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Interest sought for ?biggest? Aussie public transport project

The Victorian Government recently invited industry to submit expressions of interest (EOI) for the Melbourne Metro rail project.

The project involves the construction of twin 9km tunnels beneath the Melbourne CBD and the establishment of five new underground stations. These will include two city stations, which will directly connect to the existing major train stations at Flinders Street and Melbourne Central.

Sixty-five new high capacity trains will run on the lines to ease congestion in the City Loop, Melbourne’s metropolitan rail network. It was said that 20,000 more passengers would be able to use the network during peak hour upon project completion.

“Melbourne is growing, but we can’t run more trains because the City Loop is full,” Victorian Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan said. “The Metro Tunnel will free up space in the Loop to run more trains in and out of the city.”

Funding fight

Upon the release of its state budget on 27 April, the Victorian Government announced it would fully fund the Melbourne Metro Tunnel to ensure the project could progress with or without federal support.

“[Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull has been missing in action on the biggest public transport project in the country,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said at the time. “Victorians can’t wait any longer.”

Less than a week later, the 2016–17 Federal Budget revealed that the Federal Government had allocated more than $857 million to the Melbourne Metro project, but Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said the move was nothing more than a “ridiculous trick”.

Due to the fact that the allocated funding was being drawn from the Asset Recycling Initiative – whereby the Federal Government refunds a state 15 per cent of the value of any state asset that is leased – he argued that the Victorian Government would have received the funding anyway.

“This [Melbourne Metro] money is money the Commonwealth owes the state for the lease of the Port of Melbourne,” Pallas said. “This is not new funding.”

The Melbourne Metro EOI process closes on 9 June, 2016. Early works are scheduled to begin next year, with major construction to start in 2018. The new rail network is expected to be operational by 2026.

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