The cost is dwarfed by the Andrews government’s key transport projects including the North East Link ($15.8 billion), the Metro Tunnel ($11 billion) and the removal of 25 level crossings by 2025 ($6.6 billion).
The policy would double the frequency of many of Melbourne’s train services, with seven lines in the north and west running every 20 minutes outside of peak periods, including the Werribee, Craigieburn, Sunbury and Mernda lines.
Train lines run about every 20 minutes on the weekends, except for the Belgrave/Lilydale, Frankston and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines, which run every 10 minutes.
Trams run about every 10 to 12 minutes outside of the peak and every 12 to 15 minutes on weekends, though they are less frequent at night and early on Sundays.
Greens transport spokesman Sam Hibbins said such an upgrade would transform the way Melburnians use public transport, but the government remained «incredibly reluctant to do it».
“The costings show the Greens policy to increase train and tram services is affordable and achievable,» he said.
“For just a fraction of the cost of one of Labor’s multi-billion dollar mega tollways, commuters would be able to throw away the timetable for ‘turn up and go’ frequent train or tram services across Melbourne.”
Commuter Alienor Renaux travels on the Mernda line and was enthusiastic about the policy, saying the train «doesn’t come very often» when she catches it at midday.
“It has gotten me late to work a fair few times, that’s for sure,» she said.
The Public Transport Users Association ramped up calls for 10-minute frequencies in the lead-up to the state election, with the Rail Futures Institute, Planning Institute of Australia and Engineers Australia also rallying for the move.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union supports the policy, but believes newer, more reliable trains and trams would be needed, on top of more staff. But the budget office found current stock would be sufficient and it did not account for new purchases in its calculations.
The 10-minute frequencies could not be run on sections of the Upfield and Hurstbridge lines and the Altona loop until more tracks are built.
PTUA spokesman Daniel Bowen said the upgrade was «precisely what is needed for a high-quality public transport network».
Too many commuters were enduring long waits and overcrowded trains, especially where services run every 20 to 30 minutes.
«If they ran the freeway network the way they run the trains, they’d be shutting down half the road lanes outside of peak hour. It doesn’t make sense to run the train network like that,» Mr Bowen said.
«The state government is doing great on transport infrastructure, but they absolutely need to upgrade services.»
A government spokeswoman said 10-minute or better tram services are already being run on most routes and new trains, trams and the $11 billion Metro Tunnel would deliver major benefits to the network.
«We’re building the Metro Tunnel and investing in more trains, trams and buses, in order to deliver the turn up and go services Victorians deserve.»
Victoria’s shadow public transport minister David Davis said the Coalition supports a «full turn up and go» public transport network, but stopped short of committing to 10-minute services.
The Coalition briefly promised this in early 2017, but went quiet on the pledge closer to the election.
Timna Jacks is Transport Reporter at The Age