Although I have not been that opposed to the light rail replacement for the Upfield Line proposed in the 1980s, excessive wastage upon roads (e.g. the South-Eastern Mulgrave link) even then prevented it being carried out. More than that, the freeways attracted so many off-peak rail users that they actually increased traffic congestion, especially with Australia’s very low fuel taxes.
In the RaiPage article, former transport minister Alan Brown says that the Liberal Government had planned to demolish the Upfield Line and put the destructive CityLink through Macaulay and Flemington Bridge stations. However, a delay in this plan meant that CityLink was revised and was placed above Macaulay and Flemington Bridge stations, and the Upfield Line was saved.
Twenty years later, in 2014, the importance if this very minor decision vis-à-vis the radical (and in Australia essential) planning changes advocated by Environment, Capitalism and Socialism four years beforehand had not been carried out was seen when a power failure on the Broadmeadows Line (since extended to Cragieburn) forced chaos on the Upfield Line as can be seen below at North Melbourne station.
Even Alan Brown admitted in his recent interview that:
“it was the poor relation of Melbourne’s rail network”
“a line that serviced electorates that the Labor Party held and would clearly continue to hold, but it was the right decision for Melbourne”
Such a policy would also significantly cut into Australia’s dreadful record on greenhouse gas emissions – even using diesel fuel rail is four times more fuel-efficient than road transport.
Brown‘s speech – modest as it is – and the lesson that mass protest can prevent such a catastrophe as closing the Upfield Line would have produced, constitutes a clear demonstration of why the most radical change to transport policies in Australia, involving an outright ban on new freeways and highways and a transfer of all allocated funds to rail transit, is over half a century overdue.