Melbourne rail loop has $2.2b budget boost

Callum Godde
·2-min read

Victoria will fund $2.2 billion to start early works for Melbourne's $50 billion suburban rail loop, billed as the biggest public transport project in Australia.

In the latest big-ticket item for next week's Victorian state budget, Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled the funding on Monday and confirmed the locations for the six new underground stations across Melbourne's southeast.

The Andrews government took a proposal for the 90km rail ring to the last state election and the premier said the investment would put wheels in motion for the long-term project.

"This project is real," Mr Andrews told reporters on Monday.

"It started by our government but it will be finished in decades to come by another government.

"It's not about the electoral cycle. It's about getting people where they need to go."

Trains would be so frequent there would be no need for a timetable, Mr Andrews said, and mean commuters wouldn't be required to travel into the city to access suburbs on different lines.

The first stage of the project will run a 26km twin tunnel from Cheltenham to Box Hill and the funding enables the establishment of launch sites for tunnel boring machines.

Other stops include Southland, Clayton, Glen Waverley, Monash and Burwood, with the latter two requiring new stations to be built near Monash and Deakin universities.

Building works will start in 2022, creating an estimated 800 jobs, with landowners and tenants of up to 300 properties already notified of the project's possible impacts.

The final cost has been a sticking point for the massive project, with estimates ranging from $50 billion to $100 billion.

Total spend committed to the project now stands at $2.5 billion after $300 million was put aside in last year's budget for planning.

Mr Andrews said the final price tag for the rail loop should be viewed in the "aggregate".

"The cost of not building this will be freeway networks that ... just do not work at all," he said.

"That pre-pandemic traffic will be nothing compared to what we will see in decades to come."

A business case and environmental effects statement will be released next year. That's too late, Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien says.

"It's a project that doesn't have a budget," he told reporters.

"It doesn't have a business case. It doesn't have an environmental effects statement.

"It's the ultimate headline without a deadline."

It follows Sunday's announcement of a $5.3 billion package to build 12,000 social housing homes across Melbourne and regional Victoria, which has been hailed for its health and economic potential.