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Case Study

Melbourne Metro Tunnel Project

Rail tunnel

The Metro Tunnel Project is the critical enabler of a metro-style rail system, set to resolve decreasing access to jobs and services, a poorly-performing and congested transport system, and declining productivity growth.

The situation

The Metro Tunnel Project (MTP) is the critical-enabler of a metro-style rail system in Melbourne, set to resolve decreasing access to jobs and services, a poorly performing and congested transport system, and declining productivity growth. This pivotal, city-shaping transport and land-use initiative will be Victoria’s largest rail investment, with an estimated value of more than $11 billion.

The rail tunnel from South Kensington to South Yarra, and associated network improvement works, will dramatically increase passenger capacity to central Melbourne, improving accessibility to Melbourne’s knowledge economy and facilitating inner-urban renewal through a major mixed-use development precinct in north Melbourne.

The scale and complexity of the project poses significant challenges for the government:

  • Creating a resounding strategic case for the project to justify the significant expense, and the disruption and impact during construction

  • Developing confidence at various levels of government to proceed at various stages during the project’s development phase since 2010

  • Ensuring adequate disruption mitigation is planned for those who will be affected by the construction, including sensitive facilities such as the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and Shrine of Remembrance war memorial

  • Addressing risks associated with building a major tunnel through the centre of Melbourne in variable ground conditions

  • Keeping Melbourne and Victoria’s existing transport network operational with minimal disruption

  • Ensuring the necessary planning and environmental approvals are in place for a project that will affect areas of local, state, national and international heritage and environmental significance

  • Ensuring market capability and capacity for delivery of the works given the scale of the project.

Our approach

Advisian has been advising on MTP since its conception in 2010. We combined our strategic, technical, commercial and delivery nous to work closely with the initial project team and its technical advisors to prepare the comprehensive options assessment and initial business case.

The blending of Advisian’s strategic transport, business case, risk, technical rail, constructability and commercial skills proved crucial to the simplification of a complex and interdependent options assessment and the robustness of the first business case.

Our consultants led the original decision-based options framework that separated the alignment and station location decisions in each segment. This approach significantly resolved the complexity, analytical effort and interdependence of options and contributed to the robustness of the preferred option.

Since 2015, Advisian has been operating as the independent constructability advisor, embedded within MMRA. We also prepared a detailed risk-adjusted construction programs for each component of the project, a critical input to the overall delivery strategy.

Advisian placed experienced advisors and small teams of drafters and construction engineers on different packages of the project, and also managed the transport and traffic interface, and acted as the deputy director for the Shadow Operator function.

Together with our peer reviewers, the Advisian team regularly came together to harness varying perspectives and challenge thinking.
The team also participated in numerous workshops with the MMRA team and its advisors to deepen understanding and ensure the implications of the design and options were well understood. A relentless focus on strengthening relationships with MMRA staff and advisors across packages and disciplines was a key feature of Advisian’s approach.

Together with our peer reviewers, the Advisian team regularly came together to harness varying perspectives and challenge thinking.


Robust business case - Advisian’s broadly-based options assessment, strategic transport analysis and synthesis of the material issues and risks, set the project and business case on a robust course. The initial concept generated unusually strong community and stakeholder support and was one of the first projects to be designated as ‘ready to proceed’ by Infrastructure Australia.

The preferred concept and alignment withstood ongoing scrutiny and challenges. The business case was highly-commended by the Department of Treasury and Finance and was one of the first business cases successfully funded under the High-Value High-Risk Investment Framework.

Collaborative, independent and frank advice exceeding expectations - collaborative iterative development of key deliverables and the final constructability report exceeded the client’s expectations. This included frank advice on the constructability of the ‘shallow’ alignment that led to a significant change to a ‘deep’ alignment.

Advisian’s advice during the interactive tender workshops and our independent review of the Tunnels and Stations Public-Private Partnership (PPP) tenders proved to be important in determining the preferred tenderer.

Valued constructability report and staging plans – Advisian’s constructability report and staging plans were highly-commended by MMRA, greatly contributing to MMRA’s and the community’s understanding of the construction impacts and feasibility.

The report helped tenderers to quickly identify the key challenges and expedite the preparation of their bids. The report was supplemented during the tender period with additional constructability advice on new issues and potential solutions to assist bidders. The information and Advisian’s expertise strengthened the planning approvals process and was used as a key explanatory tool for engagement with affected stakeholders.

Superior transport outcomes – Advisian’s depth of understanding of the range of transport modelling required, and our proactive approach to the coordination of transport issues, greatly assisted the robustness of the patronage forecasts supporting the design, economic appraisal and business case.

Advisian gained the support and commitment to the surface transport arrangements and demand management initiatives from all of Victoria’s transport agencies and developed broader transport integration strategies to efficiently manage network capacity during the construction of the MTP.

Planning and environment approvals support - Advisian supported the development of the Environmental Effects Statement (EES), using our pivotal constructability and transport interface roles to advise on an integrated assessment of the potential transport, environmental, social, economic and planning impacts of the project. This was highly valued by MMRA.

Advisian’s strategic review of the EES before its release and critical advice to MMRA before and during the panel hearings strengthened MMRA’s position. The integrated nature of Advisian’s diverse presence across MMRA provided a deeper understanding and confidence in the impact and disruption of the project.

Railway operational performance and safety advice – Advisian provided leadership resources to establish and run an independent Shadow Operator function that was responsible for ensuring operational, safety and RAMS risks were appropriately identified and managed during the development and procurement phases of the project.

Comprising senior experts from Public Transport Victoria, Metro Trains Melbourne and MMRA, the Shadow Operator brought contemporary international good practices from across the world and contextualised them for the local Victorian context. Advisian led the development of railway operational and maintenance plans and the rail safety accreditation strategy, which successfully informed critical infrastructure and transport outcome decisions.

Commercially, Advisian informed the PPP/Franchise allocation of responsibilities for the operations and maintenance of assets, performance regime and their cooperation agreements. Advisian’s role received broad support across the Project Steering Committee and Peer Review Groups for ensuring that the MTP infrastructure delivers a fully-integrated mass transit solution.