AN UNDERGROUND rail network billed as the “biggest project in state history” has Melburnians talking about its one big flaw.

Rohan Smith@ro_smith


IT’S slapping on the back, high fives and “job well done” at the Victorian Premier’s office this morning after arguably his biggest announcement since taking the state’s top job.

Daniel Andrews shocked the electorate and shook up the race ahead of November’s state election with plans to build a $50 billion underground rail network to revolutionise the way Melburnians travel.

The plan, dubbed Victoria’s “biggest public transport project in history”, would include 90 kilometres of new trackwork, 12 new stations and an airport link.

Importantly, it would cut out the need for travel from suburban centres through the city before connecting to other lines — a longstanding bugbear for commuters.

But hold the applause. There’s a giant criticism befitting a project of this magnitude: It’s going to take way too long to build.

Mr Andrews said commuters could expect to take a ride on the proposed line by the middle of the century. Yep, 2050.

Victorians waiting for a faster train trip will have to wait 32 years.

Provided the Labor Party is reinstated in November, work still won’t begin until 2022 at the earliest, just in time for the next state election.



“It’s a fantastic idea, but running 20 years late,” a reader told Others shared that sentiment.

“Many will be dead before it’s built,” a reader wrote.

“Thirty years is a long time for disruptive technologies to emerge that have the possibility of making this obsolete,” another wrote.

The state’s public transport minister Jacinta Allan tried to quell concerns that the project would be outdated by the time the first train departs.

“2050 is not that far off,” she said. “These big projects take time.”

The state opposition lashed the announcement, labelling it “a plan for the next generation”.

“At the moment, the Andrews Labor Government can’t say how much it will cost, how it will be funded or when it will be finished,” the Liberal Nationals said in a statement.

“They have no business case, no engineers report and they won’t rule out more sky rail across Melbourne.”

The Suburban Rail Loop is still in its early planning stage, so it’s normal for some details to remain guarded.

What we know so far is that it would link every major train line in Melbourne and carry an estimated 400,000 passengers every day.

The loop would start near Cheltenham in Victoria’s southeast and travel all the way to Werribee, 32 kilometres south west of the Melbourne CBD.

The loop would link through new stations at Clayton, Monash, Burwood, Glen Waverley, Box Hill, Doncaster, Heidelberg, Bundoora, Reservoir, Fawkner, Broadmeadows, Sunshine and Melbourne Airport.

“The suburban rail loop includes connections to major jobs precincts, universities and TAFEs, hospitals and retail centres,” a promotional video released on Tuesday explains.

“When complete, it will … take thousands of existing passengers off city-bound trains and 200,000 vehicles off congested roads.”

Mr Andrews revealed little when making the announcement on his Facebook page.

“We’ll build an underground suburban rail loop connecting Melbourne’s train lines,” he wrote.

“It will get you where you need to go, wherever you live — and that’s what our growing state needs.”

But he later delivered more detail at a press conference in Box Hill. He said the government had committed $300 million and that “all the geotechnical work, engineering, design and planning will be done beginning first thing next year”.

He said construction will be underway in 2022 “if not sooner, if we can manage it” and the first stage of the project will be to build the 25 kilometre line between Cheltenham to Box Hill.

“We’ve spent the last 12 months … doing the hard work to determine whether this project makes sense,” he said.

“Does it actually stack up? The answer is yes, it does.”

The public response was fast and mostly favourable.

“Mind blown,” one commenter wrote below the announcement.

“About time … we shouldn’t need to travel into the city before we travel to outer suburbs,” another wrote.

However, some were sceptical.

“Dan … the pigs flying past the window are screaming ‘Tell ‘em they’re dreaming’. This will never happen,” one wrote.


The airport rail link fits in with the new proposal.Source: Supplied

One said it was a “great idea” but “kind of seems like a pipe dream” and another said it will be the “most expensive white elephant since NBN”.

Mr. Andrews responded: “This is happening. It won’t be finished overnight, but I promise you this: we will start it.”

Ms. Allan said the project was required to meet the demands of the city’s booming population. It’s expected 8 million people will call Melbourne home by the time the project is complete.

Public transport is expected to be a major battleground at the state’s November election. Earlier this year, the government revealed futuristic metro station concept designs for the state’s $11 billion Metro Tunnel project.

That project includes new stations at North Melbourne, Parkville, Royal Melbourne Hospital, State Library, Town Hall and Anzac.

Construction is well underway on that project with the Metro Tunnel and it’s new stations expected to open to passengers in 2025.