03 We pay extra $300m
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.”