State Budget 2016

Wednesday’s State Budget has a lot of good rail projects funded. It seems the State Government is serious about upgrading the rail network to cope for the future.

Going through the press release and also the Budget Papers (Budget Paper 3 “Service Delivery” has always been my favourite; it has all the juicy stuff in transport), I’ve tried to summarise the new spending below… hopefully I haven’t missed anything, or doubled-up.

Project Cost Notes
City Loop security upgrade $134m Recommendations from the Victorian Ombudsman. By the way, the “platform barriers” are to try and stop people getting into the tunnels, not to stop them falling on the track, which would be almost impossible to implement given non-standard train doors and no automation to ensure trains stop in the right spot.
Ballarat line duplication out to Melton, platforms, stabling $518m Means Caroline Springs has to be modified with an extra platform before it’s even opened! And it’s only duplication, not electrification.
Hurstbridge line duplication Heidelberg to Rosanna $140m In addition to level crossing removal projects
South Morang to Mernda rail extension $588m Great to see this fully funded
28 additional High-Capacity Metro Trains $875m On top of the 37 funded last year. Includes running costs ramping up to $25.4m/year
27 V/Line V/Locity carriages and stabling $280.4m Relieve V/Line overcrowding, especially since RRL opened last year
5 X’Trapolis trains $105m Seems to be a stopgap order while the HCMTs are designed and tendered
V/Line North-East line upgrades $15m An additional carriage to change from 3 x 5 car trains to 4 x 4 car trains; refurbishment of other carriages
V/Line next generation train planning $10m The V/Locity design is great, but well over ten years old
Other upgrades for V/Line $198m  
V/Line major maintenance $141m Seems to be directed at the kind of proactive maintenance intended to prevent a repeat of the wheel wear debacle from earlier this year
1500 commuter car spaces across Melbourne and regional areas $19.9m Not clear if this is included in one of the other buckets. Note the average $13266 cost per space. There are cheaper ways of getting people to stations – without them having to own a car.
Frankston station precinct upgrade $50m  
Metro rail service improvements $35m Additional services, but not detailed precisely what. Hopefully more 10 minute services.
Minor regional rail improvement works $23.6m  
Bendigo and Eaglehawk station improvements $15.8m  
Gippsland line station improvements $9m  
Business case for future improvements for Bendigo, Gippland, Armstrong Creek (Geelong) $7.6m  
Upfield to Somerton upgrade business case $5m Future planning for re-routing Seymour trains via Upfield line, which has more capacity than Craigieburn
Planning for Regional upgrades $5m Linked to imminent release of Regional Network Development Plan
South Geelong to Waurn Ponds duplication business case/detailed design $3m Would help increase train frequencies south of Geelong
Bus improvements $25.2m Numerous local bus improvements, including those pledged in Labor’s 2014 election commitments.
Metro rail tunnel funding $2.9b $2.9b over four years (the “forward estimates” period) with more to come later
Bridge strengthening for E-class trams $1.8m The only extra tram spending I spotted; so insignificant it’s not mentioned in press releases.

V/Line North Melbourne flyover

Worth noting:

  • V/Line gets a handful of extra services on the Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Gippsland lines every day, and three more to Wyndham Vale on weekdays as well. They also get extra services to Shepparton (extension of an existing service everyday) and Warrnambool (Sundays only it appears), and a bunch more services to Geelong on weekends (this might fix the dire hourly service)
  • The Budget Papers have some amusing references to V/Line’s “Classic fleet” of older carriages – the N and Z-class carriages are getting aircon and seating upgrades.
  • There’s continued funding for Melbourne Bike Share ($2.5m per year) and the Westgate Punt ($300,000 per year) — again, not flagged in the press releases. Interestingly the Bike Share seems to be being funded a couple of years at a time.

I’m not going to dwell on the road upgrades, other than to say it’s a relief that the government haven’t sprung a new major road project on the community. One (Western Distributor) is plenty — yet two days later there are already noises about the NorthEast Link. Obviously this is on the agenda for coming years.

In some ways the big surprise is full funding of the Metro Rail Tunnel, assuming the Commonwealth still refuses to provide any funding. I suspected this might happen — yes at $11 billion it’s a huge project, but construction is over 10 years, making it a bit over an average $1 billion per year — it’s within the state’s capabilities, though it probably means other needed projects may not happen during this time if the Feds don’t contribute.

Also somewhat surprising is the large amount of money for V/Line — it’s worth remembering that the regional train network (including the suburban sections of RRL) carry less than a tenth the number of passengers that the metro rail system carries (though over longer distances). But it’s also a natural response to the dire problems the service has had, and also a good strategy to support a vital service in regional Victoria, and better link country towns to Melbourne. Hopefully the investment in V/Line helps bring the service back up to standard, and get more passengers on board.

And plenty of improvements funded on Metro as well, including the logical expansion of the new train fleet to eventually support the entire Cranbourne/Pakenham to Sunbury line when the rail tunnel opens — and of course remembering the already substantial investment in level crossing removal and station rebuilds.

While there’s not much for buses, and even less for trams, but overall it’s good to see so many rail upgrades coming through, including sometimes forgotten but important upgrades like track duplication.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

19 replies on “State Budget 2016”

Thanks for your comprehensive list. A lot of funding seems to be for growth areas which makes sense.
I will be retired from the workforce when the metro tunnel is completed so can’t get too excited about it.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for work to commence on Southland station !

Wow. 12.6m, on a study. Only two studies.

$5m of that is, to find out if we want the Seymour line trains diverted via Upfield…..

How much would a new single track cost along that route?

Other than that, it looks like a great budget. Regret not getting more E class trams.

Based on budgets over the last 10 years, I look forward to reading state budgets in 10 years time when we get,
5 more VLoctities
6 more Xtrapolis
5 more HighCapacity trains
7 more E class trams, after getting 150 already
3 more Long range V/Line trains

How many X’Trap “carriages” does 5 trains represent? Is it 30?
Does that mean that an X’Trap carriage costs (roughly) $3.5m, but a VLocity carriage costs (toughly) $10.4m?
That’s interesting to know.

I wonder if the Lilydale/Belgrave trains will still run every half an hour off-peak in 2030, while the line between Lilydale and Mooroolbark remains a single track. If you miss a train at lonely old Officer at 10 at night you can get another one in 20 minutes, and another one 20 minutes after that one, but if you miss a train at Mooroolbark in the middle of the day it is quicker to walk to Croydon. No point in getting a bus, they practically don’t exist in Mooroolbark, and most have finished by about 5:00 in the afternoon (and they most certainly don’t exist on Sundays – who is running the buses, Australia Post or the Commonwealth Bank? Nope, Ventura). The only improvement they could make to the Telebus network would be running a fleet of pre-war buses to go with the timetable.

Also, when will they ever finish that bike track/rail trail we were promised several years ago? There’s a tiny section of it from Ringwood to… a dead end 200m past Wantirna Rd, making you cross the road and continue along the side street (or ride on the road if you have a bike); said street only has a single footpath on the other side and no bike markings. Which is a very common theme in Ringwood, footpaths and lack thereof (it’s very fitting that Ringwood is home to Car City and a bunch of other car and motorbike dealers surrounding the station). Can’t wait for the day I am fined for walking on the side of a road that lacks a footpath. Once you get to Heatherdale, most likely via Molan St, it’s uphill from there (literally, the last section connecting Heatherdale Rd is ridiculous) and following the side streets again (go up Forster St and hit left at the very end then right into Brunswick St so you don’t end up at a dead end) – go too far on the right hand side and it dumps you at an unmarked, former bus stop which probably hasn’t seen a bus in decades (the 740 along this street is yet another joke of a bus service, but no bus actually stops here at all and there are no signs or seats), and if you ignore the ramp to the road before the bus stop, you will run out of concrete just like at Ringwood. Cross the road yet again and continue all the way to Mitcham and you will eventually come across a new footpath on the side you were on earlier, which appears about 200m from the station (this was built when the grade separation was done). From Mitcham there is a small section of bike track, but hardly anything worth considering, and between Nunawading, Blackburn and Laburnum you have absolutely nothing, forcing you to continue along Whitehorse Rd or using the side streets again. Of course, by then you probably will have given up and caught the train, if it isn’t half an hour away or cancelled.


Without evidence, I’d assume the VLocity order includes stabling, whereas the expectation is that the next ten 3-car Xtrapolis sets will be replacements for Comeng trains that are almost at use-by dates – so they already have slots in the timetable and places to stable.

Hi Daniel, looking at the history of the Hurstbridge line why do you think it starts off as double track in the city becomes single track after Heidelburg and then double track again until Greensborough where it reverts to single track?

Heidelburg is middle metro region so can’t understand how it would have been designed like that. You expect single track on outer edges like Upfield. But not double-single-double-single

@Roger: I park every so often in the corner of the Southland carpark that overlooks the station site, and have noticed that in fact a lot of work has been completed. They have rerouted the signalling conduit to make room for the platforms, installed new wider overhead stanchions, relaid the track and bed (probably at a different height), and cleared and levelled where the platforms will be. I guess the work has been fitted in during the weekend shutdowns of the line that have been going on anyway, and I guess what remains (the actual station buidings, platforms and ramps) can be done with less disruption to trains.

@Jim, we don’t want to be building single track anymore, not that close to Melbourne. In fact I’d hope the plan is to also duplicate the rest of the Upfield line, otherwise it’ll be difficult to share the track between V/Line trains and a hopefully-increased Metro service.

@Kevin, the V/Locity funding includes stabling – in fact it possibly includes two lots of stabling, since V/Line distances are such that it’s impractical to run trains back to outer-end stabling between the peaks. Not sure if the X’trapolis order includes that, but yes, it’s 6-car trains.

@Heihachi_73, there’s no reason they can’t implement the current weekend timetable to weekday off-peaks (10 mins to Ringwood; 20 to Lilydale/Belgrave).

@Jason, bear in mind the Hurstbridge line wasn’t always this configuration. The VicSig line guide says various sections were duplicated in the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s – the line had opened in stages between 1888 and 1912. They probably duplicated the easiest sections first. The newly funded section includes the Burgundy Street bridge and the Heidelberg tunnel, so it’s not surprising this was left until now.

@Francis E, yeah they’ve been sensibly doing some of the works by piggybacking on top of the Bentleigh-area grade separation closures.

This budget is a big improvement on the state budget of five years ago,

Page 14 and 15.


I’d be interested to see what it would actually cost to increase the peak bus number by 1 on the 685 route, so that I could use the buses instead of driving to the station from Yarra Glen. This has been ignored in every budget for the last 12 years. The current service from Lilydale to Yarra Glen stops at roughly 4:30 pm and recommences at 6:45 pm on weekdays. The buses between those times go straight to Healesville.

The bus company isn’t interested in improving the service, but PTV could give it a shot and I expect it would require the purchase of one more bus and the employment of one more driver. I predict it would carry enough people every night (and morning, if you also use it to provide one more run in the morning peak) to justify its cost.

Finally a budget that seems to make some firm commitments for serious investment in our train system. It’s a good start, but this will need to continue for many years to come in order to make the system adequate for a city of this size and to satisfy commuters that they are receiving the kind of system that they want. Still, this is the kind of direction state governments need to take with transport policy and expenditure, rather than funding moronic expansions to freeways that just induce more traffic and congestion in a never-ending spiral of self-defeat.

Doesn’t look like there’s much provision for higher off-peak frequencies (especially evening) anywhere in the package, or at least they haven’t highlighted it. If that is the case, it is quite disappointing as in my personal experience even on the South Morang line, trains up until around 10:30am in the morning and evening services from peak until about 9:30pm are standing room with fair loads, because of 20 and 30 minute frequencies. The trains are sitting around anyway, we’d get good value actually using them.

Good that the Hurstbridge line is being duplicated at Heidelberg, it is pretty shocking that it is single track, given it is only about 10-15km out of the city, similar to Box Hill or Caulfield. It is quite hard to imagine that only a couple of years ago it was single track between Clifton Hill and Westgarth. It can’t come soon enough, while Hurstbridge isn’t particularly crowded at the moment, the South Morang line is getting extremely busy, and with Mernda funded as well, capacity will begin to be a serious issue, and having a single-track section would have been a big impediment.

Jason @6: To add to Daniel’s explanation about the Hurstbridge line, there was a single track section from Clifton Hill to Westgarth that was only duplicated in 2009! That project was a missed opportunity in a way as they didn’t get rid of the level crossings just on the city sides of Westgarth and Clifton Hill stations at the same time, something I can’t imagine the current government leaving out.

Hopefully with double track to Greensborough coming soon, the Hurstbridge line can look forward to 10 minute frequencies too, at least from Flinders St. to Greensborough.

“Still, this is the kind of direction state governments need to take with transport policy and expenditure, rather than funding moronic expansions to freeways that just induce more traffic and congestion in a never-ending spiral of self-defeat”

There are still road projects going ahead in this budget but mainly funded by the private sector (Citylink). I have no problem with road projects as long as the private sector is willing to fund most of it as they will decide whether the project is feasible. Although I do not see how you can have one river crossing with tolls and one without, surely the Westgate bridge will be flooded with cars while the tolled distributor will have little traffic.
Another issue will be that the Burnley tunnel and the inner northern suburbs will also be flooded with cars as there will only be one freeway into the Southern and Eastern suburbs.

I am surprised that this budget has actually received little publicity considering that this is a revolution in funding priorities from roads to public transport.
If you look at the budgets from only a few years ago there was only rolling stock investments and maintenance (most of it catching up from decades of neglect) and very little public transport infrastructure investment.

Really ? $134 million “to stop people getting in the tunnels” ?

Who came up with that waste of money ?

Any vandal, terrst or stickybeak can still just jump down onto the tracks and walk into the tunnel. How is $134 million going to stop them ? Doors that fling open like an old “ghost train” ride ? That’s sure to work….

Fantastic budget going beyond election commitments with Hurstbridge & Melton duplications.

One thing you missed – feasibility study into 86 improvements which will look into the South Morang/Mill Park Lakes extenstion

If the platform barriers aren’t being built alongside the train doors and platform, where will they go to stop people from jumping into the tunnels? and how?

@enno, the City Loop upgrades respond to an Ombudsman report from a while back, and are as much about fire safety as intruder detection / prevention. The Age reports the detection will enable just one tunnel to be closed (with the person in it) versus the present when all could be forced to stop.

I still want to see a ‘closing the gap’ package (not the roads kind) focused on all the buses & trams that terminate 500m-2km from some nearby major transfer or centre – the wikipedia ‘proposed tram extensions’ page is instructive, for example. Networks work best when they’re connected… properly.

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