Rail vs Road

A recent article in The Age newspaper has costed the Doncaster rail line at around 840 million dollars (Doncaster railway could be built for $840M, The Age July 24 2012) “Doncaster Link” . The development of this line has been proposed, talked about, costed, put on the table, been an election issue and removed since the Eastern Freeway was built back in the early 1970’s. The freeway to my understanding was designed to accommodate a rail or light rail down the median strip during its design and construction phase and now 40 years down the track we are still gas bagging about the feasibility of this rail link. Being a user of the Eastern Freeway for 30+ years I have seen the traffic and congestion on this freeway increase considerably over the years and things were made worse with connection firstly to Springvale Rd and then to Eastlink. Yet the freeway still get clogged at the end as traffic in the early morning is heading primarily into the CBD. By far the majority are single occupant vehicles. What if anything has this taught us? That freeways are a great way of moving large amounts of traffic to a central point were they are stopped due to arterial sclerosis.

The proposed Doncaster Rail Link is by far the best option not only from an economic perspective but also an environmental one. Even if it was double the price it would be far better than building roads which only encourage people to get in their cars and drive. With the introduction of rail link to Doncaster there would be reduction in commuter traffic on the freeway and an improved environment for all. Further the Doncaster Rail Link could be extended or incorporated into a light rail link between Box Hill and Doncaster making a loop for commuters. Another article in The Age (Cost of Doncaster line too cheap, The Age July 25 2012) “Doncaster Link Too Cheap” suggests that the cost of the rail link is too cheap, but what the author of the article has missed is that in the original article only costs the rail link not the tunneling proposal. There is an additional cost for the tunneling to Collingwood station and the connection to the proposed Carlton Loop as proposed by the reports authors.

The other question that plagues me is why if another state can build freeways with rail links down the median strip that this state cannot do the same. Having seen the Kwinana Freeway in Western Australia and made use the public transport there, why are we not doing something similar? The Monash Freeway would be the next obvious one to look at with the possibilities of creating a branch connecting the lines at Pakenham and around Glen Waverley. Could that mean that the great AFL Waverley Stadium would get a rail link?. Are governments so short sighted or are they being pressured by the major companies that have interests in making freeways and roads? Sounds a bit like the book by Ben Elton “Gridlock” to me.

The construction of a rail link along the Eastern Freeway at least would be a start to getting people out of cars and onto public transport. I for one would use a link along this section and I am in Healesville. The connection to the northern part of the city would change the dynamics of the public transport system as more people would be able to access more areas of the city through an improved system. Melbourne University alone would benefit from the link as students, staff and visitors could utilise the link rather than cars and expensive parking.

We need to start thinking less about how we can move cars around and reduce traffic and more about public transport.

The car should not be the focus, people should.

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