Train loop divides on political lines

Anne Simmons

The Victorian Labor government’s bold election commitment to a massive underground rail line through suburban Melbourne comes with the promise of better access to jobs, education and employment around other parts of the city for Gippsland commuters.

Commuters on the Gippsland line could take the V/Line to Clayton, then change onto the suburban rail loop which would connect Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs to Werribee via the Tullamarine airport.

Construction would begin by 2022 on the south-eastern section of the line between Cheltenham and Box Hill, which includes Clayton.

One of three regional rail interchanges called ‘super-hubs’ would be built at Clayton, which Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said would give the Gippsland community a direct connection into the suburbs of Melbourne.

“If you’re a family who is wanting to access health services around the Monash precinct, a young person wanting to study at Deakin in Burwood, you will be able to access those places by train by accessing the suburban rail loop at Clayton,” Ms Allan said.

The Minister said the project was about allowing people to live where they wanted to live and would provide better access to regional Victoria.

Initially, a re-elected Labor government would invest $300 million into a business case for the project which would create up to 12 new underground train stations and is expected to carry 400,000 trips a day by 2051.

A project of this scale would take not only decades but several governments to complete.

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said Victoria expected an extra four million people by 2050 and as the state with the largest population growth, it needed to make the same sort of planning commitments as cities like Tokyo and London to manage growth.

“This is why decentralisation is so important and when you look at a suburban rail loop like we have designed, that is driven to a significant extent by the need to pull people out of the city,” Ms Shing said.

Nationals’ candidate for Morwell Sheridan Bond, however, believes the project is city-centric, has no merits for Gippsland commuters and referred to it as a “cash splash on a pie in the sky-type dream”.

“There’s no guarantees that Infrastructure Victoria will recommend this project,” Ms Bond said.

“It doesn’t solve the problems people in Valley have with their Gippsland rail line.

“Once again, Daniel Andrews has proven that he is the Premier of Melbourne not the Premier of Victoria.”

The Victorian Nationals’ have committed to an $8 million business case to look into a dedicated line for Gippsland.

Ms Shing said try telling someone, who regularly travels from Gippsland to the airport, the project had no benefits.

“The Nationals are hardly in a position to talk about Melbourne-centric policies when they have promised to spend the entire sum of Snowy Hydro funds on elevated roads in Melbourne,” Ms Shing said.