A $5 billion proposed rail project that would link Melbourne’s northern and southern rail networks and include the building of five new underground stations is looking increasingly unlikely to get off the ground.
Michael Hopkins, executive director of policy and communication at the Department of Transport in Victoria said at a recent infrastructure conference that the chances of the commonwealth coming through with the funding in the lead-up to a federal election was going to be a “really tough call.”
The Victorian government is seeking $130 million through Infrastructure Australia for preliminary works to develop a new nine kilometre metropolitan rail tunnel through the heart of Melbourne. Hopkins said, however, that he could see the money that would go toward the project going elsewhere instead.
“If I was the commonwealth government…I would be spending money where I could buy the most seats,” he said.
Hopkins said Victoria had previously done very well in securing $3.8 billion for the regional rail link.
Victorian assistant treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips already said at the Victorian Infrastructure Summit that federal government funding through the GST had been slashed by more than $6 billion and private investment for infrastructure projects in the non-mining sector had waned.
Infrastructure Australia had included stage one of the north-south rail link in its top five list of shovel-ready priority projects and had also given tentative support last month to the Baillieu government’s plans to build the controversial east-west link, a road tunnel under inner Melbourne.
The industry now waits and hopes its support will hold some sway.
While the rail link between Melbourne’s northern and southern networks had been looking likely to proceed, Infrastructure Australia showed no support for another project – the rail link to Avalon Airport. Infrastructure Australia refused to support the government’s request to finance a study and passed over a request for funding to study removing level crossings.