Monday, December 17, 2012

Carols by Candlelight Altona 2012

Hobsons Bay celebrates Christmas by having Carols by Candelight at various locations throughout the municipality. One such event, organized by the Altona/Laverton Council of Churches, took place at Logan Reserve, Altona on Sunday 16th December from 8 to 10 p.m.

Like last year's event, it was icy-cold yesterday night and some people were actually very well-prepared, bringing with them blankets.. We regretted not wearing our winter jackets. But we were still better off than our friends who had to return to their home in Deer Park soon after the concert began (the hubby was wearing shorts).

We left around 9 p.m. It was an enjoyable activity for our kids who joined in the children's dancing.

It will be great if anyone knows of the names of the singers in the videos below so that I can update the captions.


Angels We Have Heard On High


Like Mother Mary

The following video features a singing group, Santa Claus and Christmas songs such as Jingle Bell and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Sorry for the poorer video and audio quality for this video.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas in Melbourne City

With several Christmas activities being held concurrently at various locations, Melbourne CBD is a great place to experience the festive atmosphere of the Christmas season. Below is a list of Christmas events that I have sourced from the internet.


1. Christmas Square

The City Square at 44-86 Swanston Street, Melbourne is renamed Christmas Square during December.

Christmas Square 01Christmas Square 02

As the centrepiece of Melbourne City's Christmas decorations, it is transformed into a magical wonderland featuring:
  • A 9.2-metre tall living Christmas Tree.
  • Rudolph and his reindeer friends amongst the hedge maze.
  • A traditional nativity scene.
  • An interactive story book.
  • Santa in his house for free photo taking from 1-24 Dec, two sessions daily (10am-noon and 1-3pm)
  • Nightly sound and light shows at 9.30 pm and 11.30 pm.
  • The Santa's Post Box, presented by City of Melbourne and Australia Post from 16 Nov to 16 Dec, allows visitors to send letters directly to Santa. Just include your postal address and get a reply from Santa himself.

Christmas Square 06
9.2-metre tall Christmas Tree
Christmas Square 12
Waiting for Santa
Christmas Square 09
Nativity scene
Christmas Square 14
Interactive story book

The Christmas Square is open daily from 10am to 10pm from 1 Dec 2012 to 3 Jan 2013.

Ref 1, 2, 3, 4



2. Melbourne Town Hall Christmas Projections

A team of 8 artists and designers from "The Electric Canvas" has projected a kaleidescope of colours with various themes and accompanying music onto the Melbourne Town Hall 9-11 pm nightly from 30 Nov to 25 Dec 2012.

<Video to be inserted here>

Ref 5, 6



3. Gingerbread Village

The Gingerbread Village was first displayed in 2011 at the City Gallery, Melbourne Town Hall (90-110 Swanston Street). It is created by Melbourne's leading caterer EPICURE to support the Starlight Wish Granting Programme - a program driven by the Starlight Children’s Foundation in granting once-in-a-lifetime wishes for seriously ill children.

Gingerbread A

Entry to the Gingerbread Village is by a nominal gold coin donation which will go to the program. All donors will receive a cardboard gingerbread to place on the EPICURE Christmas tree that is purchased from Vision Australia.

Gingerbread C

Under the guidance of Australian Chocolate Master Deniz Karaca, EPICURE’s Pastry Chef, the Village is built entirely out of gingerbread and includes the following iconic Melbourne landmarks  and other features:
  • Melbourne Town Hall
  • Melbourne Cricket Ground
  • Luna Park
  • Victorian Arts Centre
  • Working water mill
  • Special Christmas train

Gingerbread VillageGingerbread Village 01
Gingerbread Village 05Gingerbread Village 03

Visitors can purchase delicious gingerbread men, women and love hearts. There will also be a special ice cream stall just outside the entrance to the Gingerbread Village where cooling cups of deluxe gingerbread ice cream will be on sale.

The Gingerbread Village is open from 1-24 Dec 2012, 9 am to 5 pm daily.

Ref 7


4. Spirit of the Square

Spirit of the Square is a series of Christmas celebration activities at Federation Square including:
  • an installation of "In The Pines" comprising over 250 recycled plastic Christmas trees by local urban artists.
  • live music performances featuring local musicians and community choirs.
  • family portraits by a professional photographer.
  • picnics activities.

In the Pines 01



5. Carols by Candlelight

Carols by Candlelight is an Australian Christmas tradition that originated in southeastern Australia in the 19th century and was popularized in Melbourne in the 1930s. The tradition has since spread around the world. It involves people gathering, usually outdoors in a park, to sing carols by candlelight accompanied by a band. Today, the largest such event is held annually at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne's King's Domain Gardens on Christmas Eve since 1938. In 1949, Vision Australia (then known as the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind) became one of its main benefactors. All proceeds from the event now support Vision Australia's services for children who are blind or have low vision.

Each municipality also holds its own Carols by Candlelight event. You can view one here.


6. Carols by Daylight

Apart from the night events, there is also a "Carols by Daylight" at Federation Square, which is in its 6th year.  This is a variety concert featuring special guest celebrities, the Australian Schools Orchestra Project, TeenRockTV, Hello Music Land friends Dimmie Drum and Penny Piano, and of course Santa Claus.


7. City Decorations

Bourke Street 01
Jingle Bells on Bourke Street
Bourke Street 04
Myers Christmas Windows
Christmas Square 07
Outside City Square
DSC_8655
Horse wagon in festive deco

Melbourne has come alive during the festive season with Christmas decorations in different parts of the city. These include:
  • Jingle Bells on Bourke Street
  • Decorations suspended along the tram lines on Swanston Street
  • A "gift-wrapped" Melbourne Town Hall and North Melbourne Town Hall
  • Giant presents on Flinders Street Station
  • Kiss under the mistletoe at Southbank pedestrian bridge
  • 12 days of Christmas in laneway decorations
  • Christmas Tree at City Square

Flinders Street Station 01
 Flinders Street Station
Santa Living Statue 01
 Santa Living Statue

Each year over one million Australians and overseas visitors view the iconic Myer Christmas Windows to see the specially selected theme - chosen from a story book, nursery rhyme, a film or even the theatre – brought to life with animated window displays.


8. Crown's Christmas Fantastic

Christmas Fantastic is a light, sound and 3D projection show featuring the "Twelve Days of Christmas", running on 15 minute rotations from 10am to midnight daily from 25 Nov 2012 to 6 Jan 2013. It features 98 highly-decorated, gigantic Christmas baubles "scattered" throughout the Atrium in various sizes.

Open to the general public, guests of this event will enjoy live entertainment including a special performance by Rachael Lehcar, Christmas Angel dancers and of course a visit from Santa!


9. Carols at Docklands

Carols at Docklands is a free event held on Sunday 23 Dec 2012 from 5.30 pm to 10.30 pm. The kids' carnival begins at 5:30 pm with entertainment, face painting, fairy floss, a jumping castle, rides and much more. At 8 pm, the carols begin with special guest artists Stan Walker, Evermore, hip-hop group No-Limits, a spectacular fireworks display and of course a visit from Santa.


10. Christmas Ice Carvings

You can visit the Chill On Ice Lounge during December to view a selection of interactive Christmas carvings.

The Chill On Ice Lounge is chilled to -10 degrees and is made out of 50 tonnes of carved ice. Everything within the Ice Lounge is made of ice – the walls, the chairs and this year even Santa and his elves!



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas in Point Cook

See also:

Gangnam Style has crept into wedding, community festival, halloween and now Christmas. Santander Crescent in Point Cook is vying for the title of Victoria's most festive location, with about 30 homes decked to the nines in a sparkling show of Christmas spirit. And one homeowner Darren Lindell decided to synchronize his house's light display to K-Pop sensation Psy's world-wide hit.


Gangnam Style at 12 Santander Crescent on Friday 7 Dec 2012

About 5 years ago, three neighbours got together for a beer and decided to put a few lights up for their kids. One neighbour said, "It's all about the Christmas spirit ... we do it for the children of Point Cook, to see their faces light up.....People joke our street is like Ramsay Street because we're all in and out of each other's houses." Homeowners on the street help each other to put up the lights. Even those who do not celebrate Christmas have joined in. The event is getting bigger and bigger, like a snowball effect.

DSC_8457DSC_8461
DSC_8471DSC_8497

I visited the street last Friday 7 Dec 2012. Signs were placed at the entry points to Santander Crescent to inform visitors and passerby of the holding of a public event. The surrounding streets were packed with cars parked on nature strips. The Point Cook Christmas Lights Facebook Page is advising visitors to park their cars on Gilbratar, Hemsley and Lennon Street.

I was taken aback by the huge number of visitors.  The organizer's Facebook Page said that 1200 people turned up on 5 Dec 2012 but I do not know how it arrived at this estimate. Nevertheless, the huge crowd had warranted the presence of a Paramedics van on standby, which happened to be opposite the location where we parked our car.


A better video of the Gangnam Style light show, which plays every 15 minutes until 10.30 p.m. daily

By the time we reached the Gangnam Style house, a massive crowd had already gathered in anticipation of the light show. I later learnt from the Facebook Page that the speaker had blown, which explained why the music sounded much weaker than it was supposed to be. After the light show, we walked along the length of the street. I was most impressed with the display directly opposite the Gangnam Style house, which has animations projected onto a screen (see video below), a mailbox to post letters to Santa and lights even on the nature strips and roadside trees. Further down the street, a house shows a holographic Santa from behind its windows, like the one we saw in Markham Way, Altona Meadows.



There is a website where you can search for the address of listed properties with Christmas lightings by postcode and suburb name, all over Australia. Some people have suggested on the Point Cook Christmas Lights Facebook Page the following places to see Christmas lights:
  • Wilmott Drive, Hoppers Crossing
  • 17 Creswick Drive, Point Cook

There is a house that I found from the internet with spectacular Christmas lights. It is located at 47 Gordon Grove, Preston and has a website. I am not planning to visit it as it is too far away from Altona. But others, particularly those living in that area, may be interested so I am also embedding a video here.



Ref: 1, 2, 3

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Memorial Cross

Mount Macedon is both a town and a 1,013-metre peak at the end of the Great Dividing Range. The mountain was named by NSW Surveyor General Major Thomas Mitchell when he climbed it on 30 Sep 1836.

Memorial Cross 04
Macedon Regional Park

The Macedon Regional Park surrounds much of Mount Macedon and features a number of attractions. The most popular is the Memorial Cross Reserve, located at the end of Cameron Drive, which includes picnic, BBQ areas and the Top of the Range Tea Rooms.

Memorial Cross 06
Top of the Range Tea Rooms

A short 200m walk along a sealed path from the carpark (GPS coordinates S37° 23' 12.04", E144° 34' 34.11") takes visitors to the imposing 21-metre (69 ft) Memorial Cross which was established in 1935 by early resident William Cameron as a memorial to his son and to honour those Australians who lost their lives in World War I.  The cross was built using Wunderlich terra cotta tiles on a steel base and over the years, has survived both bushfires and lightning strikes.

Memorial Cross 01
Awe-inspiring sight of the looming Golden Cross

The view from the Memorial Cross is spectacular and takes in Melbourne city, the Dandenong Ranges and the You Yangs near Geelong. There are also good views from the Major Mitchell Lookout which is located on a side track before the Cross.

DSC_5297
Summit view 

A number of factors contribute to the Memorial Cross being regarded as the most significant war memorial in Victoria after the Shrine of Remembrance. These include:
  • its large size.
  • the simplicity of its design.
  • the reflective nature of its Wunderlich tiles which enable it to be viewed from a considerable distance.
  • its siting on Mount Macedon

Memorial Cross 20
Direction Dial

A dawn service is held annually at the base of the Cross to commemorate those who perished during the war. It also became for many a symbol of courage and survival after the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires.

Memorial Cross 21
Superdense Eucalypt Forest around the Memorial Cross

Memorial Cross Reserve Map

Map of the Memorial Cross Reserve


Ref: 1, 2, 3, 4

Friday, December 7, 2012

Hascombe

Hascombe is a 19th century hill station garden located located on Alton Road at Mount Macedon, 65 km northwest of Melbourne. The 11-hectare garden is regarded as one of Victoria's finest and is listed on the Register of the National Estate.

Map of Hascombe

Hascombe Map

Hascombe has five owners during its lifetime, most of them are avid gardeners. The mass planting carried out in the 1930s forms the backbone of the present garden.

Gunnera Gully D

The first owner R.L.J. Elery constructed a villa on the site in the 1870s. The garden was significantly expanded by R.S. Whiting who blended his design with the natural landscape of the creek and its backdrop of blackwoods and tree ferns.

Gunnera Gully C
Gunnera Gully with giant ferns along the creek

 In the 1930s, the owner at the time, S. Ricketson installed a log cabin, tennis courts and a Douglas Pine plantation. The garden was further developed by Sir Thomas and Lady Ramsay from the 1930s to 1989, after which the garden was purchased by Paula and Lindsay Fox. The garden is now taken care of by a team of 3 full-time gardeners and one volunteer.

Hascombe 17Hascombe 16
Hascombe 21DSC_7983
Area around the log cabin

The garden consists of a number of terraced levels with stone retaining walls. A system of pathways and steps link the various levels.

Holly Walk 09

A level area, previously the original tennis court, is now occupied by a tranquil well-proportioned pond. The surrounding meadow adds to the serenity by producing a succession of bulbs from late winter to summer.

Hascombe 09

The garden has a Holly and Linden Walk, hedges comprising Pittosporum, Viburnum, Ilex and Eucryphia species.

Hascombe 19
Photo taken along the Holly Walk

There are gardens with different features:
  • Vegetable Garden - becomes very labour intensive in summer, with calendula and other cheerful plants interspersed among cauliflowers and cabbages.
  • Picking Garden - displays a range of colourful flower varieties.
  • Woodland Garden - showcases spring bulbs.

It is a pity that I miss visiting the above-mentioned gardens due to the need to move along with friends.

DSC_7912
Rhododendrons in bloom

The Hascombe Garden features many rare cool climate trees, shrubs and perennial plants, some of which are described in the following section.

Annuals and perennials
  • Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica).
  • Russell lupins (Lupinus Russell hybrids).
  • Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea hybrids).
  • Trachystemon orientalis - a leafy plant in the forget-me-not family.

DSC_7898
Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)

Shrubs
  • Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) - a cool climate shrub with icing-sugar pink flowers.
  • Beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis). 

Hascombe 28
Foxgloves

Trees

Having attained mature size, the many trees are significant features of Hascombe. The notable trees include:
  • Weeping Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra 'Horizontalis') - planted 100 years ago as a 3-metre (10-feet) high grafted specimen and classified on the heritage list.
  • West Himalayan Fir (Abies pindrow) - one of only two mature specimens in Australia; the other is in Canberra.
  • Cappadocian Maple (Acer cappadocicum) - also known as the Coliseum or Caucasian Maple, this displays a striking autumn colour with the translucency of its yellow foliage.
  • Japanese Red Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans') - grows to 25m high and as winter approaches, its fine prickly foliage becomes increasingly attractive as it turns to russet.

Holly Walk 02Hascombe 13Hascombe 22
Holly Walk 06Hascombe 02Hascombe 04

Hascombe is a private garden and is not normally open to the public. It participates in the Australian Open Gardens program and I visited it when it was opened on 25 Nov 2012.  I was told by the staff there that the Garden has not been opened for 7 years.


Ref: 1, 2

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Point Cook Line

An old map of Altona shows a proposed extension of the Altona Rail Line from Altona station to Point Cook in the year 1928. This was one of three options, the other two being extending the line from the Altona Beach station (just east of the current Grieve Parade) to a proposed station called "Edinburgh" or to Laverton. The Altona Line was eventually extended to a new station named Westona on 21 Jan 1985 and then to Laverton on 11 April 1985.

Altona Line Extension to Point Cook
Note: Lily St is the current Grieve Parade

If the line to Point Cook has been built too, it will have serviced the sprawling suburb of Point Cook and can be further extended to Point Cook West and the planned super suburb of East Werribee - a 770-hectare site with more than 7000 new houses, 20,000 residents and 50,000 jobs (Ref 1, 2).

I think the idea of having a Point Cook Line would have crossed the minds of many people. Is this wishful thinking or is this line "doable" perhaps not now but something to look forwards to in the future? I do not have the answer. But I will now conduct a theoretical exercise to examine this possibility from different angles.


Justification based on Population Growth

Building rails is expensive and it can only get more expensive, unless technology changes. Hence, the need for sufficient population to justify new rail lines.

Wyndham is the fastest growing area in Australia and within Wyndham itself, the fastest growing area is Point Cook (Ref 3). According to Wikipedia, Point Cook has a population of 32,413 in 2011 and this is estimated to reach 50,246 by 2020 and to peak at around 60,000 by the late 2020s. Doncaster and Rowville, where new train lines have been lobbied for years, have populations of 18,359 and 34,145 in 2011 respectively. Doncaster and Rowville are pretty matured residential areas so their growth rates will not be as spectacular as that of Point Cook. I do not know whether the population estimate of Point Cook includes the 5800 residents projected in Point Cook West and those along Point Cook Homestead Road. Add all these numbers to the forecasted 20,000 residents in East Werribee and you get a massive population hub south of the Princes Freeway/Highway. 


Justification based on Traffic Congestion

You may say that Point Cook is already served by Aircraft, Laverton as well as Williams Landing station due to open in 2013. In addition, the Baillieu government has flagged the possibility of building a train station at Derrimut Road between Hoppers Crossing and Werribee stations to serve the East Werribee precinct. Point Cook would hence appear well-serviced to people from outside the area. This is far from the reality.

To get to Aircraft or Laverton, residents need to cross over M1 from Point Cook Road which has only one lane in each direction for most if not its entire length. Residents may need to take up to an hour to reach Princes Freeway during peak hours due to the gridlocked traffic (Ref 4, 5, 6). According to Wyndham Council's 2011 traffic volumes report, Point Cook Road is running over capacity, carrying 21,100 vehicles a day. It has been in fact voted this year as the third most congested road in the RACV Redspot Survey (Ref 7). Yet VicRoads says it has no plans to duplicate Point Cook Road (Ref 8). The complicated roundabout between Point Cook Road and the overpass, which feeds roads in all directions, only serves to make the traffic worse.

When the new Williams Landing station opens in 2013, Point Cook residents will still need to cross M1 via the Palmers Road overpass to access the station. Some cars that originally travel to Aircraft or Laverton via Point Cook Road will be diverted to this route and the new train station, thereby helping to ease congestion in Point Cook Road. I believe there will be a new road that runs from Williams Landing station to Aircraft, then to Laverton. Some cars will use this new road instead of Point Cook Road to travel to Laverton station. As the population grows, Palmers Road will likewise face congestion and need to be duplicated eventually.

The State Government has announced under the East Werribee precinct plan, its commitment to a $40 million Princes Freeway diamond interchange at Sneydes Rd, which is funded by proceeds from the sale of land. Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the construction of the full Sneydes Road interchange is a major breakthrough in improving the liveability of Point Cook and the viability of the new East Werribee precinct (Ref 9, 10).

You can see the location of the Sneydes Road interchange from the map below. This interchange will no doubt be essential to East Werribee and Point Cook West. But for other parts of Point Cook, cars heading for the city will in fact have to drive (for a considerable distance from some areas) in the direction away from the city to access this interchange. Hence, Point Cook Road, Palmers Road and Boardwalk Boulevard will still remain the roads of choice for getting to M1 and the city for the majority of Point Cook residents. Where driving to the train station is concerned, the Sneydes Road exit is out of the way unless you want to drive via Hoppers Lane to Hoppers Crossing station to catch the train.

Point Cook Map

You can also see from the same map, commuters from the new East Werribee Precinct will need to cross the busy Princes Highway/Geelong Road in order to access Hoppers Crossing or Derrimut train stations. Currently, drivers face acute traffic jams around Hoppers Crossing station as well as other stations on the Werribee line. Cars coming from the housing estates have to access the same roads (e.g. Morris Road in Hoppers Crossing and Point Cook Road) for either travelling to the City or to the train station. This is the legacy of siting the rail and freeway next to each other.

Thanks to the East Werribee Precinct development, Hoppers Crossing station may become the busiest on the Werribee line. To improve the traffic flow which is vital for the success of this precinct, I will like to suggest the following:
  • Remove the level crossing at Morris Road through grade separation.
  • Build a flyover on Princes Highway so that Hoppers Lane connects directly to Morris Road through an underpass to allow for uninterrupted traffic flow from the new precinct to the train station.

I think the liveability of Point Cook and the viability of the East Werribee Precinct will be improved tremendously if a new rail line runs through the heart of these growth areas, much more than what could be achieved by the Sneydes Road interchange alone. This new rail line will remove the need for:
  • train passengers to drive across the Princes Freeway and Highway, thereby greatly reducing the traffic congestion during peak hours. 
  • building many more car parking spaces at existing train stations to accommodate the huge increase in population.

If the current road congestions and parking woes at train stations are any indicator, things will get only much worse with a greatly-boosted resident and employment population base.


East Werribee Employment Precinct

The yet-to-be named "East Werribee Employment Precinct" is spruiked by Premier Ted Baillieu as ''the capital of the new west'', providing employment for 50,000 people and homes to 20,000 residents (Ref 11, 12). With an area more than that of Melbourne CBD and Docklands combined, it is touted by Planning Minister Matthew Guy as the largest integrated business and residential development of government-owned land in Victoria since Docklands.

Planning experts warned that without an early investment in good public transport, the government's vision for the new suburb would fail. ''I don't know of any alternative jobs cluster in the world which might be located 35 to 40 minutes from the CBD and doesn't even have a train station,'' said Dr. Chris Hale, a transport strategist at Melbourne University. He said Parramatta was evolving into a successful alternative CBD because it was a short 15-minute train ride from central Sydney (Ref 13).

Melbourne University planning expert Alan March said the suburb's new residents would be consigned to car-dependency. ''Making a car-based employment hub seems like a very outdated idea and I'm frankly surprised that we are continuing to do that,'' Dr March said.

I would think an area of such economic importance should provide even stronger justification for an alternative rail line that could directly serve its transport needs and help to foster its development.  


Technical Feasibility

My preferred route is the branching of the Werribee line at Westona southwest to Altona Meadows with a station at Central Square before continuing to Point Cook, Point Cook West and East Werribee. There could be several stations on this extension, including one at Point Cook Shopping Centre and one near Point Cook Road.

I believe no land has been reserved for heavy rail, which I think reflects a lack of foresight. Point Cook is a huge area and I believe its population forecast has already been made at the planning stage. The only viable and efficient way of transporting large numbers of people in and out of a large suburb is via rail. The rail is the "dorsal aorta - main coronary artery" of the suburb through which large numbers of people (the "blood" and "oxygen") can be moved rapidly and efficiently.  If you are going to have only roads (the "arteries and veins"), you are going to clog them up when the cars (the "fats") become too abundant. What you will eventually get is a failed "heart". So a lifeline (the "rail") is absolutely essential.

There may be no money to build the rail back then or the rail is not justified by the small starting population base. What the planning authority could have done is at least to reserve lands, so that rail can be built whenever that becomes viable.

Building a rail line through built-up areas is possible but is expensive as this would probably involve:
  • the acquisition of properties
  • elevating the train track or 
  • making the train line runs underground.

When the train lines were first built in Singapore, I was puzzled at how space was going to be found from the existing roads to accommodate the train tracks. The subsequent engineering feats that accomplished this task have since changed my thinking that everything is possible.  A classic example is that a road may have some median or side nature strip, which will not be wide enough to accommodate a train station or even the train tracks. A clever strategy was to build pillars on these nature strips which support collars through which elevated train tracks run through. It will be cheapest to build train tracks on the same level as the road. But this will run into problems of creating level crossings, which may turn out to be more expensive to remove in the future. The high initial investment put into building elevated tracks will achieve grade separation, once and for all.  


Exploring the Alternatives

To be fair to the planner, lands were already reserved for light rail according to the Point Cook Concept Plan.  Nothing is mentioned about the route in this Concept Plan and whether it connects with the East Werribee Precinct. I also do not know what are the relative merits and demerits between light and heavy rails but my guess is that light rail is slower, has more stops, takes lesser people per train car and requires connection to a heavy rail for onward journey to the City or Werribee.

Another less costly proposal that could be launched now is to have a frequent and reliable network of bus services to the train stations. The major problem with buses is that they are too stuck in traffic jams. In addition, it may take a long commuting time from one's home to the train station and vice-versa due to the meandering route that a bus takes and the many stops it makes. Coupled with its low frequency and unreliable timings, taking buses would be a very frustrating option for many residents.

Point Cook is pretty isolated, with its current connections with the "outside world" primarily through three roads: Point Cook Road, Palmers Road and Boardwalk Boulevards. Hence, I hold the opinion that a new line is the best way forwards for this southwestern part of Melbourne.


Funding

The greatest obstacle to the construction of new rail lines in Melbourne or any other place in Australia is the funding problem. Melbourne has not had a significant suburban railway expansion since 1927 when the Glen Waverley railway line was constructed.

The prospect is grim considering this long list of more urgent/prioritized transport projects:

Suggestions on how to pay for new rail lines are few. Public transport advocates have questioned the priorities accorded to roads rather than rail. The thinking is that money budgeted for road construction would take away from the limited pool that can otherwise be used to fund rail projects. There have been suggestions of adopting the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) model that was used to build tollways such as CityLink and Eastlink to that of constructing rail lines. Apparently, there are a lot of difficulties inherent in such a funding model, such as convincing a private enterprise that this is a commercially-profitable investment and getting good value for taxpayers at the same time.

Recently, a private consortium is seeking a $600 million to $700 million contribution from the State Government, as part of a bold $2 billion plan called the "Project Double Fault", to build a new train line through a tunnel dug between the Glen Waverley and Dandenong railway lines. This will accommodate 6 new underground stations at Chadstone Shopping Centre, Heyington, Kooyong, Tooronga, Gardiner and Glen Iris. Burying part of the Glen Waverley line below ground will remove all its six level crossings, including two that intersect with tram lines, and free up valuable land for development. The Chadstone connection would spark a huge increase in rail patronage and help the government recoup its costs (Ref 14).

What appears most promising is identifying and exploiting the commercial opportunities presented by both old and new rail lines. Let me talk about the existing rail lines first. People and businesses are attracted to set up their homes and offices near train stations because of easy access, convenience, high human traffic and concentration of facilities and services. In many cities around the world, train stations are an integral part of commercial hubs, where they are embedded within highrise buildings. The State Government, through VicTracks, could make use of the valuable untapped airspace above train stations and land around train stations. These train stations could be redeveloped as part of a highrise building and the profits made from such undertakings could be channeled to a fund established for the purpose of rail expansion. Of course, one could expect a lot of community objections but think of the greater good that this will result. Actually, this funding model could be applied to new train stations as well so that new lines become partly "self-financed".

Think of the following two scenarios: (A) Construct a building right on top of a train station and (B) Construct a building a driving distance away from a train station. Many more parking spaces (for the building plus the train station) will be probably be needed in the design for Scenario B. This is because many people would not have driven if public transport is easily accessible.

A recent report, jointly written by transport experts from Curtin University in Western Australia, Melbourne's RMIT University, global engineering firm Arup, said that a railway line to Doncaster could be built for $840 million and paid for using taxes raised from the higher property values it would generate (Ref 15). In an article to The Age, John Legge estimated that $1.7 billion per year or $35 billion over 20 years could be raised from a rate of 0.1¢ in the unimproved capital value dollar. I think this suggestion should merit further exploration.

How should the development of Point Cook and East Werribee proceed? What will be the future of rail infrastructure and what are some of the possible directions? Please contribute your thoughts.