1 February 2018

Melbourne’s orbital mobility challenge: chapters 1 to 4

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Summary of document

The first section of this business case sets out the role of transport in a connected Melbourne, the problems facing the city’s transport network and the benefits of addressing these problems. It examines and tests a range of potential strategic options to confirm that North East Link is the most effective strategic response to these problems.

Melbourne’s population boom has underpinned consumer demand, housing construction and, ultimately, economic growth; however, it has also created significant demands on housing, infrastructure, services and the environment. As the city continues to grow, Melbourne must be able to offer access to jobs and education, and meet basic housing, energy and transport needs in ways that are efficient and sustainable. A large city that grows without these opportunities, services and structures in place is at high risk of experiencing adverse economic, environmental and social consequences. With the benefits of a productive, competitive and liveable Melbourne extending well beyond the city’s boundaries, maintaining these features is also critical to strengthening the wider Victorian and Australian economies.

Supporting a growing city requires strong transport connectivity for radial (to and from the CBD), cross-city and orbital travel. While Melbourne has strong radial connectivity that enables good central city access, other trips are not as well served by the transport network. These journeys are becoming increasingly important to moving people and goods around and through Melbourne, and to extracting maximum value and opportunity from the city’s productive and competitive potential.

Alongside improved cross-city connectivity, it is important to maintain the qualities that make the city an attractive destination for residents and businesses, and to reinforce Melbourne’s reputation for liveability. This includes making sure that additional pressures are not placed on the Urban Growth Boundary, which is designed to contain Melbourne’s outward growth, create a more consolidated and sustainable city, and protect productive agricultural land and significant natural landscapes.

The Victorian Government has taken steps to improve Melbourne’s connectivity by alleviating road congestion, increasing accessibility and adopting a strong focus on integrated transport and land use planning. Much-needed capacity has been added to the transport network, including investment in major new rail and road infrastructure and upgrades to existing assets and services. While these actions have resulted in significant improvements to parts of the transport network, the city’s unconnected freeway network continues to constrain the performance of the wider network and reduce connectivity and accessibility for households and businesses across Melbourne.

Cross-city movements between Melbourne’s west and north are facilitated via the M80 Ring Road, extending from the Princes Freeway in Altona to the Greensborough Bypass. Movements between the east and south east are enabled by EastLink, which traverses the outer eastern suburbs between Donvale and Seaford. However, there is no freeway-standard connection for cross-city orbital movements between the eastern terminal of the M80 Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway and northern end of EastLink. Instead, these movements are facilitated via arterial roads that are struggling to cope with increasing traffic volumes and competing travel demands that include commuter trips, business trips and intra-city, regional and interstate freight movements.

The context for the preparation of the business case is outlined in Chapter 1.

Chapter 2 explores the impacts of poor cross-city orbital connectivity by analysing how:

  • Melbourne’s unconnected freeway network constrains the economic potential of Victoria.
  • Inefficient freight movement between the north and south east of Melbourne limits supply chain competitiveness and hinders the growth of high value industries.
  • Congestion and heavy vehicles on neighbourhood roads in the north east harm liveability and community wellbeing.

Addressing these problems is expected to deliver:

  • Economic, employment and business growth – Providing a fast, reliable and direct orbital connection to key employment areas in the north, east and south east will attract more investment in these areas and improve the ability of businesses to access skilled workers, participate in supply chains and share inputs, ideas and innovation.
  • Improved competitiveness and productivity – Greater cross-city connectivity will allow improvements and efficiencies in freight movements and supply chains, which will flow through to reduced business costs and lower consumer prices and deliver productivity benefits across the Melbourne and Victorian economies.
  • Increased opportunities for households in the north, east and south east – Improved accessibility will give residents more job choices and more options for working closer to home, boost household incomes and support the development of ‘employment rich’ suburban hubs that can generate new economic opportunities from Melbourne’s expanding services sectors.
  • Improved liveability and thriving communities in the north east – Decreased reliance on local and arterial roads as key cross-city routes through Melbourne’s north east will boost amenity in these areas through reduced noise pollution, improved air quality, safer local roads, less time lost sitting in traffic and better connections to local destinations.

The achievement of these benefits will be measured against a set of key performance indicators, as outlined in Chapter 3.

Chapter 4 examines a range of strategic options and tests how effective they would be in addressing the problems identified in Chapter 2. Options are tested against five criteria: benefits, cost, time, risk and impacts. This analysis confirms that a solution with a connected freeway (North East Link) as its core element is the most comprehensive and viable solution to orbital connectivity and capacity problems in Melbourne’s north east. This solution also delivers the highest amount of benefits in the medium term for relatively fewer dis-benefits (adverse impacts).

North East Link also provides connectivity to activity centres and employment hubs, facilitating economic growth and access to jobs and education opportunities. It will move trucks off local roads in the north east, improving liveability and wellbeing for communities. These benefits are supported by modelling and economic analysis undertaken by Infrastructure Victoria, which show the North East Link as being a relatively high-performing project that offers substantial benefits in linking people to employment across Melbourne.

This strategic response also supports national, state and local government strategies and policies that have identified the need for a freeway-standard link between the M80 Ring Road and the Eastern Freeway/EastLink.

‘Cross-city’ versus ‘orbital’ movements

Generally, ‘cross-city movements’ refers to travel across Melbourne from one part of the city to another, such as using arterial roads to travel from Bundoora in the north to Box Hill in the east.

‘Orbital movements’ refers to travel around Melbourne via the outer suburbs, such as using the M80, arterial roads and the Monash Freeway to travel from Broadmeadows in the north to Dandenong in the south east.

Only a small number of trips are truly ‘orbital’ in that they travel along the full extent of the city’s orbital network. Most journeys use part of the orbital network to move across the city in a variety of directions: from the west to the north east, from the north west to the east, from the south east to the north and so on. This business case refers to these trips along sections of the orbital network as cross-city orbital movements and notes the importance of improving cross-city orbital connectivity as Melbourne continues to grow.