THE Frankston train line extension has been axed by the federal government.
The previous Coalition federal government committed $225 million to the project in 2018. Later that year, opposition transport spokesman Anthony Albanese and Dunkley candidate Peta Murphy, now the Prime Minister and member for Dunkley respectively, announced that Labor would support the project if it won government.
The cost to electrify and duplicate the Stony Point line from Frankston to Baxter would have been up to $1.5 billion, according to a business case completed before the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal included the construction of new stations at Frankston East, Langwarrin, and Baxter.
The proposal was included in a review into uncompleted infrastructure projects ordered by the incoming Labor federal government shortly after its election. The review, released on 16 November, recommended scrapping the project.
The Frankston line extension is one of at least 50 projects expected to get the axe. Federal infrastructure minister Catherine King said the federal government had made “necessary decisions to no longer provide funding at this time to some projects. This includes projects that were not realistically going to be delivered with the funding available, have made little to no progress over a significant amount of time, and projects that do not align with Commonwealth or state and territory priorities.”
“We also know that there continue to be significant cost pressures in the system and we will work collaboratively and proactively with the states and territories to manage these,” she said. “The independent strategic review found that the Infrastructure Investment Program inherited from the former Coalition government was undeliverable.”
The $225 million committed by the federal government to the Frankston line extension was nowhere near enough to get the project completed. Calls for the state government to put in money went unanswered (“Baxter rail extension could wipe out homes, historic sites” The Times 19/10/22).
Last month Frankston Council called for the funds to be reallocated to other local transport projects if the electrification did not proceed. After its scrapping, Dunkley MP Peta Murphy said the $225 million “was for this specific transport project”.
“The independent panel has made the decision that the Baxter rail project does not stack-up economically and is significantly underfunded. The federal government has accepted this advice and will not be proceeding with the proposed extension of the Baxter rail,” she said. “I will work with the local community to identify other transport projects which the federal government can support.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues across all levels of government to identify local infrastructure projects which are deliverable in the current climate.”
The Frankston line extension was not the only project in Dunkley or its surrounding electorates to be assessed. The review also recommended axing the planned Mornington Peninsula Freeway upgrade.
$30 million for Ballarto Road in Skye will be retained, as will $43.5 million for commuter car park upgrades on the Frankston line. More than $141 million remains in the budget for the Hall Road upgrade, and $57.5 million will stay in the budget for the Western Port Highway upgrade.
The review’s executive summary read “the ten-year pipeline of projects cannot be delivered within the $120 billion allocation, even with current contributions from jurisdictions.”
“The Australian government cannot afford within the current program settings, to meet the identified cost pressures, nor add any new projects for delivery to the pipeline in the next ten years, without significant changes taking immediate effect,” the review read. “A number of projects were allocated a commitment of Australian Government funding too early in their planning process and before detailed planning and credible design and costing were undertaken.”
Committee for Frankston and Mornington Peninsula CEO Josh Sinclair said the advocacy group is “disappointed to see once promised funding for [the Frankston line extension] now officially taken off the table.”
“We want to work with the government on realistic and achievable solutions to improve public transport and accessibility on the peninsula,” he said. “The committee will work closely with local government, members of parliament and minister King to discuss what important infrastructure projects should be funded in our region instead. Our priority remains keeping that funding in our region.”
The retention of funds for car parking on the Frankston line will be welcomed by long-time supporters of the project. Construction finally began on a multi-storey car park at Frankston Station earlier this year (“Work underway on multi-storey station parking” The Times 14/8/23).
Car park projects at Seaford and Kananook stations were scrapped in 2021 in the wake of an Auditor-General review into the urban congestion fund scheme. The previous federal government later re-committed to building parking at Kananook, and work has now begun (“Funding promised for station car park again” The Times 10/1/22).