Labor proposes rail line to Mernda

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The Age: Labor proposes rail line to Mernda. September 25, 2014. Clay Lucas, City Editor, The Age

The South Morang railway line will be extended to Mernda, through Melbourne’s booming Whittlesea corridor, if Labor wins November’s election, Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews says.

But Transport Minister Terry Mulder says Labor can’t be believed, and if elected could proceed with its old plan for the corridor – a bus way to cost $48.5 million.

Labor’s planned 8km extension would cost between $400 million and $600 million to build and begin before the next election, Mr Andrews said at Mernda on Thursday morning.

Despite an existing rail reservation last used for trains in the 1950s being in place, both sides of government have for years rejected pleas from the community to extend the rail line further than South Morang.

The Brumby government completed the South Morang extension from Epping in 2009. The Napthine government on Thursday pointed out this project, which ultimately cost $650 million, was first promised by Labor in opposition for $8 million.

In 2010, the Brumby government promised an unpopular bus way to Mernda that was dumped by the incoming Baillieu government.

Roads in the Whittlesea area are some of Melbourne’s worst during the morning rush hour, particularly around Mernda and Dooreen, because of huge numbers moving to the area in recent years.

Whittlesea Council predict those two suburbs will grow by 40,000 people by 2027.

Mr Andrews said the time had come to extend the line and cater for that population growth.

The rail extension would include duplicated tracks, no new level crossings, a new station at Mernda and one other station between it and South Morang.

He said the extension was only possible because of the South Morang extension.

Mr Mulder said everyone in the area would remember Labor’s last plan for a rail extension to Mernda.

“In the dying days of the election they came out with a bus way. For $48.5m they would concrete over a rail reserve between South Morang and Mernda and run buses along it,” he said.

He said that plan “still sits in Labor’s bottom draw”.

“How could you trust Daniel Andrews when this was their plan prior to the last state eleciton?” Mr Mulder asked.

Whittlesea mayor Cr Mary Lalios said it was “an exciting day for our community”.

She said the Greens had backed the rail line first, and now Labor was behind it.

“We now have two of the three major political parties right behind this critical project,” she said.

Mernda and Doreen were together the fastest growing postcode in Australia. The need for a train service to this area was critical, Cr Lalios said, because traffic along Plenty Road was gridlocked every day.

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