The North East Link, a new rail line to Melbourne airport, increases in housing density, and a network-wide transport pricing regime have been made priorities in Infrastructure Victoria’s new 30-year draft strategy for the state.
The draft strategy, now available for public consultation, takes the unprecedented step of looking at every aspect of infrastructure for the state across nine sectors including education, transport, telecommunications, energy and justice.
The independent authority has put forward 134 recommendations worth around $100 billion, which address the current and future needs of Victorians across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, with 70 per cent of recommendations having statewide relevance.
Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive, Michel Masson, said the development of the draft strategy had taken a bold approach.
“While there are 134 recommendations, three areas have been identified for priority action – increasing densities in established areas to make better use of existing infrastructure, introducing a comprehensive transport pricing regime and investing in social and affordable housing for vulnerable Victorians,” Mr Masson said.
The draft strategy combines state-shaping major projects – such as North East Link and a new airport rail line – with policies and reforms which aim to get the most out of existing infrastructure – such as harvesting stormwater, turning vacant land into urban forests and transforming state schools into community facilities.
Among the recommendations are a new rail line to Melbourne Airport, a tram to Fisherman’s Bend and a major overhaul of the bus network.
The strategy also lays out a pipeline of major public transport projects – including a rail line extension to Clyde and electrification of rail services to Melton and Wallan and rolling out 10-carriage high capacity trains – alongside initiatives which seek to get the most out of existing infrastructure including train station upgrades and timetabling reforms.
Other key recommendations include:
- New rail tracks and stations in western Melbourne along the recently constructed Regional Rail
- Link to alleviate overcrowding on Geelong, Werribee and Wyndham rail lines
- High capacity signalling upgrades on the metropolitan rail network
- Upgrades to some of Melbourne’s busiest train stations – including South Yarra and Caulfield
- New mass transit light rail or bus networks for major metropolitan employment centres – such as Monash and Latrobe – to connect with rail lines
- Introducing new regional coach services to connect regional towns with regional cities
- Expanding bus services in growth suburbs, as well as SmartBus services and improved DART services to Doncaster
- Reconfiguring the City Loop to increase capacity on the Craigieburn and Upfield lines
- Removing barriers to innovative rideshare and carpooling schemes
- The electrification of the rail line to Melton, improving rail services to and from Ballarat
- Completion of planning work to protect a transport corridor linking Torquay to Geelong.
The draft strategy recommends a network-wide transport pricing regime and new motorways – including North East Link and the Outer Metropolitan Ring Road.
Infrastructure Victoria commissioned new transport demand modelling and economic cost-benefit analysis of eight major road and rail projects, and major transport policy initiatives.
The draft strategy recommends planning to ensure an Eastern Freeway to CityLink connection could be provided in the future, after the analysis indicated this connection was not required in the short to medium term.
The recommendations also include policy changes to pave the way for driverless cars, road space allocation changes to prioritise buses, trams and cycling, upgrades to arterial roads, upgrades to regional roads and highways and upgrades to bridges as part of a high productivity freight network.
Infrastructure Victoria also recommends increasing density in established areas, particularly near railway stations and employment centres, to make better use of existing infrastructure.
The draft strategy lays out a pipeline of initiatives, including policy and reform changes to better align infrastructure and land use planning.
The strategy makes wide ranging recommendations to respond to infrastructure demands of high growth suburbs in metropolitan Melbourne and regional centres – including extending train lines, expanding bus services, building integrated justice precincts and health hubs and transforming schools into shared community spaces.
Mr Masson said the draft strategy aimed to respond to forecast population growth and improve access to jobs and services.
“Victoria is already the fastest growing state in Australia, and its population is expected to continue to grow to 9.5 million by 2046 – over 80 per cent of which is expected to be in greater Melbourne.
The draft strategy recommends increasing medium density development in areas already well serviced by infrastructure, focusing on areas in the vicinity of train stations and tram corridors.
Infrastructure Victoria has recommended the Victorian Government work with local councils and amend planning controls at appropriate locations in Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo to allow more people to live in areas with established infrastructure.
The strategy also recommends encouraging people who live in high density areas to shift to more active forms of transport by investing in more cycling corridors, walking path improvements and better public transport.
The strategy also calls for a major investment in affordable and social housing for Victoria’s most vulnerable as one of its top priorities.
Infrastructure Victoria could not set a specific target, but evidence suggests an estimated 30,000 additional affordable dwellings may need to be provided within the next ten years.
Getting the most out of existing infrastructure
Mr Masson said the draft strategy detailed new projects alongside policies and reforms to get the most out of existing infrastructure, and it also has a strong focus on regional Victoria.
Mr Masson said the strategy had been developed through rigorous assessment of available evidence and new analysis it had commissioned, and informed by feedback from the community, two citizen juries, government, academia and the private sector throughout an extensive consultation program.
“The challenges we face over the next 30 years cannot be solved just by building new things so we have looked at ways to manage demand and better utilise existing infrastructure,” Mr Masson said.
Infrastructure Victoria is inviting feedback on Victoria’s Draft 30-year Infrastructure Strategy, which will be delivered to Parliament in December 2016.