The Manningham Transport Committee have decided not to pursue a light rail extension from North Balwyn to Doncaster Hill because it believed it would compromise attempts to secure heavy rail to the City via the Eastern freeway. But it had already been decided long ago it would be buses only for Doncaster Hill and Manningham have been told to stop tugging in other directions.

Light Rail in Sydney Click to enlarge

Light Rail in Sydney                   Click to enlarge

It is the politicians who have kept the prospect of a heavy rail service to Doncaster Hill alive by arranging rail studies now and then as part of  their election campaigns despite the fact that, like all the proposals over the past 100 years, it could never be justified on a cost effective basis.

There are also difficulties for the supporters of a light rail extension from North Balwyn and a line direct to the City via the freeway because the state government has no money. Even though, at a cost of approximately $2 Billion, including rolling stock,  it would be a fraction of the cost of constructing heavy rail which could only go as far as Doncaster Park and Ride anyway because of the

high cost of tunneling up to Doncaster Hill. In contrast the light rail service would travel in the centre of Doncaster Road and could start immediately and be completed within three years if funds were made available.

Modern Light Rail Click to enlarge

Modern Light Rail
Click to enlarge

Manningham executives had commissioned a consultant who said Doncaster Road was to is too steep even though their own geographical information system (GIS) data suggested otherwise. The council’s GIS data shows only a 480m section of Doncaster Rd rises above a 5 per cent gradient, from the Eastern Freeway to Golf Hill Ave,  after that that section  Doncaster Road levels out. It was a cop out because the nearby Riversdale Road Tram easily negotiates a long stretch with a gradient of 7%.

Consistent market research and experience over the last 50 years in Europe and North America shows that car commuters are willing to transfer some trips to rail-based public transport but not to buses. Typically light rail systems attract between 30 and 40% of their patronage from former car trips. Rapid transit bus systems attract less than 5% of trips from cars, less than the variability of traffic. Whether or not these percentages would be repeated if a light rail was introduced in Doncaster is not known but at the very least we would have a permanent connection to the Melbourne tram network.

A Light Rail / Tram service would offer an effective public transport alternative in the East. Constructed to modern LRT standards in a separated Right of Way along the medians of the Eastern Freeway and Alexandra Parade, large Light Rail vehicles can carry 300+ occupants and 8,000-10,000 passengers per track per hour in peak periods, an effective and fast alternative mode of public transport through the Doncaster Corridor.
While Light Rail could fill the current gap in Melbourne’s existing radial heavy rail network in the East, at the same time it has the flexibility to link into Melbourne’s tram
network at both ends of its journey – Balwyn/Doncaster Hill and Fitzroy. When operating
as a tram route at the Fitzroy end, it would provide access and public transport connection
throughout the inner city and CBD for residents of Melbourne’s North East.
It can adapt to the number of passengers by adding more cars during rush hour (and removing them during off-peak hours). No additional driver is then required for the trip in comparison to buses

In general, provides a higher capacity service than buses. Multiple entrances allow loading faster than suburban coaches, which tend to have a single entrance. This, combined with swifter acceleration and braking, lets trams maintain higher overall speeds than buses, if congestion allows.  Stops in the street are easily accessible – unlike stations of subways and commuter railways placed underground (with several escalators, stairways etc.) or in the outskirts of the city center. Rights-of-way facilities are narrower than for buses. This saves valuable space in cities with high population densities and/or narrow streets. Passenger comfort is normally superior to buses because of controlled acceleration and braking and curve easement. Rail transport such provides a smoother ride than road use by buses.


  1. Angry says:

    It makes me so angry that Coherence is still posting articles concerning alternative transport to Doncaster Hill when a deal had already been made for Buses. You need to go back to 2002 when the government 20/30 program for activity centres was desperate to get acceptors not long before a state election and Manningham Council was being inundated with applications for the high rise apartment towers. It turned out to be a perfect marriage with Manningham getting control and being accepted as a principal activity centre and state government able to claim it’s activity centre plan was up and running. …Doncaster Hill became their “jewel in the crown” of the 20/30. There were problems from the very beginning because Doncaster Hill did not have a railway line running through it, unlike all activity centres that followed, so the only practical transport solution was to agree to provide a Bus service to Doncaster Hill. Prior to the agreement to designate Doncaster Hill as a principal activity centre several alternatives were discussed but neither Tram nor a Railway were considered practical. Buses might not be the perfect answer but at least we have an express freeway bus to the city which would be quicker than a Train.

  2. Tracy Day says:

    Manningham should at least be connected to the Melbourne Metropolitan Tram network by extending the North Balwyn Tram through to Tunstall Square. But the State simply can’t afford additional funding for transport to Doncaster Hill other than an extended Bus service. Manningham Council are still campaigning for a train station on Doncaster Hill, costing at least $12 Billion. This could not be justified even if there were other growth areas it could service along the proposed route to show it was cost efficient. Residents are tired of all the propaganda about transport plans which have continued to help con overseas investors.

  3. Gloaming says:

    The Transport Committee’s policy of a “train or nothing at all” means we will get nothing at all. They should be concentrating on the only viable option we have and that is an extension to the existing line from North Balwyn through to Donvale at a cost of around $100 Million. You can rule out a light or heavy rail service to the city because Vic Roads will not allow the freeway median strip to be used because they will need it for additional traffic lanes.

  4. Valcurl says:

    The original Doncaster Hill four storey “River of Life” might have worked with only one mode of transport available but hardly sufficient for a strategy that now prescribes up to thirteen storey apartment buildings, cut in four by two arterial roads which are being clogged already. Deception, stealth and some very dodgy planning bureaucrats fooled us into believing we would get a railway station.

    1. John says:

      Council are continuing to misrepresent the distance from Western boundary of Manningham (Park and Ride) to the outer edge (1 Nicholson Street) of the Melbourne CBD. The Manningham council website says it is 10 kilometres but according to driving distance calculators it is 14.3 Km (8.86 miles) They might have meant the straight line distance to the outer CBD but that too would also be deceptive because the “air” distance is nearly 12 km (11.91) or (7.4 miles). It would also be confusing for some older people because distances were often measured from the Melbourne GPO which would be a driving distance of 18.38 km. (11.42 miles) or an air distance of 14.6 km (9.07 miles) to the Doncaster Hill PO.

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