31 May 2011

The Age editorial: Yes or Noville for Rowville?

TUE 31 MAY The Age editorial: Taking the right track to Rowville?

IN THE 42 years since a rail line to Rowville in Melbourne's south-east was proposed by the then Bolte government, the idea has got precisely nowhere.

Somehow, somewhere, over the decades, a straightforward scheme of linking the city with one of the metropolitan area's most densely populated regions now resembles a model railway: a circle line whose starting point and terminus are one and the same. Rowville, Rowville, Rowville has been the mantra of successive oppositions that, when in government, all too quickly amend it to Noville, Noville, Noville. For example, Labor, which promised to consider building the line when it was elected in 1999, swiftly abandoned the project — too expensive, and, besides, improved bus services would more than do.

But cars and buses co-exist on increasingly clogged roads, and rail is now the only answer. As the former Brumby government discovered to its cost at last November's election, public transport has become a fundamental public issue capable of swaying popular support. In opposition, Victorian Liberals made public transport a key election policy. Among their promises, which included the armed-guards-on-stations proposal and the formation of a single public transport authority, was a feasibility study into a Rowville rail link. On Sunday, the Baillieu government kept its word, announcing a two-stage $2 million study, to be completed by mid-2013.

Transport planner William McDougall, who was in charge of a preliminary study into the unbuilt $5 billion trail tunnel from Footscray to Caulfield, commissioned by the former Labor government, will lead a team of engineers from Sinclair Knight Merz.

Although this appears to augur well, there lingers an uneasy sense of deja vu. After all, since there have been so many discussions of a Rowville line, will this one really make any difference? Perhaps so. There are encouraging signs that the government is taking things more seriously, indeed pragmatically. Transport minister Terry Mulder has already indicated likely stations along the 12-kilometre line, and has said there will be a "strong emphasis" throughout the study on community involvement.

In the end, time and circumstance have caught up with reality. There have been too many studies, too many excuses (almost as many as those routinely offered for not proceeding with the rail link to Melbourne Airport) and reasons have become almost as exhausted as public patience. Rowville must happen; the sooner, the better.

ALSO: Interesting opinion piece from Committee for Melbourne on planning for population growth Read it here

What do you think? Is this real progress?

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