VLC was engaged by the North East Link Program (NELP) to provide demand forecasting as well as bus network planning and bus operations advice to NELP and the Department of Transport in the creation of the Bus Network Development Plan and business case for Melbourne’s north eastern suburbs.

Client requirements

VLC assisted the project’s technical advisors to develop a Network Development Plan (NDP) for Melbourne’s bus network throughout the CBD, inner city and north eastern suburbs. While catalysed by the Eastern Express Busway, Melbourne’s first dedicated busway proposed as a part of the North East Link Program, the NDP covered all routes within the study area and is not limited to those routes using the Eastern Freeway / proposed busway. The project team was tasked with developing and evaluating bus network options for the study area, including routes, frequencies and alignments, as well as consideration of supporting infrastructure such as interchanges and layover, bus priority treatments, and identification of streets and corridors for bus priority. These options were then tested in the Zenith strategic transport model to evaluate their likely performance, with outputs provided for use in the NDP and the Business Case.


Delivered outcome

VLC worked with the technical advisors to summarise the existing issues and opportunities throughout the network, including accessibility, legibility, span and frequency, coverage, pedestrian connectivity, bus priority, infrastructure capacity, and others. Additionally, VLC conducted a literature review covering key topics such as bus priority in dense urban areas, bus network reform, and service planning for busways and brought in industry experts from across the globe to speak with the client and project team on these topics. Further analysis was conducted utilising people movement data from mobile phones as well as accessibility analysis from the Zenith strategic model in order to get a full picture of the existing network’s strengths and weaknesses. Concurrently, VLC updated the model used for the North East Link project for use on the Bus Network Development Plan and conducted a full validation exercise using recent public transport patronage data and traffic counts. 

Following the key issues and opportunities identification, VLC worked with the project team and client across a series of workshops to develop bus network options for the study area. The initial options were modelled in Zenith to determine likely performance in terms of patronage and economic benefits. The options were then further refined with the client and developed into service plans, which were again tested in Zenith for patronage potential and economic benefits as well as in HASTUS for costs at each stage of delivery. The modelling outputs were then incorporated into the Network Development Plan and the project’s business case to make the case to state government for implementation.