Abbott comment throws doubt on commuter rail, road funding but not the East West Toll Road Link

Premier Denis Napthine has vowed to pursue Commonwealth cash for Victoria’s $9 billion Metro rail tunnel despite confirmation by Tony Abbott that there will be no federal money for urban rail projects if the Coalition wins the next election.

Mr Abbott has signalled a return to the Howard government model of only funding major roads and rail freight projects. ”It doesn’t mean urban rail, commuter rail,” he said on Friday…

The comments have also raised concerns about the fate of the multibillion-dollar regional rail project, a 47.5-kilometre line running from Southern Cross Station through the western suburbs of Melbourne to link up with the Geelong Line at West Werribee.

Despite the name, the project is mostly urban, partly to free up capacity on the Melbourne network.

A spokesman for Mr Abbott said the Metro rail project, which is being funded with a $3.2 billion contribution from the Commonwealth, would still go ahead under a Coalition federal government.

”The regional rail link is under way and the federal Coalition will fully honour the funding and contracts for this project,” the spokesman said.

Details of the east-west road project – including the cost, design and funding method – remain vague in the absence of a State government business case, which is likely to be released as part of the May 7 state budget…

Dr Napthine on Friday said he would be ”very parochial” about pursuing Victoria’s best interests.”We will actively and strongly pursue Infrastructure Australia and federal government funding for all three of these important projects whether it’s Julia Gillard as prime minister or Tony Abbott as prime minister.”

Mr Abbott has promised to chip in $1.5 billion for the east-west road, which is likely to cost at least $10 billion in total. He has claimed the project will start within 18 months of a Coalition government taking office, despite the lack of a business case or private sector backers.

Greens MP Adam Bandt said Mr Abbott’s plan to fund road projects and not urban rail projects shows 19th-century thinking that will turn inner Melbourne into a rat’s nest.

He said the Opposition Leader had the wrong priorities.

”If Tony Abbott is elected, it will be a disaster for inner-city Melbourne,” he said. ”The suburbs that we love and that make Melbourne consistently one of the world’s most liveable cities will be turned into a rat’s nest of on and off ramps.”

”To suggest the federal government doesn’t have a role in building public transport in major cities like Melbourne is 19th century thinking.”

Josh Gordon, The Age, April 6, 2013

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