtful benefits
24th Jun 2010: More than $1 billion worth of Victorian rail projects were launched without proof of their benefits, the Victorian Auditor-General has found.
The report had shown the 3.5km Epping line extension cost of $650 million compares badly to Perth's 72km Mandurah rail line completed in 2007 for $1.2 billion. more...
24th Feb 2010: Rome's transport smartcard system: $53m, Singapore's: $90m, London Oyster Card: $290m, Victoria's Myki system: $850m so far - and it STILL doesn't work! more...
13th Jun 2009: This article examines how the cost of the 3.5km South Morang extension was inflated from $8 million to $650 million. more...
6th Jan 2009: Melbourne's train network is in an "unsustainable condition" and V/Line's radio communication system is past its expiry date, according to internal Government documents. The documents...warn of significant disruption to the metropolitan rail system without sufficient track replacement and note "demonstrably insufficient" replacement of track crossings.. more...
12th Jan 2009: Study finds Melbourne one of world's most car-dependent cities and only North American cities have worse access to public transport. more...
Rail Tunnel Questions
19th Dec 2008: Doubt cast on need for a rail tunnel. more...
The joke's on us
11th Dec 2008: Ken Davidson explains the padding of the cost of public transport in the latest Transport Plan. more...
12th Nov 2008: Paul Mees on Public Transport shambles. more...
Rail Tunnel Delayed
8th Dec 2008: The hugely expensive East-West Rail Tunnel has been delayed with the first Footscray-Domain section not due to be even started until 2012 and then take six years to build.
Questions remain about how this would be financed or if it will ever happen. more...
$B4.9 Footscray - Domain Metro
3rd Jul 2008: Rod Eddington's proposal for part of the Footscray - Caulfield rail tunnel (9 km) is made a national priority, but no funding.
The Age Article.
This prices rail subway at $544 million per kilometer.
Government information including a map of this proposed 9 km - $4.9 billion metro link. Public Transport Victoria.