Premier Napthine splurges on train, tram promises despite massive road spending

The Age: Premier Napthine splurges on train, tram promises despite massive road spending. November 9, 2014. Clay Lucas City Editor, The Age

Premier Denis Napthine might have pledged to “build the East West Link” to rousing applause at the Coalition’s campaign launch in Ballarat on Sunday.

But the $6.8-billion road – one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Victoria’s history – was far from the focus when it came to transport.

Strange, given that it is to be largely completed during the next four years, the period Victorians are about to vote on.

Instead, desperate to burnish his credentials on trains and trams, Dr Napthine came brandishing a fresh set of promises on both.

He promised 75 new trains for Melbourne, to hit the tracks from 2019.

He pledged 75 new low-floor trams, to begin service in 2018.

He vowed to put another 24 V/Line rail cars into service.

And to shore up votes in Ballarat, where the town’s train assembler Alstom has flagged that it will pull out unless it gets more work, he promised an extra 12 metropolitan trains to be built.

In all, the promises on public transport amounted to $3.9 billion over 10 years.

“A re-elected, Coalition will deliver a new train every month for the next decade” which would create thousands of jobs in the rail manufacturing, supply and construction industries, Dr Napthine said.

It all sounded fantastic. But for those at the last Coalition state-election campaign launch, it also sounded a little familiar – even if the numbers were bigger and the time frame was longer.

Back in 2010, Ted Baillieu promised 40 new trains for Melbourne, at a cost of $1.4 billion. And the promise extended over two terms of government.

Only seven of those 40 trains have been delivered so far – something Labor was quick to seize on. This is no broken promise, though, as the remaining 33 trains are still to come.

The broken promises were far easier to keep track of than counting how many trains had or hadn’t been delivered.

The Coalition promised 10 new trams at the last election. None was delivered, making Sunday’s promise to build seven times that many hard to take at face value.

Similarly, the Coalition’s 2010 pledges to plan, fund and build rail lines to Doncaster and Avalon were pushed under the carpet.

And then there was the East West Link – not promised in 2010 but to start construction in weeks if Dr Napthine is re-elected.

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