The Victorian Government is currently planning and developing the Melbourne Metro; a critical, city-shaping project that will transform Melbourne's rail network, resulting in major improvements in capacity, reliability and travel times across the bulk of the metropolitan rail lines.

The Melbourne Metro project is an integral part of Public Transport Victoria's (PTV) Network Development Plan - Metropolitan Rail and lays the foundation for expanding the capacity of Melbourne's rail network over the next 20 years and beyond. 

The project will involve the construction of a nine kilometre twin rail tunnel through the inner city that will link the Sunbury rail line in Melbourne’s northwest and Pakenham/ Cranbourne rail lines in the south-east. It will also include five new underground stations to be located at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain.

New stations will support inner residential, commercial and education precincts, including the key knowledge centres of Parkville and the St Kilda Road precinct, as well as the urban renewal of the Arden precinct in North Melbourne. Melbourne Metro will also ease congestion on the St Kilda Road–Swanston Street tram corridor, allowing the tram network to better serve other parts of the inner city.

In 2010, the former Department of Transport (DoT) engaged Advisian to assist in preparing a business case to support the project.

Options assessment

Advisian supported DoT in undertaking a detailed analysis of options for the tunnel’s route and station placement. The team considered a range of objectives held by various work streams within Melbourne Metro to decide the best tunnel alignment. These ranged from urban development and patronage objectives to constructability, cost and environmental matters.

Business case

We drew together inputs from a large number of consultants to develop a comprehensive business case for the project. To do this, we coordinated all the necessary sources of departmental information about the tunnel, including planning and urban development, integrated transport planning, patronage, cost, risk, design and constructability. As part of the process, we engaged with the Departments of Treasury & Finance, Premier & Cabinet and Planning & Community Development, together with other parts of the transport portfolio, to ensure the business case aligned with the Victorian Government’s strategic direction.

Under our management, the business case defined the project’s scope and policy framework, developed the risk framework including identification and categorisation of risks and consequences, incorporated patronage estimates and outlined the social and economic need for the tunnel. Our work on the business case helped define the economic, environmental and social bottom line values of the project, and establish its delivery framework. We also coordinated information to help DoT estimate the amount of land the project would use, and accounted for potential operational impacts on surrounding infrastructure.

“Advisian brought a very good understanding of government policy and procedures in terms of how business cases get developed, Treasury’s expectations, and of all the various review processes we needed to go through,” said Adele McCarthy, Project Director, Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel. “They also brought a good technical understanding of the level of depth we needed to go into to pull together a concise but comprehensive business case.”

To ensure the Melbourne Metro Rail team had the necessary expertise to deliver an underground project of this scale and complexity, we also provided a specialist advisor, with over 30 years of tunnel construction and commercial experience in Australia, as a Senior Technical Advisor.

Constructability Planning

During 2011 and 2012, the Melbourne Metro project went through a series of detailed value engineering reviews. As part of these reviews, we helped DoT define an improved concept design for the tunnel and then refine the staging plans for its construction.

We undertook a construction methods overview that informed the value engineering review process and was further refined as the concept design was developed. This has contributed to the planning process and improved the proposed approach to the construction and commissioning of the project.

We then developed an updated business case in 2011 supporting the revised concept design. The new business case focussed on corridor protection, and accounted for the latest value-engineered design and policy framework.

Throughout 2012, we continued to provide planning assistance, which involved establishing the project development and construction program, identification of operational and maintenance costs, management of the consolidation and mitigation of risks to support the updated cost estimate, and advice on safety assurance and interface protocols for the tunnel’s signalling systems.


Our work on the project helped maintain its status as one of Australia’s highest priority projects and underpinned the allocation of $40 million in development funding by the Federal Government in 2009. A further $50 million was provided by the State Government in 2012 to support the statutory planning process to reserve the corridor.

The Victorian Government is now preparing to proceed with the formal statutory planning process.

“The people that Advisian provided ranged from senior experts with several decades of experience in major underground projects, through to capable younger professionals skilled in scheduling, risk assessment and construction planning,” said McCarthy. “They supplied our core project team with the capability and experience necessary to manage a specialist project like this.”