How many suburban Melbourne job centres could be connected with a circular railway?

A map of sburban job centres identified within Melbourne
A map of sburban job centres identified within Melbourne

Activity centres, national employment clusters and job hubs: there's many names for these places and we have quite a lot of them in middle-Melbourne. The lead image above has been taken from one of Alan Davies' earliest blog posts on Crikey from 2010.

The heat map represents the major job hubs - based on 2006 census data - that are located further than 5 kilometres from Melbourne's CBD. All in all, Alan Davies found that three quarters of Melbourne's jobs were located more than 5 kilometres from the CBD and of those suburban jobs, 20% of them were concentrated in 31 suburban centres (depicted on the heat map).

As a child - early primary school age - in order to shut me up/distract me from whatever it was that was driving my mother mad at the time, I was schooled on how to map read, street-directory style. Yes kids, maps used to only exist on printed matter!

Mum would open a Melways, point out train stations, show me how to follow the railway lines across the corresponding pages so I could then find more stations and you can see how a 200-300 page Melways could keep a kid busy. It also helped that dad was geography teacher and we had shelves of atlases and street directories from other cities in the house, not to mention a large drawer of maps in one of the filing cabinets.

30-odd years later this map-upbringing has manifested itself in my tendency to stare at any map I see for very long periods of time, and at some point, if I stare for long enough, the patterns and shapes start emerging.

How many suburban Melbourne job centres could be connected with a circular railway?
The near-perfect circle of job hubs around middle-Melbourne

That's the first shape I saw after staring at Alan Davies' 2010 job hub map: a circle running from Altona to Sandringham, one that bisects the majority of the suburban job hubs in Melbourne.

Footscray, Moonee Ponds, Preston, Northland, Heidelberg, Doncaster, Box Hill, Deakin Unviersity, Monash University, Mulgrave and Moorabbin all are either directly under the path of the circle or not far from it.

The biggest clusters without any decent rail service on that map have had proposals and studies to link them - Monash University/Mulgrave & the Rowville rail line study, Melbourne Airport and its very own study - yet connecting them to the radial rail network, is it enough?

How many suburban Melbourne job centres could be connected with a circular railway?
Box Hill's potential. From the 12-14 Nelson Road planning application

Earlier this week on Tuesday, Mark profiled the SJB-designed 12-14 Nelson Road planning application that's recently hit the desk of council planners at Whitehorse and the diagram above paints a fascinating potential future for Box Hill.

Box Hill's built-form density has traditionally been commercial or retail buildings and it's no secret that the cat's out of the bad when it comes to high-density residential development. However as evidenced by the ATO's new office tower, there appears to still be an appetite for bigger and better offices in the area.

On the other side of the city, Moonee Ponds' density is set to get a new height and bulk benchmark with Caydon recently receiving approval via VCAT for their first foray in Hall Street. The ATO once again are a large tenant in the area, not to mention Foxtel's main Melbourne offices bookend the precinct.

How many suburban Melbourne job centres could be connected with a circular railway?
We're not in sleepy suburban-land anymore Toto. Moonee Ponds, image posted by UM user Riddlz

Both the Box Hill and Moonee Ponds images depict scenes that may come to fruition in future and while you can argue that both are richly served by public transport now, should we not ask the question: what if they were connected to their adjacent, non-CBD job hubs?

Sydney has its "global arc" stretching from the airport through the CBD to Parrmatta via the lower North Shore and Macquarie Park. Melbourne could have a "global semi-circle"!

The single yellow line, plus the short spur in the north connects with many of the job centres present on Alan Davies' 2010 map, especially the large university campuses and the industrial/commercial areas they're generally located next to: Monash University and Mulgrave, Deakin University and Burwood, La Trobe University and the Northland/Bell Street commercial area, Victoria University Sunshine campus and Sunshine/Braybrook.

Regionally significant shopping (and job!) centres like Highpoint, Northland and Doncaster would be connected to a mass-transit service; Southland would get a second connection. All conventional rail lines except Werribee and Williamstown extend the reach of the circular line to nearly ever corner of the metropolitan area.

The circular railway links three of the six Metropolitan Planning Authority-defined employment clusters: one existing (Monash) and two emerging (La Trobe and Sunshine). Incidentally, one of the other existing clusters (Parkville) will be linked with the Melbourne Metro project, and with a realignment of the existing Werribee line, another emerging cluster (Werribee East) could be directly serviced by heavy rail; refer to the Werribee area on the map above.

And perhaps most crucially, many new residential areas get a rail service for the first time, especially in the east.

Focusing on Monash University and Mulgrave for the moment, at present 30 minutes by train from its nearest station - Clayton - will get you as far as Berwick, Cranbourne or the CBD. With a circular metro line such as that shown above, those three destinations would link deeper into the entire cluster a single train change; Sandringham and Heidelberg/Doncaster to Monash/Mulgrave would then be thrown into the "30 minute city" mix also.

Furthermore adding the Rowville rail line as shown above - via Chadstone and the Alamein line - places like Scoresby/Rowville and Swinburne University/Hawthorn/Camberwell are all connected by high quality mass-transit to this mega suburban job hub.

For those interested, the circular line as shown on the map measures 58.5 kilometres with a further 5 kilometres for the La Trobe University spur. In what could be a phased construction approach, the segments measure: Clayton to Heidelberg 23.2km (Phase 1), Heidelberg to Sunshine 23.3km (Phase 2) and Clayton-Sandringham 12km (Phase 3).

And finally, some more food for thought. Milan's automated M5 Metro line was recently extended by 7km at a cost of €872 million ($1.2 billion Australian dollars in 2011, when the contract was signed) which paid for all civil, fit out and technical/electrical "hard" infrastructure costs.

The earlier rolling stock order (€35 million in 2006 / $60 million Australian dollars) from phase 1 catered for both the initial line and the recently opened extension. The order was for 12 3-4 car trains capable of carrying up to 600-800 people on 3 minute peak frequencies.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

Comments (19)

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tayser

A neat little tool which can determine things like walking catchments (along streets) from specific points on a map: www.zapiator.com



Here's a map using the points from the GMAP in the article to show potential walking catchments (10 minutes) around each new station: http://app.zapiator.com/#report-a6c91b46efb


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tayser
Comments by Wynne in the Fin on the Monash Cluster, in short MPA to handle implementation of zoning changes, from 80,000 jobs currently to 180,000 jobs by 2046 : http://www.afr.com/real-estate/commercial/development/victoria-to-tackle-zoning-to-boost-investment-double-jobs-in-monash-20160413-go5ajf#ixzz45hAl7k2B
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tayser
^ Blackburn Road, Springvale Road, Westall Road - medians all screaming out for elevated rail :)

Ian: do you have any data on the minimum curve radius stats for Vancouver's skytrain? I'm guessing they have one to maintain a certain speed to fit all the services they do down the Millenium/Expo line. I'd be interested in the effect it has on road corridors (i.e a median/wide road might take a sharpe turn, but the elevated rail track would need a greater curve, therefore impacting more of the entire road reserve).

If you look at Manningham Road through Bulleen / Templestowe lower, there's a small median with 6 lanes but some short sharp curves - completely disregarding objections like 'skyrail' is having on Carnegie/Murrumbeena, from an engineering perspective would an elevated track (supporting a medium metro) run in to slowing-down-for-curves issues or anything like that?
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Ian Woodcock
Network planning for public transport is the key. Yes, by all means, add an orbital route. But then, add some more routes that add connectivity to the network. There is no single line that will do everything, because no single line can provide all of the nodal connections that are needed. One thing that no-one is likely to do on an orbital line is go all the way from end to end. Such lines are really a series of segments in terms of the way they are used. It's possible that far more benefit is to be had from providing a series of high-frequency grade separated routes (BRT, light rail, medium capacity rail etc) along the main arterials of the suburban grid, with a focus on the corridor between the CBD+inner city and the Monash cluster, to extend the kind of network that already exists in the inner city.
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pdoff
I think the opportunity cost of an orbital line would be too great and refer to Alan’s point regarding the inner 5km area, although I don’t consider that a BRT would do the job. There are several indicators that the demand in the inner areas could increase significantly over the next few decades which is the timeframe it appears to take to construct effective rail infrastructure.

The area within 5km of Melbourne’s CBD is growing at 4% per year, well in excess of the 1.7% for the whole metropolitan area, and at this rate by the magical date of 2055 when we’re supposed to exceed Sydney and hit 8 million, that area would host 1.65 million inhabitants!

That might sound ridiculous and I’m not going to suggest that we should immediately prepare for an inner area population of 1.65 million, there are obviously a lot of factors that will influence this over the next 40 years. But we can see and measure the enormous level of growth and construction happening in the inner 5km now, we can see the ongoing appeal of living in these areas, there are policies in place to cater for it such as the development of Fishermans Bend, policies that include the development of a 24 hour city which ideally would include improving PT travel to go shopping, out to dinner, to visit tourist sites. Shouldn’t these policies, population growth, the concentration of jobs (as confirmed by Alan) and future job growth mean that precious infrastructure dollars are directed this way?
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