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A new railway station at Southland shopping centre is likely to have few of the amenities voters were promised at the last state election, because the Coalition grossly underestimated the project's cost and is now looking to build it as cheaply as possible.
The planned station would be built without the promised waiting room, lifts, bike cage, two-bay bus interchange and drop-off and pick-up zone, according to state government documents. It would also have no public toilets, and just 10 per cent of the platform area would have shelter, although it would have facilities for protective services officers.
Lengthy negotiations with Southland owner Westfield, which the Napthine government hopes will help pay for the station, will delay its opening until at least 2016-17, some six years after the Coalition made its promise. When it does open, it will become the fourth-busiest station on the Frankston line, attracting 4400 passengers a day, modelling by transport consultancy Sinclair Knight Merz forecasts.
Both the Coalition and Labor committed at the 2010 election to build the station, with the Coalition heavily undercutting Labor's $45 million costing, promising to build it to the same standard for just $13 million.
But Public Transport Victoria has since found the $13 million pledge will only cover the platforms and an underpass. Other necessary work, including signalling, overhead wiring modifications, passenger shelters, rooms for protective services officers and cleaners and walkways to the station, would cost more.
Exactly how much more is not known because all monetary figures have been erased from documents obtained through freedom-of-information laws.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder wrote to then-treasurer Kim Wells in October: ''Public Transport Victoria's development work on Southland station has indicated that while the station's platforms and underpass can be delivered … in line with the government's election commitment, separate enabling works are likely to cost [redacted] while land and access works will be a further [redacted].'' The documents reveal PTV has scaled down facilities from ''mid-range'' to a ''base'' standard in order to cut costs.
Former Brumby government adviser Andrew Herington said the Coalition's unrealistic promise on Southland had been exposed.
''The bare-bones version of Southland station will be inadequate from the day it opens,'' Mr Herington said. ''The cutbacks on the station facilities show the government is not looking after the interests of commuters. They want Westfield to pay for their broken promise, which is compromising the design.'' A government spokeswoman said the station's design had not been finalised ''and therefore it is impossible for anyone to claim that anything will be left out''.
''Sufficient funding for the project was announced in our last budget for the new station, but has not yet been disclosed due to the commercial sensitivities of these negotiations,'' she said.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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