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VICTORIAN taxpayers have shelled out almost $17 million for a “gold-plated” light rail line in Canberra, one of the nation’s least congested cities.
As Victoria struggles with a $7.5 billion roads and rail funding shortfall, the Federal Government has ploughed $67 million into the rail line through the nation’s capital.
And the Australian Capital Territory Government is already asking for more federal cash to pay for a second stage of the $707 million project, which will service a city that is home to just 409,000 people.
Monday’s midyear Budget update revealed Victoria — home to 6.3 million people, a quarter of the nation’s population — receives just 9.4 per cent of federal infrastructure funding.
Canberra’s light rail under construction near the city’s racecourse. Picture: Kym Smith
The Federal Government has ploughed $67 million into the rail line. Picture: Kym Smith
The ACT Government is already asking for more federal cash to pay for a second stage of the $707 million project. Picture: Kym Smith
The State Government is sharpening its “Prime Minister for Sydney” attack on Malcolm Turnbull, to gain more money for transport projects in next year’s Budget.
Victoria also faces losing an important advocate in Canberra: despite a strong performance as Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Gippsland MP Darren Chester is at risk of losing his portfolio in a Cabinet reshuffle as soon as Tuesday.
That would leave Victoria without a minister on the government’s national infrastructure committee.
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Federal Labor MP Joanne Ryan, whose seat of Lalor covers Werribee and Melbourne’s outer west, said: “It’s a bit rich that Australia’s least congested city will get a gold-plated tram network at the expense of people in Melbourne’s outer west.
“We sit for hours in traffic and are left standing on packed station platforms, dreaming of a 20-minute city ride, while the federal government fails to deliver even our fair share (of funds),” Ms Ryan said.
The first stage of the Canberra light rail project, a 12km line with 13 stops, cost almost $60 million per kilometre.
The federal contribution came from the asset recycling scheme, which pays benefits to governments which sell off public assets.
The first stage of the Canberra light rail project, a 12km line with 13 stops, cost almost $60 million per kilometre. Picture: Kym SmithThe ACT Government is also pushing for extra money — before the first stage of the light rail project is finished — and will ramp up its bid when it finalises a business case this month.
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said the state’s funding shortfall was “astonishing”, particularly as New South Wales received 45.5 per cent of federal infrastructure cash.
“We’re the fastest-growing economy in the country ... but it’s no thanks to Malcolm Turnbull who couldn’t find us on a map and refuses to give us our fair share,” he said.
The State Government estimates that Victoria is owed as much as $7.5 billion in the five years to 2021 if it is to receive a fair level of federal funding.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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