Passenger rail in Melbourne – new challenges in a new century

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - station, mode - rail, place - australasia, infrastructure - interchange/transfer


public transport, rail, Melbourne


This paper offers a station-focused snapshot of growth and movement dynamics in Melbourne's passenger rail network.

A variety of data is engaged and interpreted around a number of core themes, including growth at higher-volume and selected stations, the role of transfer and the identification of locations generating a distinct afternoon and evening (PM) home-return market. Ridership figures are analysed and discussed with reference to both urban planning policy contexts and the pure mass transit challenges and opportunities that they imply.

With regard to station volumes, the analysis draws on crude agency data to develop a clustering of relatively high passenger volume stations, which are based on four distinct volume bands. While the Central Business District (CBD) core cluster is well-known, an important set of lower-order, but still high volume, stations are identified, towards which facilities and investment should possibly be directed towards to a greater degree.

The second analysis task surrounds the identification of stations experiencing the strongest dynamic of recent passenger growth in percentage terms. Some of these stations are new, while others are clearly experiencing the impacts of some form of locally-driven growth, either population- or job-based. Others may simply be reflecting strong growth in the CBD-bound commuter market. In many instances, the full extent of growth is not readily explained by broad-based backgrounding demographics, and this is an important finding in, and of, itself.

A third analysis exercise identifies the twelve stations in Melbourne, which hold the key to the rail-to-rail transfer task of the Melbourne system. This aspect of transfer relates closely to the idea of developing a more ‘network’ style public transport system in Melbourne over time.

The final piece of analysis surrounds the identification of stations that cater to a clear PM peak ‘return journey’ market. While the CBD-located stations obviously lead this role, there are a number of other locations where PM peak volumes would seem to speak to the emergence of distinct CBD-alternative job clusters.

Figures and analysis are then contextualised with reference to both Melbourne's stated and emerging aims of sustainable growth and development. Discussion suggests that the conceptualisation of rail in Melbourne is somewhat outdated and that a mixture of both ‘push and pull’ factors need to be engaged with for the metropolitan region's transport paradigm to enter the twenty-first century. These issues are broadened to reference changes, pressures and transport industry cultural challenges that are currently observable in many Australian or North American cities.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.