The Gillard government has pledged $3 billion for the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, pitting it against the federal opposition, which has promised to spend half as much on the east-west road link.
This comes on a day when The Age revealed that the planned east-west link would have to be three times the current cost of an average trip on CityLink for the project’s investors to make a profit.
Ensuring road versus public transport funding will be a key focal point for Victorian voters at the September 14 federal election, the budget has revealed the $9 billion project – involving a nine-kilometre rail tunnel from South Kensington to South Yarra with five new stations – will be one-third funded by the Commonwealth if Labor wins.
But that contribution, which will stretch over about a decade, is contingent on the Napthine government also chipping in $3 billion. The remaining $3 billion would be raised through a public-private partnership secretly sketched out by federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese and state Transport Minister Terry Mulder.
Under the plan, both governments would make ”availability payments” to a private sector provider to build and possibly run the new line, which is expected to provide capacity for an extra 20,000 passengers per hour.
This would ensure a guaranteed rate of return, making it attractive to superannuation funds and other investors.
The ongoing payments, which do not appear to have been included in the budget, would be split equally between the Commonwealth and the state government.
The funding promise, revealed by Fairfax Media last month, stands in contrast to Mr Abbott’s pledge to spend $1.5 billion on the east-west road link connecting the Eastern and Tullamarine freeways. The state government also announced funding of $300 million for that project in last week’s state budget, with just $10 million for the rail tunnel.
Mr Abbott last month said there would be no Commonwealth money for commuter rail projects if he was elected prime minister…
Ms Gillard says spending money on public transport projects such as the Melbourne metro tunnel will ease the congestion on city streets.
”In this budget we have very much focused on public transport infrastructure,” she told Gold FM radio in Melbourne.
”We are spending more money on public transport infrastructure than has been spent in the whole history of federation, because that does change congestion on our city streets.”
The Prime Minister said she was happy to work with the Victorian government.
”On East West we are still waiting for comprehensive plans and a good business case from the Victorian government to be put in to Infrastructure Australia,” she said.