The optimum, highest value creating entry for HSR into Melbourne is from the east via Dandenong to Southern Cross Station HSR Terminus. It would be in a trench to the north side of the suburban train tracks which would also be in a trench for the 30km between Dandenong and Southern Cross. All level crossings would be removed by the trenches. Additional capacity would be built for suburban rail in the trenches. Inner-city housing would be built over the trenches. This would provide large scale value capture to pay for the cost of the HSR project. HSR would enable new cities for 1-2m people to be built in Gippsland 2-300km from Melbourne, but less than 60 minutes commuting time to the CBD by HSR. Population redistribution to the regions would prevent congestion cutting the liveability of Melbourne resulting from a projected increase from 4m to 8m people in the next 4-5 decades.
Construction of SkyRail by the Victorian Government makes this entry for HSR impossible.
There are several arrangements that could be explored with the Victorian Government by a HSR consortium which would enable access to the valuable eastern entry to Melbourne without SkyRail blocking it. The main options around which negotiations may centre are:
- The consortium could offer to pay the Government the full SkyRail contract price of $1.6b to cease construction of SkyRail between Caulfield and Dandenong. Possibly could be increased by $1.0b to compensate for the loss on contract cancellation on the East/West Project. The consortium would build HSR from Dandenong to the CBD and remove the level crossings. The $2.6b would be recovered by the consortium in value capture on housing.
- The Government could be asked to cease SkyRail and instead cut the trench for suburban rail from Caulfield to Dandenong removing all the level crossings, but build no housing over the trench. The consortium would pay for the trench, dig a second trench for HSR next to it and build housing over both trenches.
- The Government could be asked to cease SkyRail. The consortium would dig the two trenches and build housing over them. It would build (Fast Freight Rail) FFR around the electricity easements, freeway easements and existing rail easements from a new intermodal freight terminal at Hallam near Dandenong and the Port of Hastings to the Tottenham intermodal freight terminal to the west. This would take interstate electric freight trains from the east around the city to the west instead of regional diesel freight trains passing through the CBD as at present. It would connect the freight rail system and both the ports. The consortium would build outer-circle broad gauge suburban passenger tracks next to FFR connecting with all the suburban tracks fanning out from the CBD east to west. This would give easy public transport access to many more jobs in Melbourne to people living in the outer fringes. Broad gauge freight could use the passenger tracks as necessary. The consortium would not charge the Government for the broad gauge tracks.
These negotiations would occur on the understanding that the Government would grant the consortium free rail air rights over the tracks/trenches to build housing, offices etc. above them.