Infrastructure Australia has published its 2020 list of high priority and priority projects for Australia. New to the list is the RACV proposed improvement of cycling highways to the Melbourne CBD, which Infrastructure Australia has highlighted for development in the next five years. For the northern suburbs this includes a dedicated route from Bell street, Coburg to the CBD. (More detail below)
Of the 17 new Priority Initiatives listed in the 2020 Priority list, there are two new projects in Victoria: Cycling access to Melbourne CBD, and Public transport connectivity to Frankston.
Current priority projects listed in Victoria are the two major road projects:
- M80 Ring Road upgrade Melbourne M80 Western Ring Road congestion – 0-5 years
- North East Link Connectivity between M80 and M3 in outer north-east Melbourne – 5-10 years
Other projects of note affecting northern suburbs of Melbourne include the Inland Rail project. This is a national project with 5-10 year time frame, to provide freight connectivity via an inland route through NSW between Melbourne and Brisbane. This will affect a number of bridges over the rail line in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, including revamping the pedestrian and cycling bridge at Jacana, part of the Western Ring Road Trail, and access to Jacana Station.
Cycling Access to Melbourne CBD
Brunswick and Coburg has some of highest rates of general cycling and cycling trips to work in Victoria and Australia. Yet many more people would cycle if the infrastructure was provided to ensure increased safety. This would also reduce road congestion, parking congestion, and provide co-benefits of reduced transport emissions, reduced air pollution and increased population health and fitness.
VicRoads has already done an assessment for improving cycling safety, including the possibility of a dedicated separated bike lane on Sydney Road, when accessible tram stops are implemented. The State Government has refused to countenance such a project, over-riding VicRoads independant advice on this.
“There are some great health advantages of cycling ways, there’s also some congestion-busting examples as well, because if we can get more people who can safely cycle in our CBDs, that’ll be taking cars off the road and there’ll be less crowding on our public transport,” IA chief executive Romilly Madew told the ABC.
“So it’s really about identifying what are the possible pathways around Melbourne’s CDB that could be identified for a cycling superhighway.”
The RACV research identified the highest-priority corridors as Chapel Street, St Kilda Road and Napier Street to St Georges Road, with Coburg in the top five.
“There are five corridors with scores above 30 and include routes along Chapel Street (Clifton Hill to Windsor), St Kilda Road (Batman to Elsternwick), Canning Street and Exhibition Street (Brunswick East to Birrarung Marr), Napier Street (Preston to CBD) and Royal Parade (Coburg to CBD). These sites are all predominantly in inner suburban areas where there are significant deterrents to private car use (i.e. congestion and parking) but have good public transport.” says the Strategic Cycling Corridors Review, published in January 2019 by the RACV.
The research showed that the Coburg-CBD route had 4.7 crashes per year/km, second only to Chapel street on 7.5 crashes per year/km.
In the RACV plan, cyclists would be separated from motorists on lanes or roads which would likely connect to a loop near the CBD.
Stuart Outred, RACV senior planner of mobility futures, has been advocating for safer bicycle infrastructure for several years, as commuters require greater choice in how they get around the city.
“These priority corridors deserve more than just paint – we want to see high-quality, separate infrastructure that makes everyone feel safe and comfortable when riding,” he says in an RACV media release.
“Investing in these corridors will deliver immense benefits for commuters wanting safer, cheaper and healthier ways of getting around, as well as the added benefits of reducing congestion on roads and pressure on public transport.”
Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan was far more circumspect arguing the State Government was already investing in cycling, and referenced 250 kilometres of bike paths that had been built across the state.
“We know bike paths are important, we work closely with the cycling groups on this investment but what we do see from Infrastructure Australia’s recommendation is they stand in stark contrast to what it wants to see in other states,” she said.
VicRoads research during 2019 identified that an option of putting a dedicated separated bike lane down Sydney Road resulted in the highest safgety and risk management outcomes. Even a popular poll in the Age in June 2019 found majority support for a separated bike lane option.
Moreland Council put forward during August 2019 Council Meeting a proposal for temporary separated path on Sydney Road during the 18 month closure of the Upfield Bike Path due to level crossing removal. This was knocked back by Department of Transport. This has resulted in some cyclists using their own routes including Sydney Road, some giving up cycling to drive, and many complaints by cyclists of increased risk, and official detours that fail to meet the needs of cyclists, are not safe or fit-for-purpose for both commuting and local journeys.
The M80 Ring Road Upgrade project
Hume Council have applied for the Merri Creek shared use path to be extended to a Council Road as part of this project. The path currently stops on the northern side of the M80 next to Merri Creek next to the Pipeworks/IKEA vacant site for development. Just 800 metres further north the Northern Merri Creek trail winds its way north from the Bolinda Road Reserve to meet the Galada Tamboore path at the ned kelly Bridge and Whittlesea Gardens.
We have contacted both the Minister and Hume Council regarding whether the link path is being included in the major road upgrade project. There has been no response as of 26 February.
North East Link
This is a controversial project due to the destruction of so much vegetation and parkland with loss of 26,000 trees and impact on 28 significant Aboriginal cultural sites. The project will impact as much as 175 hectares of open space during the 7 years construction period, with 18.2 hectares ‘required permanently’.
This major road development will further induce vehicle use and congestion. It will expand the 8 lanes of the Eastern Freeway to a 20 lane monster. Although bus transit lanes will be added, it will kill any future development of a Doncaster rail line down the centre of the Eastern Freeway.
Bicycle Network has supported this as cycling trails are included. But the 3ethics of supporting projects with cycling components which are so environmentally destructive needs to be questioned. Their support provides greenwash to the project. Manningham, Banyule, Whitehorse and Boroondara councils have launched legal action over North East Link according to the ABC report.
An independent advisory panel crticized the $16 billion road project over the damage it will do to the community reported the ABC in 2019.
“This project needs to successfully resolve the tension between road functionality, infrastructure and safety with community liveability, landscape character and economic prosperity in this sensitive corridor,” the report said. “It has not yet struck this balance.”
Inland Rail at Jacana
The pedestrian/cycling footbridge at Jacana needs to be raised as part of the Inland rail project. The new footbridge design proposed will take the Western ring road path over Electric Street, the Jacana Railway station, and Pascoe Vale Road, and descend in a switchback before Langton street. Ramp to the island platform will be removed, replaced by stairs and a single lift, with another single lift to access Electric Street. The problem with single lifts is if they break down or are out of action for maintenance, there is no disability access to the station platform. Lifts also need to be of a size for cargo bikes.
Rather than a switchback design, the western end of the Footbridge should use a 270 degree ramp to descend to ground level for ease of cycling.
Melbourne outer northern suburbs to CBD capacity upgrade
Northern suburbs transport corridor with Craigieburn rail line and Hume Highway, has been identified as a major future congestion point, that needs to be addressed in the next 10-15 years.
The report says:
The report says that options need to be developed to address demand for transport services in the corridor. A proponent needs to be identified.
It fails to mention the Upfield line extension option, which could and should be duplicated between Gowrie and Upfield and extended to meet the Craigieburn line at Roxburgh Park, and then continue to Craigieburn station and up the new residential developments at Donnybrook, Mickleham and Wallan.
The Upfield Line could ease the capacity issues of the Craigieburn line. This should be done in the next five years to complement the opening of Metro Tunnel, which will free up capacity in the loop. Once the bottleneck in the loop is fixed and the bottleneck of the single track to Upfield is duplicated, a much more frequent and reliable service can be run on the Upfield Line.
The Upfield rail corridor is earmarked as a strategic cycling corridor presently as far as Roxburgh Park. This could be an important extension of the Upfield path all the way to Wallan, serving cycle commuters in the outer northern suburbs as well as many local and recreational journeys, with an arterial path all the way to the CBD.
Development of the northern region cycle trails, at a cost of $162 million, with a cost benefit ratio of 9.9, could also be incorporated as a small part of the northern suburbs transport capacity upgrade.
Transport related Project listings for Melbourne
The report lists the following High priority initiatives in Melbourne:
- Eastern Freeway and CityLink connection – Connectivity between Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway and CityLink – 0-5 years – Proponent to be identified
- Melbourne rail network capacity – Melbourne rail network capacity – 5-10 years – Initiative identification and options development
- Corridor preservation for Melbourne Outer Metropolitan Ring Road/E6 – Future connectivity between Melbourne outer south-west and outer north – 0-5 years Proponent to be identified
Priority Initiatives include:
- Cycling access to Melbourne CBD – Cycling access to Melbourne CBD – 0-5 years – Initiative identification and options development
- Melbourne level crossings removal – Melbourne road network congestion – 0-5 years – Various stages
- Frankston public transport connectivity – Public transport connectivity to Frankston – 0-5 years – Initiative identification and options development
- Melbourne Airport to the CBD public transport capacity – Public transport access to Melbourne Airport – 5-10 years – Initiative identification and options development
- Melton Rail Line upgrade – Melbourne rail network capacity – 5-10 years – Initiative identification and options development
- Public transport access to Fishermans Bend – Connectivity between Fishermans Bend growth area and Melbourne CBD – 5-10 years -Initiative identification and options development
- Cranbourne Line capacity Melbourne rail network capacity – 5-10 years – Initiative identification and options development
- Hurstbridge Line capacity – Melbourne rail network capacity – 5-10 years – Business case development
- Melbourne outer northern suburbs to CBD capacity upgrade – Melbourne outer northern suburbs access to CBD – 10-15 years – Proponent(s) to be identified
- Melbourne Airport third runway – Melbourne aviation capacity – 0-5 years – Business case development
- Melbourne container terminal capacity and land transport access – Melbourne container terminal capacity – 0-15 years – Initiative identification and options development
- Melbourne–Geelong rail capacity enhancement – Rail connectivity between Melbourne and Geelong – 10-15 years – Initiative identification and options development