Upgrade for rail system
18 August 2003 - MELBOURNE will get more trains and major track upgrades to raise capacity on the increasingly popular rail system.
The State Government is also keen to open a new station on the Upfield line, near a huge industrial site at Campbellfield. But a confidential report by M>Train management said some services may need to be cut to increase overall efficiency of the system.
Annual patronage growth of 3 per cent, or more than 300,000 passenger trips, is overloading the train network during travel peaks.
Projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed over the next 20 years to relieve the congestion.
The Government announced last year it would study a $1 billion plan to build two more tracks in a new tunnel for the City Loop.
But its first priority is to lift passenger capacity in the Dandenong rail corridor, which has had 5 per cent annual growth over the past four years.
About $4 million has been set aside in the 2003-04 Budget to start building new tracks and improve signalling.
Capacity on the Upfield line will be doubled over the next two months, with six-car trains replacing the three-car sets.
Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said yesterday the Government was likely to exercise a contract option to order more trains to meet the growing demand.
"This is great news for public transport, but it has put pressure on network capacity,"he said.
"The Government has begun planning for capital works that are necessary to increase the capacity of the system over the next five to 10 years."
Mr Batchelor said an option was to build a new station between Upfield and Gowrie to serve rapidly growing industrial areas in Campbellfield.
The M>Train report, seen by the Herald Sun, said peak Werribee line services through the loop could be dumped to make way for busier routes.
It said either closing Middle Footscray station during peaks or cutting some peak services through it would improve signalling for following trains.
And Frankston line efficiency would improve by replacing Stony Point rail services with buses or double-ended trains.
Mr Batchelor's spokesman, Matt Phelan, said the measures were not being considered.
The report said network efficiency was harmed by "pinch points"- single track sections where trains must wait and pass each other at crossing loops.
M>Train had pinch points on the Werribee, Upfield and Cranbourne lines, with these services getting priority in and out of Flinders St station via the loop.
The report said the removal of peak Werribee trains from the loop would boost services from Broadmeadows, Craigieburn, Sunshine and St Albans.
The report said track duplications would eliminate pinch points and the Government's plan to combine the M>Train and Connex networks from next year would boost capacity through better use of Flinders St tracks and platforms.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union state secretary Trevor Dobbyn said it was crucial the Government set aside sufficient funds for the upgrades.
By JOHN MASANAUSKAS, transport reporter
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