Concept image of State Library station platforms. Image used with permission of Rail Projects Victoria.

Concept image of Town Hall station, Federation Square entrance. Image used with permission of Rail Projects Victoria.

Metro Tunnel

David Matheson

25 November 2018

Metro Tunnel is a major rail infrastructure project in Melbourne which comprises twin 9 km rail tunnels from South Kensington through the CBD to South Yarra. The project is projected to cost $10.9 billion. It includes five new underground stations, as well as a train–tram interchange at Anzac station. The new Metro Tunnel will enable more trains to operate in and out of the CBD, providing for an additional 39,000 more passengers across the suburban railway network in peak times. Major construction has begun, with services to commence running by 2026.

 

Construction

Rail Projects Victoria (RPV)(formerly Melbourne Metro Rail Authority) is a Victorian Government body that has responsibility for delivery of Metro Tunnel. Its role includes project design, site investigations, engagement with stakeholders, planning approvals, construction and commissioning. Various contacts will be awarded throughout the construction phase. John Holland was awarded the first major contract, involving the excavation of shafts in preparation for tunnelling and the construction of underground stations. Early works began in 2016.

 

Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) will arrive in Melbourne early in 2019. They are currently being manufactured in Nansha, China, and are customised for the Metro Tunnel project. After arrival they will undergo a testing process before beginning work. TBMs cut through rock and soil, while also placing a watertight concrete lining on the tunnel walls as they proceed. They will work on tunnelling throughout the day and night for around two or three years. The depth of the tunnels will be up to 42 metres below the surface. The deepest point will be where the line passes underneath the existing City Loop beneath Swanston Street. It will also pass underneath the Yarra River and Moonee Ponds Creek.

 

As well as boring the twin tunnels, construction work will involve building the new stations and a range of associated works. There will be significant excavations, with the necessary removal of 1.8 million cubic metres of spoil. Carrying out this work in the middle of the busy Central Business District will be a major challenge. Excavation shafts up to 11 storeys deep will be dug to transport equipment and employees. State Library and Town Hall stations will be built as large caverns created by three overlapping tunnels dug by road headers; they will have the concourse and platforms on a single level. North Melbourne, Parkville and Anzac stations will be built using the cut and cover method. Cut and cover involves a large excavation from the surface, which is then covered with a concrete deck. Work can then proceed below the concrete deck with minimal disruption to regular activities on the surface. Acoustic sheds will be installed in some locations. These structures enclose construction sites to minimise noise, dust and light during construction work.

 

Some disruption to regular transport routes will be necessary during construction of Metro Tunnel. Regular updates are provided on the Metro Tunnel website <www.metrotunnel.vic.gov.au>. Interested people can also sign up for regular email updates.

 

65 new High Capacity Metro Trains (HCMTs) are being purchased for operation on the Melbourne suburban network. They will be indivisible seven-car trains with a length of 161 metres, compared to 143 metres for the six-car trains currently in service. It is anticipated that HCMTs will enable average loads of up to 1100 passengers. Potential exists for the future addition of an additional three carriages, taking the length to 230 metres for a ten-car train, and having capacity for 1500 passengers. The HCMTs will initially run on the line from the city to Cranbourne and Pakenham, and eventually use the Metro Tunnel before continuing to Sunbury. It is expected that the first of these trains will commence service in the middle of 2019. The contract for building the HCMTs has been awarded to Evolution Rail. Large-scale maintenance facilities are being constructed at Pakenham East. Some design features of the new trains were based on feedback received from engagement with future passengers.

Map showing the Metro Tunnel route through Melbourne CBD. Image used with permission of Metro Tunnel <www.metrotunnel.vic.gov.au>.

Stations

There will be five underground stations built on the new line. Working names were given when the project was first announced. A Station Naming Competition was held in 2017, which provided members of the public with the opportunity to suggest names for the stations. Over 50,000 entries were received. Suggestions included geographical locations, the names of famous Australians, popular culture terms, creative names, and humorous names such as Station McStation Face. An advisory panel developed a shortlist and the government chose the final names from among the most popular suggestions. Working and final names of the new stations are listed below.

 

Working Name                                                   Final Name

Arden                                                                   North Melbourne

Parkville                                                               Parkville

CBD North                                                           State Library

CBD South                                                           Town Hall

Domain                                                                 Anzac

 

The names reflect the locations where the stations will be located. All stations will be located near major public facilities and tourist attractions. Anzac station will be located underneath St Kilda Rd, near the Shrine of Remembrance. The existing North Melbourne station will be renamed West Melbourne to more accurately reflect its geographic location.

 

Stations on the Melbourne Metro line are being built with platforms 240 metres in length, enabling the operation of 10-car trains.

 

Benefits for the Rail Network

Metro railways currently exist in many cities around the world, particularly in Europe, Asia and North America. Sydney is currently building Metro lines, with the first scheduled to open in 2019. Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel will be the first step towards the introduction of Metro railways throughout Melbourne.

 

Metro Tunnel will enable Melbourne’s rail network to expand to cater for its growing population. The City Loop does not have capacity for more trains to meet this demand. When Metro Tunnel is open, services on the Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sunbury lines will no longer operate through the City Loop. This will provide space for increased services on other lines to run through the City Loop.

 

The new Town Hall and State Library stations will have direct connections to the existing Flinders Street and Melbourne Central stations, enabling passengers to interchange with services on other lines. Various lines will have an increase in capacity, as well as improvements in journey times to the city. Increases in capacity on existing lines during peak times are listed below.

Line                                                   Percentage Increase

Craigieburn                                                          27

Cranbourne/Pakenham                                       45

Frankston                                                            15

Sandringham                                                       48

Sunbury                                                               60

Upfield                                                                 71

Werribee/Williamstown                                        24

 

Reductions in journey times on existing lines to Parkville and St Kilda Rd are listed below.

Line                                                             Reduction in Journey Time

Alamein                                                                Up to 10 minutes

Belgrave/Lilydale                                                  Up to 10 minutes

Craigieburn                                                           Up to 5 minutes

Cranbourne/Pakenham                                         Up to 15 minutes

Frankston                                                              Up to 15 minutes

Glen Waverley                                                      Up to 10 minutes

Hurstbridge                                                           Up to 10 minutes

Sandringham                                                        Up to 10 minutes

South Morang                                                       Up to 10 minutes

Sunbury                                                                Up to 20 minutes

Upfield                                                                  Up to 5 minutes

Werribee/Williamstown                                         Up to 10 minutes

 

Upgrades to parts of the wider suburban railway network will also be carried out. Work will include the installation of high capacity signalling from Watergardens to Dandenong, enabling trains to operate at frequencies of two to three minutes; upgrading the existing Calder Park train stabling facility to cater for the new High Capacity Metro Trains; track work; platform modifications; and power upgrades.

 

Metro Tunnel HQ, a visitor centre, is located at 125–133 Swanston Street Melbourne, across the road from Melbourne Town Hall. It has a range of information and interactive activities. An interactive map of the Metro Tunnel project, with concept images of the five stations can be viewed at

<http://metrotunnel.u-c.com.au/iMapV5/index.html>.

 

References

High Capacity Metro Trains Project <www.transport.vic.gov.au/our-projects/high-capacity-metro-trains>.

Metro Tunnel <www.metrotunnel.vic.gov.au>.

Concept image of North Melbourne station entrance. Image used with permission of Rail Projects Victoria.

Concept image of Anzac station entrance. Image used with permission of Rail Projects Victoria.