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MELBOURNE needs to start planning for an underground rail system, former premier Jeff Kennett says.
Twenty years after being sworn in as the 43rd Victorian premier, Mr Kennett nominated building an underground rail network and working with the private sector on urban infrastructure as the two greatest renewal opportunities for the state.
"If I was able to wave a magic wand even now, I would start the planning for an underground rail system," he told the Australian Property Institute Pan Pacific Congress in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but I can assure you when you look back in 50 years, or 100 years, whatever you pay today would seem cheap.
"We can hardly accommodate the traffic on the surface of our community in an efficient way and it is only going to get worse."
The state government allocated almost $50 million in the 2012/13 budget to advance a proposed nine-kilometre Melbourne Metro tunnel joining the Dandenong rail lines southeast of South Yarra station, and the Sunbury line west of South Kensington station.
Mr Kennett said smaller-scale projects, such as Melbourne Metro, were necessary but the time had come for bold reform.
"I'm actually thinking about a generational change of how we move around the city and that can in my opinion only be done through an underground rail system," he said.
"We have the City Loop, right, which is all we have, but it's very much constrained by its size and the fact that it fundamentally goes nowhere."
Mr Kennett said the government should work with the private sector to develop space above existing railway stations into housing, offices and other accommodation.
"We have enormous potential to do a lot of work in this area and do it with the private sector," he said.
He said Australians were too complacent and needed to get moving on developing infrastructure and national water and agriculture plans.
Mr Kennett said while the Howard government had achieved much in the areas of paying off national debt and reforming superannuation, it was difficult to identify its infrastructure achievements.
He said with some exceptions such as the East West Link, the Baillieu government in Victoria was spending most of its infrastructure dollars on upgrading existing assets, such as laying new sleepers for the rail network.
Mr Kennett said he expected the public would learn more about the state government's infrastructure vision in coming weeks.
"Why do I say that? Because we are getting to the half-way mark of their term."
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