Melbourne Metro rail tunnel: how about some actual detail?

Much has happened to Melbourne Metro in the years since this post – read about the current plans here.

Over the weekend an article titled Tunnel under city or face rail chaos appeared in Melbourne newspaper The Age, with the lead image being a pretty artists impression of a new underground railway station beneath Flinders Street Station.

CBD South station, cutaway view at Flinders Street end

The article had the following to say:

State government documents obtained by The Sunday Age reveal that unless work begins soon on the so-called ”Melbourne Metro” rail project, several of the city’s busiest train lines will come under further strain because the number of passengers will outstrip services.

The long-awaited Melbourne Metro project involves building a nine-kilometre tunnel across the inner city, with five new underground stations between South Kensington and South Yarra: Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain.

The tunnel will in turn link the Sunbury rail line, in Melbourne’s north-west, to the Dandenong rail corridor in the outer south-east, allowing an extra 24,000 passengers an hour across the train network.

So when did the government come up with the tunnel idea, and on what route are they planning to build it?


Proposals for the tunnel first became public in 2008, when it was featured in the ‘East West Link Needs Assessment Study‘ produced by Sir Rod Eddington. This version of the tunnel was 17 kilometres long and was to be built in two stages:

The stage one route would start west of the existing West Footscray Station, with the tunnel running generally under the Maribyrnong River, under Kensington adjacent to J.J. Holland Park, under the North Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Royal Children’s Hospital to the Parkville precinct. To complete stage one, the route would head south under Swanston Street and St Kilda Road to the Domain.

Stage two tunnelling would run from Domain to Caulfield to cater for growth on the Pakenham, Cranbourne and Frankston lines (the Caulfield Rail Group) and would follow an alignment down St Kilda Road and Dandenong Road. Opportunities could be explored for stage two to involve cut-and-cover tunnelling along St Kilda Road and Dandenong Road to reduce the cost of tunnelling and station construction.

With the Victorian Government having no funding available from their own pocket or that of the Federal Government to build the complete tunnel project, in 2011 they they went back to Infrastructure Australia with a revised plan that reduced the overall costs:

Melbourne Metro is a proposed nine kilometre rail tunnel between South Kensington in the west and South Yarra in the south-east, connecting the Sunshine and Dandenong rail corridors via Melbourne CBD, but bypassing the congested inner core rail network. The current proposal is designed to deliver the benefits of 17 additional city-bound train services per hour in peak periods.

The project is forecast to provide additional capacity for 24,000 passengers per hour initially, rising to 60,000 per hour when other capacity constraints of the network are removed. It is expected that 140,000 passengers will use the Melbourne Metro during the morning peak by 2030.

The route

If you look on the Public Transport Victoria website for a route map, all you get is this pretty red line squiggled over inner city Melbourne.

Overall map of the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel alignment

The also have eight artists impressions in an online photo gallery but they fail to give you any detail as to which station they are! For that reason, I’ve gone through all of the the publicly available Melbourne Metro images I could find, made some educated guesses, and annotated them to the best of my knowledge.

We start at Arden station in North Melbourne, looking north-west at the corner of Laurens Street and a new east-west street.

Arden station overview, looking north-west at the corner of Laurens Street and new east-west streets

When you take a closer look there is only one station entrance structure shown: given that this station is situated away from existing high-density development, the level of patronage here will be the least of the five Melbourne Metro stations.

Arden station and a single entrance

Next up is Parkville station at the corner of Royal Parade and Grattan Streets: the Royal Melbourne Hospital to the left, and the University of Melbourne to the right.

Parkville station artists impression, overview at corner of Royal Parade and Grattan Street

When we take a close look here we see three station entrances: one on each side of Royal Parade to serve university and hospital patrons, and a third escalator emerging at the centre of the road tram super stop for those changing transport modes.

Parkville, artists impression of station entrances

The cutaway view of Parkville station shows how deep it will be below the ground: traversing two flights of escalators will be required to travel from concourse level down to the platforms.

Parkville station cutaway view, looking north-west

Next up is CBD North, which will act as an interchange station with the City Loop at Melbourne Central Station. The artist’s impression looks south along the station concourse below Swanston Street at Lonsdale Street: the wooden ‘box’ at Melbourne Central is visible above the skylights, with the Unilodge on Swanston apartment tower in the background. I was unable to find any more detail about the station – the skylights might emerge on Swanston Street somehow, but where will the linkage to Melbourne Central be provided?

CBD North station, artists impression of the concourse

CBD South is next, and will serve as the interchange with Flinders Street Station. The north end of the station will be located at the corner of Swanston and Collins Street, where an incredibly deep hole in the City Square will lead down to the platforms themselves.

CBD South station, cutaway view of escalator access at City Square

An artists impression from the opposite direction shows how escalators will reach the concourse from Collins Street outside Town Hall.

CBD South station, Collins Street entry at Town Hall

We now return to the artists impression from The Age, which shows the southern end of CBD South station. Here multiple concourse levels are linked by escalators, and an underground link from the station leads into the bottom level of the Federation Square visitors information centre.

CBD South station, cutaway view at Flinders Street end

Finding how the CBD South station would hook into Flinders Street Station was a bit trickier, but the design brief for the 2012 Flinders Street Station Design Competition came up with the goods. As well as the previously mentioned linkage to Federation Square, we also find a walkway leading west from Swanston Street beneath the Flinders Street roadway, where it turns south to the station building itself.

CBD South station, plan view of linkage to Flinders Street Station

A profile view of the walkway is also found in the design brief, showing that the escalators will emerge onto the main station concourse near those from platform 1. With four escalators provided, the document estimates that by 2046 around 20,000 patrons will transfer between the two stations during the two hour morning peak period each weekday.

CBD South station, profile view of linkage to Flinders Street Station

The final Melbourne Metro station is Domain, located on the corner of St Kilda and Domain Roads.

Domain station overview, artists impression looking north-west

Three exits will be provided, in a similar way to Parkville station: one entrance either side of St Kilda Road, and a third one emerging at a tram super stop.

Domain station, trio of entrances at the corner of St Kilda and Domain Roads

The Yarra River

The one thing I haven’t mentioned so far – how are they going to get the a new east-west tunnel under the Yarra River, while also avoiding the four existing City Loop rail tunnels near Melbourne Central, and the two CityLink road tunnels at Southbank. The answer is found in the 2008 East-West Link Needs Assessment ‘Analysis on Rail Capacity’, which provides this very useful diagram showing the vertical alignments that are available for the tunnel.

Proposed Melbourne Metro tunnel profile beneath Swanston Street

Deciding to tunnel beneath existing roads and at a great depth, the report has the following to say about the geotechnical issues faced:

The vertical and horizontal tunnel alignment that is likely to present the most favourable tunnelling conditions through the CBD is a deep tunnel aligned beneath St. Kilda Road, Swanston St and passing up to University Square, and vertically aligned such that the tunnel is formed completely within the rock of the Melbourne Formation.

Tunnelling within existing road envelopes avoids the conflict with the foundations and basements associated with existing structures. The factors that will influence the minimum tunnel depth along this alignment will be the depth of the Yarra Delta sediments, the existing Melbourne Rail Loop Tunnels, the CityLink Tunnels and the existing foundations and sub-surface structures.

It is expected that to pass beneath the Yarra River, and stay within the Melbourne Formation, the tunnel will have to be in the order of -42mAHD deep. At the intersection of Grant Street and St Kilda Road a tunnel depth of approximately -20mAHD is likely required to pass beneath the CityLink Tunnels, and at Lonsdale Street a depth of approximately -15mAHD is likely required to pass beneath the existing rail loop tunnels.

For those who can’t read surveyor language, a depth of -15mAHD at the City Loop translates to 35 metres below Melbourne Central Station, and -42mAHD at the River Yarra translates to 42 metres below sea level, or 52 metres below Flinders Street Station!

The report goes on to state the disadvantages of the deep level construction:

The main disadvantage of a deep tunnel will be the increased costs associated with the construction of stations at a greater depth, the higher running costs associated with trains operating on tracks at the limiting vertical geometry and stations at the low points, and longer passenger access travel distances.

It also considered a shallower route below the Yarra River, which is considerable riskier from a tunnelling perspective:

The main advantage of the shallower tunnelling option is the easier access that would be provided for passengers and reduced cost associated with the construction of the stations at shallower depth. However, this saving may be offset by the increased tunnelling costs associated with the above risks.

One only needs to look at the issues Transurban continues to face with the Burnley Tunnel to see how tunnelling through undesirable ground conditions can drive up maintenance costs.

A second report from the 2008 East West Needs Study also goes into detail regarding tunnelling – the Engineering Design and Costing Report by SKM, Maunsell, and Evans and Peck. For the section between Carlton and North Melbourne they have the following to say:

A section of the new tunnel will pass under existing properties between Carlton and North Melbourne. This 2.5km connection is required for the tunnel alignment to meet the project objectives as there is no vacant land available in this area and no direct route beneath an existing road reserve. As this section of the tunnel is proposed to be approximately 50m below ground level, it is anticipated there will be little or no impact at surface level.

So how does a station 50 metres below ground compare to the rest of the City Loop? Quite a bit deeper – Wikipedia says Melbourne Central is 29 metres deep and Flagstaff is 32 metres down, while the company that helped build the loop says the lower platforms at Parliament are 37 metres below ground.

Parliament Station escalators, longest in Melboune I believe

If you think heading 50 metres below ground to catch a train is an escalator too far, you’d better not visit Pyongyang, St Petersburg or Kiev: they all have metro stations more than 100 metres below the ground!

Further reading

April 2015 update

In April 2015 the Victorian Government announced that a shallow alignment along Swanston Street was the preferred option for the Melbourne Metro.

In their media pack was this diagram, showing the shallow tunnel alignment at the ‘CBD North’ station.

Shallow Melbourne Metro tunnel profile at CBD North station

They also released this video on YouTube showing the intended path:

My mate Evan C then stepped in, and overlaid the above path onto the same vertical alignment diagram I included earlier in this post.

Possible 'shallow' Melbourne Metro tunnel profile beneath Swanston Street (by Evan C)

The main constraints are the foundation of Princes Bridge across the Yarra, and CityLink’s cut and cover tunnels beneath St Kilda Road. To avoid these, a route to the east of Flinders Street Station is required.

Finally – the details

In May 2015 the Herald Sun uploaded a copy of the Melbourne Metro business case dated December 2011 – a document that features the gory technical details I have been hanging out for. You can read my analysis of the updated plans here.

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44 Responses to “Melbourne Metro rail tunnel: how about some actual detail?”

  1. Paul Westcott says:

    Great work Marcus. Thanks for pulling all the information together so clearly and succinctly.

    • Marcus says:

      Thanks for that – it’s a pity those in charge at the Department of Transport treat the artists impressions as mere architectural eye candy to appease the masses, and not something to inform the general public.

  2. Dave says:

    At those depths, it’s unlkely people will use these for one or two stop inner-city circulation given the time taken to get to the platforms and back out again.

    It seems infeasible to do it any other way though.

    The existing loop could of course be made far more friendly to that type of movement by taking away the loop lunchtime reversal, and having at least one group of lines running in a ‘reverse’ direction all day.

    • Marcus says:

      You’ve very correct about deep level stations being of little use to passengers moving around the Melbourne CBD.

      The existing City Loop also does poorly at this, but even if you increased the frequencies to reduce wait times, and implemented consistent routes between stations for all times of days, just getting from the street down to the station platforms is the real killer. Melbourne Central is a possible exception – if you are inside the shopping centre already or are on your way there, then the convoluted access finally works in your favour.

      I suspect when the Melbourne Metro comes into service, passengers already in the CBD wanting to get to Melbourne Uni or Domain Interchange will find that the trams at surface level will still be quicker than heading underground.

      The big winners from the new Metro stations will be people travelling on the new Sunbury-Pakenham metro route who get a single seat journey, with the runners up being existing rail passengers who can transfer via the new concourses at Melbourne Central or Flinders Street Station.

      • Andrew S says:

        As someone who used to work in the lower part of the St Kilda Road area and coming from the Dandenong corridor the big advantage would be better access to this area – buggering around at Flinders Street via the Loop and spending half an hour trundling down the length of St Kilda Road is circuitous and slow, regardless of tram priority and few did it from the east and south east (North and west did it as it was a bit more direct). Usually it was stuffing around backtracking to Prahran to get to work and it wasn’t unusual to walk from South Yarra to Prahran if the train was late or there was a disruption. Of course in the afternoon it meant meeting up with a full train to go home.

        Having said all that the benefit is diminished somewhat by truncating the southern end to South Yarra rather than the original Caulfield – although it would save money for the Metro. I thought the project was to increase capacity through the city in readiness for future track amplification on the Dandenong Corridor – if that is still the case what is the plan from Caulfield to South Yarra?

        With regards to detail I think there is little apart from what you have compiled there, and there is certainly no money to get it going, like the other big ticket projects being announced. The state want the Feds to put in money but they haven’t been forthcoming either.

      • Jacob says:

        The trams are packed. Back in 2006 I used to work in a St Kilda Rd office and would catch a train from Lalor to Flinders and then a slow and overcrowded tram from Flinders Street to the office on St Kilda Rd.

        I cant imagine how overcrowded the trams going to MEL Uni or Domain Interchange would be these days!

        Being able to catch a train from Central or Flinders to Domain interchange or MEL Uni would be a godsend.

  3. Tony Smith says:

    “given that this station is situated away from existing high-density development, the level of patronage here will be the least of the five”

    That may be true near term, but the station location is a key to the City Council’s Arden-Macaulay Structure Plan:
    which may be the closest to reality centrepiece of urban renewal densification, c.f. E-Gate and Fishermans Bend.

    Click the link from that page to “(v)iew the area covered” for a quick idea.

    One other factor to take into consideration is the desire that Sunbury-Pakenham and thus these five new stations will eventually support nine car trains. This makes even more urgent the need for a rail culture rethink to design platforms as community connectors rather than as barriers dividing. Adelaide already shows how this can be done which I am still to post about on TransForum.

    Given that the proposed Metro is never going to be ready soon enough, I keep coming back to the idea of rejigging one or two loop entrances so all services between Oakleigh and Sunshine take over the northern arm of the Caulfield loop, bypassing Flinders Street and Southern Cross permanently, while those between Moorabbin and Newport go via the viaduct 7 days, allowing the northern loop to be dedicated to increased Craigieburn and Upfield services.

    • Marcus says:

      You’re spot on about the future redevelopment in the Arden Street area: at the moment the west side of Laurens Street in North Melbourne is cement plants or empty railway depots, with the flour mill on the other side, and other miscellaneous industry on the west side of the Arden Street football oval.

  4. mich says:

    So looking at that first diagram, you go down one escalator from the street level, walk quite a long way across the first basement, go down a second escalator, walk quite a long way across the second basement, then go down a third escalator to the plaform.
    This does not look convenient.

    • Marcus says:

      Travelling between so many different levels isn’t the most convenient way to reach the platforms, but major stations on Hong Kong’s MTR network have similarly complex layouts:

      Diagram showing the platform arrangement at Hong Kong station

  5. mich says:

    A submerged tube deliberately running above the bottom of the river is probably easier than trying to go completely underneath it. It is easier to build a waterproof concrete structure than it is to try and waterproof a tunnel bored through rock.

    • Marcus says:

      Given that the Melborune Metro tunnel is planned to pass directly beneath Princes Bridge, I can’t see how you could build an immersed tube tunnel beneath it – of course if you offset it to one side, it might work.

      You still would run into difficulties building the approach tunnels to the tube, plus you need to find a way to float the structure into place in a very confined space.

      The Burnley Tunnel on CityLink had similar issues crossing the Yarra River at the eastern end – they ended up building a cut and cover tunnel through the river, using cofferdams to keep the water out as they moved across the Yarra:

  6. I don’t have my notes available at the moment, but a recent presentation by one of the lead planners for the Metro tunnel indicated that the tunnel will be offset slightly east under the Yarra River; further, the tunnel is likely to run over the City Loop at Melbourne Central, rather than under it.

    • Marcus says:

      Running over the top of the City Loop at Melbourne Central would be quite a feat: with about 10 meters of clearance between it and the surface, the roof of the north-south rail tunnel would have to be a concrete deck for Swanston Street! Perhaps they were referring to the pedestrian concourses?

  7. Here’s the notes from that Engineers Aust. meeting:

    Paul Beavis, Project Manager – Technical, MMRT

    Doctorate is in waste water management, “working with such great consulting teams”

    Opening day: high capacity metro trains, 16tph, 155m, 1100pax, dedicated fleet, platform screen doors
    Intermediate (before 2031): 220m trains
    Ultimate (2050+): 24tph

    Yarra crossing is a problem, magnitude has been calculated by hydrogeological modelling, they’ve done lots of work on a solution (ie they don’t have one yet)

    Arden is full of Coode Island silt, needs diaphragm walls. Parkville and CBD North are pretty stable. CBD South is in the middle of the Yarra ground precinct. Domain is fairly stable but partially in the Brighton sand group.

    As project slowly advances things are being built! Parkville now has to contend with new hospital.

    Parkville and Domain are going to have seamless interchange with trams (direct from tram stop to underground station concourse). Trying to get same for other stations.

    CBD North – 11m from street level to top of rail! That makes it only semi-underground, natural lighting on concourse. On top of City Loop tunnels. Alternative is 47m deep. Still some work to do.

    Tunnels are usually at least a tunnel width apart. Fed Square is tight so they’ll be closer together, and need extra strengthening

    Q: Has anyone suggested that this might be connected to the Doncaster line?
    A: There is a lot of future-proofing going on. Original concept was to go via Museum, that’s no longer possible, now it will be to Parkville via new platforms under current ones.

    Q: Will the new high capacity trains be capable of running on the rest of the system?
    A: Currently yes. Longer trains are down the track and may be different.

    Q: Why only 24tph rather than aiming for something like 40?
    A: Patronage modelling is a bit rubbery out to 2050 but current estimates are that
    we won’t need more than 24. Also this is through working over 90km of track and we’re not confident that super high capacity signalling will work over that distance – 27tph is OK but we don’t want to go moving block and in-cab signalling. Also capacity is limited by station design for passenger flow – stations are being designed for equivalent of 30tph.

    • Marcus says:

      Thanks for that detail – a depth of 11 metres below Swanston Street definitely falls into the world of cut and cover tunnels. I can only imagine the disruption building such a station would cause – with no neighbouring land for road diversions, it will make the construction of Museum station beneath LaTrobe Street in the 1970s look like a walk in the park!

      I also wonder whether such a shallow alignment is also being considered for the rest of the sections towards Parkville and Domain, or whether it will need to dive down below existing structures and the Yarra River crossing respectively.

  8. From memory, the only deep part will be under the Yarra, everything else will be no more than 20-ish metres deep.

  9. John McPherson says:

    Is the Melbourne Metro tunnel worth building? Are there easier, cheaper ways to gain as much or more extra peak train capacity for the CBD? Extra capacity seems to be the main reason to build it. The southern part of the Melbourne Metro would not serve the northern part of St Kilda Rd at all and it’s nearly 2.5kms down to Domain station. Add long walking transfers from Flinders St to the Sth CBD station (also deep!), most passengers to St Kilda Rd would still choose tram from Princes Bridge.

    Extra CBD train capacity is more cheaply created by modifying the LOOP operation to provide 2 double track routes across the north of the CBD and 3 sets of double tracks across the Viaduct. Extra short ramp/tunnels from Nth Melbourne to Flagstaff, and from Richmond to Parliament would be required to establish new through routes. CBD peak hour train capacity would double to 240+ trains. Clifton Hill group trains would lose Loop access and reverse at Flinders St. Five extra ramp/tunnels would be needed for the complete change to through-running.

    A partial change would see the Burnley and Clifton Hill group each retain Loop tracks to circulate around the CBD while all Northern group and Caulfield group trains would use 2 double track routes on the Viaduct and one double track route across the north CBD for through running. Peak hour total of 192 trains. Over 40 trains per hour more than provided by the addition of the Melbourne Metro route if it connects to the existing (4 track) Caulfield route. Only 2 extra ramp/tunnels would be needed.

    This proposal would provide more extra capacity at far less cost. The short ramp/tunnels would be built through the same known strata as existing Loop tunnels, while no expensive extra underground stations would be needed. No deep, problematic tunnel under the Yarra would be needed. Parkville/Flemington Rd and St Kilda Rd would continue with tram-light rail service improved with real time traffic signal priority and high quality interchange from trains.

    The current DOT Metro proposal now joins the 4 track Caulfield route south east of South Yarra station towards Hawksburn, thus by-passing a (surely!) necessary interchange at a major station. If the proposed Melbourne Metro route were diverted east under the Jolimont Yard, rather than heading south under the river, the Metro tracks could join the Sandringham line end on and would offer an extra 24 trains from the west only. Note that unless the Melbourne Metro line is extended to Caulfield as an extra 2 tracks (6 total), the capacity for peak trains from the south east does not increase, so diverting the Melbourne Metro trains to/from Sandringham changes nothing.

    Any comments?

  10. John,

    In the short term (before 2030 or even 2035), no, the tunnel is a waste of time and money.

    Unfortunately the DoT have committed themselves to the project without considering alternatives. A lot of the problems surrounding the Eddingtunnel is that its inspiration comes from the Eddington Report, which only considered east-west traffic, not north-south or any other axis. This makes any proposal for all of Melbourne, based on the Eddington report exclusively, inherently flawed.

    Further, the Eddington report envisioned the Eddingtunnel starting on the west side of South Kensington, with the RRL terminating around the same area and slewing onto existing tracks. Since the RRL has since been extended all the way to Southern Cross, the capacity issues inwards of South Kensington will not be a problem for much longer.

    It is also true that cutting the tunnel back to South Yarra (most likely with interchange there, though we don’t know how) instead of running the length of St Kilda Road, makes either the southern half of the tunnel, or two of the six tracks inbound from South Yarra, practically useless.

    That said, eventually we will need a north/south rail tunnel. But not now, and not in the next decade or so, and rushing the job for a 2023 completion (long after the capacity crisis mentioned in the above article) means we will pay a lot more for an inferior project.

    When it does come time to build the tunnel, my preference would be to run from Jewell on the Upfield line to Windsor on the Sandringham line. Not only is it a proper north/south axis, but it also links our two lines most like a proper Metro – close stations, walkup patronage and so on. As part of this project, it would be possible to cut the Upfield line at Camp Road with a station there, swing west under Broadmeadows station with an interchange, and continue to a balloon loop under Tullamarine – though the service would be aimed at commuters rather than travellers, a separate route would exist for that market – and at the south end, cut somewhere around Sandringham, run east under or near Bay Road, then terminate at Southland. This would all be easier if the line were converted to Light Rail, because the more flexible vehicles could take steeper grades and tighter curves in smaller-radius tunnels. Capacity would not be negatively affected; assuming something like 7-section C2 (Bumblebee) trams every 30 seconds, you’d get a crush load capacity in the range of 50,000 per hour each way.

    (As an aside, Doncaster could link via Parkville to St Kilda, either via the centre spine or via Flagstaff and Southern Cross, rising over everything where Platform 8-South is currently located. I haven’t thought that part out properly, but I expect it’s worth looking into.)

    Regarding your proposal to run a link from North Melbourne to Richmond via Melbourne Central – this was not a preferred option in the Eddington Report, but again the report was flawed in its terms of reference. However, if you were to link lines either side, I would suggest linking the Burnley and Northern groups, since they run at the same level.

    Finally, regarding the existing capacity issues on the Caulfield Group; the Eddingtunnel, either in its current or previous form, does nothing to solve any sort of issues there. Any claims to that effect are either outright lies, incomplete or incorrect, because the plan does nothing to solve capacity issues in the Caulfield-Dandenong section, or to a lesser extent on the Frankston line.

    Having spent five years looking at the issue, my conclusion has been that four tracks are needed past Caulfield, in the short term at least to South Road (Moorabbin) and Warrigal Road (Oakleigh) or North Road (Huntingdale) to feed to Rowville line.

    In addition, a flyover will be needed between Flinders St and Richmond, resignalling for up-up-down-down running between Richmond and Caulfield (and by extension, to Moorabbin and Oakleigh/Huntingdale), and a complex flyover at the southeast corner of Caulfield station allowing tracks from the four platforms to split into eight, half each way, with no flat junctions. This last part requires throwing out the ridiculously restrictive minimum standards set by the Department that require grades no steeper than 1:50; this project will require short sections (around 400m) of 1:35-1:40 depending on the minimum thickness of bridges strong enough to support trains.

    • John McPherson says:

      Sorry about tardy reply. Agreed with many of your comments. Light rail might be an appropriate cheaper option for Doncaster and Rowville. A high floor train/tram (Karlsruhr style) might service Doncaster Road from east of Shoppingtown then run at full speed along freeway and join suburban rail system at Victoria Pk to access LOOP. Rowville light rail would be cheaper than an elevated metro line. At Huntingdale, light rail could parallel heavy rail to Caulfield (rail interchange at both) then divert via Chadstone with underground sections if need. Then interchange at East Malvern stn before connecting end-on to Alamein line across Gardiner Creek to terminate at Camberwell stn.

      Construction and operational problems seem to abound for Melb Metro line. South of Yarra the usefulness of current proposal is highly questionable. An extra station between Flinders St and Domain would improve utility but would be difficult/impossible to provide. A minimum 5 new underground stations are needed, the City LOOP project had enough trouble with 3 – remember Flagstaff collapsed during construction.

      My vision for inner Melbourne is an adaption of our tram system to a high capacity light rail system with full intersection priority. Our many boulevards should be easily modified. High capacity light rail could link South Yarra to St Kilda Rd; Newmarket stn to Flemington Rd & Parkville. Elizabeth St would handle more light rail routes with an extension over the Yarra to Southbank Boulevard with a connection to St Kilda Rd. Victoria St/Pde should carry a frequent service from Nth Richmond stn though to Nth Melbourne stn.

      A modern radio-based moving block signalling sytem (Bombardier Cityflo 650?) would raise train capacity from 20 to 30 per hour across every suburban route/track. Cost might be approximately $1 billion based on the London Underground sub-surface lines project now underway.

      • PT Andrew says:

        Hi John,

        I think the Rowville – Huntingdale – Caulfield – Malvern East – Alamein proposal you make has real merit in terms of a first step towards transforming Melbourne’s heavy gauge system into a proper, inter-linked urban metro. This would efficiently link Monash University to the Belgrave / Glen Waverly / Alamein and Dandenong corridors.

        However, would there not be an issue (in terms of routing) to backtrack from Caulfield to Chadstone, then turn around again towards Malvern East. I.e. complex, within tunnel short radius turns? Also, pardon my ignorance, but what would be the main advantages / disadvantages to running this as a light rail rather than heavy rail? Does light rail still use the 1600mm standard heavy track gauge, thus providing for low capex upgrade to heavy gauge rolling stock if and when the need arises in future?

        As Malvern East is the location that 3 major routes come to within closest proximity to one another it is the logical interchange nexus for such a route. I propose 2 variants to yours.

        1 – Heavy gauge rail from Rowville (why not Knox shopping centre?) to Huntingdale, continuing along current alignment to Hughesdale. At this point the route veers NW via Boyd Park and the Urban Forest between Princess Hwy and Waverley Rd to Malvern East station with a ‘Chadstone / Murrumbeena Nth’ station at Princess Hwy (albeit an imperfect 600m from the shopping centre). From Malvern East, a short 1km connection via parkland to Alamein.

        The proposal would consist 3.6km of greenfield above ground rail almost entirely through parkland or existing easement which is sufficiently wide (~30m in southern sector, ~80m in middle sector and ~50m in northern section) to retain substantial public green space. Looking on the map, it almost appears as though the parklands were reserved specifically for this purpose!

        It would incorporate 1 new station + additional N-S facing interchange platforms at Malvern East. It would allow continuous, single seat service from Camberwell, via Alamein to Monash (and beyond) without the need for mode changes to light rail. Excluding the Rowville to Huntingdale new line, total cost for track duplication for the 3km between Huntingdale and Hughesdale, plus the new 3.6kms of track to Alamein couldn’t be more than $150-200m (unless PTV suffers from NSW disease!)

        2 – Alternative to above is to run Rowville – Oakleigh, then veering NW via tunnel under properties and Princess Hwy to Chadstone SC (with more convenient station) then emerging from tunnel and continuing above ground via Urban Forrest to Malvern East as per (1). The 2.3km tunnel and underground Chadstone station would perhaps add something like $500m to overall capex, which is a pretty big premium just to get shopping centre access, but might be justifiable.

        On a separate note, a connection from Sandringham to a new station at Southland connecting to the Frankston line (via Bay st) is something I’ve been mentally imagining for a long time too. In any case, why is there not a station there servicing the Frankston line anyway?

  11. Just a quick edit to the above post re Paul Beavis – his PhD thesis was in Intermodal Rail Freight Transportation Science, not waste water management, which is where he started.

    My mistake.

  12. Tim says:

    I worked in a role where I had to make the 2008 “Investing in Transport” report accessible, which involved copying it out from the PDF files to web pages including all the tables and images. I ended up reading all 209 pages. They are doing some of the recommendations, but all out of whack. The train tunnel will take at least 15 years to finish. No trains or trams to Doncaster as there is too much congestion on the change over and it will not make money. Also there is the option to switch over tolls to the state government once Citylink is paid off.

  13. Sean Deany says:

    Great site you have, about half of the drawings I haven’t seen. I’m very angry with the whole way Transport Victoria have projected The Melbourne Metro in its planning. The most concerning thing is that who will pay for this much needed development. There are is even the possibility that if the Federal liberal Government get in, very likely, is that they may eliminate Infrastructure Australia. A couple of years ago Tony Abbot actually said that there is no future in railways for Australia and that motor cars are the future!

    There is very little info being publicised for the general public. I have been on Transport Victoria’s mail list and as a public transport advocate they will not send me any up dates nor are willing to answer my questions regarding the big problems associated to MM alignment, stations and network. Importantly the whole way that they are projecting this project is that it is stand alone. There is very little or no scope for additional rail alignments such as the much discussed Doncaster rail line.

    For some time now I have been publishing a scenario for a Doncaster Metro which is indeed networked with the proposed Melbourne Metro. I will be making some up dates concerning rail alignment and station locations.

    • Marcus says:

      Seeing real detail around what the government is planning for public transport in this state is almost impossible – it all happens in the dark. Either we get told nothing, or the details that are made public are just a coloured line drawn over the top of a map, and a few token artists impressions.

      For comparison is the New MetroRail project in Western Australia during the early-2000s: their website had almost a complete set of construction drawings squirreled away for those interested in them:

  14. Sean Deany says:

    That train in the illustration of CBD South station, cutaway view at Flinders Street end is going to end in the Yarra River!

    • Marcus says:

      You’re spot on there – the cutaway view shows the tracks around two levels / 10 metres below Swanston Street, while the tunnel profile diagram shows the street as +10 metres above sea level – it just won’t fit!

  15. Confirmation from PT>, the plan is to have Melbourne Central’s north/south tracks underneath Swanston st but over the City Loop tracks.

  16. J. Piper says:

    Like the Regional Farce Rail, Redundant Rail Link, Southern Crass Station, the Messro Rail Tunnel is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded gravy-train project for corrupt politicians’ construction/consultant-company buddies.
    After wrecking Victoria’s manufacturing and agriculture with tariff-less dumped imports and exported industries the only “industries” left are construction and housing (hence the mass importation of immigrants – for consumer-fodder and to prop up the housing industry).


    Spread this word – if enough people heed this advice we may even get a half-decent government.

  17. Sean Deany says:

    Interesting point you have made accompanying the cross diagram for the Melbourne Metro tunnel profile beneath Swanston Street. One key argument for the Victorian Liberal Government’s decision to drop this proposal and instead tout the highly fanciful Melbourne Rail Link was that digging up the street would be disruptive. However when can see that it was clear that the street would not reqire this as tunnels would be bored deep below in the Melbourne formation. The two CBD stations would be built via key hole construction.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The deep level Swanson Street tunnel diagrams were from the 2008 East-West Link Needs Assessment ‘Analysis on Rail Capacity’ document – by 2013 they had changed their tune, and were favouring the shallow cut and cover version.

      Concerns about station depth are a bit of a red herring – I spent some time travelling through Eastern Europe a few years ago, and their Metro networks make our Parliament station look like a hole in a children’s sandpit:

  18. Sean Deany says:

    Your not wrong about a red herring when concerning the revised station depths of the Swanston Street alignment in the much planned and revised Melbourne Metro tunnel. But its important to note that in its original and well planned concept before promised Infrastructure Australia funds were diverted, the tunnel was never meant to run close to the surface for a variety of obvious reasons. Your tunnel depth diagram explains this.

    As the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel was to travel beneath the Yarra River it would have, as clearly shown in your diagram, to have been at such a depth requiring bored tunneling methods. The CBD South Stn (City Square / Flinders Street) would only require a surface works point covering the northern half of City Square and road covering metal plates at the Flinders Street Stn access points. The station main structure would have been of cavern design due to its depth in the Melbourne formation and spoil removal would be extracted via the actual tunnel and out to its remote western portals in Kensington South to be tructed away for landfill. The CBD North Stn (La Trobe / Melbourne Central) also of cavern construction would require a surface works site north of La Trobe Street along Swanston St, but without impact on tram movements for the duration of the project. Only building site machinery / structure barriers would obstruct key hole sites for the duration of the project construction at a minimal footprint possible. A similar situation would be in place at the proposed Parkville Station site with possibly some impact obstruction for the areas around Grattan Street (east of Royal Pde) and on the central axis of Royal Pde its self north of Grattan Street. The proposed Domain Station site involved works much closer to the surface and be of box construction in the sandy soil, but this also would have only had intermittent / moderate impact of road traffic flows and only temporarily on tram movements – if any! Arden Station of course in its construction would have had little impact of the surrounding area.

    I would have liked Melbourne Metro to have included underground platforms at South Yarra as this is a major interchange station / TOD. Its possible, but would impose some major impacts on the existing station and surrounding area. Also it would be costly as the station may need to be rebuilt excluding heritage buildings from being impacted. However by selling the air space above the existing South Yarra Stn to private residential development I believe that the new rebuilt Sth Yarra Station precinct would pay for its self – PPP in a socially positive scenario!

    Therefore in the case with the recently announced Melbourne Rail Link South Yarra gets does indeed provision for new underground platforms. However this is possibly as good as this new alternative to Melbourne Metro the project proposal gets! There is indeed nothing good about the rest of the project.

    Today I have been doing quite a a lot of transport detective work when it concerns the proposed Melbourne Rail Link. When compared with the recently scrapped Melbourne Metro it really doesn’t make much sense for this highly circuitous rail line, which isn’t going to help much when it comes to improving the overall Melbourne rail network.

    I have also found some serious balls ups which are a grave concern to how the project is going to impact the built environment and passenger attraction. This new rail alignment which has hap haphazardly been projected on future generations and city shaping, station locations and probably heritage precinct impacts its of great concern. For example The Galilee Regional Church and School / numerous houses and some 1970 strata flats, nonetheless costly real estate would require demolition, if the line isn’t at a great depth.

    With the use of geodetic mapping and a basic rail engineering knowledge I was able to extrapolate a highly probable alignment – restricted primarily to streets, cut and cover construction and required minimal radii for the rail alignment I pin pointed the best possible / likely location for the sub-surface Montague Stn. Its location is centered on the Montague Street and the 109 LRT route in South Melbourne. Alarmingly if this line is ever actually built it would impact on any proposal for the South Morang decoupling and routing via Southern Cross Stn to the real Fisherman’s Bend Station to be located on Plummer Street. This is only the beginning of the problem as Southern Cross Station would become a major construction site once more to provision for the proposed sub-surface platform and its necessary placement south of, but between, the Burnley Loop (pl 10) and the Caulfield Loop (pl 12) portals. Effectively all trains running via the City Loop from / to the Burnley and Caulfield Loop Lines – half of the entire Melbourne rail network would have to terminate at Flinders Street for the duration of construction of this new sub surface platform at Southern Cross Stn.

    This could all be avoided in any future scenario for a South Morang to Fishermans Bend Line (actually proposed by PTV) where its dedicated alignment would run from new underground platforms immediately north of and parallel to Flagstaff Stn and through new tunneling to additional sub-surface platforms at Southern Cross – beneath Wurundjeri Way. With Melbourne Metro this line of course would potentially have interchange at Parkville Station and additionally provision for a possible Doncaster Line. Sadly there has been little planning and vision from PTV to consider such highly probable scenarios for the longer term development for new lines.

    These findings and others to follow will certainly prove that this recent proposal for the Melbourne Rail Link is nothing other than a politically motivated bluff to win votes at the next state elections. In short its an unrealistic pipe dream and will not actually serve Melbourne in any way near to which the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel with some additional provision could have delivered.

  19. […] Melbourne Metro rail tunnel: how about some actual detail? […]

  20. […] Melbourne Metro rail tunnel: how about some actual detail? […]

  21. Rohan Storey says:

    OK its nearly a year later, things have changed, but anyway since the fuss about digging up swanston st and the depth of tunnels / stations emerged, I thought – why not run the tunnel under elizabeth st ? It could be cut and cover if necessary without too much disruption (as long as trams still run), and more room for access to platforms at Flinders st station at west end, and its already low, so not so far down for platforms. I suppose it would go under the loop at melb central end. I know theres a huge drain there too, but that could be rebuilt at the same time. There is however no city square with space for ‘keyhole’ access, or big station concourse entry, but maybe the street itself could be provide the space, by eliminating the car lanes (hardly used anyway).

    Is there something ive missed that makes this not a viable option ?

  22. Rohan Storey says:

    Also that connection to Flinders Street station – just one set of escalators going up to one end of the swanston st concourse, then you have to go down to the platforms again ??

    Make more sense to either create a new subway connection with escalators / stairs up to each platform, or continue the underpass to the existing Degraves st subway, and up to platforms from there.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      It does look to be a single connection to Flinders Street Station, emerging in the congested corner near platforms 1 and 2. Given how far the new pedestrian link heads west, a connection to the Degraves Street subway would make things easier for passengers, and increase the use of what is a lesser used part of the station.

  23. […] which to the public has just been a line drawn north-south over a map of the Melbourne CBD. I pieced together whatever plans I could find a few years ago, but the recent publication of the Melbourne Metro business case dated December […]

  24. […] Marcus Wong recently wrote up an excellent summary of what’s known about the Metro rail tunnel […]

  25. […] detail of the interchange passageway was found in the 2012 Flinders Street Station Design Competition Design Brief document. From the […]

  26. […] plans for the Metro Tunnel featured direct access between trams and trains on Royal Parade at Parkville […]

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