“Light Rail Transit (LRT) provides cities with a high quality, medium-capacity public transport technology with higher performance, capacity and passenger comfort than traditional street Bus and Tram systems, but at lower per-kilometre capital cost than heavy rail” by Scott Martin, Track Signal Magazine

Light Rail Carriages Click to Enlarge

Light Rail With Carriages
Click to Enlarge

The Victorian Transport Action Group’s (VTAG) detailed plan for a Doncaster Light Rail Transit (LRT)  between the CBD and Doncaster Hill, via the Eastern Freeway and Doncaster Road, is expected to be submitted to the Manningham Council later this month. The high capacity, rapid transit service is estimated to cost around $1.5 billion, including rolling stock. The Track Signal magazine have indicated it will be publishing details of the proposal in their July edition.

“Unlike other modes of mass transportation, light rail offers the ability to closely integrate into the community and bring people into the very centre of high density activity areas”.

Engineers have confirmed


Seven percent Gradient

Seven percent Gradient                               Riversdale Road                        click to enlarge

that both trams and LRVs could climb the incline up to Doncaster Hill and can negotiate the average gradient of 4% over 2,250 metres from the freeway to Doncaster Hill. It is within the 5% gradient accepted as the maximum incline for Light Rail.The Light Rail service, to be known as Route 100, would commence in the heart of the Doncaster Activity Centre. It would then proceed down Doncaster Road, past the new Eastern Golf course development and access the Eastern Freeway via an underpass to Doncaster Road with access to the Park and Ride; a distance of 2 kilometres. The Light Rail service would then travel along the northern edge of the eastern freeway reservation before crossing into the freeway median at Bulleen Road and run down the median reservation of the Eastern Freeway before passing under the road and rail services at Hoddle Street to Alexander Parade; a distance of 11 kilometres. It would then continue down Alexandra Parade as far as Nicholson Street; a distance of 1.3 kilometres. At the western end the Light Rail could connect to tram Route 96 which it could share on the existing route on Nicholson Street for 2 kilometres. Alternatively, following due local, consultative process it could leave Route 96 at Johnson Street and run via Barkly and Rathdowne Streets to Latrobe Street. These or other options could give speedy and direct access to central Melbourne. In the city Latrobe Streets and/or Bourke Street are positioned to distribute commuters into the CBD and return them home after work. Total travel distance from Doncaster Hill to CBD is 16.3 kilometres on 12.3 kilometres of new track. It would deliver a reliable, rapid and comfortable service, and as noted above, without massive expenditure; and with the huge advantage that it can be engineered rapidly and in service within three years of reaching agreement to proceed. It is the missing link that would deliver a connected tram service for public transport users around the north and eastern suburbs.

The service would commence at the Doncaster Activity Centre, where there are various possible sites for a terminus.

$11 Billion Price Tag For Heavy Rail Service

Eleven Billion Price Tag
For Heavy Rail Service

CEO is on left Click to enlarge

CEO is on left
Click to enlarge

Whilst public support has been built up for a rail line, it is based on decades of political and media promotion of a “vision” which is divorced from reality. The reality is covered in detail in a later chapter, but it is sufficient to state that the projected cost of heavy rail at up to $6 billion, plus the cost of uncoupling the South Morang line, cannot be justified by the relatively low density of the population and expected patronage figures in this or the following decades. Manningham executive said “we were surprised by the recommendation to terminate the rail line at the Doncaster Park & Ride not extend to the Doncaster activity centre”. “Also given previous estimates we were shocked by the magnitude of the $11 billion price tag that has been attached to the project by the URS study, with the addition of the South Morang line deviation”.

Gold Coast Light Rail Click to enlarge

Gold Coast Light Rail
Click to enlarge

Perth Light Rail Plan Click to Enlarge

Perth Light Rail Plan
Click to Enlarge

Of the top 10 cities listed on the 2013 Economic Intelligence Unit’s global liveability index, eight have light rail systems. Perth, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand are the only two cities in the top ten that do not currently have light rail. Australian cities with light rail include Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. A light rail system is under construction in Queensland’s Gold Coast and new systems are being planned in Canberra and Sydney (including further extensions to the existing light rail services). Perth will be able to take advantage of the lessons learned by many other cities in constructing new light rail systems and has a close association with consortia on the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Portland, Oregon (USA).


  1. Talford says:

    Nearly all the roads throughout the Metropolitan Tram network are 20 metres wide so even when you take into account the width of the dedicated Bus lanes there will still be more room on Doncaster Road because it is 30 metres wide. A previous study, conducted by Council’s own consultant, to justify their refusal to support a tram service, had concluded that there would be a loss of road space because of the Bus lanes and had wrongly assumed that cars could not drive over the tram tracks. Meanwhile Whitehorse Council were able to deliver a Tram extension to Box Hill on Whitehorse Road which is 20 metres wide.

  2. Rex says:

    Light Rail is not a Tram, but can still run on the existing Tram tracks. It has been adopted in Sydney, Adelaide and the Gold Coast. It would be a boon for Doncaster Hill and could be extended to Tunstall Square. The estimated cost of $1.5 Billion, including rolling stock, could be less than what would be required just for tunnelling for heavy rail up to Doncaster Hill.

  3. Grafton Carter says:

    “Though there was a community preference for the rail line to extend to Doncaster Hill, the steep underground tunnel makes this extension prohibitively expensive when compared with the high-frequency bus connection service between Doncaster Hill and the park-and-ride that could be provided”. (Phase one Recommendations Report—-Doncaster Rail Study).
    What is the point of building a rail line to Doncaster Park and Ride two kilometres away from where it is required on Doncaster Hill?
    Grafton Carter

  4. travelmate says:

    The light rail, which has the same width rail as the Metropolitan Tram network, could go as far as Tunstall Square and could also connect to the North Balwyn Tram terminus (the same as the Whitehorse Tram extension) this would take the pressure off the Park and Ride parking area. The big plus is that all the high rise/high density buildings along Doncaster Road would have fast efficient transport to the City at their front door. The $11 Billion cost for heavy rail could not be justified because of the small travelling catchment but a price tag of $1.5 -$2 Billion, that would service more commuters, surely would. We are fortunate that Doncaster Road is 10 metres wider than the roads in Melbourne’s Tram network. Church Street which connects Kew to Hawthorn is only 18 metres wide.

    1. David . says:

      It should be noted that light rail lines do not protrude above the road surface which enables cars to drive over them so no road space is lost. Excerpts below from a study commissioned by Manningham council seems to suggest otherwise.
      “Introducing a tramline down the centre of Doncaster Road will require the removal of at least one through traffic lane in each direction in some cases two. This will result in sections of Doncaster Road being reduced from three lanes in each direction to just one. This will significantly increase travel times along Doncaster Road”.
      NOTE: Before this study was completed a Tram extension had been constructed in Whitehorse Road which has a width of only 20 metres.

  5. Velox says:

    How can you trust politicians and bureaucrats? They continue to announce new infrastructure on a weekly basis none of which have any hope of ever being funded. There was never a possibility of getting heavy rail to Doncaster Hill let alone Park and Ride, so why spend $6.5 Million on yet another rail study just for the sake of a political party’s election prospects? Another promise they made was to build the extension of the Tram 48 to Doncaster Hill prior to an election but it never happened. Then later, to get the politician off the hook, Manningham council commissioned an “expert” to recommend that a Tram would not be practical on Doncaster Road. Even though the Whitehorse Road Tram extension, that had the same road conditions as Doncaster Road, had been completed during this period.

    1. Dalray says:

      You are entirely correct. You only have to look at the budget announcement to realise what little hope Doncaster has of getting the heavy rail. The most urgent of all the promised rail lines, the $600 Million Mernda railway, has been allocated only $9 Million. The Metro tunnel has been allocated a $1.5 Billion “down payment” but it will be contingent upon the sale of the Port of Melbourne, the income derived from the property boom and the extra taxes imposed on foreign purchasers of real estate.

      1. Karen Bayne-West says:

        I agree the chances of Doncaster obtaining funding for any sort of rail service are hopeless.
        Mr Andrews said the current Federal Government had made it clear it would not fund Melbourne Metro. The $1.5 Billion down payment towards its $11 Billion cost is a joke, where is the rest of the funding coming from? You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to conclude that the state has no money. The commencement date at the end of 2018 just happens to be the date of the next election which means the problem could be handballed if Andrews loses the election and also Labor would not want to contest the next election with Swanston Street dug up and the City in gridlock.

  6. Whittens says:

    Melbourne’s public transport deterioration has been dramatic – the size of the fall since 1950 is greater than in any western city. Melbourne’s public transport department has not been the place for an ambitious engineer. Excuses for inaction are more inventive than the plans for action. For example, we are told that we can’t have more frequent trains because the system is at capacity. When forced to come up with solutions to the supposed capacity problem, impractical and unafordable schemes are proposed.

  7. Lester T says:

    The gradient from the freeway to Tram Road, claimed to be too steep for Trams by Manningham officer’s consultant, has a maximum gradient of around 5.2%, in an overall average of just 4%, which would be no problem for modern day light rail. Neither would it be for the old Trams that handled far steeper gradients (in excess of 8%) in their stride.
    I don’t have exact figures; but my idea of steep grades include:
    Collins St between Russell & Swanston Sts;
    William St. between Collins & Flinders Lane, and Flinders Lane & Flinders Sts;
    Dundas St overpass;
    St Ignatius hill in Church St Richmond (above) — which side is steeper?
    Riversdale Rd on the east of the railway square;
    hump at Swan St (Burnley) overpass;
    Maribyrnong Rd east from Union Rd to the railway;
    Glenferrie Rd, south of the Kooyong railway crossing;
    Glenferrie Rd north of Barkers Rd.
    Burke Rd south of Riversdale Rd, approaching the Junction;
    Riversdale Road east of Warrigal Road;
    Riversdale Road west of Elgar Road (to Wattle Park)
    The Tram extension in Whitehorse Road Box Hill, completed in 2007, has a similar overall gradient to that of Doncaster Road which you have pictured in this article.

  8. Edified says:

    Get on the Council en masse in 2016.
    It is the only way.
    I am basing this advice on the fact that people that care use this website.
    I feel that the incumbent councillors care less.

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