$23 billion for transport – what would you spend it on?

Major_Projects_invoice.jpgMelbourne keeps growing and is becoming ever more congested and crowded. It is expected that Melbourne will soon pass Sydney as the largest city in Australia. If we want to keep our ‘liveable city’ tag we need to keep improving public transport and services, especially in fringe areas, while ensuring there is sensible and sensitive infill and increased density along key public transport nodes.

It is essential we stop funding major road projects like the North East Link and the Westgate Tunnel. This will free up more than $20B in funding which could be available for more sustainable transport infrastructure.

We know that, after decades of major road projects, traffic congestion in our city is as bad as it ever was. This will only continue while the population grows and our public transport infrastructure is not suitable to the needs of a modern city with 5 million people.

We can’t build our way out of congestion with bigger roads.

The Victorian state government has invested heavily in a number of key public transport infrastructure projects (see attached table). We welcome this investment.

But the Westgate Tunnel and North East Link will further entrench Melbourne in its current reliance on the private car to meet the bulk of our travel needs.

We believe that the government needs to rule out both these incredibly expensive projects and re allocate funds to public transport and other sustainable infrastructure.

The public health and environmental benefits of shifting funding towards PT infrastructure would be significant. The employment benefits would be enormous.

We need to invest in sustainable transport options not mega roads

If the government cancelled:

  • The WestGate Tunnel and
  • North East Link

projects, we would have $23.2 billion for sustainable transport options (the final cost of the Westgate project has gone from $5.5B to $6.7B since this invoice was compiled).


Alternative ideas we have identified include:

Truck off-ramps on the WestGate: these would be designed to direct trucks from the West Gate Freeway, along Whitehall Street on the edge of Yarraville, directly to the port:

This is estimated to cost $500 million and would lead to tangible health and liveability benefits to local residents. Local residents groups will have views on the details of these ramps, which must be considered in the design process.

It is a Labor election promise and could be delivered with funds that are already available.


Rail freight not truck freight: the Port Rail Shuttle option

This will connect the port to distribution hubs across Melbourne via rail. There is

already $58 million committed ($38m from the federal government and $20m from the state government) to start this vital project.


Increasing frequency and capacity of passenger trains:

Public transport infrastructure in the West needs to be upgraded to be fit for purpose for the 21st century. Existing infrastructure has not kept up with population growth, pushing ever more commuters onto already congested roads

One option would be to ensure we get the best possible use of existing transport infrastructure by removing bottlenecks. Duplication of railway lines would help to ensure all stations are serviced reliably. For example, the 12 km Altona Loop. The duplication of the Deer Park to Melton line (18 km) is estimated to cost $518 million and will enable 2 extra services in morning and evening peak, and increased reliability and punctuality of train running times.


More trains need to be added to the system, so that services are running every 10 minutes, 6am-midnight 7-days a week. More frequent services provide a real solution to congestion, and will reduce travel times, stress and economic losses for those who do need to travel by car. This will require an upgrade to high capacity signaling, allowing for more trains in peak hour.

Victorian train production is flourishing under the Andrews government. The Pakenham East site is being constructed at present and will house maintenance facilities for the fleet of new trains. This has created much needed employment in the outer East.


High capacity trains need to be brought online – 65 new High Capacity Metro Trains are already being built here in Victoria, resulting in more than 1,100 highly skilled local jobs. Let’s continue these winning projects. Significantly, these will use 60% local content, meaning more work across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

This is already bringing benefits to our state. For instance:

  • Times Electric Australia to establish a manufacturing plant in Morwell to build the traction and electrical auxiliary power systems for the trains.
    • SIGMA Air Conditioning will supply heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for the new trains, creating 18 new jobs and an expansion of their current facilities in Derrimut.

This is in addition to the ongoing work on Victoria’s big public transport projects that is creating more than 1800 jobs in the rolling stock and transport industries.

Locally made trains, made by unionised labor using a high percentage of local content are the perfect ‘green’ job.


Electrify train lines to Wyndham, Melton and Wallan

Electrification allows faster, more frequent rail services that are quieter, less polluting, more energy efficient and cheaper to run.

Electrification between Melton and Deer Park created 400 jobs; let’s continue this work to get the rest of the west onto electric train lines.

To electrify the Sunbury line (40km) in 2012 it cost $280 million – it can be estimated that electrification of the Melton line (41km), Wyndham (37km) and Wallan (50km) lines would cost a similar amount on a per-kilometre basis.


Return services to regional centres

A number of regional centres that were previously serviced by rail should be assessed to see whether re-opening rail links is viable. In the short term, we believe a priority is to reinstate the passenger rail service to Mildura.

Victorians in the regions need better options to connect with Melbourne and other regional centres. This will provide this important hub better access to health and education opportunities while also opening up Mildura’s tourism and economy. A cost benefit analysis has been conducted that demonstrates the viability of this project.


Remove bottlenecks in the rail system

To improve the overall capacity of the rail network the following mainline single-track sections should be prioritised for duplication:

• Geelong – Waurn Ponds

• Ballarat

• Altona Loop

• Dandenong – Cranbourne

• Greensborough - Eltham

• Eltham - Hurstbridge

• Gowrie – Upfield

• Mooroolbark – Lilydale

• Ferntree Gully – Belgrave

• Heidelberg – Rosanna (Tunnel)


Start Melbourne Metro 2: This would really be a legacy issue – with the Metro Tunnel it would re-make Melbourne’s PT infrastructure to be world class. This would involved building another river crossing that would deliver double the capacity of the tollway.

A train line can carry 40,000 people per hour in both directions, while a freeway only manages 24,000, and that’s when it’s a substantial 12 lane one.

This is the logical addition to Melbourne’s 21st century rail network.

Construction and provision of Melbourne Metro 2 will require local jobs; Melbourne Metro 1 is generating 7,000 jobs alone.


Building a line to connect the Wyndham/ Werribee corridor to Newport, through Fisherman’s Bend to the CBD and Clifton Hill. Giving a direct link west, avoiding the Footscray stations and reducing travel times to Werribee, while increasing capacity of services across the western suburbs. Just imagine how that would change Melbourne!


Tram/light rail lines for cross-town centre travel

There are missing infrastructure links within western Melbourne suburbs and connections between these suburbs.

Obvious light rail links between local centres could be Hoppers Crossing to Werribee to Wyndham Vale, and along Ballarat Road linking Sunshine’s busy health, education, business and retail centres.

Tram extensions on routes 82 (Footscray into Docklands) and 48 (North Balwyn – Doncaster) would add value to existing routes.

A 2014 estimate found that tram lines should cost in the region of $15 million per kilometre, with additional costs for platform stops ($1.7m each), works for major intersections ($2.8m each), substations (for extensions over 5 kilometres $5m each) and terminus works ($5m each).

New light-rail lines just like this are already being built in suburban Toronto:



More trams in the system

The Melbourne system needs at least 70 new trams to build capacity, boost availability of rolling stock, and increase the reliability and quality of services.

We also need immediate investment in priority signalling for trams in congested intersections.


Get on with the rail link to Melbourne airport.

The Andrews government has now announced its support for a rail link to Tullamarine airport. It needs to get on with building it. The benefits for car traffic on the Tullamarine and Calder Freeways will be enormous.


Bus routes: improving services on existing bus routes represents good value for money in terms of reducing congestion. Options include:

• Building on-road priority through retrofitting of major road corridors to give lane space, and traffic intersections signalised to prioritise buses

• Smart bus routes every 10 minutes during the day, 7 days a week

• Better bus connections to train stations and Melbourne Airport.


Safe bike routes across the city.

• The health benefit savings far outweigh the cost of building new safe bike path infrastructure that will encourage more people to ride for local trips to the shops, school, or work

• The direct gross cost of physical inactivity to the Australian health budget in 2006/07 was $1.49 billion, equating to nearly $200 per inactive person per year.


Tell us your ideas for more sustainable transport that Victoria should be investing in

This is just the beginning of a ‘to do’ list for a more sustainable transport system in Melbourne, with a strong emphasis on the western suburbs.

We haven’t even started to address the need to invest in greatly improving rail and bus infrastructure in regional Victoria. As regional centres grow, this will become ever more important.

Please send your ideas for all kinds of sustainable infrastructure (PT, cycling, walking, etc) to: cam.walker@foe.org.au and we will compile them into a transport vision for Victoria.


For our list of policy measures which will build a more sustainable economy in Victoria, please check this page.


Version #1. 14/12/17

Much of the research in this document was prepared by FoE’s sustainable cities co-ordinator, Rachel Lynskey. Thanks to the Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Industry Union (RTBU) for their contribution.