Okay, I’ve never posted on here before but I wanted to chip in considering this is about a line I live on.
Your original question was: With the construction of the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, might there be an opportunity to divert the Upfield railway line away from Royal Park and Flemington? And even run a considerable portion (Brunswick to North Coburg) right under Sydney road.
There’s always opportunity in anything, but the question is one of rationality. Let me explain my thoughts as I do agree with you on some points you raised in the thread.
As for my stake in this: I’m directly between Cragieburn and Upfield lines. I live about a kilometre or two from the end of the 55 tram route, and I catch the 19 tram on a very regular basis. I catch all of these four lines regularly as any one of these can get me home to Coburg with a short walk. I catch the Upfield line regularly though, and although the trains can get busy, these journeys are exclusively heading into the CBD as the load empties out at Flagstaff and Melbourne Central. So I can understand why you’d consider a direct link to the north, as most passengers get off/on at Jewell while the later three stations are pretty much deserted at most hours.
But what you are suggesting is extremely cost prohibitive and has a limited scope. Your proposal, and future posts, rely on a number of things, but the first thing:
The Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel.
The tunnel, as it is planned now, is a double track tunnel that will route Sunbury, Pakenham, Cranbourne, Rowville, Melton and Airport lines, three trains going one way, three the other way. The tunnel is designed to add an additional cross city link (CROSS CITY) for these lines, which are extremely busy, South Eastern suburbs in particular and the growth areas of Melton and Sunshine.
If Upfield lines join this tunnel in peak hour, where exactly are we putting these trains? Consider how busy all of the above lines are in peak hour right now and now also consider this: if the Upfield line is re-rerouted through the Melbourne Metro, where does it now go? Does it become a Pakenham train? Does it go to Rowville? I know you say traffic on the Melbourne Metro will justify more than two tracks, and I agree with that, the tunnel should have provisions for expansion to quad track, but as of right now it is two planned tracks. Those two tracks in the Melbourne Metro are not intended for use in Upfield, they are intended for lines with heavy patronage and struggling with crush capacity.
Both TOQ-1 and Jamesadams 7 wrote some very good points which need to be considered again and their points are well put.
Your definition of the Northern Suburbs is limited to Broadmeadows, Roxburgh Park and Craigieburn and assumes that passengers only need access to Melbourne Uni and eliminates cross city travel. How many people on the Craigieburn line are going to ONLY to and from Craigieburn/Far North? And how many people from Craigieburn are going ONLY to the city? Those trains are packed until Essendon and Pascoe Vale in the evening and vice versa in the morning; when a train reaches Essendon, the platform is literally shoulder-to-shoulder. How would a Craigieburn train running via Upfield increase patronage or increase frequency?
“...But Density will be increasing closer to the city, so more services will be needed from Broadmeadows and Essendon inwards. More people from Craigieburn moving via Upfield won't help that.” - TOQ-1
You keep saying that trains from the northern suburbs will serve Melbourne University. But your suggestion looks at people from the far northern suburbs and it also disregards the insane amount of passengers at Essendon, Moonee Ponds, Kensington, Newmarket. You keep mentioning that your tunnel is under Sydney Road or closer but there's also the fact that the majority of the Upfield line is less than 500 meters from a well-functioning tram line. The Craigieburn line covers areas with no tram coverage (everywhere NORTH of Essendon) and marginal bus services. The Upfield line is only marginally faster than a tram at the moment due to issues with lack of duplication [more on that later]. There’s also the fact that the route 19 tram already links in with the city at frequent intervals and is now served by low floor trams at a very regular rate, almost 8 minutes headway I think in peak hours and has clearway along Royal Parade.
So someone else explained this earlier in the thread but the cost of building a tunnel is expensive. It’s very expensive and we seem to underestimate that. Billions of dollars is still billions of dollars, it’s more money than any of us will ever see or imagine. If we’re proposing to spend that money on a line that is, at the moment, under capacity and we’re also expecting that the construction of tunnel will all of a sudden make this line explode with passengers, we’re presuming a lot on something with no proof.
Let’s take one of your proposals: build a tunnel under Sydney Road/Royal Parade. Cut and Cover means the road and tram lines are out of commission for years, businesses suffer, traffic is a mess now. But we have a direct line into the city…now what? We can run services that are more frequent to Melbourne Uni and Melbourne Central. All right, but we spent a billion something dollars on a tunnel that increases journey time by a few minutes to an area already served by public transport and links to an already busy Melbourne Metro tunnel
If you were REALLY intent on a tunnel, it would be a much smarter thing to sink the Upfield line into an embankment through cut and cover with a third track for passing, express services, future growth and capacity, etc. This could be from Royal Park to Merlynston thanks to the elevation of the land as the track rises from Royal Park and the hill just after Batman Station. This would result in a grade separated line from Royal Park to Merlynston, letting traffic move quicker for both trains and cars. And given that it is an embankment, cut and COVERED, after covering the line you could build an expanded Upfield bike path, public facilities, inner city green belt, conversion of old stations into cafes or public spaces, etc. This could get you a significant amount of the public vote in the inner city too. However, there are still obvious costs associated with this but the cost is less due to owning the land the track is on and cut and cover is much cheaper due it just being: dig a trench, cover it.
The other plan now: let’s say we did cut and cover the entirety of the Upfield line from Batman Station to Jewell. We have to not only build track, but ventilation, underground stations. And then we start boring a tunnel from Jewell to Melbourne Central? The cost immediately ramps up. Boring a tunnel is expensive while cut and cover is a lot cheaper to do. You may well be right, that a tunnel pays for itself in the long term and I can understand that, the City Loop has done pretty decently, but what does building a tunnel from Jewell to Melbourne Central do for anyone? It doesn't serve as a vital link to anything, doesn't alleviate capacity problems on either Craigieburn or Upfield lines and serves a small minority of people.
And if the Melbourne Metro includes the interchange with Melbourne Central, which I can’t imagine it wouldn’t at this point (Future Platform 5+6?), people will change at Melbourne Central for either a tram on Swanston Street or a train on the Metro link to go to the University. The choice of two options means higher capacity (theoretically) and frequency, given the fact that many peak hour services would be coming through these tunnels from both Western and South Eastern suburbs.
Some other points:
- The portion of the line south from Jewell is an indirect link to the city, yes, but it is serving an area that is marked for redevelopment and Macaulay station, along with the future Arden station, will be important in making sure the area has a transport link. As that area increases in size, transport links are vitally important
- One of the major throttles on the Upfield line at this point is the fact that it is single track to Upfield from Gowrie and it limits the capacity of the line. This is the major problem here. Delays can have huge effects, considering the current gap between trains is 20 minutes, even in peak hour. If the track was duplicate, more trains could run. Until that line can achieve a reliability, people won’t catch it at all and as trains get later and later, people will look for an alternative.
- On the idea that expanding the Royal Park Netball Centre is a plus, that thing, like the Upfield line, is not even close to being at capacity. It’s hard to justify spending billions of dollars so an underused netball centre can be expanded, considering the fact it can expand on the huge amount of land to the south. Also Royal Park Station being next to a level crossing is literally not an issue, considering the fact that the road you’re talking about sees hardly any traffic. A majority of the level crossings on the Upfield line are not issues although the Bell Street one is literally strangling the road around that area, traffic is backed up for a kilometre or two in peak hour.
- Why does the university needs such connections to transport? There are at least seven trams terminating at the university, the route 19, 55, 1 and 8 provide through traffic, a number of bus services and a future Melbourne Metro. Melbourne University is a busy place, but we we willing to spend over a billion dollars on a huge tunnel?
The issue here is NOT the route the Upfield line takes BUT rather the capacity. This is a line that is single tracked from Gowrie to Upfield, that has two premium stations, that is running peak hour services at 20 minute intervals. Trains that arrive in the city are packed due to a long wait between trains. This is a line where a single late train can result in cancellations and short running’s and a single cancellation can mean a forty minute increase in your trip. V/Line trains could run on it now due to its low capacity.
Look after all that, I do agree that areas immediately north of Melbourne are lacking in direct connection to facilities and the CBD by TRAIN but they are served by frequent tram services and many people in the inner city know this, riding bikes or catching trams. But what you’re suggesting is building something that could take years, billions of dollars and serve a very small minority of people with very little tangible results.