Mixed views as Victoria unveils infrastructure wish list

Victoria's infrastructure funding proposal wins backing from industry, but transport academic labels it 'an illusion of action'

By Ruza Zivkusic | November 17, 2011

Victoria’s infrastructure funding wish list lodged with the Federal Government’s advisory body, Infrastructure Australia, has been welcomed by the transport industry.

The state government released its 2011 Infrastructure Australia priority list that ranks the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, the Dandenong Rail Capacity project, the East West Link and the development of the Port of Hastings as the most important projects.

Both the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) believe the proposal to improve infrastructure links around Port of Melbourne is critical in the freight logistics supply chain.

"We fully support all of the projects and a lot of work has gone internally in the Department of Transport to get all of their stuff together – the important thing is to do the planning," VTA CEO Philip Lovel says.

"It will get trucks off the suburban streets and it will mean more reliability; looking into the future we need a lot more night time deliveries and 24-7 work."

Lovel holds concerns for the development of the Port of Hastings, saying it is in the long-term planning stage.

"I can see lots of issues there, lots of funding issues like an extra freight rail line and extra roads but again that’s planning and you’ve got to have a vision," he adds.

ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff says the government funding should be prioritised towards nationally significant projects.

"ALC looks forward to Infrastructure Australia carefully scrutinising the submission’s proposals, including undertaking further cost benefit work to assist their merits and to examine their potential returns to the national economy," Kilgariff says.

"We will then be in a better position to assess which of these proposals warrant further financial support from the Federal Government as nationally significant infrastructure.

"Victoria’s proposal to enhance the East West Link by improving connections between the Eastern Freeway to CityLink and to improve road links to the Port of Melbourne, reflect the Coalition Government’s commitment to growing Victoria’s liveability and productivity."

Premier Ted Baillieu says the list is part of the government’s broader infrastructure agenda and includes city-shaping projects that could "drive the next wave of productivity growth and enhance Victoria’s liveability".

"Major projects in the past have suffered from poor planning and project management failures that have resulted in completion delays and cost blow-outs," Baillieu says.

RACV General Manager Brian Negus believes the rail tunnel will reduce congestion and assist access to the Port of Melbourne.

"Importantly, it will provide an alternative route to the Monash and West Gate corridor because if something happens in that corridor Melbourne grinds to a halt," Negus says.

"We are pleased that the government has gone ahead with these projects. RACV has been advocating for the east-west tunnel for many years and we’re delighted to see it get a tick from the Victorian Government."

However, transport academic at RMIT University Dr Paul Mees says the proposal is designed to create "an illusion of action".

He is not convinced the government has created a plan worth funding.

"The government has asked for more than half a billion dollars from the Federal Government to prepare the plans for individual infrastructure programs which makes it fairly clear there isn’t a plan at the moment," Mees says.

"My own view is that most of the projects that they’re talking about are either unnecessary or counterproductive.

"The rail tunnel is unnecessary because the rail system has ample spare capacity and the proposed multi-billion road tunnel would actually be counterproductive if it was built because it would flood the central city with even more cars and trucks that it has."

Mees believes the government has not done proper planning and has copied the previous Labor government’s ideas.

"I would be amazed if the Federal Government gave them any money for this because what the Federal Government should say to them is, ‘This is your job…you come to us once you’ve done the planning for funding’."

Mees believe a culture change and staff turnover is needed within government ranks.

"Unless you actually have really competent sharp world-beating transport planners in your transport ministry, then you’ll be floating around conducting study after study and never getting anywhere," he says.

"My hope is that the Federal Government will refuse to give them the money and tell them to go away and do their job properly. If they gave them the money, they would be rewarding the Victorian Government for not doing its job properly."

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