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It's a tiny line on a map that appears to hint at something bigger: the possibility of a third underground rail through the city by 2051.
Maps of Melbourne's future rail network released by the Andrews government showing the $50 billion suburban rail loop, include a familiar, but not-yet-existent rail line connecting the CBD and Newport.
It appears to represent Melbourne Metro 2 - an underground rail line linking Clifton Hill with Newport, via the CBD and Fishermans Bend - and viewed as a hint that, by 2051, the government expects the rail line would be built.
While the future status of Melbourne Metro 2 has not been confirmed, Premier Daniel Andrews was careful not to rule it out when asked about it last week.
"We will have more to say about investing in public transport," Mr Andrews said. "There will be more announcements between now and November 24."
A third rail line beneath the city was endorsed by Infrastructure Victoria, with chief executive Michel Masson calling on the government to start work on the project within 12 months, in an interview with The Age in July.
The proposed suburban rail loop.
Photo: SuppliedThe cross-city rail was also backed in a key 2012 transport department plan, but the suburban rail loop was not.
Transport experts have come out in support of the suburban loop, but they are calling for clarity on the Metro 2 - the second phase of the $11 billion Melbourne Metro Tunnel, including whether the government still supported it, and when it would be delivered.
Jago Dodson, director of RMIT's Centre for Urban Research, said voters should not have to wait for the next election to find out about its status.
"It would be a great improvement to have certainty about Melbourne Metro 2,” he said.
"It you identify where the rail stations will be, particularly in new precincts like Fishermans Bend, then you can design the precinct around those rail stations," he said.
The Coalition has left the door open to the suburban loop, but have also remained open to Metro 2.
"Melbourne Metro 2 addresses many of the deficiencies of our current transport system," Opposition transport spokesman David Davis said.
The Greens, who promised one month ago to build Melbourne Metro 2 if they formed government, said that the suburban loop fitted the long-term needs of the state, but the Melbourne Metro 2 should be built within the next decade.
The two rail lines are vastly different projects.
The loop orbits around the city - 90 kilometres of rail linking up to the Airport – and includes five brand stations, including in Doncaster.
The Metro 2, estimated to cost about $20 billion, would separate the Mernda from the Hurstbridge line, and separate the congested Werribee line from the Williamstown and Altona Loop, enabling more services to run in and out of the CBD from these fast-growing areas.
It would boost the number of services to the city from the west - a problem that the Mayor of Wyndham has claimed the suburban loop will not fix.
Twelve stations are being built east of the airport, compared with two in the west, where there is one railway station per 30,000 residents, below the Greater Melbourne average of one per 20,500 residents.
Rail Futures Institute president Bill Russell backed the suburban rail loop, but noted the Melbourne Metro 2 would be cheaper and faster to build. He questioned why cheaper rail technology, such as underground light rail, wasn't considered for the new loop.
A government spokeswoman said the new Parkville station was designed with provision for a future interchange with Metro 2.
The suburban loop would ease pressure on existing lines and major roads, while Metro 2 would boost capacity to central city, she said.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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