Week two of the university year made clear to me two things: how much I detest early-morning classes, and what a significant transport canyon lies between Huntingdale Station and Monash University. It is of no fault of the institution, which has prided itself on encouraging various means of transport to alleviate its already-congested surrounds. Rather it is that Melbourne's myopic transport planners have convinced themselves that all trains must lead to Flinders Street, and all suburban dilemmas may be resolved by enough roads and busses.
Though it is true, certainly, that busses constitute the foundation of the suburban (and to an extent) urban transport system, they cannot be simply used as a bandaid for where a railway is obviously needed.
It is true that level-crossing works and other maintenance issues quite often result in the closing of railways and their replacement with busses, indicating the clear feasibility of a high frequency bus service in place of a railway, albeit on only a temporary basis. Those who find it unsuitable for their needs, and there are many, will seek means other than busses to get by in the interim. The roads will be a little bit fuller, the air filled with a little more smog. Some take leave if they can, whilst the public service works to ensure that maintenance happens at times when it affects the fewest.
But what of a situation in which there is no railway to commence with? One wherein the absolute limit of what is attainable by road has been reached by the rapid transit four-minutely bus service?
The Route 601 is at its breaking point. It can take on no further services without comically impacting upon Wellington and North Roads, and testing the limits of the throughput of the bus loops on either end. We could expand the bus loops—as has already been done recently—we could widen the Wellington/North corridor between Monash and Huntingdale, and we could just have one contiguous articulated bus moving in a constant orbit at 20km/h. But at some point a line has to be drawn.
There is a median strip in the middle of Wellington and North Roads that could be easily converted into a cut-and-cover railway, minimising costs, whilst using the savings to expend on tunnels where absolutely necessary. Given the shortness of the route between Huntingdale and Monash, there is nowhere near the public expense required as for other projects, such as the equivalent Melbourne Metro, or antithetical Transurban Brain Fart.
Here is what I propose for a local pre-metro, admittedly more ambitious than a shuttle line:
It solves the Monash Problem, and it also provides a feeder service from neighbouring suburbs into the city commuter mainline. I know it breaks with the myopic Flinders Street in-and-out convention of Melbourne, but it's either this or we keep slamming the brakes and bumping our heads in an overcrowded under-built city.
As an aside: one of the oft-quoted reasons used to avoid a Monash line is the lack of quadruplication ("extra tracks") on the mainline. This circumvents that, as the Four Tracks to Dandenong looks evermore to be a pipe-dream, lost in the yawning chasm of tabloid anti-Skyrail nonsense.