The Melbourne Rail Plan 2020-2050 is a blueprint for the next 30 years of rail development in Melbourne. It presents a strategy for rail-based and complementary transport modes within the context of a future fully integrated multi-modal transport system. Such development, through phased investment, will significantly reduce Melbourne’s massive car dependence and benefit the city’s liveability, economic performance, social fabric and environmental sustainability.

Melbourne’s population reached 5 million in 2018 and the most recent forecasts are for a city in excess of 6 million by 2031, 8 million by 2047 and 9 million by 2056. Melbourne’s continued urban spread and population growth has not been matched with an equivalent expansion of the public transport network. Symptoms of this transport malaise include worsening congestion, excessive journey to work times, restricted access to jobs, car dependent new suburbs, along with negative social, health and environmental impacts.

Most new outer urban growth is occurring in areas without adequate or planned provision of public transport. Strong population and employment growth in central Melbourne and inner suburbs are placing severe strain on the radial rail and road networks with overcrowded trams being among the world’s slowest, operating well below their potential. Many public transport vehicles and much rail and tram infrastructure remain noncompliant with National Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) specifications.

The challenges of population growth require fundamental shifts in strategic transport policy and serious integration of transport and land use planning. Improved rail services as part of an integrated transport policy can play a very significant role in the growth and development of Melbourne, consistent with the objectives of the State Government’s Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 and the Transport Integration Act. Targeted investment in rail infrastructure is a powerful city shaping tool and can help transport Melbourne to 2050 by:

  • providing a multiplicity of new public transport travel options as a viable alternative to car usage
  • providing Melbournians much wider access to employment and other opportunities
  • delivering on the Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 polycentric city concept
  • integrating the metropolitan economy by linking activity centres and boosting the role of National Employment and Innovation Clusters (NEICs)
  • promoting transit-oriented development (TOD) around key rail stations
  • using the tram network to help shape rapid inner area densification
  • growing rail capacity to better serve Melbourne’s outer growth suburbs
  • delivering environmental, health and safety benefits
  • providing resilience for the network and its users in time of disruption.

The Plan has eleven key elements:

  1. Making the existing system work better by maximising use of the existing assets
  2. Creating a multi-modal grid network of high frequency services
  3. Completing major cross-city mass transit rail routes and a dedicated CBD to Melbourne Airport rail link
  4. Extending electrified rail coverage of metropolitan services to outer growth areas
  5. Making new connections to and between National Employment Clusters and Major Activity Centres
  6. Maximising potential of the tram network to enhance connections for middle and inner suburbs
  7. New CBD tram routes and cross-suburban journeys including tram route extensions and new links to rail interchanges
  8. New Medium Capacity Transit (MCT) systems (including light rail and other emerging technologies) providing high frequency orbital, cross-suburban and CBD-linked routes
  9. Re-configuration of the bus network to effectively complement rail, trams and MCT
  10. Strongly facilitating active transport (cycling and walking) to and from public transport
  11. Improving accessibility of services for less able people and meeting DDA compliance.
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