Big bucks for rail but timing everything

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Making a point: Treasurer Scott Morrison with Greg Hunt, left, and Chris Crewther at Frankston Hospital on Friday. Picture: Gary Sissons

A PLEDGE to spend $225 million to electrify rail tracks from Frankston to Baxter was the big ticket item for the region in last week’s federal budget.

Federal Liberal Treasurer Scott Morrison confirmed the federal government’s commitment to the project as part of a $7.8 billion package for new roads and rail lines across Victoria.

But it seems construction works to extend the metropolitan line to Baxter are still some way down the track.

The project is not yet fully funded and a business case has not been completed before the federal and state governments can agree on a funding split.

Federal Dunkley Liberal MP Chris Crewther said estimates “are between $500-800 million for the build” when asked.

“The $3 million federal Coalition government-funded business plan, commenced a couple of weeks ago by the state government, will determine the full build options and associated costs,” Mr Crewther said.

“The overall budget for the project won’t be known until the business plan is finished.”

The Dunkley MP said it will take about four years to electrify the rail line from Frankston to Baxter after work begins.

“Given $225 million is already on the table to build the project, works can start on part of the project quite soon after the business plan is finished and after a build option is chosen from the options presented.”

The business plan is expected to be finalised later this year.

Labor candidate for Frankston, Peta Murphy, supports the electrification of the line to Baxter but questioned the federal government’s headline $225 million figure since most of the money will not be spent in the near future.

“It’s a hoax to suggest that the infrastructure funding in this budget is actually in the budget,” Ms Murphy said.

“It is of concern that promises are being made when there’s no money in this year’s [2018-19] budget.”

Ms Murphy noted about $60 million in federal funding for the Baxter line electrification has been allocated up until 2021-23.

“I’m sceptical of the Turnbull government’s funding in any of this budget.”

The RACV said the federal government’s backing for transport infrastructure upgrades across the state is “great news for Victorians” but noted extended timelines on the projects means there does not appear to be “any hurry” at this stage.

“The critical point going forward will be on when this funding is delivered,” RACV public policy and corporate affairs general manager Bryce Prosser said.

“The budget infrastructure announcements are good and promise a lot for Victoria, but the detail suggests that it will be some time before Victorians will see any real action on the ground.”

Mr Prosser said “more divisive politics” should be avoided.

“Victorians want our governments to work together to deliver the best projects for Victoria which cater to the needs of our growing population.”

Mr Crewther said the business plan will investigate the cost of extending metro rail to a new Frankston Hospital station, Leawarra station at Monash University Peninsula Campus, a new Langwarrin train station and Baxter station.

Committee for Greater Frankston CEO Ginevra Hosking said the federal money “is the first serious commitment to a vital regional project”.

‘ScoMo’ flies budget flag

FEDERAL Treasurer Scott Morrison came to Frankston on Friday morning to fly several flags – one for his budget, one for Health Minister Greg Hunt, the federal MP for Flinders covering the Mornington Peninsula, and one for Dunkley MP Chris Crewther who faces a battle to retain his marginal seat at the next election.

 

The three Liberal MPs sheltered from the inclement weather outside Frankston Hospital’s emergency department to pose for media photos and footage before touring the hospital with executives including Peninsula Health’s new CEO Felicity Topp.

 

Later Mr Crewther introduced the Treasurer to national, state and local media as well as hospital, Peninsula Health and Monash University officials: “It’s great to be here at Frankston Hospital today with the Treasurer of Australia Scott Morrison and Minister for Health Greg Hunt to talk about what the budget means for health care in Dunkley and across the nation.”

 

Mr Crewther said they had just met 10-year-old Ally Clarke, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), and her parents who have been strong advocates for medication used in treating the condition to go on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme PBS), which was announced in the Budget.

 

The Treasurer, also known as “ScoMo”, said it had been “wonderful to meet the whole team here at the hospital” before launching into his Budget sell.

 

Mr Morrison said the rail line extension had been an important local project for a long period of time.

 

He said federal infrastructure spending in Victoria announced in the Budget was “the greatest of any state or territory”.

 

“In Victoria, we’ve really ponied up; we’ve really stepped up.”

 

Mr Hunt echoed the strong economy theme and said the federal government was investing $30 billion in hospitals across the nation [over five years].

 

After taking questions about the dual citizenship saga, which gave Mr Morrison a chance to criticise federal opposition leader Bill Shorten, the three MPs and their entourages decamped to Benito’s restaurant on the highway between Mt Eliza and Mornington for a Liberal Party lunch.

 

Mike Hast

First published in the Frankston Times – 14 May 2018

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