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A RAILWAY line to Doncaster could be built for $840 million and paid for using taxes raised from the higher property values it would generate, says a report.
The report, jointly written by transport experts from Curtin University in Western Australia, Melbourne's RMIT University, and global engineering firm Arup, has also found that the railway line could transport about 100,000 passengers a day if it was linked to the proposed Melbourne Metro rail tunnel, at an added cost of $300 million.
This is the same number of vehicles projected to use the Baillieu government's proposed east-west road link daily, after it is built at an estimated cost of $5 billion to $9 billion. The report's authors have modelled their cost estimates for the proposed Doncaster railway on the highly successful Mandurah line in south-west Perth, a 70-kilometre railway that was built for $1.3 billion and opened in 2007.
A report co-author, Curtin University's Professor Peter Newman, was the architect of the Mandurah line. He is also on the board of federal advisory group Infrastructure Australia.
The $840 million price tag for the proposed 12-kilometre railway compares with the $498 million cost of extending the Epping line four kilometres to South Morang.
The Mandurah line runs for most of its length along the median of the Kwinana Freeway. It carried 19 million passengers last year, more than it was initially projected to carry by 2020.
The report's authors propose building the Doncaster railway along the median of the Eastern Freeway, as was planned when the road was built in the early 1970s. This route is also one of three options put forward in the state government's $6.5 million Doncaster rail study.
It is proposed to either connect the line by tunnel to the existing rail corridor in Collingwood, or tunnel a further three kilometres to Parkville as part of the $5 billion Melbourne Metro rail tunnel proposal, which would run from South Kensington to South Yarra.
This would cost an extra $300 million but would deliver the most benefit, the report's authors say. ''This new east-west rail project should attract around 100,000 people per day, which is all that the east-west tunnel is planned to take in passenger cars at a cost of between $5 and $9 billion,'' the report states.
''The east-west tunnel may therefore become redundant as it makes little economic sense just for trucks and will cost considerably more than the rail option without providing the same 'value-capture' funding possibilities.'' The ''funding possibilities'' the authors propose are based on a US model called tax increment financing, whereby higher property values boost stamp duty, land tax and local government revenues and help pay for infrastructure projects.
The report found that property values in Brisbane in the past 25 years had risen 23 per cent more in suburbs with high-quality public transport than those without.
It was commissioned by six eastern suburbs councils that form the Doncaster rail local government group and will be handed to them today.
Leigh Harrison, the City of Manningham's acting chief executive, said the council had advocated for years for a heavy rail link to the public transport-starved municipality.
David Ellis, a Manningham city councillor and member of the Eastern Transport Coalition, said the state transport bureaucracy was not interested in the project.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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