The Suburban Rail Loop is a 90km-long orbital railway network being developed to connect the lines across the suburban areas in Melbourne to all priority growth precincts in the region.
Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SLRA), an authority established under the Department of Transport in September 2019, is developing the project. 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.
Among several stages of construction, two stages are under construction. Construction of SRL East from Cheltenham to Box Hill began in 2022 and will be completed by 2035. The complete SRL project construction is scheduled to be completed by the 2050s.
Suburban Rail Loop project details
The Suburban Rail Loop project will circle Melbourne city and connect major railway lines from the Frankston line to the Werribee line via the Melbourne airport.
A twin-tunnel line will connect multiple precincts, including Box Hill, Broadmeadows, Bundoora, Burwood, Cheltenham, Clayton, Doncaster, Fawkner, Glen Waverley, Heidelberg, Melbourne Airport, Monash, Reservoir, Sunshine and Werribee.
The project will involve the development of three main transport super hubs at Clayton, Broadmeadows and Sunshine, connecting travellers from the Victorian regions to the suburban rail loop.
Geotechnical investigation works between Box Hill and Cheltenham began with the drilling of boreholes at a depth between 30m and 60m in July 2019.
Suburban Rail Loop construction stages
SRL East will run underground between Cheltenham and Box Hill. It will include 26km of twin tunnels and involve the construction of six new underground stations and four underground interchanges. SRL East will deliver direct rail access to Monash University in Clayton and Deakin University in Burwood for the first time. The six stations of SRL East will include Box Hill, Burwood, Cheltenham, Clayton, Glen Waverley and Monash.
The initial works of the SRL East line were approved in December 2021 and construction on the line started in June 2022. The major planning approvals were received in September 2022.
In July 2023, the contract was announced for signalling systems, high-tech trains and a 15-year term to operate and maintain the new network. Tunnelling works are scheduled to start in 2026.
Site preparation for major works is expected to be completed by 2024.
SRL North will run from Box Hill to Melbourne Airport via Hurstbridge, Mernda, Upfield and Craigieburn lines. The line will have seven new stations, including Broadmeadows Bundoora, Doncaster, Fawkner, Heidelberg, Melbourne Airport and Reservoir. SRL North will be completed by 2053.
SRL Airport (Melbourne Airport Rail) will run from Melbourne Airport through to Sunshine Station, connecting the airport to Victoria’s regional and metropolitan train network. It will be delivered by Rail Projects Victoria.
The construction of the SRL Airport line includes new tracks along the existing Albion-Jacana freight corridor between Sunshine and Airport West, the new premium station at Melbourne Airport and Keilor East, new twin tracks at Naderson Road, a new rail bridge to cross over the Maribyrnong River, Albion Station reconstruction and new rail bridge to cross over the Western Ring Road (M80).
The SRL Airport rail site investigations started in 2019, followed by procurement works in 2021. The construction was started in 2022 and is expected to be completed in 2029.
SRL West will link Sunshine to the Werribee line through the new Sunshine super-hub.
SRL West will provide easy access to Sunshine precinct, Victoria University, Sunshine Hospital, Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital and different sector routes in Melbourne West.
SRL East stations
SRL East at Cheltenham will allow passengers to travel from Cheltenham to Clayton in less than ten minutes and to Box Hill in just 22 minutes. Cheltenham station will be a two-level underground station constructed 17m below the ground. It will serve 8,000 passengers a day and feature a single gate line at concourse level, station plaza, bus interchange and parking for 400 bicycles.
Clayton station will be constructed 18m below ground and will feature two entrances – one to the east of Clayton road in Remembrance Gardens and the other to the west of Clayton road. The station will have a north-south laneway and access road, parking for 500 bicycles and nine pick up and drop facilities.
The Monash station will be constructed between Normanby Road and Ferntree Gully Road in Notting Hill, to the north of Monash University’s Clayton Campus. It is a two-level underground station located 20m beneath the ground with two entrances. The northern entrance will provide access to the business precinct, whereas the southern entrance will connect Monash University.
The other elements of Monash station will include eight bus bays, parking space for 700 bicycles and a crossover facility to the station north.
The Glen Waverley station, to be situated in the centre of Glen Waverley, will be constructed 17m below the ground level and will have one entrance facing Coleman Parade. Preliminary construction works are ongoing at the station using a micro-tunnelling device. The station will also have a new station plaza with bicycle parking space.
Burwood station will be constructed near the Deakin University with one entrance. The station’s platform will be 94m long. A new tram stop and a pedestrian will also be constructed near the station, offering a new rail connection and a seamless connection between the station and the university. The station will feature a new bus interchange and pedestrian overpass.
Box Hill station is a two-level underground station with two entrances – one at Market Street and the other on Whitehorse Road. The station will be constructed 23m below the ground level and will connect most of the education, health and retail services. A new tram terminus will be located to the west of Market Street and public open space along Whitehorse Road.
Ridership and fleet details
The Suburban Rail Loop is expected to be used by approximately 70,000 people a day by the 2030s and 430,000 by the 2050s. Estimated future travel times will be 25 minutes between Clayton and Bundoora, 25 minutes between Box Hill and the airport, 35 minutes between Broadmeadows and Monash, 45 minutes between Frankston and the airport and 45 minutes between Cheltenham and the airport.
A dedicated fleet of high-tech trains will serve the Suburban Rail Loop. Each trainset will carry up to four carriages to complement shorter platforms, minimising the walking distance at the stations. The fleet will also ensure easy hop-on and hop-off travel for passengers.
The maximum speed of the trains operating on the SRL line will be 100km/h.
The Suburban Rail Loop project is expected to cost between $30bn and $34.5bn. The project received $2.2bn for initial works in 2020 and $9.3bn for SRL East main works in 2021.
The SRL Airport rail is financed by the Australian and Victorian governments with $5bn each.
In May 2022, an Albanese Labor Government announced an investment of $2.2bn in SRL East construction.
Suburban Rail Loop project benefits
Parties involved in the project aim to ease congestion on the existing railway lines, as well as connect a greater number of people to the suburbs. The new rail line is also expected to help take 600,000 cars off the road to reduce pollution.
The project is expected to create approximately 24,000 jobs during the construction phase.
The SRL stations would offer quicker access to various hospitals, employment hubs, existing metro stations and world-class colleges, as well as pedestrian and intermodal transit connections.
The SRL project will enhance the public transport facilities in Melbourne’s middle suburbs with less journey time and transportation costs.
The first phase of works on SRL East is being delivered by the UK-based construction company Laing O’Rourke.
KPMG, a professional services company based in the Netherlands, is the financial advisor for the Suburban Rail Loop project while Aurecon, Jacobs and Mott MacDonald are the technical advisors.
Australia-based professional services company RPS was appointed to offer transaction advisory services to SRL East in December 2021. Australia-based engineering company based Aurecon, along with US-based engineering services company Jacobs and the UK-based consultancy company Mott MacDonald, are technical advisors.