Victorian Rail Infrastructure 2022 and beyond
Infrastructure Australia and Victoria are institutions designed to inform the political class and their electorates of infrastructure priorities for the country and state.
Their latest report can be found at https://www.infrastructurevictoria.com.au
It is my opinion that the need for rail infrastructure in and around cities will change on a worldwide basis.
This has implications both positive and negative, especially for Melbourne.
Firstly, people are still going to need to move around the city. However, LESS people will do the daily commute to a central business district (CBD).
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People will move back into CBD offices but in a far different social contract than before the pandemic. Some bosses will want everyone back in the office. Others will make alternate arrangements for some days in the office and others days working from home.
The need for faster, bigger, etc. for rail transport for commuting will drop-off. The peak crushes will for the next 5-10 years will fall away. More flexible movement of people will be seen.
Most infrastructure for a city is based on peak usage and if this changes/reduces then the drive for funding drops away as the current system will cope well.
Take Ballarat for example.
Pre-COVID, a services every half hour or so met the demand for the peak serves both in and out of Melbourne.
Post-COVID this could easily reduce to one an hour.
If we see this across the network from Geelong and Bendigo as well, then the number of services into Southern Cross can reduce.
This in turn will mean more availability of platforms at Southern Cross, and better platform turnaround times.
This in turn should mean a much faster train ride into the city - IF you need to go.
These issues would exist throughout the network. In this way the clogging up the rail system becomes somewhat redundant.
In March 2020, I publicly wrote that any "available public money" need to be spent on short to mid-term needs for the foreseeable future, and not spent on new rail projects. I still maintain this position.
Therefore, I urge the Victorian government to cancel or at least put on the back-burner the rail loop around Melbourne through the suburbs (current cost $50 billion, probably closer to $100 billion)
All other current plans on existing lines need to be completed. For example putting the Melton line onto Metro and freeing up V/Line regional services still needs to happen. Other examples of a similar nature do exist.
Voters' taxes must be spent wisely and massive train projects may well simply be redundant.
Nick Beale is a transport Advocate
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