Federal budget: Melbourne Rail Link misses out, east-west link gets $1.5b

The Age: Federal budget: Melbourne Rail Link misses out, east-west link gets $1.5b. Jason Dowling, 13 May 2014

A week after the Napthine government handed down its election year budget, the federal budget had few infrastructure surprises for Victoria.

Confirmed was $1.5 billion in funding for the second stage of the east-west link from the Port of Melbourne to the Western Ring Road.

There was no funding for Premier Denis Napthine’s planned $8.5-$11 billion Melbourne Rail Link project from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross, South Melbourne, Domain and South Yarra.

Elsewhere, the budget papers shine some light on the recent enthusiasm for states and territories to privatise assets, revealing $5 billion in federal infrastructure funding is up for grabs on a “first come, first served basis”.

That five-year program rewards states and territories with 15 per cent of the price of the asset sold if all the sale proceeds are for new infrastructure. This may explain why

the Napthine government has come around to the idea of leasing the Port of Melbourne and selling the Rural Finance Corporation.

In addition to the first-past-the-post race for funding, the budget papers also show states and territories have only two years to agree with the Commonwealth on specific assets to be sold and the additional infrastructure investment to be supported by the initiative.

Federal funding for the east-west link stage two includes $1 billion in new funding and $500 million from existing road funding. The stage two commitment follows the $1.5 billion already announced for the section of the road that will run from the Eastern Freeway to CityLink.

The total cost of the new 18-kilometre tollway that will eventually link the Eastern Freeway at Clifton Hill with the Western Ring Road at Sunshine West has been put at $14 billion to $18 billion.

“Construction of the eastern section is expected to commence in late 2014 and be completed in 2020. Construction of the western section is expected to commence in late 2015 and be completed in 2023,” the budget infrastructure statement says.

Other road funding commitments include $263.4 million for the Ballarat to Stawell Western Highway duplication, $185.5 million for Princes Highway duplication from Winchelsea to Colac and $151 million for removal of the Main Road, St Albans, level crossing.

A “Building Australia’s Infrastructure” summary provided with the budget papers shows modest investment for Victoria.

The glossy 40-page document has six pages on investment initiatives in NSW and western Sydney totalling $14.9 billion by 2019-20. Queensland has four pages and $13.4 billion – Victoria has two pages and $7.7 billion committed.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said the infrastructure spending would help “fire up the rest of economy”, as investment in the mining sector tapered.

While there is no funding for Melbourne commuter rail in the budget, there is $300 million for the Inland Rail Link – a freight link between Brisbane and Melbourne with 599 kilometres of new track.

The link has been planned to reduce rail freight transit time between Melbourne and Brisbane by almost a third.

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