Vic could buy more homes near road project

·2-min read

Melbourne homeowners enduring major disruptions from a $15.4 billion road project could voluntarily sell their homes to the Victorian government.

Properties experiencing prolonged disruption during the construction phase of the North East Link might be included in a voluntary purchase scheme, Victorian Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan confirmed on Monday.

"We work through that on a case-by-case basis with those property owners," she told reporters.

Project managers are in discussions with property owners near the Eastern Freeway but Ms Allan said she is not aware how many have chosen to access the scheme.

North East Link, jointly funded by the state and federal government, will connect the M80 Ring Road to an upgraded Eastern Freeway.

It is expected to cut travel times between Melbourne's north and southeast by up to 35 minutes and take 15,000 trucks off local roads each day when completed in 2028.

Ms Allan said a 1.9-kilometre extension of tunnels from the original project design has almost halved the number of homes being compulsorily acquired.

"There was originally thought to be about 75 properties that needed to be acquired. That's now around 36," she said, adding many have found new accommodation.

A further 100 businesses in the Bulleen industrial precinct have also been bought out by the government. About half have been relocated, with the rest expected to leave by the end of July.

Ms Allan on Monday visited the site of the North East Link's $69 million Bulleen Park and Ride project - a bus station for a dedicated busway along the Eastern Freeway - before facing the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.

Under questioning from Nationals MP Danny O'Brien, the minister was asked if the overall North East Link cost of $15.4 billion has been updated.

The Andrews government signed a $11.1 billion deal in October with Spark consortium to build, operate and maintain the the project's tunnel toll road, and Ms Allan said she was unable to provide an updated cost figure as several secondary contracts are out to tender.

"We're not going to compromise the state's commercial position," she said.

Further, Ms Allan would not say if $3.9 billion in cost overruns for the trouble-plagued West Gate Tunnel has diminished its cost benefit ratio, which was initially estimated at 1.3 but queried by the state's auditor-general in 2019.

Opposition transport infrastructure spokesman Matt Bach accused the Andrews government of overseeing $28.1 billion in major project cost blowouts, a figure Ms Allan strongly disputed.

"That is $4500 for every Victorian man, woman and child - all put on the credit card as interest rates continue to rise," Mr Bach said.

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