Victorians will have to pay up to $5.2 billion, or almost $1 million a day, for the Napthine government's Pakenham/Cranbourne rail upgrade, the first long-term major privatisation of a key part of Melbourne's rail network.
Leaked cabinet documents reveal the government has fast-tracked the multibillion-dollar project – Australia's biggest-ever rail public-private partnership – to ensure contracts are signed ahead of the November state election.
Critics, including academics and Labor, have slammed the private-sector proposed upgrade – dubbed ''Project Flinders'' in the documents – as a corporate hijacking of transport planning in Victoria.
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Why are we whinging about a much-needed and overdue upgrade to our public transport infrastructure? Successive Victorian administrations have shown indifference and ineptitude resulting a massive backlog of infrastructure and investment neither of which has kept pace with Melbourne's rapid expansion. Government-led projects have taken as much as 10 years to deliver a simple two-platform station for Lynbrook, as an example, while the Cranbourne line itself remains largely single track.
It is right that the processes involved are scrutinised to ensure all is above board and the massive financial risk involved is well backed. But it is also right that we urgently progress major works without which not only will our public transport systems very soon become dangerously overloaded but our roads will grind to a halt as well given the lack of any realistic alternative to private motoring.