THE federal opposition’s promised $900 million for the extension of the Frankston line to Baxter could be used to complete the project in stages, Liberal Dunkley candidate Nathan Conroy says.
A business case completed before the COVID-19 pandemic found that it would cost up to $1.5 billion to electrify and duplicate the Stony Point line from Frankston to Baxter. With no work undertaken in the four years since the business case was finished, it will likely cost a lot more.
Last month the federal opposition promised to spend $900 million on the project if it forms government next year. The promise is the centerpiece of the Liberals’ Dunkley by-election campaign.
Three-term Frankston mayor Nathan Conroy is seeking to win Dunkley for the Liberals. He said that the $900 million could be used to complete the project in stages “for sure”.
“We will work with the state government, we can do another business case, and we can make sure that we speak to people to see what stages come up,” he said “I know that Frankston East and Langwarrin Station, Langwarrin particularly, is very much needed to ease that congestion in the Frankston city by building car parking out there. When we get in and talk to the state government, we’ll come up with the best solution going forward.
“We need to be ahead of infrastructure, not behind. I think a $900 million dollar commitment goes a long way to delivering that project and it’s needed. We need to connect Langwarrin.”
The previous Coalition federal government committed $225 million toward the project. That funding was withdrawn by the Albanese government after an infrastructure review conducted last year.
The project’s downfall has been a lack of interest from the state government. It has not contributed funding for the proposal, and it cannot proceed without its approval. A state election is not expected until 2026.
Conroy said that he discussed the project “a couple of years ago” with the state government in his capacity as Frankston mayor, and that council supports extension beyond Frankston in its integrated transport strategy. “[The state government] is spending billions – close to $200 billion – on the suburban rail loop. That’s their decision, but we are also saying don’t forget about us and about prioritising this electorate and Flinders as well,” Conroy told The Times.
At the time of the project’s axing last November, federal infrastructure minister Catherine King said the 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” (“Frankston line extension derailed” The Times 20/11/2023).