2016 Federal Budget misses opportunities for Victoria

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The 2016 Federal Budget commits to Metro Rail Tunnel in Melbourne, but misses the opportunity to set a long term transport agenda.

Victoria’s leading transport advocate RACV says the Federal Budget has delivered on promised road and public transport infrastructure funding but has failed to set out any long term agenda for an integrated transport plan.

Big public transport and road projects to be funded

RACV is pleased to see a number of big ticket projects get the green light, including the $857 million allocated for the Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel. The construction of the Melbourne Metro Rail tunnel is good news for Melbournians and it will provide much needed increased train services across the city.

The Monash Freeway upgrade at $500 million, including the implementation of a smart technology motorway management system, is also great news for communities in the south east of Melbourne. It will go a long way to easing the crippling congestion many people experience in their everyday travels by widening west of East Link to the Shire of Cardinia.

The reinstatement of the $500 million to upgrade the M80 Western Ring Road was long overdue and will reduce congestion and provide critical relief for the significant volumes of truck traffic using the Ring Road to access the Port of Melbourne.

The St Albans rail crossing has long been a critical safety issue in Melbourne’s west and the allocation of $60.9 million to complete removal of the level crossing and the construction of a new rail and bus interchange is welcome.

RACV is pleased to see investment in rural roads as we have long called for the continuation of regional highway upgrading projects to improve safety and travel conditions for regional Victorians. The $345 million allocation to the Western Highway, Princes Highway East and Princes Highway West will be warmly welcomed by RACV members and all people living and working in regional Victoria.

The Murray Basin Rail project, providing improved freight access to Mildura with an allocation of $240 million will enable improved access for agricultural industries in this critical part of our state.

Key projects missing

The Budget did miss the mark on a very significant key project for Melbourne. RACV is disappointed that the Federal Government has not recognised the need for completion of the Metropolitan Ring Road (missing North East Link) from Greensborough to Ringwood. This is a missed opportunity to reduce the crippling congestion across Melbourne’s north east and improve freight productivity given the huge volume of trucks travelling through this part of the city. There is strong support for the project in Victoria, and a modest allocation of funds by the Federal Government could have instigated the necessary planning processes to identify and protect a route.

The Federal Government has also failed to support the Victorian State Government by contributing to the Western Distributor project. The project will provide much needed road capacity for Melbourne’s fast growing western suburbs, improve access to one of Australia’s busiest ports and provide an alternative to the West Gate Bridge. Despite ticking many of the Federal Government’s priorities, including engaging with the private sector for financing and improving productivity in one the State’s busiest freight transport corridors, it has not been supported.

No reform of taxation and transport funding

Another significant omission from the Federal Budget is the missed opportunity to establish an independent inquiry into motoring taxation and transport market reform to establish a sound base for future infrastructure funding to secure our economy.

Short term funding for road safety

The Federal Budget includes a $4 million extension to Keys2drive, to provide about 80,000 to 90,000 free lessons to learner drivers and their parent/supervisor across Australia during the next 12 months. Although that funding is appreciated, the absence of a longer term commitment suggests that the Federal Government will cease its contribution to this program that helps Victorians learn to drive safely.

Similarly, it is understood that the Federal Government will only provide 12 months more funding for ANCAP, the program that provides star ratings so that consumers can compare safety features and performance when they are buying a new car, irrespective of where the car is imported from. A new commitment to funding is needed to ensure ANCAP can continue providing this vital independent service.

Ten major infrastructure commitments

The 2016 Federal Budget committed the following funding to ten critical infrastructure projects in Victoria.

  1. Melbourne Metro Rail Tunnel: $857.2 million
  2. Monash Freeway: $500 million
  3. M80 Ring Road: $500 million with $56.8 million to be provided in 2016–17.
  4. Tullamarine Freeway Widening (Section 1): $200 million with $61.7 million to be provided in 2016–17 to continue work on the 5.5 kilometres from Melrose Drive to the Melbourne Airport.
  5. Western Highway—Ballarat to Stawell Duplication: $501.3 million with $3.43 million to be provided in 2016–17 to duplicate a further 12.4 kilometres from Buangor to Ararat.
  6. Princes Highway East—Traralgon to Sale Duplication: $210 million with $23.9 million to be provided in 2016–17 to duplicate a further 3.5 kilometres west of Sale.
  7. Princes Highway West—Winchelsea to Colac Duplication: $181.7 million with $40.3 million to be provided in 2016–17 to duplicate a further 14.5 kilometres from Armytage to Warncoort.
  8. Murray Basin Freight Rail: $240 million
  9. St Albans Rail Grade Separation: $151 million with $60.9 million to be provided in 2016–17 to complete the removal of the level crossing and construction of the new rail station and bus interchange.
  10. Great Ocean Road: $25 million with $4.9 million to be provided in 2016–17.

Keep Victoria Moving

Even with these commitments, Victoria is not getting its fair share of federal funding in this 4 year program. Our share is a meagre 9.7 percent while NSW gets 31 percent and Queensland, 28 percent. This is way less than 25 percent that Victoria should get, based on population, kilometres travelled and productivity.

RACV will speak out in the coming Federal Election to advocate strongly for a fairer share of federal funding and to see the above commitments honoured. We also want the next Federal Government to better support Victoria with projects and policies that are essential to improve the liveability of Victoria.

Written by Brian Negus, General Manager Public Policy
May 05, 2016