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JACINTA Allan has slammed the nation’s peak infrastructure agency, accusing it of failing to understand Geelong’s rail needs.
Infrastructure Australia (IA) last week released a damning report into the proposed Waurn Ponds rail duplication, predicting the much-hyped project would deliver a poor cost-to-benefit ratio if it went ahead.
Ms Allan — the state’s public transport minister — returned serve while in Geelong on Wednesday, claiming IA had formed a misguided view from its headquarters in Sydney.
“I think their view from Sydney has failed to understand how these growing areas connect into Geelong; the areas around Waurn Ponds, Marshall and Armstrong Creek,” she said.
“They fail to understand how they are part of the Geelong city and community.
“I guess you’d expect that when you’ve got a view from Sydney. Well, we have a different view, and that is this is a good project … needed to support the improvement of train services.”
IA — an independent statutory body — refused to include Stage 2 of the duplication on its Priority List after evaluating the project’s business case.
In its analysis, the agency predicted a cost-benefit of just 60 cents for every dollar spent on the project.
It said it would “welcome” a revised business case, but Ms Allan shot down the suggestion.
“We’re not interested in delays and more paperwork needing to be done to fit a view that comes out of Sydney,” she said.
“This is a project that’s needed and a re-elected Labor Government has committed to this project.”
The Federal Government has also indicated it will not be swayed by IA’s assessment.
Spokesman for Federal Infrastructure Minister Michael McCormack, Colin Bettles, said the government will work with the Victorian government to “further advance the design and delivery of the project.”
“The Australian Government has already demonstrated a commitment to a future duplication between Waurn Ponds and South Geelong with a $150 million budgeted commitment,” Mr Bettles said.
“The advice from Infrastructure Australia provides valuable insight into this critical project.”
Meanwhile the Public Transport Users Association has questioned why Infrastructure Australia pulled its support for the rail duplication while still backing roads projects delivering low cost-to-benefit ratios.
Geelong branch convener Paul Westcott said IA’s assessments of projects were inconsistent.
“While economically doubtful road schemes are given the green light, sustainable transport projects seem to be viewed with less sympathy,” Mr Westcott said.
“They are happy to keep the East-West Link toll road in Melbourne on their priority list, despite the fact that is has a cost-benefit ratio of only 50 cents in the dollar.
“Even worse, the duplication of the highway to Colac, also funded by federal money, will only return about eight cents in the dollar.”
This article first appeared on www.geelongadvertiser.com.au
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