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Melbourne has never had a transport construction boom such as this. Toll roads, underground rail lines, level crossing removals, railway stations, all built at a pace that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
But it isn’t coming cheap.
Work on the West Gate Tunnel in Footscray last week.CREDIT:LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI
Soon, the most expensive transport project in the state’s history, the North East Link toll road, will begin construction at a cost of $15.8 billion – enough to build 790 new primary schools.
And yet Premier Daniel Andrews says it will be dwarfed by the Suburban Rail Loop, a 90-kilometre rail line around Melbourne. Price tag? $50 billion.
Transport projects didn’t always cost this much. CityLink cost $1.8 billion – tracked to inflation, that’s $3.06 billion in today’s money. Global engineering firm AECOM estimates CityLink today would cost around $15 billion if we started building it today. A 400 per cent increase.
Part of the jump in prices can be put down to so much being done all at once after years of inaction: infrastructure spending has tripled since Labor came to power in 2014. By the end of the financial year, they will have spent $47 billion on major works.
Spending peaks next year – just as the real estate downturn eats a $5.2 billion hole out of stamp duty revenue and other government income.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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