Geelong Fast Rail Hits Roadblock while Melbourne Airport Rail Survives Axe.
In a twist of infrastructure fortunes, the Geelong Fast Rail project has been axed while the multi-billion-dollar Melbourne Airport Rail line remains unscathed following a comprehensive federal infrastructure review that extended far beyond its anticipated duration.
The ambitious Geelong Fast Rail, pledged with a $2 billion investment by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, was part of a broader vision to reduce travel times from Geelong to Melbourne. With construction slated to begin in 2023, the line was to cut passengers travel time from about 75 minutes to 50 minutes. This project was expected to create some 2,800 construction jobs.
However, the federal funding hinged on a matching commitment from Victoria, which was initially dismissed as a “fantasy” by the state government but later secured in 2020.
Despite this, the project failed to survive the extensive review, with Victorian Transport Infrastructure Minister Danny Pearson dubbing it a “thought bubble.”
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Victoria’s loss in the review extends beyond Geelong Fast Rail, impacting other projects such as upgrades to the Western, Calder, and Mornington Peninsula freeways, the Frankston to Baxter Rail upgrade, and the business case for a Melbourne Inland Rail Intermodal Terminal. The state government is now pushing for the reallocation of the funds previously allocated to these projects to stay within Victoria.
In contrast, Melbourne Airport Rail, a collaboration between the Victorian and federal governments with a combined commitment of $10 billion, has emerged unscathed. Expected to cost between $8 billion and $13 billion, the rail line aims to connect the city to Tullamarine by 2029, featuring new stations and a sky rail bridge. However, protracted negotiations, including discussions on the inclusion of an underground station at Tullamarine, have added a layer of complexity to the project.
Premier Jacinta Allan expressed frustration over the extended negotiations, stating, “Negotiations have been frustrating for three years.” Transport Infrastructure Minister Danny Pearson highlighted the government’s unwavering stance on a cost-effective, elevated station at the airport, emphasising, “We’ve offered to give them a car, and they’re saying we want a Lambo.”
The axe also fell on various other infrastructure initiatives, such as the Calder Freeway, Rutherglen heavy vehicle alternative route, Western Freeway upgrade, McKoy Street – Hume Freeway intersection upgrade, Goulburn Valley Highway – Shepparton bypass stage one, Victoria Faster Rail Corridor investigations, and the Melbourne Inland Rail Intermodal Terminal business case.
As the infrastructure landscape undergoes these significant shifts, debates about priorities, funding allocations, and regional impacts are sure to ensue, shaping the trajectory of Victoria’s future projects.