The Hoddle Street clearway backflip and Metro 2 - what now?

Comment

In September VicRoads proposed to make Hoddle Street & Punt Road a permanent clearway from the Eastern Freeway to the Yarra River as part of a larger project to alter intersections along the route.  

Also during the Christmas season, Spring Street unveiled its decision on which corridor to select for the North East Link and at the same time announced that a new busway would be built down the Eastern Freeway median between Hoddle Street and Doncaster Park and Ride.

The decision to build a busway in the Eastern Freeway median has many implications for the publicly available transport plans but in the short term, one needs to ask if the backflip on permanent clearways on Hoddle Street will only be temporary.

Vicroads conducted a community consultation with stakeholders affected by the road changes on Hoddle Street and Vicroads has summarised the main feedback themes:

Here’s a snapshot of what we heard:

  • The majority of concerns were from businesses on the East side of Hoddle Street, about the impacts this proposal would have on customer and staff parking 
  • Many businesses had concerns about the short timeframe being proposed which did not provide enough time to plan ahead to adapt to the changes
  • We heard concerns about how loading and deliveries would take place
  • Some people questioned whether current bus use was high enough to need 24/7 bus lanes
  • There is already a lack of parking in the general area.
Vicroads

Whilst some of the business affected by the changes on Hoddle Street mightn't think there's a need for permanent clearways however it's not a stretch to believe that with a large-scale bus infrastructure upgrade on the Eastern Freeway, then services will also increase. 

Other than attempting to mask the scale of the budget for a new road tunnel, why would you build a busway if the authority didn't believe more services will be running in future?   

It follows that if there are to be more frequencies, eventually, on the new busway, the same buses will need capacity on Hoddle Street & Victoria Parade to get to their ultimate destination: the CBD.  Therefore it is only pertinent that I ask, what longer-term planning is being done in this area so that the concerns of today are eventually addressed when the backflip on a backflip inevitably happens?

And the wider implications

With a busway effectively pushing a Doncaster Rail line many down the road (literally?) for many more decades, what's going to happen to the second Metro tunnel project?

As many have continued to voice their displeasure at the total lack of an overall transport strategy for Melbourne, we're still highly dependent on the published plans from the previous government.  And even though the previous state government only released a heavy rail network plan, it has had many details teased out of it over the proceeding years that are now well understood.

One of those concepts was rail line reconfiguration - Sunbury (and Melton) will become one line with Pakenham & Cranbourne on the Metro 1 project. 

The Metro 2 project, utilsing a tunnel across the centre of the city from North East to South West and vice versa, would link the South Morang line with Fishermans Bend.  It has since been acknowledged through other planning processes (Fishermans Bend structure plan had the most up to date information) that this second Metro tunnel will link to South-West Melbourne at or near Newport.

When South Morang is diverted through the new tunnel, as per the previous government's heavy rail network development plan, this would free up capacity on the existing Clifton Hill section, so that a Doncaster Rail line could join at Victoria Park.

But with a busway now on the cards, not a rail line for the forseeable future (I'd say two decades away, minimum, the idea of a rail line might get a serious look in once again now that the state government appears locked into the busway idea), that obviously impacts the case for the Metro 2 tunnel.

South Morang is currently getting extended to Mernda and both it and the Hurstbridge line are seeing new resident development close to the rail lines so it's a safe bet to assume that over time more capacity will be needed - but will a new entire rail tunnel required?

Do we have an opportunity to start building what Jeff Kennet has on more than one occasion said we should do - a proper light or heavy metro network for the inner-city?

Lead image credit: wikipedia

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