A report from the Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic) is proposing that a suburban bus loop should pre-empt the construction and opening of the suburban rail loop.
The suburban rail loop (SRL) is a 90km corridor of rail that is set to connect Melbourne’s middle ring of suburbs.
However, BusVic executive director Chris Lowe says that there are problems with the SRL proposal.
“The trouble with the SRL is that it is cost prohibitive and we won’t enjoy the benefits of it for decades,” Lowe says.
“There is a more cost effective and demand responsive solution.”
Instead, BusVic is proposing to the Victorian government that it establishes a high-capacity corridor called the suburban bus loop (SBL) along the proposed SRL corridor to function as a lead-in for the project throughout its 30-year delivery phase.
The high-capacity bus services would be delivered by hydrogen fuel-cell electric models to provide reliable, comfortable, zero-emissions and high-value services linking communities along the proposed SRL with key activity centres and existing rail corridors.
Under BusVic’s plan, the hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses would be manufactured in Melbourne, creating new jobs and the chance to create a high-value manufacturing sector in Victoria.
Bus services could be designed to provide similar operating capacities as the proposed SRL corridor, with high-capacity vehicles operating at high frequencies during peak and off-peak periods to offer a ‘turn up and go’ style service.
The end goal is a highly efficient public transport network for the middle ring of Melbourne.
“We estimate the whole thing would cost around $3 billion over 20 years – a fraction of the cost of the SRL,” Lowe says.
Lowe says that bus rapid transit would mean that service frequency would be set at five to seven minutes during the peak period and 10 minutes in the off-peak period. For the orbital style service, frequency would be at 10 minutes at all times for services running between 5AM and 1AM seven days a week to align with the rail network.
“We propose the SBL be segmented similar to the structure to the SRL, with key interchanges established along the corridor,” Lowe says.
“This includes Southland, Monash Medical Centre, Monash University, Glen Waverley, Box Hill, Doncaster, Heidelberg, La Trobe University, Broadmeadows, Melbourne Airport, Werribee and Sunshine.”