Doncaster railway line, Melbourne

Doncaster railway line, Melbourne

The Doncaster railway line is a proposed suburban railway in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Connecting to the existing Melbourne suburban railway network at Victoria Park station on the Epping and Hurstbridge lines; the Doncaster line would have served the suburbs of Bulleen, Templestowe and Doncaster; running both in the median strip of the Eastern Freeway and in tunnel under houses.

First proposed in 1890, detailed planning commenced in 1969, and by 1972 the route was decided upon. Despite rising costs, the state governments of the period continued to make assurances that the line would be built. Property acquisition for part of the route was completed in 1975, and construction of a cutting at the city end commenced in 1974, only to be filled in two years later.cite journal
year = 1998
month = February
title = Whatever Happened to the Proposed Railway to Doncaster East
author = Stephen Cauchi
journal = Newsrail
publisher = Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)
volume = 26
issue = 2
pages = page 42
] By 1982 plans to build the line had been shelved by the state government, and by 1984 land for the line once it left the freeway had been sold. In 1991 an independent report investigated constructing the line, recommending against it due to the high cost.cite book
last = Russell
first = E.W.
pages = page 64
title = On the Right Track... Freeways or Better Public Transport for Melbourne's East
month = July | year = 1991
]

Despite the line being a recurring theme among public transport advocates and political hopefuls, today there is no firm government commitment to build the line.

History

Early concepts

One of the first ideas for a railway to Doncaster was in 1890, for a proposed extension of the Kew branch line across the Outer Circle line to Warrandyte, with a branch line running to Templestowe.cite journal
year = 1998
month = February
title = Whatever Happened to the Proposed Railway to Doncaster East
author = Stephen Cauchi
journal = Newsrail
publisher = Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)
volume = 26
issue = 2
pages = page 40
] This was followed in 1920 by another plan to extend the Kew line, this time to serve Doncaster itself. This proposal was published in the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission's Plan for Melbourne 1929 together with the Glen Eira line that was subsequently built.

Concrete moves towards the line were made in 1969, when "The Age" announced that the Victorian Railways had started detailed planning for the line, which would run down the Eastern Freeway then on to Doncaster.cite journal
year = 1998
month = February
title = Whatever Happened to the Proposed Railway to Doncaster East
author = Stephen Cauchi
journal = Newsrail
publisher = Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division)
volume = 26
issue = 2
pages = page 41
] The line was to feature in the 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan, but no timeline for construction was set, compared to the parallel freeway which would start in the next year.

Work begins

In December 1971 the Eastern Railway Construction Act 1971 was passed by the state parliament,cite web
title = Eastern Freeway Lands Act 1971
date = 1999-11-01
url = http://www.dms.dpc.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubLawToday.nsf/95c43dd4eac71a68ca256dde00056e7b/9375649ab3155c49ca256e5b0003775d/$FILE/71-8204a001doc.doc
format = DOC
accessdate = 2008-03-04
] setting the route as along the Eastern Freeway to Thompsons Road, then through Templestowe to Blackburn Road, Doncaster, cutting though 30 houses. However this route was not without opposition, as in 1972 "The Herald" reported the the outer section of the line would be investigated by the Parliamentary Public Works Committee. The City of Box Hill rejected a plan put forward by the City of Doncaster & Templestowe as it would cut into open space along Koonung Creek, and Doncaster residents objected to a route running though the Eastern Golf Course to Blackburn Road. In December 1972 the parliamentary report was delivered and recommended the original route to be constructed as opposed to the 6 alternatives, and criticised the government to allowing development on the proposed routes. The outer section of the line was costed at $23.5 million, the total cost of the line was reported as $41 million, and an terminus to city travel time of 20-25 minutes was put forward.

The route decided upon was reported in "The Age" on February 23, 1972, but no completion date was mentioned:
* Victoria Park station to Thompsons Road in the Eastern Freeway median strip.
* Sub mile-long surface section along the Koonung Creek valley.
* Surface level north east from the creek to the entrance of tunnel, located near the corner of Harold and Dale Streets, Bulleen.
* 1.5 mile tunnel north-east under Manningham Road and High Street, Doncaster; to a point close to corner of Oak Crescent and Fyfe Drive, Doncaster.
* 0.17 mile above ground running eastwards from the tunnel portal.
* 1.65 mile above ground running east to Tuckers Road.
* Half mile above ground running to corner of Blackburn Road and King Street.

This plan is what the later included in the 1979 (Edition 12) "Melway" street directory, albeit with additional short lengths of tunnel at various places along the outer section of the route. It remained in the 1982 (Edition 14) "Melway'. [cite web
title = Improvements to the railways in the Melway
work = Railpage Australia forums
date = 2007-04-10
url = http://www.railpage.com.au/f-p806135.htm#806135
format = HTML
accessdate = 2008-03-04
]

Doubts begin

In May 1973 the state Liberal Party pledged to build the line if elected, but only to Bulleen. They were returned to power at the state election. By December the same year the Parliamentary Public Works Committee had begun to re-examine the outer section of the line, considering three routes. The first costing $24 million would terminate at Bulleen, the second continued with a branch to Doncaster Road and cost $28 million, and the third was the original route but now costed at $63 million. By March 1974 the cost of the full line was reported by "The Age" to have increased to $73 million, and that none of the proposed routes could be considered on economic grounds, and a busway would be a better investment.

Despite doubts on the viability of the project, in July 1975 it was reported in "The Sun" that the Victorian Railways had purchased 18 properties for the railway. It was also reported in "The Age" that the government would still complete the railway, even though government sources put the cost up to $120 million, up from $74 million the year before. The proposed commencement date was after the completion of the underground City Loop in 1980.

Construction work on a cutting at the Victoria Park end of the line commenced in 1974 to allow the line to access the freeway median strip, but ceased in August 1975 due to economic difficulties faced by the contractor. By October 1976 the "Herald" reported that the '$600,000 cutting' had been filled in with excavated earth from elsewhere, the reason given by officials was that it needed to be filled so the freeway could be completed. The cost to rebuild the tunnel was estimated by the railways and Country Roads Board at $1.5 million. The final nail in the coffin was a statement by Liberal shadow transport minister Rob Maclellan in August 1984, who said that Government had sold the land set aside for the railway.

Alternatives

In July 1991 a report on transport in the Eastern Freeway corridor was presented to the Victorian transport minister Peter Spyker. Authored by Professor E.W. Russell, three options were examined in the report:cite book
last = Russell
first = E.W.
title = On the Right Track... Freeways or Better Public Transport for Melbourne's East
pages = pages 104-109
month = July | year = 1991
]
* Heavy rail to Doncaster Shoppingtown, via Eastern Freeway to Bulleen Road then underground to terminus ($336 million)
* Heavy Rail to Blackburn Road and George Street, East Doncaster ($471 million)
* Extension of North Balwyn (tram route 48) along Doncaster Road from Balwyn Road to Doncaster Shoppingtown ($6 million)

The longest of the plans involved 6 kilometres of underground tunnel, and seven stations, four of them underground. The report found that a heavy rail line would be "desirable but too expensive to consider unless major economies in tunnelling and station construction costs can be made". Public Transport Corporation estimates of the same period costed the two rail options at $376 million and $550 million respectively.

Despite the line being a recurring theme among public transport advocates and political hopefuls, today there is no firm commitment to build the line. The cost to complete the line today has been estimated at $1 billion dollars, [cite web
title = New strategy calls for $10 billion tunnels to move people and freight
work = City Of Melbourne
date = 2006-07-19
url = http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/info.cfm?top=228&pg=715&st=651
format = HTML
accessdate = 2008-03-04
] with transport in the region provided by private motor vehicles on the Eastern Freeway, and bus routes which operate along dedicated lanes from the Doncaster park and ride. [cite web
title = Bus projects and programs
work = Department of Infrastructure
date = 2008-02-28
url = http://www.taxi.vic.gov.au/doi/internet/transport.nsf/headingpagesdisplay/public+transport+projects+and+programsbuses
format = HTML
accessdate = 2008-03-04
]

In 2003 the Northern Central City Corridor Strategy provided costings for a heavy rail, a light rail and a smart bus. [cite web
title = Northern Central City Corridor Strategy
work = Department of Infrastructure
year = 2003
url = http://www.doi.vic.gov.au/Doi/Internet/planningprojects.nsf/AllDocs/8D2A24F5A2FB7552CA256F3200257724?OpenDocument#ncccs
format = HTML
accessdate = 2008-06-04
]

During the 2006 state election, the Victorian Liberal Party promised to extend the number 48 tram to Doncaster Hill, claiming that constructing the heavy rail line would cost around $1 billion and was deemed too expensive an option.Fact|date=March 2008

ee also

*List of proposed Melbourne rail extensions

References


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