Member for Western Victoria
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Wimmera Passenger Rail Project costings?

My adjournment debate is for the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, and the action that I seek is for the minister to make public the costings of the Wimmera passenger rail project, previously provided to my office in a meeting last year. The Suburban Rail Loop is an uncosted project, effectively without a business case, that virtually nobody asked for, yet regional Victorians are fighting for public transport rail options. It was undoubtedly quite infuriating for regional Victorians to read in the news that the Suburban Rail Loop was going to cost up to $200 billion. This is a vast increase on the $50 billion that the minister said the rail loop would cost before the 2018 election. Whilst the government have said Victorians voted for this project when they went to the last election, they may not have voted for the project at four times the cost. This contrasts to the many regional rail projects that I have been trying to get up for the last four years, including Wimmera passenger rail. My office has asked for the slideshow shown to us in our previous meeting probably four or five times, just so the Wimmera community can know the obstacles in place for Wimmera rail, but they will not release the detail. Another project is the Murray Basin rail project, which has a history that goes way back before my time in this place. The full scope of the project was abandoned after there was a cost blowout, but the project was tipped to cost around a billion dollars. This is 200 times less than the Suburban Rail Loop, for context. I have heard the Minister for Ports and Freight actually walked the Portland to Maroona line of track a few months ago and was reportedly shocked as to how slow it travels. I am no athlete, but I could outrun this train, and that is saying something. The track is in such a terrible condition that there are speed limits that are around half of what they should be. This is just one track that should have investment as part of the Murray Basin rail project. Additionally, I have asked about the Ballarat freight-passenger rail separation project that was committed to by the minister before the last election. Again it has been abandoned, saying: The review of the original Murray Basin rail project business case found that significant investment, additional work and extensive construction would be required to separate freight and passenger lines through Ballarat. How much significant investment this would cost is unknown because the government refuses to release the review in full. Just to put salt on the wound, I had a Parliamentary Budget Office report commissioned that showed regional Victorians receive 11 times less investment per capita when it comes to capital infrastructure projects than their metropolitan counterparts. The state government like to boast of their investment in the regions, which has been great, but we still are being treated like poor cousins. We have had enough. Our rail and public transport projects need love and investment.


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