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Melbourne's rail network has reached bursting point and is
struggling to cope with ever-increasing numbers of passengers at
peak hour, a secret report has revealed.
With rising fuel prices forcing more commuters to use trains,
the system is under severe pressure and demand is matching capacity
on the city loop.
Unless something is done the problem will get worse, with the
report predicting twice as many peak-hour passengers on some lines
by 2020 and 17 per cent more in just five years.
The rail unions say it is a crisis and are demanding a summit
with transport chiefs and the State Government to thrash out what
can be done.
The problem is likely to be further complicated by next year's
Organisers expect 50,000 interstate and 40,000 international
tourists will visit Melbourne for the event in March.
Public transport will be critical in delivering fans to venues
and plans for the transport arrangements during the Games are
expected to be unveiled this month.
State Treasurer John Brumby introduced a congestion levy bill
into State Parliament earlier this week, increasing state taxes on
city parking spaces. He said the levy would "provide an incentive
for those currently commuting by car to and from the city during
peak hours to look at other options, such as car pooling, public
transport and walking".
But the April 2004 report, commissioned by the Department of
Infrastructure and released to The Sunday Age under
freedom-of-information laws, indicates there is little room for
more commuters and identifies increased capacity hurdles on the
city loop and inner-city stations.
"Given that the existing throughput can be regarded as at
capacity, then the overall existing loop utilisation is close to
100 per cent," the report finds.
The report, written by transport engineers and planners Maunsell
Australia, shows train volume on the Broadmeadows, Sydenham,
Melton, Werribee and Williamstown lines is at capacity during peak
A number of these lines merged at North Melbourne station,
forming a bottleneck.
Most of Melbourne's other train lines are also close to capacity
because of constraints on the city loop and inner-Melbourne
stations that service the lines, the report shows. It also notes
demand on Melbourne's train network is likely to grow
"A number of planning studies undertaken by the Department of
Infrastructure in recent years . . . have all concluded that
significant growth in train numbers is anticipated over the next 15
years," it says.
It also says if the number of trains were to increase during
peak hour, reliability would decrease to unacceptable levels.
Rail Tram and Bus Union state secretary Trevor Dobbyn said the
loop was only one of many capacity constraints. He called for the
establishment of a round table to address the looming public
"Public transport capacity is the number one challenge facing
the State Government in Melbourne over the next few decades and we
are calling on them to have a high-level round-table discussion
between the State Government, the industry and the union on the
future of public transport in terms of infrastructure projects to
allow growth," he said.
Mr Dobbyn warned the challenge would require a "very large
upgrade in capacity and reliability".
Recommendations in the report about how to address the
shortfalls were not provided by the Government as they were
"preliminary proposals" and the "disclosure of information which
discuss or consider options that may or may not be adopted would
not be in the public interest".
Louise Perry, spokeswoman for Transport Minister Peter
Batchelor, said the State Government had identified capacity
constraints in the Metropolitan Transport Plan released last
"The city loop and a number of other parts of the transport
network are a priority for Government funding - we want to
accommodate as many commuters as possible," she said.
She said the Government provided $3 million in the last budget
for works at North Melbourne station and $25 million for design
works for the Dandenong rail corridor.
Mac Henshall, spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure,
said: "The inner Melbourne rail network is operating at or near
capacity under current operating conditions and is adequate for the
present level of rail patronage."
Mr Henshall said investigations were under way to determine
capacity limits and options for improving capacity and reliability
to cater for the forecast growth in rail passengers over the next
10 to 20 years.
Connex spokesman Andrew Cassidy confirmed the company was
involved in discussions with the State Government regarding the
capacity and future demand of the network.
Opposition Leader Robert Doyle said public transport upgrades
must be addressed and that the city loop needed to be more
"The centrepiece of the rail network is the loop, and while the
capacity of the loop is constrained then the capacity of the rest
of the system is constrained, and most people want to travel into
the city," he said.
ALL CHANGE EXPECTED DEMAND IN NEXT 10 YEARS
- Werribee and Sydenham lines to almost double
- Epping line to increase by 60 per cent
- Broadmeadows/Craigieburn line to increase by 25 per cent
BURNLEY LOO Including Glen Waverley, Alamein,
Belgrave and Lilydale lines. Present usage 21 trains an hour,
estimated capacity, 22 trains an hour.
CLIFTON HILL LOO Including the Epping and
Hurstbridge lines. Present usage 13 trains per hour. Estimated
capacity 15 trains per hour (am) and 17 trains an hour (pm)
NORTHERN LOO Including Werribee/Williamstown,
Sydenham, Broadmeadows and Upfield lines - AT CAPACITY.
CAULFIELD LOO Including Frankston and
Pakenham lines. Present usage, 20 trains an hour. Estimated
capacity, 22 trains an hour.
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