The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) welcomes the Rowville rail study as an important first step in filling in a decades-old missing link in the rail network.
An important question for residents in the Rowville corridor is how they will make best use of any railway line. Due to land constraints, it is likely that car parking at some of the proposed railway stations will be very limited or even unavailable. Even if more space were available, park-and-ride is an extremely limited means of getting people on to public transport. Car parks quickly fill up, and only people who can drive, and have a car available, can use them. Therefore we need to look beyond park-and-ride as the primary means of getting people on to trains.
Walking, cycling and feeder bus services are much better ways of giving passengers access to trains. However walking is only a viable option for those who live within less than a kilometre from a railway station. Cycling allows a longer journey although appropriate supporting infrastructure needs to be in place and for various reasons not everyone is able to make use of this option. So how can we best provide access to rail services for those who live further away?
The answer lies in feeder bus services. If managed properly, feeder buses can significantly expand the catchment of the railway line, therefore boosting patronage on rail services. Such bus services will provide the most convenient way for the majority of people in the Rowville corridor to get to the new railway line. However, to work effectively, these bus services will have to offer a level of convenience that few Melburnians enjoy at present.
So it’s not just a matter of building a pair of railway tracks. We have to consider the public transport network as a whole. It is likely that bus routes will need to be restructured to properly support the railway line. Furthermore, all feeder bus services will need to operate to the same service intervals as trains, so that bus and train services can be readily coordinated. Bus schedules must also be timed so that transfers between bus and train services are made without long waiting times.
Good network planning opens the door to greater opportunities for everyone, some of which may not be obvious. For example, people living along the Belgrave and Lilydale lines may find it more convenient to travel by bus from Ringwood to Rowville and then by train to Monash University.
Integration with the existing rail network is another important consideration under network planning. The Rowville railway line would connect Monash University Clayton campus to the existing rail network for the first time ever. This alone has huge potential to transform the nature of student travel to Monash University and alleviate the persistent parking problems there.
It’s not surprising that people who have never had public transport services which they can simply walk to from their door will only think in terms of park-and-ride, because that has been their only viable option in making use of public transport services. However, as we can see, this need not be the case.
To make optimum use of a new railway line such as the one to Rowville, we have to think beyond the norm for our city. Buses that co-ordinate properly with trains are very rare in Melbourne, but are not at all unusual by world standards. A Rowville rail line presents an exciting opportunity to do something new in Melbourne and revolutionise people’s perception of our public transport network.
Outer East Branch Convenor
Public Transport Users Association