THE Victorian Government last week released its Budget for 2015-16, describing it as the foundation for a stronger and fairer Victoria that restores the essential services Victorians need while keeping the state's finances strong.
According to the government, the Budget includes funding for up to $22 billion in new capital projects and delivers an estimated surplus of $1.2 billion in 2015-16, rising to $1.8 billion by 2018-19. The state's economy is forecast to grow by 2.5 per cent in 2015-16, and 2.75 per cent from 2016-17.
"It's a record investment in public transport – up to $22 billion to build new trains and trams, remove our worst level crossings and undertake the biggest overhaul to the train system since the construction of the City Loop," Premier Daniel Andrews said.
"It's not road versus rail – we're investing in both roads and rail to reduce congestion and get our state moving," he added.
Treasurer Tim Pallas said the Budget is about balance: "We're increasing funding for schools, hospitals and transport, but we're keeping our finances stable. It's an investment we can afford in the things we can't afford to lose."
"The surpluses are strong, net debt is down and the triple-A credit rating is secure," Mr Pallas said.
Up to $2.4 billion for level crossing removals
The Victorian Government has allocated between $2 billion and $2.4 billion over four years to deliver on its promise to fund the removal of at least 20 level crossings during its first term, with the first 17 crossings to go under the $5-6 billion Level Crossing Removal Project now identified.
Last month, Labor announced that all nine level crossings between Dandenong and Caulfield would be removed as part of its multi-billion dollar plan to transform the Cranbourne-Pakenham line with high-capacity trains, new stations and better signalling.
On top of these nine, the four level crossings already out to market at Main Road in St Albans, North Road in Ormond, Burke Road in Glen Iris, and Blackburn Road in Blackburn will be removed within the next three years.
The Level Crossing Removal Authority has already taken market soundings for four additional level crossing removals located close to the four already out to market. These are:
- Furlong Road, near Main Road in St Albans;
- Heatherdale Road near Blackburn Road in Blackburn;
- Centre Road, Bentleigh; and
- McKinnon Road, McKinnon.
The first package of work is expected to be awarded later this month, with all 17 contracted this year. All 17 level crossings will be removed by 2018, with extra sites to be identified in the coming months.
$2 billion as part of ten-year Victorian Rolling Stock Strategy
The Victorian Government will invest $2 billion to support the delivery of its 'Trains, Trams, Jobs 2015-2025 – Victorian Rolling Stock Strategy', which sets out our ten-year plan for 100 new metropolitan trains, 100 new trams, and expanded regional train fleet.
The investment includes $1.3 billion for 37 new High Capacity Metro Trains, $274 million for 20 E-Class trams, $257 million for 21 VLocity carriages, $90 million for five new X'Trapolis trains, $75 million for maintenance and refurbishment to extend the life of the current Comeng train fleet and $21 million to extend the life of the B-Class tram fleet.
Beyond this initial investment, the Rolling Stock Strategy aims to identify a pipeline of train and tram delivery to meet the needs of the public transport network for decades to come.
$50 million for an Interface Councils Infrastructure Fund
The 2015-16 Budget provides $50 million for an Interface Councils Infrastructure Fund, which aims to assist local councils to undertake a range of projects to address the challenges of a growing population.
The 10 Interface Councils are: Cardinia Shire Council, City of Casey, Hume City Council, Melton City Council, Mitchell Shire Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Nillumbik Shire Council, City of Whittlesea, Wyndham City Council and Yarra Ranges Council.
The Fund builds on other local government investments, including support for public libraries, the management of roadside weeds and pests, and $1 million for a review of the Local Government Act 1989.
As part of the review, the Victorian Government will seek to modernise the relationship between state and local government. This will include strengthening compliance and councillor standards and the reduction of unnecessary red tape for councils.
$1 million to reduce backlog of central city permit applications
The Victorian Government will provide $1 million to work through the backlog of applications so developers can get on with the job and maintain a pipeline of work for the construction industry.
According to the government, there are currently 26 central city permit applications under assessment within the department – equivalent to a year's work – along with 150 planning scheme amendments which are yet to be finalised.
$1 million to protect the Yarra River from inappropriate development
The Budget provides $1 million to protect Melbourne's iconic Yarra River against inappropriate development. A dedicated trust will be established and new planning controls introduced to preserve the future of the 240-kilometre long river.
The Yarra Protection Bill will also be introduced to establish clear rules around what can and cannot be built near the river, drawing on expert advice and input from the public.
$1.5 billion to commence work on the Melbourne Metro Rail Project
The Budget includes $1.5 billion over four years to complete the planning, design and early works of the $9-11 billion Melbourne Metro Rail Project and to commence major construction by 2018.
The project includes the construction of two 9-kilometre underground rail between South Kensington and South Yarra, with new stations at Arden, Parkville, CBD North, CBD South and Domain.
$13 million for Frankston Station precinct
The Budget includes $13 million for the new Frankston Station precinct, which will allow for the Young Street improvement works and develop a business case for the redevelopment.
$9 million for Mernda Rail Link
The Budget provides $9 million to develop and plan the Mernda Rail Link, which involves a 7.5-kilometre extension from South Morang to Mernda
$50 million for all-night public transport trial on weekends
The Budget provides $50 million to trial all-night public transport on weekends to get shift workers and late night revellers home safely. The Homesafe trial is due to begin on 1 January 2016.
$55.6 million for Stage 1 of Victoria's first trial of High-Capacity Signalling
The Budget includes $55.6 million for Stage 1 of Victoria's first trial of High-Capacity Signalling, which will roll out on the Sandringham line.
Funding for road projects including Chandler Highway and CityLink Tulla Widening
The Budget includes $110 million to duplicate the Chandler Highway bridge over the Yarra River, $40 million for the first stage of the West Gate Distributor project, $273 million for CityLink Tulla Widening project and $150 million for the next stage of the M80 upgrade.
$2 million for the Bendigo Metro Rail
The Budget includes $2 million to support the proposed Bendigo Metro Rail project, which aims to deliver a dedicated commuter rail service stopping at Epsom, Eaglehawk, Kangaroo Flat and Bendigo.