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Experts back $50b Melbourne rail loop

Experts back $50b Melbourne rail loop

A suburban rail loop is exactly what Melbourne needs as it races towards nearly doubling its population by 2050 – but the Victorian government needs to stop “plonking” down projects, experts say.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday unveiled a $50 billion, 90km suburban rail loop plan, promising a business case if his government is re-elected in November, with building to start in 2022 and finish by 2051.

It would link Cheltenham in the southeast to Werribee in the southwest and connect to the proposed Melbourne Airport rail line, with up to 12 new underground stations, moving 400,000 people a day.

If re-elected, the Labor state government would tip in $300 million for a proper business case.

Details including the location of stations and route alignment are yet to be confirmed and the government will rely heavily on commonwealth funding for it.

“I’m broadly supportive of this project because I think one of the weaknesses in Melbourne’s metropolitan train network is the lack of these orbital or circumferential links,” RMIT urban policy professor Jago Dodson told AAP.

However, he said, it would be better if the government created a whole-of-Melbourne plan like what is required under the Transport Integration Act – legislation in place since the previous government but has no sanctions against inaction.

“We’re just seeing these projects being dreamed up and plonked down without that wider strategy,” Prof Dodson said.

“We’ve recently seen the widening of the Tullamarine Freeway and then shortly after an announcement to build a rail line to the airport.

“If we had got our planning right and our sequencing right, we might have decided that by building a rail line we’ll take congestion off the Tullamarine Freeway and therefore we wouldn’t have to spend that extra billion dollars on the Tullamarine Freeway.”

University of Melbourne senior lecturer in transport planning, John Stone, also said it was “fantastic” to see the government try and fix public transport for suburbs, but testing on different options was needed.

Monash University transport engineering expert Graham Currie welcomed the “extremely ambitious” project but said $50 billion seemed a low estimate.


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