RMIT University infrastructure and urban planning expert Professor Jago Dodson says a new rail link for Melbourne’s airport is welcome news, but needs to be part of a broader transport plan.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has today pledged $5 billion for a long-awaited rail line connecting the airport with the CBD. The project’s total price tag could rise to $15 billion.
"The proposal by the Federal government is welcome news from the perspective of improving Melbourne's rail network and its integration with a major activity node,” Dodson says.
“However, a big concern is that the Airport link is happening outside of any clear transport plan for metropolitan Melbourne, because the Victorian government has no transport plan.
“We have no clear formal assessment whether the $15 billion to be spent on Airport rail is preferable in terms of costs and benefits to commencing the second metro link, or expanding suburban rail access to underserved growth areas, or other public transport improvement.
"And the eventual route needs to include opportunities for urban redevelopment beyond rapid airport access. For example, an Upfield alignment could enable redevelopment of the former Ford factory site.”
Dodson warns it would be foolish to steam ahead with a new rail link without considering the bigger picture for Melbourne’s already heaving public transport network. This includes limiting road use.
“We need to expand the Melbourne metropolitan rail network far beyond the Airport line if we are to meet the needs of a city of 8 million, but we also need to limit road competition with this network,” he says.
“It is foolish to expend $15 billion in rail development if we then also build major roads, such as the Westgate tunnel or Tullamarine widening, that compete with our rail investment."
Jago Dodson is Professor of Urban Policy and Director of the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University.
Professor Jago Dodson has an extensive record of research into housing, transport, urban planning, infrastructure, energy and urban governance problems. He has contributed extensively to scholarly and public debates about Australian cities and has advised national and international agencies on urban policy questions.
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