Melbourne City Loop turns 40

By Micaela Togher

The Melbourne City Loop celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year.

Officially opened on January 24, 1981, it began serving the paying public two days later on Australia Day. 

The Loop consists of four rail tunnels under Melbourne’s CBD serving to connect Flagstaff, Melbourne Central, Parliament, Southern Cross and Flinders Street railway stations.

The idea for an underground railway was first raised in 1929 by the Melbourne Town Planning Commission but the planning of such a concept was still decades away.

In 1971, the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop Act was passed and planning began for the construction of the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop, as it was then known. 

Construction began in the 1970s as a response to Melbourne’s growing population and increased public transport demands.

One of the most famous aspects of the Loop is the changing direction of the trains in the middle of the day. The reason for this can be found in its design history. In the 1970s, the majority of passengers travelled to and from Parliament and Flinders Street Stations. It was therefore decided that these stations be the Loop’s first stops in the morning and last stops in the afternoon.  

The Loop’s 40th birthday is a timely reminder of the role major infrastructure plays in Melbourne’s economy. Today, the major railway projects West Gate and Metro Tunnel are both under construction at a combined estimated cost of $17.7 billion. Both projects are due for completion in 2023 and 2025, respectively. 

Construction on a third project – the Suburban Rail Loop – will begin in 2022, with the project designed to enable easier movement among Melbourne’s city suburbs and take pressure off the major networks. It is estimated to cost $50 billion by the time of completion.

The Victorian Government pledged $2.2 billion towards the Suburban Rail Loop at the end of last year.

It is hoped these projects will stimulate the state’s economy, leading to thousands of new jobs for Victorians and negating some of the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global infrastructure firm Webuild, which led the construction of the tunnel back in the 1970s, celebrated the Loop’s 40th birthday in January by pointing to the project as “a prime example of the role visionary infrastructure projects have and continued to play.”

“Over the past 50 years, major infrastructure projects have redefined land markets, housing markets and labour markets and fundamentally reshaped metropolitan Melbourne, playing a crucial role in the city’s transformation into a leading knowledge intensive economy,” Webuild executive director Marco Assorati said.

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