Regional Rail Link

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Regional Rail Link
Melbourne RRL.png
Route of the Regional Rail Link in orange
Location Melbourne
Proposer Government of Victoria
Status Under Construction
Type Railway
Cost estimate $4.0 billion (May 2009)
Cost estimate (high) $5.3 billion (July 2011)
Start date July 2009
Completion date 2016
Stakeholders Government of Australia (major funding partner)
Government of Victoria (minor funding partner)
V/Line (operator)
Metro Trains Melbourne
Train travellers on Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat lines
Opponents Fair-go for Footscray Rail Residents

The Regional Rail Link is a 47.5 km railway line under construction through the inner western suburbs of Melbourne from Southern Cross station, running through Sunshine, Tarneit and meeting the Geelong line at West Werribee. The line is being built at or above ground with the primary aim of improving grade separation with a specific focus on separating Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo V/Line rail services from the Melbourne rail network and improving public transport services to the city's growing western fringe.

Construction commenced in 2009 and is being managed by the Government of Victoria with an expected cost of $4 billion and completion date of 2016.[1] It is the largest transport infrastructure project being undertaken in Australia.[2]


New platforms at Footscray station in May 2014
Rebuilt West Footscray station in May 2014
Rebuilt Sunshine station in May 2014


Following Regional Fast Rail project improvements and subsequent growth in passengers and services, an increase in congestion in the Melbourne suburban area, where trains operated by V/Line share tracks with Metro Trains Melbourne suburban trains, caused increasing delays for V/Line passenger services.[3] A single delayed metropolitan service operating ahead of a regional service would severely hamper the on-time running of regional services and late running regional trains are often placed in front of on-time but stopping all stations suburban trains. In major disruptions each operator has been known to blame the other for causing a line to be closed.[4][5]

A separate line for regional trains from Geelong, then called the Tarneit Link, was included as a possible long-term rail option in the Bracks government's 2006 Meeting Our Transport Challenges report. Costed at around $500 million, the link was also recommended in Rod Eddington's East-West Link Needs Assessment study released in April 2008,[6][7] by November, 2008 the link between Deer Park and Werribee was estimated to cost $1.5 billion.[8]

Official Status[edit]

The project was expanded and rebranded as Regional Rail Link when announced as part of the Brumby government's Victorian Transport Plan of December 2008.[9] With a revised aim of separating all regional trains between Southern Cross and Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo, from suburban rail movements, the proposed route was from Southern Cross through Sunshine and Tarneit to West Werribee.

In May 2009 the project reached full funding, gaining the required allocation of $3.2 billion from the 2009 Federal budget, adding to funds to be provided by the Victorian government.[10][11]

The preliminary route between Sunshine and Werribee was released for public consultation in June 2009.[12][13]

In July 2010 the final route through Footscray was announced by the state government.[14] Heading away from Melbourne, the pair of Regional Rail Link tracks will run south of the current four suburban tracks until after the line has crossed the Maribyrnong River, where a new bridge will be constructed. After crossing the river, the line will pass over the top of the Newport bound suburban tracks on a flyover, and then run between each pair of suburban tracks to Footscray station. At Footscray it will use the current platforms 1 and 2, and then run on resumed land to the south of the suburban line to Sunshine, past Middle Footscray and West Footscray stations. Suburban trains towards Sunshine will use the existing tracks except at Footscray, where two new platforms will be built north of the current platforms.

Baillieu Government Review[edit]

In February 2011, the incoming Baillieu government announced the project was under review citing chaotic planning and a massive blowout in costs. After a review the Baillieu government estimated the price tag for the line to be $880 million more than stated by the outgoing Brumby government.[15] Transport minister Terry Mulder claimed the project may have not been able to proceed after examining the funding and the timing.[16]


Southern Cross station platforms 15 & 16 northern concourse entrance in December 2013

Construction commenced in August 2009 with the commencement of platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross station.[17]

The works have been divided into seven packages - an overall railway signalling and control systems contract, and six sections of track:


  • 2 July 2011 - Construction begins, with the shifting of existing railway tracks between Sunshine and Tottenham.[26][27]
  • 18 July 2011 - Sydenham, Ballarat and Bendigo lines re-open after being closed for 2 weeks during the Victorian School Holidays to allow construction of the RRL[26]
  • Early 2013 - fitout of platforms 15/16 at Southern Cross completed
  • 22 December 2013 - platforms 15/16 at Southern Cross and approximately 5 kilometres of track from South Kensington opened[28]
  • 20 January 2014 - new platforms 1/2 opened at Footscray
  • 28 April 2014 - new platforms 3/4 opened at Sunshine
  • 16 July 2014 - commissioning of the new dedicated V/line tracks between South Kensington and Sunshine.
  • 16 July 2014 - new platforms 3/4 at Footscray open to the public.
  • April 2015 - expected completion of RRL project


Cost and benefits[edit]

In May 2010, the estimated cost was $4.3 billion, and economic benefits were estimated to be $6.2 billion.[29]

In April 2011 the incoming Baillieu government stated it would cost closer to $5 billion and two years longer to build.[30] In July 2011 the cost was estimated at $5.3 billion with a completion date was 2016.[26]


All passenger movements from the Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat lines will use the Regional Rail Link, removing the potential conflicts encountered when these services share tracks with metropolitan services, which themselves are heavily overloaded.[31] The link will also allow for more services to run, which combined with the purchase of new trains,[32][33] will alleviate the heavy overcrowding on Regional Fast Rail services, particularly those from Geelong and Ballarat.

Platforms 15 and 16 at Southern Cross station will also be added, expanding the number of trains that can arrive and depart from the station.


No time savings[edit]

The new rail link will not reduce journey times for Regional Rail Services, but the increase in capacity is planned to increase reliability and reduce delays, while allowing for additional services.[34][35] The Public Transport Users Association claim travel times between Melbourne and Geelong may increase by 10 minues.[36]

Cost Effectiveness[edit]

Supporters of investment in public transport have raised questions regarding the high cost of the project, estimated to be up to four or five times more expensive than required. Supporters of public transport have also questioned why infrastructure in existing urban areas, such as the Doncaster railway line, were not funded in priority to such a vast area that is currently mostly uninhabited.[citation needed]

Inadequate planning[edit]

When the $3.4 billion Federal government funding was committed in 2009, the idea of the RRL had been the subject of only a perfunctory analysis and was little more than a line on a map. The scheme was first revealed in March 2008, as an adjunct to the East-West Rail Link Analysis on Rail Capacity[37] which formed part of the Eddington Report. As its title suggests, the analysis primarily examined a proposal for an east-west rail tunnel under Melbourne. The idea of the RRL was only peripherally related to the main purpose of the paper, and occupied only seven of its 60 pages.

In November 2011 the secretary of the Victorian Department of Transport, Jim Betts, told a conference that the planning of the RRL had been inadequate and that "the budget for that project was basically haggled over between the state and the commonwealth one weekend and we end up with a number written on the back of an envelope".[38]

Route Options[edit]

Uncertainty was created by the fact that the precise path of the railway was not fully determined before funding was received and work commenced. One proposal involved the acquisition of up to 49 properties in Railway Place, Footscray to widen the existing railway corridor, and local residents launched a campaign against that proposal in May 2010. Other options floated were the sharing of tracks with freight trains in the existing Bunbury Street tunnel, or the construction of a second rail tunnel under Footscray[39]

Property Acquisitions[edit]

'Fair-go for Footscray Rail Residents' members rally at Parliament House

The final route through Footscray was announced on 12 July 2010.[14] The houses in Railway Place were spared, with 26 homes and 84 businesses on Buckley Street being acquired instead.[40] Many residents did not find out their homes were to be acquired until told by visiting journalists, waiting up to 24 hours for official notification from Department of Transport representatives.[41] A Government spokeswoman said "every effort" had been made to contact the households affected, but bureaucrats had abandoned their planned visit to deliver the bad news because they did not want to be filmed by the media.[42]

Noise & pollution[edit]

Further controversy emerged with the release of reports from the Victorian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), obtained by the Sunday Age through a freedom of information request.[43] These reports criticise the methodology and results contained in assessments submitted by the RRL team to former state planning minister, Justin Madden, as part of the project planning referral. The EPA reports state that, "In Footscray, for the most exposed residents, a vast majority of the population will experience chronic noise-induced sleep disturbance, with very significant proportions highly disturbed...For the most exposed residents in other areas, almost half the community will experience chronic noise-induced sleep disturbance.".

The reports also raised concerns about the Footscray Park Railway Reserve where, the EPA predicted, the public would be exposed to dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide from increased diesel train traffic. The EPA noted that planned risk assessments had not been done by the Department of Transport.

Madden viewed the EPA reports in September 2010, but ruled that an Environment Effects Statement (EES) will not be required for Section-1 of the RRL project,[44] "Section 1 of the Regional Rail Link project– from Moonee Ponds Creek, West Melbourne to Deer Park - is in an urban area along side existing rail infrastructure," Madden said. "I have evaluated the need for an EES for the project against the Ministerial Guidelines for Assessment of Environmental Effects under the Environmental Effects Act 1978 and concluded that, subject to the stated conditions, the proposed works are unlikely to have significant environmental effects."

In response to the emergence of the EPA reports, a government spokesperson accused the former Labor government of a "scandalous cover-up" and vowed that "Potential health and environment issues that have been uncovered will also now be fully investigated".[43]

Destruction of heritage[edit]

RRL's initial proposals entailed the destruction of the heritage listed HV McKay Memorial Gardens[45] (Australia's oldest remaining industrial garden) as part of a grade separation along Anderson Road in Sunshine, despite the fact that this impact appeared nowhere in its planning documents. The proposal entailed the removal of more than 130 square metres of land, destruction of path systems, and the relocation of the last remaining heritage fabric. After having condemned the RRL while in opposition,[46] the new Liberal Minister for Public Transport Terry Mulder, responded to the community controversy by saying: "you can’t keep everyone happy."[47] After considerable community resistance and strong lobbying by Brimbank City Council, the RRL Authority reduced its acquisition of land to approximately five square metres. Neither the RRL Authority nor the Minister of Transport have ever acknowledged the adverse impact of the initial proposals, nor the distress caused to the local community.

No RRL platforms at North Melbourne Station[edit]

RRL platforms will be not be provided at North Melbourne station, so regional passengers will no longer be able to use it. North Melbourne is a key interchange point, which provides access to the City Loop, three other suburban rail lines, the Showgrounds/Flemington Racecourse branch and Sita Buslines' route 401[48] to the hospital and university precincts.

It should be noted though that the primary interchange point is Southern Cross station, the next station after North Melbourne; and provides immediate access to the City Loop in either direction (North and South). Only the Northern Loop is accessed by North Melbourne station. The RRL bypass of North Melbourne means that regional passengers will have to alight at Footscray or Southern Cross to travel to North Melbourne.

On the other hand, North Melbourne station itself (geographically located in West Melbourne) is not central to any specific precinct, being somewhat isolated from other transport modes (specifically tram routes 55, 57 and 59 which service North Melbourne proper), shopping centres and even North Melbourne residences. Only one bus route (the express route 401 to the University of Melbourne) services the station directly, while Southern Cross is serviced directly by tram routes 11, 31, 35, 48, 70, 86, 96 and 112 and Transdev Melbourne's routes 216 and 219.[49]

Neither of the alternative stations give access to the 401 bus. There has been a suggestion that some amendment to the bus route could be made to lessen the inconvenience. On the other hand, tram route 55 which runs from William Street, close to Southern Cross station, services both the Royal Melbourne Hospital and University of Melbourne; in the same way bus route 401 is designed to do from North Melbourne station.


Regional Rail Link
0 km Southern Cross (SSS) Zone 1
6.1km Footscray(FSY) Zone 1
13.5km Sunshine(SUN) Zone 1 & 2
Standard Gauge to Albury
Sunbury/Bendigo/Swan Hill/Echuca Lines
15.02km Ardeer(APR) Zone 2
20.82km Deer Park(DEK) Zone 2
Ballarat/Ararat/Melton Lines
Tarneit (new station)
Wyndham Vale (new station)
Geelong railway line, Werribee railway line

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Begg (26 April 2011). "Regional rail link to go ahead". Geelong Advertiser. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  2. ^ Australia's largest public transport project leaps ahead Premier of Victoria 21 December 2011
  3. ^ Jason Dowling & Natalie Puchalski (6 June 2009). "Regional rail travel booming, despite delays". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  4. ^ Mex Cooper (11 May 2009). "Geelong, V/Line Connex rail delays after fuel spill". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  5. ^ Mex Cooper (14 January 2009). "Melbourne train commuters warned of more delays". The Age ( Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  6. ^ Royce Millar & Clay Lucas (29 March 2008). "West may get new rail line". The Age (Melbourne: Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  7. ^ Rod Eddington (March 2008). "Fact sheet - Recommendations". East West Links Needs Assessment final report. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  8. ^ Clay Lucas (3 November 2008). "Planned $1.5bn rail link will free up bottlenecks". The Age (Melbourne: Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  9. ^ Regional Rail Link to Streamline Train Services Premier of Victoria 8 December 2008
  10. ^ Regional Rail Work to Start this Year after $4 Billion Project Secures Federal Funding Premier of Victoria 14 May 2009
  11. ^ Mex Cooper (18 May 2009). "Tough decisions necessary: PM". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  12. ^ Clay Lucas (16 June 2009). "New train line and ring road road routes to be unveiled". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  13. ^ Proposed Route of Regional Rail Link Revealed Premier of Victoria 17 June 2009
  14. ^ a b "Houses to go for new regional rail link". The Age (Melbourne: 12 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  15. ^ Gough, Deborah (13 February 2011). "Fears review of rail link scandal may be tainted". The Age (Melbourne). 
  16. ^ Clay Lucas (4 February 2011). "Blowout puts rail project in doubt". The Age (Melbourne: 
  17. ^ Construction Starts on the $4.3 Billion Regional Rail Link Premier of Victoria 27 August 2009
  18. ^ Rail Systems Regional Rail Link
  19. ^ Southern Cross Regional Rail Link
  20. ^ New contract moves Regional Rail Link into high gear Premier of Victoria 12 May 2012
  21. ^ City - Maribyrnong River Regional Rail Link
  22. ^ Footscray - Deer Park Regional Rail Link
  23. ^ Deer Park - West Werribee Junction Regional Rail Link
  24. ^ Full steam ahead on the Regional Rail Link Premier of Victoria 8 June 2012
  25. ^ West Werribee Junction Regional Rail Link
  26. ^ a b c "Commuters face snarls as $5.3bn rail project digs in". The Age (Melbourne). 4 July 2011. 
  27. ^ Regional Rail Link works to kick off in July Premier of Victoria 17 May 2011
  28. ^ Platforms 15 and 16 Regional Rail Link
  29. ^ Lucas, Clay (22 May 2010). "Cost won't put a stop to freeway: Brumby". Melbourne: The Age. 
  30. ^ "Rail link delay as bill nears $5bn". The Age (Melbourne). 5 April 2011. 
  31. ^ Lucas, Clay (21 March 2009). "Melbourne's Big Squeeze". The Age. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  32. ^ "Bombardier Awarded Contract for a Further 32 DMU Cars for V/Line Passenger in Australia". Bombardier. Retrieved 2012-12-16. 
  33. ^ "Coalition Orders 40 New Carriages for V/Line". Department of Transport. 26 November 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-16. 
  34. ^ $4.3b link won't cut travel times The Age 15 June 2010
  35. ^ Project Benefits Regional Rail Link
  36. ^ "Users ask the government how much slower the new rail link to Geelong will be". Public Transport Users Association. Retrieved 25 January 2014. 
  37. ^ "East-West Rail Link Analysis on Rail Capacity". Department of Transport Victoria. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  38. ^ Jason Murphy (2011-11-16). "Vic project railroaded". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  39. ^ Clay Lucas (7 May 2010). "Rail plan with at least one obstacle: Footscray". The Age (Melbourne: Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  40. ^ "Footscray residents slam plans to acquire homes for transport upgrade". Herald Sun. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  41. ^ Robyn Grace (13 July 2010). "Rail demolition: Footscray residents fume over notification blunder". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  42. ^ Clay Lucas (13 July 2010). "Residents not told their homes will go". The Age (Melbourne). Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  43. ^ a b Deborah Gough & Melissa Fyfe (6 February 2011). "Residents face lost sleep over rail project". The Age (Melbourne). 
  44. ^ Minister for Planning (7 October 2010). "Reasons for Decision Under Environmental Effects Act 1978 : Regional Rail Link 1 – Moonee Ponds Creek to Deer Park". Department of Planning and Community Development. DPCD. 
  45. ^ [1]
  46. ^ Jon Faine (5 April 2011). "Regional Rail Link cost blowout blamed on former government". Retrieved 2013-01-29. 
  47. ^ Laura Wakely (31 January 2012). "Minister ‘up front’ on rail". 
  48. ^ 401 North Melbourne - University of Melbourne via Royal Melbourne Hospital Public Transport Victoria
  49. ^ City of Melbourne Public Transport Victoria

External links[edit]