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Metro has warned the Andrews government that three of Melbourne's metro rail lines have breached capacity at peak hour, with three others to follow within the next two years.
The crowd crushes and heavy disruption experienced during the morning peak on the Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines will soon become the norm on the Cranbourne, Pakenham and Werribee lines.
The city's rail operator has proposed bypassing the City Loop more often in the peak and running trains direct to Flinders Street Station or Southern Cross Station instead, as a way to squeeze more capacity out of Melbourne's straining rail network.
It says the problem is most urgent on the "northern group" of lines that service Melbourne's booming north-west.
The Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines share one of the City Loop's four tunnels and are all experiencing rapid patronage growth and worsening overcrowding.
The government's solution to the issue is the Metro Tunnel, which is due to open in 2026, but Metro has said there is "an urgent need" to find an answer now.
"The Northern Group [Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines] faces immediate challenges with a number of lines currently operating at capacity," Metro said.
Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media on Tuesday. Photo: AAP"There is an urgent need to develop a solution for the Northern Group to ensure that there is sufficient capacity on this group until the commissioning of Metro Tunnel in 2026."
The warning is contained in Metro's 2016 Strategic Operational Plan, which was leaked to Fairfax Media.
The plan reveals Metro has set an internal target to run 95 per cent of trains on time by 2026, the same year the Metro Tunnel opens.
But it has also warned the government that Melbourne's rail network needs significant taxpayer investment to fix a host of problems, such as peak-hour congestion in the City Loop, rail bottlenecks, and ageing trains and signals, if it is to do so.
According to the plan, Metro also expects the Cranbourne/Pakenham line in Melbourne's south-east to overflow with passenger demand in 2018, for the same reason – a lack of capacity in the City Loop.
This is in part because the government continues to run peak-hour Frankston trains through the Loop, Metro said.
It has proposed running more Cranbourne/Pakenham trains direct to Flinders Street Station as an interim solution.
It also said the Werribee line in Melbourne's south-west will be "at capacity by 2019 once the additional paths provided by the Regional Rail Link Project have been used".
The $3.65 billion Regional Rail Link between Southern Cross Station and Werribee opened just two years ago.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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