Of skyrails and skytrains: elevated rail in the Australasian urban transport environment

In recent years, elevated rail corridors have regained favour as a way to retrofit public transport infrastructure into mature urban environments. Elevated rights-of-way are viewed as particularly cost-effective solutions to high capital costs inherent in trenched and tunnelled rail alignments. While elevated rights-of-way are extensively utilised for urban freeway corridors in Australia and New Zealand, they are less utilised for urban rail. Recent urban rail proposals by Australian state governments using elevated alignments have met with public hostility from concerns about visual and audible impacts upon the adjacent urban environments. The authors argue that elevated rail provides cost-effective urban public transport corridors capable of delivering high-quality built environments, especially around stations. Furthermore, elevated rail corridors, if done well can preserve and enhance overall urban amenity for the public in comparison to trenched or tunnelled alternatives. This paper investigates claims of elevated rail's lower capital costs compared to trenched and tunnelled alternatives using evidence from benchmarked costings from over 20 years of Australian and international transport projects. Beyond construction costs, a range of other costs and benefits associated with the physical outcomes that may be linked to each corridor type are also considered, including: construction disruption, ground level severance and connectivity, future modal interchange opportunities, creation of new public open space, transit-oriented development opportunities and value capture. Rail infrastructure investment by governments and the private sector at the corridor-level scale has the potential to be city-shaping and any assessment of such projects must include the broader costs and benefits in terms of urban planning and design. A major conclusion is that many factors beyond physical construction costs alone must be assessed in order to provide a genuine analysis of the value of corridor scale rail infrastructure investment.


  • English

Media Info

  • Pagination: 16p
  • Monograph Title: 38th Australasian Transport Research Forum (ATRF 2016), Melbourne, 16th - 18th November 2016

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01627436
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: ARRB
  • Files: ITRD, ATRI
  • Created Date: Feb 27 2017 10:09AM