Looking upward to see clear skies, without a flying car or hover craft in sight, it's tempting to think popular culture lied to us about how we would travel around our cities in 2023.
The movie 'Back to the Future' predicted that flying cars and hovercraft would exist in 2015. Eight years later we are yet to see one in the air. But there is still hope – cartoon series, The Jetsons, was set in the year 2062.
While flying cars may reduce city congestion at some stage, Melbourne isn’t waiting for a break-through in the technology (except maybe air taxis).
Creating a world-class transport network
Instead, the city is busy creating a world-class transport network that will keep Victorians safer, enable faster and more frequent travel, and provide fairer access to infrastructure. Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel opens in 2025 – one year ahead of schedule – and is the first step towards a ‘metro style’ rail network.
It will have 5 new underground stations with high-capacity trains that improve safety and reliability and more frequent ‘turn up and go’ services. New underground stations at Arden, Parkville, Domain and in the city centre will make it easier to travel around inner Melbourne by providing a direct connection to the City Loop at Flinders Street and Melbourne Central stations.
For the first time, Victoria’s transport system will have platform screen doors separating train platforms from railway tracks. Platform doors have improved passenger safety in other countries and installation has begun on 300 screen doors for Melbourne. The toughened glass sliding doors will open and close alongside a new fleet of high-capacity Metro Trains – improving passenger safety by preventing people and objects from falling onto the tracks.
The platform screen doors are a permanent fixture in world-class transport systems in cities like London, New York, Tokyo and Singapore. They have improved safety markedly overseas, including reducing deaths on railway tracks by 60% in Hong Kong and 70% in Tokyo. The doors also help minimise transport disruptions and provide climate benefits – improving heating, cooling and ventilation by physically separating the station platforms and tunnel.
Transport that can be used by everyone
The Metro Tunnel project is also focused on providing transport that can be used by everyone, including those living with a disability, older Victorians and people with mobility limitations. One in 5 Victorians has a disability and nearly one in 6 is aged over 65 years – which is why a fully accessible transport system is so important. Melbourne’s tram stops still have a way to go – with about a quarter of the city’s 1700 tram stops currently accessible.
The St Kilda Road/Swanston Street tram corridor is the busiest tram corridor in the world – making it even more essential that everyone can access the area. Anzac Station tram stop has already opened to the public and has a big focus on accessibility with a level platform that provides step-free access.
It will become the city’s first direct train/tram interchange and a gateway to major cultural destinations like the Shrine of Remembrance, Royal Botanic Gardens, Arts Centre precinct and Albert Park.
The Victorian Government’s inaugural Chief Accessibility Advocate, Tricia Malowney, OAM said: "Accessible transport is an essential part of enabling people with disability and mobility limitations to fully access their communities and lives.
“Accessible public transport is essential for everyone, no matter where, when or how they choose to travel,” Ms Malowney said.
“As a major interchange, the new Anzac Station needs to help Victorians get to where they need to go safely.”
As Victoria’s independent infrastructure advisory body, we know the Metro Tunnel is one piece of the puzzle towards an integrated, accessible and safe transport system that can benefit all Victorians.
Realising the benefits of the big build
Victoria’s infrastructure strategy 2021-2051 contains recommendations which will help secure or realise further benefits from Victoria’s Big Build – an $80 billion pipeline of transport infrastructure that includes 165 road and rail projects.
As Victoria continues to grow and change, the state’s infrastructure needs to adapt. Sharing learnings from other jurisdictions is vital to creating world-class infrastructure systems and helps to make Victoria a better place to live, work and play.
We were pleased to host our counterparts from the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga, in Melbourne recently. Together, our 2 teams took a tour of the new Town Hall railway station being built under Swanston Street. The new station will connect passengers to Melbourne’s City Square, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station.
The tour was led by Rail Projects Victoria and Te Waihanga executives were impressed with the large Town Hall platform. At 19 metres wide, it will be one of the widest metropolitan platforms in the world.
The unique ‘trinocular cavern’ design combines three overlapping tunnels to create a wide, central tunnel space, improving passenger movement by integrating the platforms and concourse on a single level.
The team also went 30 metres below ground to see elevator shafts used to transport machinery, equipment and workers during the project. This keeps Swanston Street open and trams running while the Metro Tunnel is being built.
Victoria’s Big Build contains a significant pipeline of infrastructure projects under construction or planned, and we think more can be done to respond to future growth patterns and population shifts.
Keeping our growing population moving
By 2051, it is projected there will be over 5.5 million jobs and 10.8 million people living in Victoria. Recent population forecasts predict Melbourne will overtake Sydney as the nation’s biggest city within a decade and Victoria remains one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. This growth, coupled with a changing population, alter demand for transport infrastructure.
In many parts of Melbourne, jobs growth is expected to occur in similar locations like inner Melbourne and large regional cities. Residential populations continue to grow rapidly, particularly in Melbourne’s west and north.
We recommended the Victorian Government reconfigure the City Loop for more frequent and reliable services as patronage increases faster on some rail lines than others. We have also called for more frequent metropolitan services on train lines that are expected to come under greater pressure, including Craigieburn, Upfield, Frankston and Glen Waverley.
Additionally, we’d like to see government complete a business case for the Melbourne Metro Two rail connection within the next 5 years. This project will help resolve network capacity issues, while improving access to the city and Fishermans Bend. The urban renewal precinct is expecting 80,000 people to be living there by 2050 with a further 80,000 people working in the area.
In Victoria's infrastructure strategy 2021-2051, we make recommendations to manage urban change and harness infrastructure for productivity and growth.