There’s a good view from North Melbourne station of the works on the new Regional Rail Link line that will come in from Sunshine and the western suburbs, bypassing North Melbourne (unfortunately, with no interchange platforms) into Southern Cross. The idea is that V/Line trains will be able to bypass the suburban tracks, allowing both more V/Line and Metro trains to run.
Nearby at Southern Cross, the new platforms are looking increasingly close to complete, though the track is still missing.
Note the glass wall. When Southern Cross was built/renovated last decade, they did include provision for the extra platforms 15+16, which is why these have taken shape so quickly. But the glass wall on the western side of the station will actually sit between these platforms.
So platform 15 will be inside, and platform 16… well, that could be a little chilly and wet on cold rainy days.
There are still questions about the overall project. There’s still little or no public information on an operating plan of any kind — which should be a prerequisite before you start building.
That is, you should work out what train services you want to run, then build the infrastructure to allow it. We still don’t know if the V/Line trains originating in Geelong will stop at the new stations in Wyndham Vale and Tarneit. We don’t know if passengers at Deer Park and Ardeer will get any extra trains stopping. We don’t know if Geelong trains will take longer on their trip, coming into Melbourne the long way around, even if the tracks they use are faster.
It seems the project wasn’t planned that carefully — despite being one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in Australia.
Victorian transport department secretary Jim Betts said at a conference last week that the $5 billion Regional Rail Link, which has blown out by $1 billion, was budgeted for haphazardly. ”The budget for that project was basically haggled over between the state and the Commonwealth one weekend and we end up with a number written on the back of an envelope,” he said. It was reported in the Australian Financial Review.
Hopefully that planning is going on behind the scenes. Alas, if it is, like much of the planning of our public transport network, how they’re intending to spend taxpayers’ money is being kept secret from taxpayers.