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 NewAustralia sets out a plan to upgrade the network. This starts in the hub (Melbourne) and works out to the regional centres.

Train Running

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.

(*Hughesdale, Murrumbeena & Carnegie serviced by Rowville trains)

(3) "Clockface - Burst" Timetables

On 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
Richmond 17:00 17:02 17:04 17:06 17:08 17:10 17:12 17:20
Caulfield 17:07 17:09 17:11 17:13 17:15 17:17 17:19 17:27
Oakleigh 17:12 17:14 17:16 17:18 17:20 17:25 17:27 17:32
Dandenong 17:24 17:26 17:28 17:36 17:38 17:44
Pakenham 17:36 17:50 17:52 17:56
Service shown at top. Station shown at left. Minutes past the start of this block (17:00) shown in each cell.

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:

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 Dandenong Line 'Clockface-burst' timetable.
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' diagram.
Sample Dandenong Line 'Clockface-burst' train running diagram.

(4) "Clockface - Continuous" Timetables

Where 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

Millennium Train
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:

3-car VLocity train
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)

Reducing Delays

The MET system suffers many avoidable delays. Here are some solutions:

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

NewAustralia supports the following rail extensions:

The Gauge Problem

Map of proposed standardisation of the Victorian rail network
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.

Two dual gauge concrete sleepers at Carnegie
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.

NewAustralia believes that all public transport system management should be in-sourced as follows:


Monorails Australia

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. more...

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. more...

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...

Myki Madness

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...

Bogus Costings

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...

Tracks Buckle2

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...

Tracks Buckle

28th Jan 2009: Tracks buckle due to lack of breather switchesmore...

Transport Failure

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...

Travelling second-class

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.