Melbourne Rail Link – the trains of tomorrow, from yesterday!

As part of the 2014-15 Victoria State Budget, Denis Napthine unveiled his new “Melbourne Rail Link” vision for the city with a flashy video.

In essence a bastardised version of the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel that manages to completely miss the middle of the Melbourne CBD, I’m going to leave the serious discussion about the route to others – Daniel Bowen and Alan Davies have already done so – and instead dive into the dribble filled pit of railfan minutiae.

At the 2:43 mark of the video, one of the “Next Generation” trains appears in the animation. It looks just like a current model XTrapolis train, but with two extra doors per side.

Melbourne "Next Generation" train with five doors per side

A few seconds later the side of the train is visible – bearing the carriage number 943M.

Melbourne "Next Generation" train numbered 943M

As it happens 943M is a carriage already on the Melbourne rail network, having entered service back in August 2004 when Connex still ran the system.

XTrapolis 943M in Connex Melbourne livery, 2006

The trains of tomorrow, from yesterday!


If you spend your time on railfan forums like I do, then a day doesn’t go by without somebody saying “check out this newspaper article about trains” and somebody else complaining “they used the wrong photo in that article – double deck trains don’t run in Melbourne” (or something along those lines). A topic for another day!

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8 Responses to “Melbourne Rail Link – the trains of tomorrow, from yesterday!”

  1. Alan Davies says:

    Sounds like a fascinating topic; hope you do it soon.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The difficult part for me is coming up with something new to bring to the discussion – everyone else has already covered it so well. 🙂

  2. Sean Deany says:

    Why the Melbourne Rail Link Stinks!

    There is something of a red herring when concerning the reasons for dumping the much planned and revised Melbourne Metro tunnel for an alternative which is so full of bluff and lies its astonishing.

    Firstly its important to note that in its original and well planned concept before promised Infrastructure Australia funds were diverted towards road construction the proposed Melbourne Metro rail tunnel was never meant to run close to the surface along its Swanston Street alignment for a variety of obvious reasons. However one of the key factors for its evident dumping was that this major Melbourne street would need to be torn up through cut and cover construction. This is simply not the case.

    As the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel was to travel beneath the Yarra River it would have, as shown in the above 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 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.

    I have been doing 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. While for some years now the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel was in favor by the current Liberal government it was initially the child of the previous Labor government and a product of the Sir Rod Eddington led East West Needs Assessment report of 2008.

    In short the now proposed Melbourne Rail Link is an unrealistic pipe dream and will not actually serve Melbourne in any way near to the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel. Melbourne Metro and its potential has been castigated to history and is yet another worthy project consigned to a gathering pile of projects put on hold or dumped altogether which seem to be endemic.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      You’re spot on about the construction process for Melbourne Metro – there isn’t anything groundbreaking (boom boom tish!) about building underground rail through urban areas.

      Regarding underground platforms at South Yarra, I can’t see a reason why the Melbourne Metro couldn’t have incorporated them. The question is how to provide pedestrian access between the new and the old portions, plus the outside world. However this needs to be looked at before more platforms being added, as the current access at the south end of the station is woefully inadequate for the level of patronage the station is already subject to.

      And finally – Melbourne Rail Link! With the idea only invented by the Premiers office six months ago, the amount of thought given to the design by engineers would have been negligible, and any attempts to build it will make the delays and cost overruns of Myki look like a walk in the park!

  3. James A says:

    They do like chucking in that extra doors X’Trapolis whenever talking about the high-capacity trains, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a placeholder. They haven’t chosen rollingstock or a manufacturer for the new trains, so can’t really make a video showing a particular model I guess!

    In terms of what the new rollingstock should be, I certainly hope they make it in Australia like the V/Locity and E-class trams, as it seems every other train/tram we import from overseas is plagued by problems (Siemens braking/X’Trapolis signalling issues/Combino cracking and noise/Citadis swaying)

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Victoria sure has had a long run of imported trains being crap – I wonder if it was a result of the “value engineering” that brought the costs down, or that we bought the wrong product.

      Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide have all bought Australian-built trains for their suburban fleets in the past decade – however the last round of Sydney trains had body frames built in China, and the next round of Queensland Rail trains are going to be built in India.

  4. Heihachi_73 says:

    943M was also the CGI X’Trap Metro used in its advertising back when most of the trains still had the Connex livery. In fact, I’m not even sure 943M itself was in Metro’s livery when the CGI one was made!

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