Land ‘lost’ in Baxter line plan

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Line call: Diesel trains to Baxter will be replaced by modern electric models. Pic: Gary Sissons

THE state and federal Liberals’ pledge to spend $450 million electrifying the Frankston line to Baxter may come at the cost of green wedge land in Baxter.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and state opposition leader Matthew Guy visited Baxter station on 17 July to announce the Liberals, if elected at state and federal level at upcoming elections, will begin the project next year.

Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in May announced it wanted the line electrified beyond Baxter to Hastings.

The shire said Baxter — which lies within its municipal boundary – would be an unsuitable terminus for the electric train service.

An “advocacy paper” prepared by the shire says moving train stabling and maintenance and car parking “down the line” to Baxter “appears to be primarily to free up land in Frankston for development”.

Making land available at Baxter would require “pushing out the Urban Growth Boundary and encroaching on the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge”.

“Electrification would offer minimal benefit to residents of the Mornington Peninsula, at an unacceptable cost,” the shire has stated in a letter to the state and federal governments.

At that stage the shire, which felt it had been left out of the planning to electrify the line, said it was “imperative” that it be included in any future discussions (“Shire off line in train talks” The Times 21/5/18).

State Hastings MP Neale Burgess last week said electrification and duplication from a single to double rail line to Baxter “is just the first stage of electrifying and duplicating the line through to Stony Point”.

“The estimated cost of electrifying and duplicating our line through to Stony Point was in excess of $2 billion and that amount was not immediately available,” Mr Burgess said.

“While the whole amount was not available up front there are many benefits of bringing the metro line as far as Baxter to start and then taking it the rest of the way to Stony Point as stage two.

“I won’t be satisfied until we have metro train services that go all the way through to Stony Point and meet the French Island Ferry.”

Mr Burgess says the shire’s advocacy paper is “outdated”.

“Once the line is electrified to Baxter, residents of Crib Point, Bittern, Hastings, Tyabb, Somerville, Baxter and Langwarrin will for the first time ever be able to take a short drive to a large park ’n’ ride just north of Baxter and catch a train right through to the city without having to change trains at all.

“Commuters will no longer have to catch a diesel train to Frankston and then wait for a connection to the city, they will be able to leave their car in the park ’n’ ride north of Baxter and travel through to the city.

“There will be no need to try and find that elusive car park at Frankston station or elsewhere.”

Federal Flinders MP Greg Hunt said last month it was vital to protect and retain the Mornington Peninsula Green Wedge as a major health, conservation, agricultural, economic and recreational environment for future generations.

Speaking at a “green wedge summit” organised by the shire, Mr Hunt said “the green wedge zones are not just a policy for me, they are a family legacy. My late father was instrumental in implementing green wedge zones across Melbourne whilst he was a minister in the state government and I want to ensure that these are maintained”.

The state and federal Labor parties have not yet confirmed they will electrify rail to Baxter if in government after the next elections.

The Labor state government is undertaking a federally-funded business case study on the proposal.

Victorian Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan has not responded to questions about the progress of the business case study or any Labor commitment to the project.

– with Neil Walker 

First published in the Frankston Times – 30 July 2018

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