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Melbourne could have trains and trams running at least every 10 minutes on every line seven days a week for a fraction of the cost of the North East Link.
Transport at that frequency would cost $2.1 billion over a decade, one eighth of the price to build Andrews government's signature toll road project.
The independent analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Office has been released just three weeks ahead of the state budget.
Before the 2018 state election the Greens promised to run 10-minute train and tram services from 6am to 9pm, seven days a week, a policy not matched by the Andrews government or the opposition.
An annual estimate of $214 million includes the cost of more drivers and maintenance staff, comprising $173 million for trains and $41 million for trams annually.
The cost is dwarfed by the Andrews government's key transport projects including the North East Link ($15.8 billion), the Metro Tunnel ($11 billion) and the removal of 25 level crossings by 2025 ($6.6 billion).
The policy would double the frequency of many of Melbourne's train services, with seven lines in the north and west running every 20 minutes outside of peak periods, including the Werribee, Craigieburn, Sunbury and Mernda lines.
Train lines run about every 20 minutes on the weekends, except for the Belgrave/Lilydale, Frankston and Cranbourne/Pakenham lines, which run every 10 minutes.
Trams run about every 10 to 12 minutes outside of the peak and every 12 to 15 minutes on weekends, though they are less frequent at night and early on Sundays.
Greens transport spokesman Sam Hibbins said such an upgrade would transform the way Melburnians use public transport, but the government remained "incredibly reluctant to do it".
“The costings show the Greens policy to increase train and tram services is affordable and achievable," he said.
“For just a fraction of the cost of one of Labor’s multi-billion dollar mega tollways, commuters would be able to throw away the timetable for ‘turn up and go’ frequent train or tram services across Melbourne.”
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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