Bendigo on board with urban rail service

 
  wxtre Chief Train Controller

Bendigo on board with urban rail service


Bendigo, Victoria's fourth-biggest urban centre, is pushing for its own local commuter rail service to deal with what it says are "unprecedented levels" of population growth in the key state election battleground.

The Goldfields city says it already has "the foundations required for a local rail system" because it is at the junction of two rail lines and now has four operational train stations. The fourth, at Epsom, opened this month.

Bendigo wants new stations built at Maiden Gully, Golden Square, Huntly and Marong, and has long-term aspirations for others.

The call comes in a new planning document released by the city that charts a road map for growth. It addresses land use planning, transport and other issues. The municipality, which is not all urbanised, is now home to almost 110,000 people, but is growing fast. One ambitious growth plan has predicted a municipal population of 200,000 by 2041.

The residential growth is not just restricted to new suburban houses. There is a growing trend towards apartment living in the CBD, in new buildings and in "shop-top" conversions of buildings that in some cases were built in the 1800s.

The city recognises that the establishment of its own urban rail service would be expensive, even though railway lines and stations already exist. But the Connecting Greater Bendigo document says: "The reintroduction of trains to the core public transport system in Bendigo is critical to the sustainable growth of the city."

It also says: "The next step for Bendigo's rail system will be to establish it as an urban system with its own operator, rolling stock and maintenance and stabling facilities. If this initiative is determined to be feasible, new infrastructure including additional tracks, signalling, infill train stations and other associated infrastructure will be required."

The draft document, which has been released for public consultation, was prepared by consultants on behalf of the Bendigo council. In the short-term (defined as 2015 to 2020) the city wants more Bendigo-Melbourne services to run to and from stations near Bendigo's outer northern edge – a move that would allow residents from the north to travel by train to central Bendigo and Kangaroo Flat in the south.

And in the medium-term (2021 to 2028) it wants "regular services" operating solely within Bendigo. Associate Professor Trevor Budge from the City of Greater Bendigo said that the re-opening of Kangaroo Flat station a few years ago, and more trains servicing Eaglehawk in recent years, had changed travel behaviour.

"There are people actually using the [V/Line] trains now as though it was a suburban rail system. And they're realising it's the quickest way to get around Bendigo. Because you can get from the outer suburbs of Bendigo [to the centre] in four minutes on the train," he said.

Asked if Bendigo could support its own commuter rail service in future, he said: "We think we can. The rails are there, we've got the trains running on there now, people are actually using the trains now like a commuter rail system. It doesn't need a huge suburban train with seven carriages. It could be one Sprinter carriage running."

A better rail system with more stations and services would remove vehicles from the road, and create the platform for urban activity centres around new railway stations, he said.

"We're not asking for something that doesn't exist. Governments are on about 'let's use the resources we've got' – well we've got this extraordinary resource, we've already got the railway stations built," he said.

If two more strategically located stations were built in urban Bendigo, 70 per cent of the city's population would live within a seven-minute drive of a railway station, he said.

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  Camster Chief Commissioner

Location: Geelong
Bendigo on board with urban rail service


Bendigo, Victoria's fourth-biggest urban centre, is pushing for its own local commuter rail service to deal with what it says are "unprecedented levels" of population growth in the key state election battleground.

The Goldfields city says it already has "the foundations required for a local rail system" because it is at the junction of two rail lines and now has four operational train stations. The fourth, at Epsom, opened this month.

Bendigo wants new stations built at Maiden Gully, Golden Square, Huntly and Marong, and has long-term aspirations for others.

The call comes in a new planning document released by the city that charts a road map for growth. It addresses land use planning, transport and other issues. The municipality, which is not all urbanised, is now home to almost 110,000 people, but is growing fast. One ambitious growth plan has predicted a municipal population of 200,000 by 2041.

The residential growth is not just restricted to new suburban houses. There is a growing trend towards apartment living in the CBD, in new buildings and in "shop-top" conversions of buildings that in some cases were built in the 1800s.

The city recognises that the establishment of its own urban rail service would be expensive, even though railway lines and stations already exist. But the Connecting Greater Bendigo document says: "The reintroduction of trains to the core public transport system in Bendigo is critical to the sustainable growth of the city."

It also says: "The next step for Bendigo's rail system will be to establish it as an urban system with its own operator, rolling stock and maintenance and stabling facilities. If this initiative is determined to be feasible, new infrastructure including additional tracks, signalling, infill train stations and other associated infrastructure will be required."

The draft document, which has been released for public consultation, was prepared by consultants on behalf of the Bendigo council. In the short-term (defined as 2015 to 2020) the city wants more Bendigo-Melbourne services to run to and from stations near Bendigo's outer northern edge – a move that would allow residents from the north to travel by train to central Bendigo and Kangaroo Flat in the south.

And in the medium-term (2021 to 2028) it wants "regular services" operating solely within Bendigo. Associate Professor Trevor Budge from the City of Greater Bendigo said that the re-opening of Kangaroo Flat station a few years ago, and more trains servicing Eaglehawk in recent years, had changed travel behaviour.

"There are people actually using the [V/Line] trains now as though it was a suburban rail system. And they're realising it's the quickest way to get around Bendigo. Because you can get from the outer suburbs of Bendigo [to the centre] in four minutes on the train," he said.

Asked if Bendigo could support its own commuter rail service in future, he said: "We think we can. The rails are there, we've got the trains running on there now, people are actually using the trains now like a commuter rail system. It doesn't need a huge suburban train with seven carriages. It could be one Sprinter carriage running."

A better rail system with more stations and services would remove vehicles from the road, and create the platform for urban activity centres around new railway stations, he said.

"We're not asking for something that doesn't exist. Governments are on about 'let's use the resources we've got' – well we've got this extraordinary resource, we've already got the railway stations built," he said.

If two more strategically located stations were built in urban Bendigo, 70 per cent of the city's population would live within a seven-minute drive of a railway station, he said.


wxtre

So 70% of the population would live within a seven minute drive of a railway station? How long would it take for them to drive where they wanted to go anyway?
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
A facebook friend of mine (who I know slightly, but not well), was one of the activists involved with getting the Kangaroo Flat station reopened. He posted something similar on his Facebook page 12 weeks ago and invited comment.

Here is what I wrote:

A great idea in theory, but I see a few obstacles.
1. A shortage of the single carriage 'Sprinter' railcars. Unless lines like Melton and even Seymour and Kyneton are electrified, there will be none to spare.

2. There are only 3 stations in Bendigo (4 when Epsom reopens), a suburban service would need to reopen Golden Square and build short platforms at a few other locations. But any attempt to build simple platforms on the cheap would attract protests, so the simple 80 metre platforms would need to be upgraded to multi million dollar complexes, making the whole project unaffordable.

3. Bendigo station isn't in the middle of the city, the destination for many (most?) commuters. A minor hike is needed to get from the main station to the CBD.

4. The Y shaped rail network in Bendigo. Would railcars run from Kangaroo Flat to the city and then alternate to Eaglehawk and Epsom?

5. A recent study on whether the tourist tram could be upgraded and extended to become a commuter tram showed there just wouldn't be enough demand for a regular service.

Yes, some of these problems could be overcome, but we are looking at a time frame of many years.

-----------------------------
Now I could refine those arguments, but I'll leave them as I wrote them on the spur of the moment a few months ago.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Very good points on the mechanics of implementing such a plan, Bogong. Add in to this the economics of running such services and you can see why it's considered to be implemented 10-15 years in the future, if at all. However, to address some of the points:

1. Rollingstock
10-15 years into the future there may not be such problems and in any case you'd be looking at buying new rollingstock - VLos and Sprinters are designed for much longer journeys. European-style diesel tram-trains such as the Alstom Regio Citadis would be ideal for the sort of network that Bendigo is considering. There's a choice of existing depots to use, or they could build a new one on the outskirts of town.

2. Stations
Golden Square is a rebuild, so theoretically it would cost less. For Marong, Huntly and Maiden Gully, small trains (think 1-2 cars) = small platforms. We're talking about a single short platform with some lighting, a sheltered bench (not necessarily on the platform), Myki readers and maybe a glorified demountable toilet. If we can't build one of those in the country for less than a million or two, we may as well give up on the entire endeavour. If the community is made to understand that they get cheap stations or no train at all, they might be more forgiving. The most expensive part would be turnouts from the mainline if they were required.

3. No proper CBD Access?
This is a problem if a suburban Bendigo railway network was considered in isolation. Frequent buses running from Bendigo station could fix that, as could extending tram services from Charing Cross to the station; the latter would certainly be nicer to have but highly unlikely.

4. Y-shaped network issues
You could do all sorts of service patterns if you built new turnouts at Bendigo station, such as running trains Marong-Bendigo-Huntly. Changeover could be a bit hairy though.  You'd need new turnouts at the line termini to keep them off the mainline during changeover anyhow.

5. Relation between feasibility of commuter trams and commuter rail
There isn't a huge overlap between the tram network and the existing rail network - it's about connecting further-out suburbs using existing tracks to the CBD, not building new tracks in the middle of streets in the CBD. Properly integrated, frequent buses could serve a commuter rail 'spine' quite well. Economics would probably kill both proposals anyhow.


I will look forward to a proper study being done so that we can find out the most important thing: How much would it cost?

And speaking of studies, here's the City of Greater Bendigo ITLUS Stage 4 study that the piece in The Age referred (warning: 70MB PDF) http://www.bendigo.vic.gov.au/files/58772944-d027-4001-875a-a3c500f6eea7/ITLUS_Stage_4_Consultants_report.pdf
  railblogger Chief Commissioner

Location: At the back of the train, quitely doing exactly what you'd expect.
I honestly reckon we should wait until at least 2050 before even considering such a thing because I think that's when the size of Bendigo would justify it. Let's get a decent bus service up and running first.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Lance, thanks for your feedback on my feedback to my FB friend. I especially liked your comment:

"We're talking about a single short platform with some lighting, a sheltered bench (not necessarily on the platform), Myki readers and maybe a glorified demountable toilet. If we can't build one of those in the country for less than a million or two, we may as well give up on the entire endeavour. If the community is made to understand that they get cheap stations or no train at all, they might be more forgiving."

I still reckon there will be a few noisy people who will scream blue murder about a tight-@rse government (of any political complexion), if they try and build affordable stations rather than gold plated, all singing, all dancing, $25+ million, mega stations like the new Waurn Ponds mega station on the outskirts of Geelong.

I also suggested to my friend that one source of cheap rolling stock might be getting some unwanted DMUs from either Auckland or Adelaide now those cities are electrifying their suburban networks... although I will concede that DMU's in both cities are a bit old, grotty and possibly "life expired" mechanically.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
I'll preface my post by saying that quality buses (direct, high frequency buses routed to go where most people want to go) are probably a much better option than suburban rail for any regional city in Victoria, including Bendigo. But seeing as this is a railway enthusiast's site and we're discussing a suburban train network in Bendigo, here's the best set of suggestions for a service I can make based on the ITLUS report:

Service


Hourly service on each branch (Marong and Huntly) is the minimum you'd want, half-hourly during peak hour. That means a maximum of 4 trains per hour (i.e every 15 minutes) from Bendigo North to Kangaroo Flat, assuming you want all services to go all the way there and back. With an average speed of lets say 60 kph (from a line speed of 80 kph) you're looking at ~4 minutes from Kangaroo Flat to Bendigo, ~25 minutes for Bendigo-Marong and ~20 minutes for Bendigo-Huntly. That means you'd need about 4-6 sets for a viable service.

Rollingstock


I wouldn't want to use second-hand rollingstock that didn't come from Victoria, given our platform specifications and rail gauge. If Sprinters are still around in 10-15 years they might work, but if you really want to maximise the value of a suburban rail network in Bendigo you'd want to use shiny new trains. Why? Because you get to further exploit the psychological effect of rail transit over buses to drive up patronage. Mind you, providing a high-frequency service with any transit mode (bus, tram, train) has a much greater effect.
Following on from my previous suggestion of tram-trains, I'd like to recant that and say that 1-2 articulated car, ~120 seat regional DMUs such as Alstom's Coradia LINT, Siemens Desiro and Bombardier TALENT would be best. That gives you a maximum train length of around 40-50 metres, which leads into...


Station Design

Greenfields station platforms (i.e anything that isn't already open or Golden Square) would need to be 50-60 metres long due to the rollingstock length chosen above (in accordance with VRIOGS 002.1, page 96) and about 3.5 metres wide with a height of 1.08 metres. That's your minimum platform area. From there you can put in a shelter, lights, CCTV, Myki readers and toilets. One platform per station. Huntly's platform would be built on a small passing loop to enable turnarounds without occupying the mainline. Kangaroo Flat may need a new turnout to enable reversing of trains within a duplicated track area unless there's bi-directional signalling.

Cost? I'd hope it could be less than $2 million for a concrete slab on top of an earthen berm with a bunch of poles and a shed stabbed into it, but that's outside my area of expertise. If you could get 5 or 6 stations built for under the cost of Waurn Ponds/Grovedale ($25 million) then I'd be quite pleased.

Anyway, here's the map that really matters - bus routes, urban development zones, hospitals, universities and train lines in Bendigo:


My thoughts on the map:

  • Maiden Gully has no nearby railway line and will need a frequent bus service that runs to the proposed Maiden Gully train station.

  • Strathfieldsaye has no nearby railway line at all - it would need an upgraded bus service. Strathfield too - Latrobe University's there, not a line in sight. Upgrading and re-routing the bus services to form a 'trunk' route from the south-east through the CBD would work quite well (and indeed it already happens, to a minor extent).

  • A Bendigo North Station would be a really good idea given that it's reasonably close to Bendigo Hospital and can serve the northern end of the CBD as well.

  • I'm not sure about the inner suburban station proposals (California Gully, Sandhurst, Epsom Racecourse, White Hills) aside from North Bendigo. I'd build them later, if at all.

  • Marong, Huntly, Maiden Gully (with a bus link), Golden Square and North Bendigo would be good stations to start building the network. In particular, Golden Square could be re-opened even sooner as a V/Line station.

  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Was any consideration undertaken to service the eastern and north eastern side of bendigo. Is there any value on rallying part of te line from north bendigo toward heathcote ?

I would not stop at marong I would run to the station past where marong once was into Bridgewater.

A newer style of rail car is an interesting idea. They could be entirely services in bendigo.

Developmet of rail passenger services to the north and west and of bendigo is overdue.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

At present only 1.5% of people in Bendigo use PT to get to and from work.  Many more should be riding a bike, but as per most Australian's - too lazy, too comfortable, too safe.

The bus network is currently underutilised in most suburbs.  Reason - as an example we live a good 25 minute walk from Bendigo CBD.  Bus is only 5 minutes quicker since it meanders all over the place before it ends up in town.  Why bother?

As for population growth - most of that is currently occurring in the "donut zone" which is largely separated from the main urban area by forest - Strathfieldsaye, Huntly/Epsom, Maiden Gully/Marong.  A high frequency, low cost rail system could work for the latter two areas IMO in the short/medium term since there are existing lines.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
You can see what rail is capable of when utilized properly and how efficient it is compared to any other mode of transport. While it is a shorter distance, I do not see why a similar regional service is not possible between Bendigo and Melbourne. I notice also it is four-tracks for the entire journey.

Putting train stations on the existing lines around Bendigo has to be preferable to using buses. It is disappointing when you see how in the Uk and Europe they utilize rail so well comparatively to Australia. Anyway that is all I have to say, this analogy is probably off-topic..
wxtre

Bendigo-Melbourne traffic is beyond the scope of this discussion. Europe has the advantage of higher population densities and much smaller distances between major cities, making rail more viable there. Rail infrastructure is very expensive to build in Australia, for many reasons that have been discussed elsewhere. The more new infrastructure, the less viable the service - look at how long it will probably take to restore Geelong-Ballarat-Maryborough rail services!

As for buses vs rail... look at it this way. A 'regular' suburban bus carries about 65 people and will have an average speed on its run of anywhere from 30 to 60kph depending on the route and number of stops, with a maximum speed of 100kph. An articulated ('bendy') bus can carry perhaps another 30+ passengers, with similar speeds. Buses need very little permanent infrastructure to implement.
A regional DMU like the Coradia LINT 41 can carry 130 passengers at up to 140kph - an obvious improvement for sure. However, it costs a lot more to set up and run - you need new stations, train stabling and maintenance, driver training and so on. If you need to carry more passengers for longer distances, it's the sure-fire winner though.

The issue with Bendigo is that there may not be the patronage to justify suburban rail, even in the future - unless you're filling buses that are running every 15 minutes or so, you're not going to have a viable service, even if you're using existing lines. If you concentrate development along the rail lines you could enable it though. It requires some long-term commitment from the City of Greater Bendigo to properly integrate a future transport plan with new town planning and zoning. So if they really, really want suburban rail services in Bendigo they can do it.

Is there any value on rallying part of the line from north bendigo toward heathcote ?

I would not stop at marong I would run to the station past where marong once was into Bridgewater.
freightgate

The Heathcote line is a rail trail now, which is probably better for it. As I said before, building new railway lines is expensive.

What is your justification for Bridgewater? It wasn't included in the scope of ITLUS as a station.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
I believe not including Bridgewater is an oversight in the document scope.

Bridgewater has a station  and is arguably a satellite suburb of bendigo. If you wanted to go into town at Bridgewater it would be Bendigo.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
You make some valid points. Wxtre there are many rail lines across Victoria which have not received live for a very long time.

Bendigo ballarat and Geelong are major centres on the BG network. The basis for the return of rail services between these locations is sound.

Politics at the state level and also the federal level has not caught up with the needs and wants of the people of Victoria.

I am also referring to freight services and grain.

I would like to see some variation in services from extended bendigo to other locations specifically castlemaine and then to Maryborough and ballarat.

Currently bus patronage is quite high on this route making a passenger rail service more viable.
  Chidda Bang Locomotive Driver

Location: Banned
My Bendigo train network

CAMPBELLS CREEK - HUNTLY LINE

Campbells Creek
Castlemaine
Northmaine
Harcourt
Lansell Plaza
Kangaroo Flat
Golden Square
Bendigo
White Hills
Epsom
Huntly

LANSELL PLAZA - MARONG LINE

Lansell Plaza
Kangaroo Flat
Golden Square
Bendigo
North Bendigo
California Gully
Eaglehawk
Marong

Castlemaine line trains will run every 40 minutes in the day between Castlemaine and Bendigo, Marong line trains run 20 minutes all day. Trains to be like adelaide
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
I believe not including Bridgewater is an oversight in the document scope.

Bridgewater has a station and is arguably a satellite suburb of bendigo. If you wanted to go into town at Bridgewater it would be Bendigo.
freightgate

Considering the City of Greater Bendigo is responsible for the report, and the fact that Bridgewater is outside of the City of Greater Bendigo, I hardly think that is an oversight.

Furthermore, the fact that it was devised by a local council in the first place just shows how pointless this whole exercise is. No local council has the money, or the political clout to make this ever happen.

So...QUIT FOAMING!!!
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
It is not about foaming. You view is political. The question is whether the scope of the report is accurate enough to satisfy current and future patronage requirements in and around greater bendigo.

Marong and Bridgewater (Bridgewater more so) need a passenger service.

That was my point. Regardless of which council is pushing this agenda it will be a state decision.
  Chidda Bang Locomotive Driver

Location: Banned
I havnt given bridgewater a train on my map because only 391 people live there Sad
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
It is not about foaming.
freightgate

Mate, it's foaming. My previous posts were foaming. Wxtre's are. Chidda Bang's are weaponised foam.

Bendigo is highly unlikely to get a local commuter rail service. Everything in this thread is baseless conjecture until there's accurate patronage forecasts and a breakdown of costs for such a proposal. Dare I say, no-one in this thread is qualified enough to provide such figures.
  kuldalai Chief Commissioner

Not going to happen guys because VLP are short of rollingstock and two Sprinters utilized on Ballarat _ Geelong would earn far more revenue than running a suburban service in either Geelong or bendigo.

In the case of Bendigo ultimately a 30 minute Melbourne - Bendigo Off Peak frequency is likely, with alternate trains originating/terminating at Eaglehawk and Epsom . So this would provide a 30 minute frequency between Kangaroo Flat and Bendigo and hourly between Kangaroo Flat and Epsom and Kangaroo Flat and Eaglehawk .

With the forthcoming 20 minute Geelong Off Peak service this will provide a 20 minute frequency between South Geelong - Geelong - North Geelong - North Shore - Corio - Lara . And every 40 minutes Lara - Corio - North Shore - North Geelong - Geelong - South Geelong - Marshall - Waurn Ponds.

So in the case of Geelong this will offer a very useful and frequent North - South public transport spine. (Local urban bus services offer a much slower service and only operate on apalling hourly frquencies.)

The commissioning of a largely complete crossing loop at South Geelong should enable all trains to originate / terminate at Waurn Ponds as trains would then be able to cross at both South Geelong and Marshall .
  Camster Chief Commissioner

Location: Geelong
By all means, plan for the future. Make sure reservations are available for railway lines in the regional cities so when the are needed, build them. These networks are not needed yet, not for a long time, but planing for growth is a sensible idea.
One concern I have would be, I don't think Bendigo could sustain a big population. From my observations, it is a very dry city and where will the citizens water come from?
  Gman_86 Chief Commissioner

Location: Melton, where the sparks dare not roam!
It is not about foaming. You view is political. The question is whether the scope of the report is accurate enough to satisfy current and future patronage requirements in and around greater bendigo.

Marong and Bridgewater (Bridgewater more so) need a passenger service.

That was my point. Regardless of which council is pushing this agenda it will be a state decision.
freightgate

No, my view is not political in any way, my view is that there is no need to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers money on a white elephant that NO political party would back. Again not being political, just sensible.

What evidence do you have to suggest that Bridgewater NEEDS a passenger service? What FACT do you base that on? Have you ever even been to Bridgewater? FACT: It is a tiny little town with no need for a passenger rail service, the total population for the surrounding area at the last census was under 400 and a good percentage of that population would be living on farms, yet you seem to think that is enough to justify a fully fledged suburban rail line.

You are talking utter nonsense, ie:- FOAMING
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Let me be clear. One of the issues in Victoria is an inability to actuality go beyond and deliver a service which meets today's needs without even thinking about tomorrow's.

My view is simple. Why stop
At marong which does not have a station anymore. Run to
Bridgewater and allow people the opportunity to travel to and from bendigo.

Yes. It has been a while since no was down that way but the town should be considered part of bendigo.

Anyhow. Let us leave it at that.
  don_dunstan The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Adelaide proud
I can't imagine anywhere in Victoria where V/line rail services could be economically and successfully extended.  There's been a lot of foaming rants on many-a-thread on this topic, some (like the news story that started this thread) had a grain of political support behind them but most are just plain foaming.

Presently the move to 20-minute off-peak Geelong services is probably the only growth in the pipeline.  I can't see any new routes or rail operations anywhere else in the future though.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
One concern I have would be, I don't think Bendigo could sustain a big population. From my observations, it is a very dry city and where will the citizens water come from?
Camster


Bendigo, like Ballarat relies on river water collected in reservoirs.

Bendigo's two largest reservoirs are at Malmsbury (Coliban River)and Eppalock (Campaspe River); both suffered very badly during the 12 year drought from 1997 to 2010.

However the construction of the Goldfields super-pipe by the former state Labor goverment has connected Eildon, Shepparton,(Waranga), Bendigo and Ballarat.

Ultimately all of these growing population centres are connected by way of the controversial and presently unused north-south pipeline via the desalination plant at Wonthaggi, subsequently when the next long drought comes along has drought-proofed a large part of regional Victoria.

Mike.
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
That is a great post mike. Why does the pipeline hae to connect via the desalination plant ?  

Will this water be designed for areas other than Melbourne via the super pipe ?

Was that the plan ?
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
The government also could have invested in dams instead of the desalination plant. By increasing the storage levels and raising the dam walls at Lake Eppalock. So when flooding occurs and not droughts you can capture this water.

According to media reports Victorian taxpayers are paying just under $2 million a day for the desalination plant. And water storage levels in dams are above 70 per cent, so the plant hasn't been used to deliver water. And average yearly increases in Melbourne of about $200 to peoples water-bills have been recorded. It may be useful in the future, but it does appear expensive compared to the alternative of building new dams or upgrading the existing ones.
wxtre

Very true wxtre, but new dams are "politically impossible" for the Labour Party due to the stink that would be kicked up by Greenies and the resultant threat to at least four Labour held state seats in affluent areas of Melbourne's inner north.

It would be almost as difficult for the Liberals to build a dam due to the certainty of Green protests activating the so called "Doctors Wives Factor", left leaning people (of both genders) living in areas south of the River.

Between 1920 and 1983 Victoria averaged one large or medium sized dam every year, roughly 63 dams in total (Eildon Mark 1 (1929) was demolished and rebuilt c.1953). By the early 1980's the state was pretty much drought proof. But not a single medium or large dam has been built in over 30 years, so with population growth we are vulnerable to droughts again.

Ideally a smallish dam or diversion weir should have been built on the Mitchell River, feeding into the Thomson Dam by a combination of aqueducts and pipelines. But confronted with the drought at the turn of the century, Labour knew they would never get away with building even a small dam anywhere in the state, thus the wasteful Eildon - Yarra pipeline and the appallingly expensive and unused Wonthaggi desal plant were really the only options they could build without losing those vital seats in Melbourne's inner north.

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