VICTORIA'S Level Crossing Removal Authority should improve the rigour and transparency applied to site selection and prioritisation, site packaging and procurement, benefits management, and integration of various rail projects, according to a new report released by the Victorian Auditor-General.
The report follows an audit that focused on the role of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, Level Crossing Removal Authority, Public Transport Victoria, and Transport for Victoria in providing oversight and strategic focus for the State Government's Level Crossing Removal Program.
It also examined whether the program is cost-effective in terms of whether it has improved, or is expected to improve, the safety and efficiency of the state's road and rail network, and provided an analysis of risks, lessons and opportunities for improvement for future works.
The Level Crossing Removal Program is one of the Victorian Government's key transport infrastructure projects and is currently two years into an eight-year program with a stated aim to remove 50 of the most dangerous and congested level crossings.
Following its election in 2014, the government upheld its pre-election commitment to remove 50 crossings by 2022, and later committed to removing 20 of these crossings by 2018. The government has also identified an additional two level crossings for removal, bringing the total to 52.
However, the Auditor-General found that contrary to publicly stated objectives, not all of the 50 level crossings selected for removal are the most dangerous and congested. Additionally, the cumulative cost of the program has increased by more than 38 per cent—based on the initial estimate of $5–6 billion in 2015—to $8.3 billion at July 2017.
The audit also found that while the program is ahead of schedule, the pace presents risks to achieving value for money, with the risks being compounded by an inadequate and delayed business case, and poor indicators to measure program benefits.
The Auditor-General made a number of recommendations, including:
- The development of a transparent selection and prioritisation process for targeted removal of level crossings beyond current commitments made by government;
- The development of comprehensive key performance indicators and targets to meaningfully measure achievement of intended benefits; and
- Monitor the progress of achievement of Level Crossing Removal Program outcomes to facilitate timely insight into how the program is progressing towards benefits realisation.
More information about the report, 'Managing the Level Crossing Removal Program', is available from the Victorian Auditor-General's Office website at <https://www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/managing-level-crossing-removal-program>.