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The nation's infrastructure advisor has found that a plan to duplicate 13 kilometres of railway tracks in Victoria's west is not value for money, as it would not deliver extra train services to Melbourne.
Infrastructure Australia has given the thumbs down to plans to duplicate a single section of V/Line track from South Geelong to Waurn Ponds, after the project's business case returned a benefit-cost ratio of just 0.6, which predicts a return to taxpayers of 60 cents for every $1 spent.
The Victorian government will fund $146 million — or 20 per cent — and wants the federal government to provide the remaining $550 million.
Infrastructure Australia assesses business cases for major road and rail projects. The body's decisions help determine how the federal government funds these projects.
Its latest assessment, to be released on Friday, could deliver a blow to the $736 million Waurn Ponds Duplication Stage 2 — a project benefiting rail commuters in the state's west.
However, the Andrews government has confirmed that it would fund its share despite Infrastructure Australia's finding, while the federal government says it remains committed to the project.
The track duplication, set to start in 2020 and finish by 2023, would relieve bottlenecks on the single section of track south of Geelong.
Train performance on the Warrnambool line, which runs from Waurn Ponds to the south-west Victorian city, has trended downward since 2003/04, and consistently fallen below the V/Line target rate of 92 per cent on-time arrival, the Infrastructure Australia report states.
The Geelong line, which services fast-growing areas including Armstrong Creek, Lara and Highton, has faced an 18 per cent increase in patronage year on year between 2012/13 and 2016/17.
Duplicating the track would see trains leave Waurn Ponds every 12 minutes during the peak.
But Infrastructure Australia said passenger growth was starting from a low base, and the upgrade would "primarily benefits local rail users". It hasalso called for a revised business case.
"The project will not enable additional services between Melbourne and Geelong, which limits the benefits to be realised on the wider network," the report states.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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