03 We pay ex­tra $300m

Cross­ings blowout

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - MATT JOHN­STON STATE POL­I­TICS ED­I­TOR

TAX­PAY­ERS face a $300 mil­lion blowout in costs for the An­drews Gov­ern­ment’s sig­na­ture level-cross­ing re­movals.

The Sun­day Her­ald Sun un­der­stands the gov­ern­ment has been warned it will need to cough up hun­dreds of mil­lions more than the $8.27 bil­lion so far al­lo­cated, as it races through the pop­u­lar pro­gram.

The cur­rent bud­get is made up of $6.88 bil­lion to re­move 50 level cross­ings over eight years, and $1.39 bil­lion of “met­ro­pol­i­tan net­work mod­erni­sa­tion” such as new sta­tions or up­grades to trans­port hubs near the re­moval work.

A busi­ness case for the sig­na­ture pol­icy re­leased this year said those el­e­ments would cost a to­tal of $7.6 bil­lion.

It is un­der­stood the co-or­di­na­tor gen­eral of Vic­to­ria’s Ma­jor Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture Pro­gram, Corey Han­nett, has raised the prospect of even more money be­ing needed.

One source said this was ex­pected to be $300 mil­lion. An­other said it could be more.

Mr Han­nett is be­ing ad­vised by a Ma­jor Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture Board, headed by for­mer NSW trans­port de­part­ment boss Les Wielinga.

It over­sees big-ticket pro­grams such as level cross­ings and the $11 bil­lion Mel­bourne Metro Rail Tun­nel project. La­bor sources con­cede hat there have been “mud­died wa­ters” around the cost of level cross­ing re­movals, with ex­tra “scope” added to many.

This year’s Bud­get in­cluded $846 mil­lion for the project’s “ac­cel­er­a­tion”.

Op­po­si­tion public trans­port spokesman David Davis said: “La­bor can’t man­age money and they can’t man­age ma­jor projects”. He added: “Fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment on this scale means fewer crit­i­cally needed trans­port projects, in­clud­ing public trans­port ex­ten­sions and ad­di­tional level cross­ing re­movals, will be com­pleted than could have been.”

Public Trans­port Min­is­ter Jac­inta Al­lan de­fended the gov­ern­ment’s level cross­ing re­moval pol­icy and said it was crit­i­cal for safety and for com­muters.

“Re­mov­ing these level cross­ings will save lives and leave a long-term legacy in com­mu­ni­ties right across Mel­bourne,” she said.

“The project re­mains within the es­ti­mates in the most re­cent state Bud­get.”

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