One of the rituals of the Budget (both State and Federal) is the lock-up. That’s where you get to see the Budget papers before they’re all released, but you can’t leave until they’ve gone public.
For the State Budget, there’s a lock-up for journalists, and another for special interest groups/stakeholders.
I attended the latter this year. You hand in your mobile phone on entry, though you can keep iPads and laptop computers… I suppose there’s a certain level of trust that you’re not going to do anything too devious and send information to the outside world.
All the same, I was amused when someone pointed out that all the tables had signs advising of a Wi-Fi password.
Anyway, what was in the State Budget for public transport?
Some worthwhile upgrades, but I think it’s fair to say nothing really big, and in fact some of the bigger ones had been pre-announced. Some notable ones we hadn’t already heard about include:
Five new X’trapolis trains $103m – presumably to keep the fleet expanding while the HCMTs come online, and also to keep the Ballarat Alstom factory ticking over for a bit until the next tram or regional train order.
Essendon and Watergardens DDA, business cases for Broadmeadows/Pakenham, improvements Kananook and Seaford $16m — I’m a bit surprised Watergardens needs major works given it was only built in 2002. Does it suffer from capacity problems?
Enhanced security around the network including bus stops $17m — would be interested to know what this entails. Presumably specific projects in mind, as it’d be spread pretty thin across the entire network.
South Yarra station and tram stop upgrade $12m — will improve interchange between trains and the 58 tram, though will not include an additional concourse/exit — that may come later.
Shepparton rail upgrade stage 2 $313m — enabling up to 9 trains per day, implementation of which is presumably the next step
Wyndham Vale and Seymour extra services $11m — short term relief for regional passengers
Signal and track upgrades Maryborough, Ararat, Ballarat $130m
Regional rail stabling and maintenance facilities for V/Line $173m — I wonder if it’ll help resolve the issue of them dumping out of service trains at platforms at Southern Cross in the middle of the day, making passengers from Collins Street walk an entire city block to board their trains
Regional train design and pre-procurement $16m — the plan is to phase out the “classic” fleet, eg the pre-2000 V/Locity fleet, with Diesel Multiple Units replacing all loco-hauled trains, which brings operational benefits.
Fishermans Bend active travel business case $1m — planning for a tram and/or walking and cycling upgrades. Doesn’t include detailed planning for the proposed Metro 2 rail tunnel.
Federal money coming
The Herald Sun (paywall) has revealed overnight that the Feds are allocating money to Victorian public transport projects, including:
Frankston to Baxter electrification $225m — good move, would include the Monash Peninsula campus at Leawarra, and enable moving stabling and park+ride out of the town centre at Frankston to an area with more land. Not clear how much of the cost this covers. I’d imagine this would increase pressure to remove the level crossing at Moorooduc Highway.
Geelong to Waurn Ponds duplication — another $50m on top of the previous $100m
Monash and Rowville rail $475m — to cover property acquisition and pre-construction. The report says the Feds would prefer heavy rail, whereas the State would prefer light rail that also serves the employment and retail centre at Chadstone. The mode probably comes down to future demand and capacity. The report does say the Feds agree with the State that the section to Monash should be the first stage.
Amusingly the report also says:
The Herald Sun understands the federal government is willing to consider building a tram but also wants to look at a heavy rail line, with the final decision to ensure the route is “future-proofed” for growing demand.
Future-proofing transport infrastructure is a good idea. Shame they never seem to want it for the major road projects they fund.
The rest of the Federal Budget gets announced on Tuesday night.
More State PT investment to come?
There’s a bunch of worthwhile stuff in the State Budget, but no really big ticket items.
A lot of observers suspect there will be some bigger announcements to look forward to approaching the election. Federal too, perhaps.
It’s also notable that the new State money for roads was more than double the new money for public transport. Remember, new investment should reflect the type of city we want to achieve.
So hopefully there is more coming for PT.