by Victoria Giddens, Vice President of IMPA

After much to-ing and fro-ing by successive State governments, the $11 billion Melbourne Metro rail tunnel is now back on the agenda, with the Andrews government confirming the route of the project in April.

In February this year, $40 million was put towards establishing the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, tasked with overseeing the project. An initial $1.5 billion in funding was given to the Authority to begin land and property acquisitions, and further investigate route options.

Click to read report

Click to read report

Along with the East-West Link, the rail project was first proposed in Sir Rod Eddington’s 2008 report, ‘Investing in transport - East West Link Needs Assessment’.

In May 2013, the Napthine government announced a modified route for the project, saying that it would run from Southern Cross Station to South Yarra Station, with stops at Fishermans Bend and the Domain Interchange. The Parkville, and CBD North and South stations were removed, with the Napthine government arguing that the disruption caused along Swanston St would wreak havoc along one of Melbourne’s main thoroughfares.


The Stats

  • Twin nine-kilometre tunnels running 10 metres beneath Swanston Street
  • Five new stations at Arden (opposite North Melbourne football ground), Parkville (in the hospital/university precinct), CBD North, CBD South, and Domain
  • Expected cost of project $9 - 11 billion
  • Expected to commence in 2018, and be completed in 2026
Credit: Melbourne Metro Rail Authority

Credit: Melbourne Metro Rail Authority

The project promises to “transform Melbourne’s rail network” from a commuter, suburban rail system, “into an international-style metro system” that will facilitate the rapid movement of passengers within the city, and across the rail network more broadly.

The importance of improving the movement of passengers across the rail network is undeniable, and it has been argued in the Fairfax press that the Melbourne Metro project stands to benefit a far greater proportion of the community than the East-West link:

“It is worth comparing the number of people Melbourne Metro will move with how many the cancelled East West Link road would have moved.
In raw terms, the Metro tunnel will create space for an extra 17 trains an hour in each direction, each capable of carrying 1100 passengers - 37,400 people an hour in total.
The East West Link was projected to carry 80,000 vehicles a day by 2031, which equates to 96,000 people using VicRoads' measure that shows each vehicle in Melbourne carries an average 1.2 people.”
                                Adam Carey, Transport Reporter for The Age (April 16, 2015)


What’s the status of the rail project?

The Government is currently undertaking geotechnical investigations into the affected sites, and studies to determine how to manage traffic during construction.

The announcement that the Metro project is going ahead has significant flow-on effects for other planning matters in and around the CBD. At present, the City of Melbourne has completed structure plans for Southbank, Arden-Macauley, and City North. The implementation of each plan is at varying stages, but all had been hindered significantly by the announcement of the East-West Link and the Napthine government’s alterations to the Melbourne Metro project (i.e: the scrapping of the Parkville and the CBD North and South stations).

The implementation of the Arden-Macauley Structure Plan and the Planning Scheme Amendment C190 will now recommence. The Plan was first adopted by the City of Melbourne Council in February 2012, with much of its success resting on the construction of the Metro stations at Parkville and Arden. The public consultation process regarding the Amendment was adjourned ‘because of the potential for Amendment C190 to be impacted by the then newly announced East-West Link project’. 

The public hearing process will now proceed, with submissions due by Friday 5 June 2015. The Planning Panel hearings are expected to run for two weeks during July.

An update from City of Melbourne councillor Rohan Leppert on the Arden Macaulay Structure Plan and the related Amendments (C190, C207 and C209) is available here. He also addresses how Council intends to proceed with drafting a Moonee Ponds Creek Master Plan, managing CityLink widening between the Bolte Bridge and Melrose Drive, and Council efforts to secure open space in the area.


IMPA’s thoughts

The announcement by the Andrews government in April that the route would follow what was originally outlined in the Eddington report means that the project has completed a rather messy full circle in the space of 7-odd years. Notwithstanding how the project proceeds from here, IMPA remains greatly concerned about the manner in which major projects are decided upon in Melbourne, and the serious flaws in the process that result in the state lurching from one project to another.

Our focus remains on the strength of the planning process behind the project; from what the proposed Metro stations will look like, to how life in the CBD will continue while construction occurs.

Information about stakeholder and broader public consultation is relatively limited at this stage. The ‘Information for Businesses and Traders’ factsheet put out by the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority states that it is ‘committed to working closely with businesses and traders along and near Swanston Street to understand their needs…’ and that a ‘detailed consultation program with stakeholders’ will begin ‘later this year’.

Our belief is that genuine, participatory planning and consultation is essential if projects such as these are to be successfully completed. Events in recent years have demonstrated how fraught, and financially and politically damaging planning is when done without a robust process. The  resulting instability benefits very few stakeholders, and the biggest loser in it all remains the Victorian public.

We would like to see more detail from the government about how it intends to manage the project; how it will engage with stakeholders, communicate with the public about important changes, and how the feasibility and stability of the project will be guaranteed.



Media release, Premier of Victoria, 'Swanston Street the smartest option for Melbourne Metro', 16 April 2015 

Savage, A, ‘Metro Rail tunnel to be built under Melbourne’s Swanston Street, Victorian Government says amid warning of years of disruption’, ABC News, 16 April 2015

Melbourne Metro Rail Project Overview Factsheet   

City of Melbourne website, ‘Planning Scheme Amendment C190 Arden-Macaulay’ 

AuthorGerry McLoughlin