Transportation Planning Casebook/Melbourne Orbital Rail


Route of Suburban Rail Loop.[1]

Melbourne Orbital Rail is also called Melbourne Suburban Rail Loop(SRL),which is a proposed 90km-long orbital railway network. The whole project is estimated to take more than 25 years and cost over AUD$50 billion. [2]It is expected to be the busiest standalone line in Melbourne, upon becoming operational.

The project consists of three sections which are SRL East from Cheltenham to Box Hill, SRL North from Box Hill to Melbourne Airport and SRL West from Melbourne Airport to Werribee. The 90km Suburban Rail Loop will link every major rail line from the Frankston line to the Werribee line, via the airport, better connecting Victorians to jobs, retail, education, health services and each other. Three transport super hubs at Clayton, Broadmeadows and Sunshine will connect regional services, so passengers outside Melbourne won’t have to travel through the CBD to get to employment, world-class hospitals and universities in the suburbs. It will ease congestion and take pressure off the existing transport network. The project will generate a long pipeline of work and construction activity, creating up to 20,000 jobs during construction. As well as delivering significant transport benefits, Suburban Rail Loop provides an opportunity to plan the services, amenity and infrastructure that will be needed outside of the central business district (CBD) for future generations.[3]

The project is being developed by the Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SLRA), an authority established under the Department of Transport in September 2019. SLRA is responsible for the planning and development of the project. The Government of Victoria opened the registration of interest (ROI) process for the project in June 2019.Construction will be completed in several stages and is scheduled to be completed by 2050. [4]The first stage of project is SRL East. The route  is expected to be a combination of tunnel and surface rail. It involves delivering:[5]

  • Twin 26-kilometre rail tunnels.
  • Six new underground stations, including four with interchanges to existing stations at Cheltenham, Clayton, Glen Waverley and Box Hill, as well as new stations at Monash and Burwood.
  • A transport super hub at Clayton for regional passengers.
  • A train stabling facility and power supply substation at Heatherton.
  • An emergency support facility at Mount Waverley, including an intervention and ventilation facility and backup control center.
  • A power supply substation at Burwood.
  • A dedicated fleet of new high-tech trains.

Preparation for construction of SRL East is well underway. Hundreds of geotechnical investigations, boreholes and land surveys have been completed for SRL East, helping to inform planning and development.

List of actorsEdit

Actor Category Actor Phase Interest/Involvement
Government - State "Operation Halo" All Project conceptualisation (confidential, outside of standard government processes)[6]
Development Victoria All Project planning (Property development and urban renewal)[6]
Infrastructure Victoria All Independent advisory for Victoriana Infrastructure - bypassed in project conception[6]
Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA)   All Parent agency responsible for overseeing delivery of "Big Build" infrastructure projects in the state of Victoria (Victoria's Big Build)
Suburban Rail Loop Authority All Responsible for planning and delivery of the Suburban Rail Loop
Public Transport Victoria All Responsible for the operation of Public Transport in the state of Victoria.

Input into interchanges and service coordination.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning All Land use policy.

Part of the Department for Energy, Environment and Climate Change

All Sets standards for air quality.

Standards for disposal of affected soil from construction sites.

Standards for disposal of excavated soil.

Government - Federal All Potential source of funding.  Rejected at at March 31st, 2022.[7]
Government - Local Government Kingston SRL East Representing local residents in planning, traffic and pedestrian disruption.  Effects on local recreation areas.
Monash SRL East
Whitehorse SRL East; SRL North
Manningham SRL North
Banyule SRL North
Darebin SRL North
Moreland SRL North
Hume SRL North; SRL West
Brimbank SRL West
Wyndham SRL West
Community Westfield Southland SRL East Close proximity to SRL Cheltenham to Southland.

Will have overpass connection to SRL.

The Glen Shopping Centre SRL East Close proximity to SRL Glen Waverly.

Traffic impacts.

Box Hill Central Shopping Centre SRL East; SRL North Existing surburban station is underneath shopping centre.
Public Transport Users Association All Advocacy for public transport users in the state of Victoria.
Bicycle Network All Input/advocacy into bicycle parking facilities and access.
Landowners All While the SRL is primarily underground there will be impacts on landowners (potential acquisitions) around stations and other surface facilities.
Chinese Community SRL East Translated communications.
Greek Community SRL East Translated communications.
Recipients of SRL Community Grants All Upgrades to local facilities near SRL stations
Institutions Monash University SRL East Station in close proximity to station

Construction impacts (traffic)

Major destination for users

Deakin University SRL East
La Trobe University SRL North
Box Hill Institute SRL East; SRL North
Melbourne Airport SRL North; SRL West Construction impact to airport operations.
Vendors KPMG All Financial Advisor[4]
Aurecon Jacobs Mott MacDonald (AJM) Joint Venture All Technical and engineering services, planning advice, sustainability and environmental services, and communication and stakeholder engagement strategy.[8]
Construction - Not appointed All
Operational equipment (e.g. rolling stock, signalling) - Not appointed All


Time Events
Aug 2018 Prior to the State election, the Victorian Government announced that it will start work on Suburban Rail Loop if re-elected[9]. As a result, the SRL will transition Melbourne's rail network from its current radial status to an orbital network.
June 2019 Registrations of Interest were called for enabling the Government to assess market capacity to deliver the project. This ROI process is not a pre-qualification for any formal procurement process.[10]
Sept 2019 The Victorian Government established the Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) to manage and lead development on the project.[11]
Nov 2019 The Victorian Government announced the SRL will be serviced by a new fleet of trains that will be four to five carriages long and be capable of travelling at higher speeds than the existing fleet. The shorter train design will also result in shorter station platforms.[12]
Aug 2021 SLRA opened a Request for Tender (RFT) for Technical Advisory Services to support the development and delivery of the Suburban Rail Loop project, closing on 6 October. SLRA noted that the scope of Technical Advisory Services may expand subject to further approvals during the term of its engagement.
Aug 2021 The Victorian Government released the project's Business and Investment Case. The document outlines estimated costs and timelines for SRL East and North. The document detailed changes to the staging of the project, which will be delivered as SRL East, SRL North and SRL West.[13]
Sept 2021 The Victorian Government introduced the Suburban Rail Loop Bill 2021 (Vic) to Parliament. The Bill seeks to formally establish the Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) and confers on the SRLA the authority to plan, deliver, and operate the Suburban Rail Loop and manage associated developments.[14]
Oct 2021 The Parliament of Victoria passed the Suburban Rail Loop Bill 2021. The Bill formally establishes the Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) and confers the authority for the SRLA to plan, deliver, and operate the Suburban Rail Loop and manage associated developments[14].
Feb 2022 The Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) issued a Request for Tender (RFT) for the establishment of a Planning and Delivery Services Panel to support SRLA's Rail and Infrastructure Delivery Division. The services covered in the RFT are split into four Panel Group Categories, including Technical Services; Project Delivery Services; Land Planning, Environment Sustainability Services; and Precinct Planning and Development Services. The RFT closed on 25 March 2022.

Maps of locationsEdit

Existing Melbourne Railway NetworkEdit

Melbourne Rail Network Map[15]

The map to the right highlights the radial nature of Melbourne's existing suburban rail network.

The heavy rail network can be identified by lines with designated stations (red dots) while the tram network (light rail) is show by thinner lines without stations.

SRL EastEdit

Suburban Rail Loop - East


SRL East Stations[16]
Precinct Map Station Section Diagram
Cheltenham SRL East - Cheltenham Precinct SRL East - Cheltenham Station
Clayton SRL East - Clayton Precinct SRL East - Clayton Station
Monash SRL East - Monash Precinct SRL East - Monash Station
Glen Waverley SRL East - Glen Waverley Precinct SRL East - Glen Waverley Station
Burwood SRL East - Burwood Precinct SRL East - Burwood Station
Box Hill SRL East - Box Hill Precinct SRL East - Box Hill Station

SRL NorthEdit

Suburban Rail Loop - North


As at May 3rd, 2022 the detailed route and station designs for SRL North had not been released.

SRL WestEdit

Suburban Rail Loop - West


As at May 3rd, 2022 the detailed route and station designs for SRL West had not been released.

Policy IssuesEdit

Prohibitive CostEdit

In late August 2018, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews proposed a $50 billion suburban rail loop connecting all major rail lines from east to west via Melbourne Airport. Due for completion in 2050. As the first phase of the SRL project, SRL East is expected to cost between $30.0 to $34.5 billion with the standalone line planned to be running by 2035. $2.5 billion was provided by the Victorian Government for planning and development of SRL and for Initial and Early Works on SRL East. In addition, The Victorian Government provided a further $9.3 billion for SRL East in late 2021.[19]

SRL project is extremely expensive both in terms of time and cost. The initial budget was a staggering $50 billion, so the plausibility and practicality of SRL was questioned by many experts. The Grattan Institute's transport and cities program director Marion Terrill said she had concerns about the Government's lack of transparency. She also warned that mega projects like the Suburban Rail Loop had a greater risk of cost blow outs.[20] Considering that SRL is a complex mega project and lacks specific follow-up data support, cost overruns are prone to occur. The rail loop’s benefit-to-cost ratio (BCR) can not be guaranteed and taxpayers should expect higher returns from what is the largest infrastructure project ever conceived by a state government, especially given the multibillion-dollar cost blowouts facing other major builds.[21]

Lack of Financial SupportEdit

The SRL cost is initially estimated to be above 50 billion, and the main financing and financing (F&F) strategies are:

— Victorian Government funding (state budget)[22]

— Australian Government funding (Federal funding)[22]

— New value capture arrangements, including state-backed land development proceeds.[22]

In the SRL project, the cost-benefit ratio (BCR) was calculated using unconventional parameter calculations and the lack of traffic and economic planning in the business case. [21] At the same time, considering the lack of engineer reports and subsequent detailed budget analysis, the federal government cannot provide financial support for the project . So the Victorian government may face huge financial pressure.

Worries of Social and Environmental Impact of ConstructionEdit

The current SRL East project will inevitably lead to a number of environmental and social issues as its route passes through densely populated areas in Melbourne's east. Although a substantial portion of the route would be built underground, prolonged construction would cause noise, vibration and pollution problems to surrounding residents.

Follow-up Execution IssueEdit

Since the SRL project is a multi-decade mega-project, it can not be completed during the Daniel Andrews term of office. Considering the financial cost and time cost, as well as possibility of different governance strategies, it is difficult to guarantee that the subsequent government can continue to promote the construction of the SRL project.

How to Integrate with The Existing Transport SystemEdit

In addition to operating as a standalone line, the SRL is also designed to connect passengers to existing lines. This means waiting times need to be minimized. In order to better integrate into the existing traffic system, the frequency of SRL is worth discussing whether the car of SRL is compatible with the existing rail system. Easy interchange to other rail, tram and bus lines is also important alongside high frequencies.[23]


Melbourne Orbital Rail Construction StagesEdit

Areas connected by SRL include: Cheltenham, Clayton, Monash, Glen Waverley, Burwood, Box Hill, Doncaster, Heidelberg, Bundoora, Reservoir, Faulkner, Broadmay Doss, Melbourne Airport, Sunshine and Werribee.

As well as providing rail links to the airport, the project will create three "transportation super-hubs" in Clayton, Broadmeadows and Sunshine City, connecting regional passengers to the Melbourne Rail Rail Link.

Given the size of the railway loop, construction will be completed within a few decades. One is to build the eastern and northern sections of the southern line. The Western Section will be planned and constructed in conjunction with the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and the Western Section Rail Scheme.

The initial cost of SRL East and North is between $30 billion and $55 billion. At this time, a timetable and estimated cost to complete SRL West has not been provided.

The first stage of the suburban rail loop - SRL East - is a 26km metro corridor between Cheltenham in the south and Box Hill in the north. The line will include six stations, including new interchanges with existing heavy rail stations in Cheltenham, Clayton, Glen Waverley and Box Hill, as well as new stations in Monash and Burwood. Clayton's new overpass will serve as a "transportation super-hub" connecting regional passengers to the railroad loop.

Six subway stations will be located between 17 and 23 meters below the street and will be built in a "bottom-up" fashion. The entrance location will be close to the existing train station and central facilities


The suburban rail loop project is expected to cost A$50 billion ($34 billion). The project has been awarded $300 million ($205 million) in the 2019-20 Victorian State Budget for a comprehensive business case, planning and pre-construction work.

Ridership and Fleet DetailsEdit

In 2031, it is estimated that 210000 passengers will take the urban rail ring line every day, and about 400000 passengers will take the ring line in 2051.

The estimated travel time in the future includes 25 minutes between Clayton and bandola, 25 minutes between Boxhill and the airport, 35 minutes between Broadmeadows and Monash, 45 minutes between Frankston and the airport, and 45 minutes between eltonham and the airport.

The suburban ring line will be equipped with high-tech special trains. Each train can carry up to five carriages to supplement the shorter platform, so as to minimize the walking distance to the station. The fleet will also ensure that passengers can get on and off easily.

Discussion QuestionsEdit

  1. Are there other technologies and transport modes that could more efficiently the deliver transport outcomes?
  2. Is the breakdown between SRL East, North and West phases the best way to effectively deliver the project? How else could it be phased?
  3. Given most of the SRL stations are interchanges to the existing suburban rail network, does their design facilitate this purpose (easy and frictionless transitions).
  4. How to ensure that the next government can continue to advance the SRL follow-up plan
  5. Are existing SRL programs practical and reasonable given the enormous cost? or it is just a showcase of the current government?

Extra ReadingsEdit

SRL Business and Investment Case Key Findings :

The Age investigative article in SRL conception[6] :

Will the 50b suburban rail loop shape the Melbourne we want::

Suburban Rail Loop Summary Document:


  1. Victoria's Big Build (n.d.). Suburban Rail Loop. Available at: on: 3rd May 2022)
  2. Timna Jacks & Benjamin Preiss. (2018) State government announces massive suburban rail loop for Melbourne, the Age, August 28th, Available at: on: 2nd May 2022)
  3. Victoria's Big Build (n.d.). Suburban Rail Loop: project overview. Available at: on: 1nd May 2022)
  4. a b (2019) Suburban Rail Loop, Melbourne Available at: (Accessed on: 1st May 2022)
  5. Victoria's Big Build (n.d.). Suburban Rail Loop East. Available at: on: 2nd May 2022)
  6. a b c d Jacks, T., Le Grand, C. & Sakkal, P. (2021) Andrews’ biggest project was cooked up behind closed doors, The Age, August 15th, Available at: (Accessed on: 1st May 2022)
  7. Sakkal, P. (2022) Our way or the railway: Canberra rejects $11.5b suburban loop request, The Age, April 1st, Available at: (Accessed on: 1st May 2022)
  8. Aurecon Pty Ltd (2021) Suburban Rail Loop Available at: (Accessed on: 1st May 2022)
  9. Preiss, Benjamin (14 August 2018). "Victorian Labor promises biggest transport building program in Australia". The Age. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  10. Timothy, Neesam (June 17, 2019). "Victoria opens ROI process for Suburban Rail Loop". Railway Technology.
  11. Victoria's Big Build (n.d.). About the Suburban Rail Loop Authority. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  12. Premier of Victoria(24 November 2019). "New Dedicated Trains For Standalone Suburban Rail Loop".
  13. Victoria's Big Build (n.d.). Business and Investment Case. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  14. a b Peter Henley, Simon Bailey, Jessica Lee AND William Deng (14 Oct 2021). "Suburban Rail Loop Bill delivers for major Victorian Government transport projects". Clayton UTZ.
  15. OpenStreetMap (2022), OpenStreetMap, Available from: Accessed 1 May 2022.
  16. a b Victoria's Big Build (2022) SRL East, Accessed 3 May 2022, Available at:
  17. Victoria's Big Build (2022) SRL North, Accessed 3 May 2022, Available at:
  18. Victoria's Big Build (2022) SRL West, Accessed 3 May 2022, Available at:
  19. Benita Kolovos. (2021) Daniel Andrews defends cost of $35 billion first stage of suburban rail line - with full project to take 35 years, Mailonline, November 25th, Available at: (Accessed on: 3nd May 2022)
  20. Richard Willingham. (2020) Melbourne's new Suburban Rail Loop to start at Cheltenham, $2.2 billion announced for early works, ABC News, November 16th, Available at: (Accessed on: 3nd May 2022)
  21. a b Timna Jacks. (2021) Scrutiny of rail loop costs raises questions on value, The Age, August 23th, Available at: (Accessed on: 3nd May 2022)
  22. a b c Victoria's Big Build (n.d.). SRL-Business-and-Investment-Case. Available at:
  23. Daniel Bowen. (2021) Things the Suburban Rail Loop needs to succeed, December 5th,Available at: (Accessed on: 3nd May 2022)