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It has been touted as costing anything from $2.5 billion to $9.7 billion, so what is the true cost of Metronet?
That was the question under furious debate this week as Labor released costs and time frames of a different Metronet line each day, allowing the first detailed picture of what it calls Stage 1 to be delivered over six years.
Stage 1 comprises a Forrestfield-Airport line and link between Cockburn and Thornlie, which the Liberals have also committed to, a Yanchep extension of the Joondalup line, a Morley to Ellenbrook line and extension of the Armadale line to Byford. It also includes new and upgraded train stations, improved signalling, 78 railcars and the removal of four level crossings.
Labor, largely relying on Treasury costings of the project when it was touted at the 2013 election, says the tracks and stations will cost $2.5 billion, plus $410 million for railcars, totalling $2.9 billion.
On Monday, Treasurer Mike Nahan claimed he had asked Treasury to cost Metronet a week out from the caretaker period, which returned a figure of between $6.76 billion and $9.75 billion.
It was quickly disowned by Labor, which pointed out it included a $3.9 billion tunnel to Morley to get to Ellenbrook when the party planned to get there via a $863 million spur line from the Midland line.
Dr Nahan’s tally also included extra elements of a circle line, beyond Cockburn to Thornlie, which were included in Metronet’s 2013 incarnation but not committed to under Stage 1, and the removal of 30 level crossings when Labor had earmarked four.
Under-Treasurer Michael Barnes was drawn into the fray on Wednesday when Labor released a letter from him clarifying Dr Nahan had asked Treasury only to cost “proposed expansion of the rail network” with “no specific reference” to Metronet.
With the costings argument largely settled in Labor’s favour, attention turned to its funding assumptions. The party said it had identified sources including $900 million from cancelling the Perth Freight Link, $667 million from land sales and $267 million from so-called “value-capture” and developer contributions.
But the biggest single source was $1 billion from consolidated revenue, a fact brought into sharp focus by Treasury’s pre-election financial projections statement which warned both sides about ratcheting up State debt.
“WA is facing a significant debt challenge and the incoming government will need a clear and robust plan for addressing this challenge,” Treasury said.
The Liberals emphasised the Commonwealth’s PFL contribution could not be reallocated to other projects, derided the land sales projections as wildly optimistic and claimed any returns from value-capture would be years away.
Representing a combined 62 per cent, or $1.8 billion of Metronet’s assumptions, voters’ deliberations on these three points will be critical.
This article first appeared on thewest.com.au
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