Transport in Melbourne

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Map of Melbourne
Road map of the Melbourne metropolitan area by OpenStreetMap

Transport in Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria, Australia, consists of several interlinking modes. Melbourne is a hub for intercity, intracity and regional travel. Road-based transport accounts for most trips across many parts of the city,[1] facilitated by Australia's largest freeway network.[2] Public transport, including the world's largest tram network, trains and buses, also forms a key part of the transport system. Other dominant modes include walking, cycling and commercial-passenger vehicle services such as taxis. Melbourne is a busy regional transport hub for the statewide passenger rail network, coaches and interstate rail services to New South Wales and South Australia. Freight transport also makes up a significant proportion of trips made on the network from the Port of Melbourne, Melbourne Airport and industrial areas across the city.

According to the 2016 Australian census, Melbourne has the second-highest rate of public transport usage among Australian capital cities for travel to work at 19 percent, second to Sydney's 27 percent.[1] In 2017-2018, 565 million passenger trips were made on Melbourne's metropolitan public transport network.[3] Melbourne has the most road space per capita of any Australian city, with its freeway network being comparable to Los Angeles and Atlanta in terms of its size and scale.[4] Much of Australia's automotive industry was located in Melbourne until all manufacturing ceased at the end of 2017.[5][6][7] The state government, as part of the release of the Melbourne 2030 planning strategy in 2002, set an target for modal share of cars to decrease to 80 percent by 2020. However, increases in car usage since this target was set has not shown the decline that was initially predicted.[8][9]


Mode share[edit]

Bar graph
Chart of Melbourne metropolitan transport usage from 2000 to 2009, based on state-government figures
2016 journey to work trips in Greater Melbourne
Public transport 16%
Car 67%
2017 CBD trips[25]
Public transport 56%
Car 32%
Walking 6%
Bicycle 4%
Other 2%

Public transport[edit]

Melbourne's public transport system includes rail, tram and bus services. Its tram network is the largest in the world.[26] Almost 300 bus routes and 16 rail lines serve Greater Melbourne.

Melbourne has a fully integrated ticketing system across all modes of public transport in the metropolitan area, known as the 'myki' contactless smart card. This requires passengers to touch the card to a reader at each entry and exit point.[27] myki's rollout began on 29 December 2009 on the rail network. It was then progressively rolled out to trams, buses and regional rail. It completely replaced the old magnetic stripe card Metcard system on 30 June 2013.[28]

Since World War II Melbourne has become a dispersed, car-oriented city, leading to a decline in public transport use.[29] The original transport patterns of urban development are still reflected Melbourne's prewar areas.[29] The city's public transport system was privatised by the government in 1999. Under this arrangement, rail and tram operations are contracted to private companies while the infrastructure remained under government control. Several operators have been awarded contracts since its commencement, including Connex Melbourne, [[M>Train]] and Keolis Downer.[30] Despite initial plans that government subsidies would decrease to zero by 2015, payments to private companies have instead increased significantly.[31]

A 2009 space syntax analysis of Melbourne's tram and train network found that only 8.8 percent of residents in Greater Melbourne was within 30 minutes of any location in the greater Melbourne area and only 10–15 percent could access appropriate and timely public transport. Melbourne's public transport system handled seven percent of all trips within the metropolitan area;[32] the figure increased to nine percent in early 2009, with the passenger-kilometre share increasing to 11 percent.


A Transdev Melbourne bus in orange and white PTV livery.
A Transdev Melbourne bus in PTV livery on Queen Street, Melbourne.

The bus network consists of about 50 bus companies under a franchise agreement with the state Government. Approximately 300 routes are in operation, including twenty-one night bus routes that operate on Friday and Saturday nights. Bus patronage is low compared to similar cities around Australia, which some experts have attributed to the presence of the tram network servicing many trips that would normally be taken by bus.[33] Several 'SmartBus' routes were introduced in the late 2000s in an attempt to improve parts of the system with improved bus priority and frequencies and span of service hours better than most other bus routes at the time. Despite its success at significantly increasing bus patronage, the branding was scrapped in 2014 and bus priority gradually removed to give more space to cars.[34][35][36]

Although all Melbourne buses use the myki ticketing system, the Skybus Super Shuttle between Melbourne Airport and Southern Cross railway station is a non-myki bus service. Several local government councils also operate free community bus services in their local areas including Port Phillip,[37] Nillumbik[38] and Darebin[39]


Green-and-white tram
D1-class tram operated by Yarra Trams

Melbourne has the world's largest tram network, consisting of 250 kilometres (160 mi) of double track, nearly 500 trams on 24 routes, and 1,763 tram stops. It is operated by Keolis Downer. Two partial-light rail routes are also part of the network. Most of the remaining track is mixes with general traffic which also makes it one of the slowest tram networks in the world.[40] Trams operate mostly in the inner suburbs and generally provide for short to medium-length trips. Heritage trams operate on the free City Circle route and privately run Colonial Tramcar Restaurant.[41]

Suburban rail[edit]

Long blue-and-white train
X'Trapolis 100 train, operated by Metro Trains Melbourne

Melbourne has a 16 line urban heavy rail network which is operated by Metro Trains Melbourne and serviced by a fleet of 326 EMU trains. With the exception of the Stony Point line, the entire urban rail network is electrified. The urban network is considered to be a commuter-heavy rail hybrid and not a metro system of high-frequency and high-capacity services.[42] Metropolitan, rural and interstate railway networks link together at the Southern Cross railway station, in Melbourne's central business district, with the other principal station being Flinders Street railway station.

Regional rail[edit]

Silver, purple and yellow three-carriage train waiting at a railway station.
A V/Line VLocity diesel train at Wyndham Vale railway station in PTV livery.

Melbourne is the centre of a statewide railway network consisting of lines used for freight and passenger service. Intrastate passenger services are operated by the government-owned V/Line corporation, with a fleet of locomotive-hauled trains and diesel multiple units. Seven passenger railway lines connect Melbourne to towns and cities in Victoria. Portions of lines which are part of the V/Line network and cover the metropolitan area are also covered by myki tickets.

The city is also connected to Sydney by the NSW TrainLink XPT, and to Adelaide by Great Southern Rail's The Overland.


Melbourne's public-transport system is divided into two zones, in addition to the free tram zone in the central business district and some surrounding areas. Myki has two forms of tickets: myki money (in which money is loaded on a myki and the system selects the "best fare") and the myki-pass, where commuters pre-purchase tickets (or passes).

Rail freight[edit]

Orange freight train
Pacific National locomotive at the Melbourne Steel Terminal, June 2006

The Port of Melbourne is Australia's largest container and general cargo port, handling 33 percent of Australia's container trade.[43][44] Shipping lines operate to about 300 cities around the world, and 3,200 ships visit the port each year. The port is in Melbourne's inner west, near the junction of the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers.

See caption
Container crane and ship at Swanson Dock East

Melbourne has an extensive network of railway lines and yards to serve freight traffic. The lines have two gauges – 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm) broad gauge and 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge – and are not electrified. Freight trains have their own lines in the city's inner western suburbs, but in other areas trains are required to share the tracks with Metro Trains Melbourne and V/Line passenger service. Most freight terminals are in the inner suburbs near the port between Melbourne's central business district and Footscray. A number of suburban stations had their own goods yards, with freight trains running on the suburban network until the 1980s.[45]


A plane taking off, with a control tower in the foreground
Melbourne Airport

Melbourne Airport, located in the north-western suburb of Tullamarine, is Australia's second-busiest airport. It serves over 30 airlines and 22 million international and domestic passengers annually.[46] The airport is a hub for passenger airlines Qantas, Jetstar Airways, Tiger Airways Australia and Virgin Australia, and cargo airlines Qantas Freight and Toll Priority.

Melbourne's second major passenger airport, Avalon Airport (Melbourne Avalon), is south-west of the city and north-east of Geelong. Avalon Airport, primarily used by Jetstar, operates flights to Brisbane, Sydney and Perth. AirAsia X began low-cost flights from Avalon to Kuala Lumpur in December 2018, giving Melbourne a second international airport (unique among Australia's capital cities).

The city's first major airport, Essendon Airport, is no longer used for scheduled international flights. Although a small number of regional airlines operate from there, it is primarily used for general aviation and is also home to Victoria's air ambulance.

Moorabbin Airport, south of Melbourne, is primarily used for recreational flying and flying lessons. It has some regional-airline service, notably to King Island, Tasmania. Moorabbin is a Class D airport, and its ICAO airport code is YMMB. RAAF Williams, Point Cook, where the Royal Australian Air Force originated, is located near Melbourne's south-western limits.


Divided eight-lane highway
The Eastern Freeway, looking towards Melbourne

Melbourne is one of the world's most car-dependent cities, with 74 percent of all trips to and from work or education being done by car.[47] Its freeway network is the largest in Australia,[2] with an extensive grid of arterial roads dating back to Melbourne's initial surveying. The city's total road length is 21,381 km (13,286 mi).[48]

The freeway network began with the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan, which included a grid of freeways which would cover the metropolitan area. The plans were reviewed four years later and many inner-city projects were cancelled. Freeways built during the 1960s and 1970s include the South Eastern Arterial (now part of the Monash Freeway), the Tullamarine Freeway, the Lower Yarra Freeway (now the West Gate Freeway) and the Eastern Freeway.

Expansion took place over the next thirty years, with the Monash Freeway, CityLink and the Western Ring Road all being constructed during this time. The period also saw freeway expansion into the suburbs with the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, an extension of the Eastern Freeway and the South Gippsland Freeway. In 2008, the EastLink toll freeway opened and existing freeways were further extended.

Despite government figures indicating slowed growth in road travel since 2006 (zero growth in 2008–09)[49] and the government's goal to reduce road use to 80 percent of all motorised trips, the State Government have announced several large-scale road infrastructure investments to complete many projects from the original 1969 Plan, including Peninsula Link, East West Link and North East Link). This road construction has continued to increase the use of cars and direct investment away from other transport projects.[50]


Row of blue rental bicycles
Melbourne Bike Share station on Macarthur Street

Melbourne has an extensive network of bicycle paths and bike lanes, which are used for recreation and commuting. Five of the top 10 suburbs for bicycle mode share for journeys to work are located in Melbourne.[51] A series of major off-road paths shared with pedestrians caters for bike riders in the inner suburbs, but infrastructure tends to be less extensive further away into surrounding suburbs.[52]

On 31 May 2010, Australia's first public bicycle-sharing system (Melbourne Bike Share) was introduced.[53] The complete system consists of 50 docking stations with 600 bikes located throughout the city's central business district.[54][55] Singaporean bike-sharing company oBike entered the Melbourne market in mid-2017, but abandoned its program in 2018 following extensive complaints and issues with its business practices.[56][57][58][59][60]


Yellow Toyota taxi
A Melbourne taxi

Taxis in Melbourne have since 1 July 2013 been regulated by the Taxi Services Commission, which began operation on 19 July. The Taxi Industry Inquiry resulted in major reforms to Victoria's taxi industry, significantly impacting taxi service in Melbourne.[61] Taxis were required to be painted canary yellow until this requirement was abolished in 2013.[62] Melbourne has 4,660 licensed, metered taxis, including 443 wheelchair-accessible cabs.[63]

Ridesharing operators, such as Uber, DiDi, Shofer, Taxify, GoCatch, Shebah,[64] and Ola, also operate in Melbourne.[65]


Public Transport Victoria oversees two ferry services in Victoria:[66] the Westgate Punt (between Spotswood and Fishermans Bend) and the French Island Ferry, which operates between the Stony Point railway station, French Island and Cowes on Phillip Island.

Cruise ships and ferries (including the Spirit of Tasmania, which crosses Bass Strait to Tasmania) dock at Station Pier on Port Phillip Bay. Privately run ferries and other vessels also travel from Southbank along the Yarra River, to Williamstown, and across Port Phillip Bay.

Legislation and regulation[edit]

Transport Integration Act[edit]

The main transport statute in Victoria is the Transport Integration Act 2010, which establishes and sets the charters of the state agencies charged with providing transport and managing the state's transport system. The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources is responsible for the integration and coordination of Victoria's transport system. However, other departments and agencies also have a coordination and implementation role in transport. Other key state agencies are:

Governing bodies[edit]

There are several agencies and organisations tasked with coordinating and delivering transport in Victoria. Many fall within the purview of Transport for Victoria, but others are run from other departments or are independent government organisations.[67]

Public Transport Victoria[edit]

In 2010, the state government resolved to create a new independent agency to coordinate and oversee all aspects of the state's public transport.[68][69] According to the government, the authority would plan, co-ordinate, manage and administer metropolitan trams and metropolitan and regional buses and trains, replacing the previous structure of multiple agencies. The authority was established in late 2011,[70] and was expected to be fully operational by mid-2012.[71] Public Transport Victoria assumed the rail, tram and bus responsibilities of the former Director of Public Transport and the activities of the Transport Ticketing Authority and MetLink, which were abolished.

Transport for Victoria[edit]

In 2016, the state government established a new coordinating agency for transport in the state. It serves as an umbrella agency, overseeing the activities of several other transport organisations and agencies across multiple modes of transport. This includes VicRoads, Public Transport Victoria and V/Line. The agency was established in 2017 and operates under the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.[72][73]

Taxi Services Commission[edit]

The government announced a Taxi Industry Inquiry and the establishment of a Taxi Services Commission (TSC) in early 2011.[74] The inquiry, headed by Allan Fels, was conducted by the TSC. The government introduced the Transport Legislation Amendment (Taxi Services Reform and Other Matters) Act 2011, which was enacted in late June 2011 to empower the inquiry. The TSC, established on 19 July 2011, became the state's taxi and hire-car regulator on 1 July 2013.

Port of Hastings Development Authority[edit]

The government reversed the late-2010 merger of the Port of Melbourne Corporation (PMC) and the Port of Hastings Corporation by establishing the new Port of Hastings Development Authority to oversee development of a new port in Hastings.[75] The Transport Legislation Amendment (Port of Hastings Development Authority) Bill 2011 was passed by the Parliament of Victoria in late 2011, and the authority began operations on 1 January 2012.

Safety regulation and investigation[edit]

The safety of rail operations in Melbourne is regulated by the 2006 Rail Safety Act, which applies to commercial passenger and freight operations and tourist and heritage railways.[76] The act created a framework of safety requirements for all rail-industry participants, and requires rail operators who manage infrastructure and rolling stock to obtain accreditation before commencing operations. Accredited rail operators are required to have a safety-management system to guide their operations. Sanctions for violations of the safety requirements established by the Rail Safety Act are outlined in the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983.[77]

Safety regulation of the bus and marine sectors is overseen by the Director, Transport Safety under the 2009 Bus Safety Act and the Marine Act 1988, respectively. The sectors are subject to a no-fault safety-investigation plan conducted by the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety. The safety regulator for Melbourne's rail, bus and marine systems is Transport Safety Victoria, established under the Transport Integration Act 2010.

Rail, bus and marine operators in Victoria can be subjected to no-fault investigations by the Chief Investigator, Transport Safety or the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). The chief investigator is charged by Part 7 of the Transport Integration Act 2010 with investigating rail, bus and marine safety matters, including incidents. The ATSB has jurisdiction over rail matters (on a designated interstate rail network), marine matters (if the ship(s) is under Australian or AMSA regulation) and bus-safety matters (by invitation of a jurisdiction).

Ticketing and conduct requirements[edit]

Ticketing requirements for rail, tram and bus service in Victoria are primarily contained in Transport (Ticketing) Regulations 2006[78] and the Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual.[79] Rules about safe and fair behaviour on trains and trams in Victoria are generally contained in the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983[80] and Transport (Conduct) Regulations 2005.[81] Conduct requirements for buses are set out in that act and Transport (Passenger Vehicles) Regulations 2005.

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Davison, Graeme (2004), Car Wars: How the Car Won Our Hearts and Conquered Our Cities, Sydney, Australia: Allen and Unwin, ISBN 9781741142075
  • Dodson, Jago; Sipe, Neil (December 2005), Oil Vulnerability in the Australian City, Queensland, Australia: Urban Research Program, Griffith University, ISBN 1-920952-50-0

External links[edit]