Brumby’s $40bn plan to get Victoria moving

The Age: Brumby’s $40bn plan to get Victoria moving (8th December, 2008)

Plans to buy 52 trains and 50 trams for Melbourne, as well as 20 trains for regional Victoria, will be unveiled today as John Brumby seeks to lay claim to the title of “the public transport Premier”.

The $4.2 billion buy-up of rolling stock will be accompanied by a promise to build Melbourne’s first metro-style underground suburban rail line — a 17 kilometre cross-city tunnel from Caulfield to Footscray via St Kilda Road and inner Melbourne — as well as a new surface rail line through the rapidly growing western suburbs and a long-awaited extension of the Epping line in the north.

The Age believes the Government’s transport blueprint, to be revealed today, will involve nearly $40 billion of purchases and projects. Mr Brumby will claim the plan will create tens of thousands of jobs and transform Victoria’s road network and public transport system into Australia’s best.

But the Opposition will claim the timeline for many of the major projects is so long that there can be no guarantee Labor will deliver them. Commuters on the Eastern Freeway will have to wait years for relief from the daily congestion as they hit Hoddle Street, with cabinet rejecting a recommendation from its transport adviser, Sir Rod Eddington, for a $9 billion road tunnel from the end of the Eastern Freeway under North Carlton to the western suburbs.

Instead, Mr Brumby will announce that the Government will commission an engineering study to consider building underpasses or flyovers south along Hoddle Street at the intersections with Johnston Street, Victoria Street, Bridge Road and Swan Street.

But there will be quicker action to get freight traffic out of residential areas of the inner-west, notably Francis Street in Yarraville.

Mr Brumby will announce plans to build an elevated road from West Gate Freeway to Hyde Street, to carry trucks along Footscray Road to the Port of Melbourne, at a cost of about $380 million.

About $80 million will be allocated to build a 3.5 kilometre Dingley bypass road in the south-eastern suburbs, between Perry and Springvale roads.

The Age has confirmed that, as part of the Government’s public transport push, today’s statement will include:

    ■ $1 billion to buy 50 low-floor trams. But the first of the trams, which can carry up to 200 passengers, will not start operating until 2012-13.■ $550 million for 20 V/Line trains, to add more than 1500 extra seats to the regional.

    ■ $650 million for a further 20 X’Trapolis trains, to be added to the 18 already on order and due to start operating from late next year.

    ■ $2 billion for 32 “new generation” trains, with 30 per cent more carrying capacity and extra doors. These trains will not start operating until all 38 X’Trapolis trains have been rolled out.

The transport plan is also expected to include:

    ■ An investigation of potential routes to extend the Metropolitan Ring Road from Greensborough to EastLink at Ringwood, possibly through environmentally sensitive areas such as Diamond Creek and Warrandyte.■ Buying up land for a road in an arc from Avalon Airport to the Hume Highway as the start of a new outer ring road.

    ■ A bypass road around Frankston, costing about $750 million.

    ■ Extra bus services for Doncaster and surrounding eastern suburbs.

    ■ About $100 million — but spent over 12 years — for new and improved bike paths across the state.

    ■ More than $30 million to fund extra transit police, especially on train lines with high levels of violence and vandalism.

Mr Brumby would not discuss details of the transport blueprint yesterday, but emphasised it was for the entire state, not just Melbourne.

“It is transformational in terms of its scale,” he said.

But the Opposition said the fact that the plan was being unveiled nine years into the life of the Government showed Labor had failed to plan adequately for the state’s population boom.

Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said: “We keep getting told this is a plan for the future, but it seems to be a plan to have a heap more plans and studies.”