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Borrowing big could be the answer to boosting Victoria's public transport network, according to the state's public transport boss.
With a rail expansion "vision" - that includes the multibillion-dollar Melbourne Metro 9 kilometre rail tunnel through inner Melbourne, linking the Sunbury and Pakenham/Cranbourne rail lines, and new lines to Rowville, Doncaster and the airport - Public Transport Victoria boss Ian Dobbs said borrowing should be on the table.
Mr Dobbs said he recently toured London and Paris with Transport Minister Terry Mulder, and witnessed massive public transport capital works under way, funded by borrowing.
He said the trip to Europe had "opened his eyes".
"One of the things it taught us was, first of all the sheer size of investment that is happening, particularly in the UK – I think we all expected when we got there there to be beggars on the street corners, no activity, not cranes and of course if you go to London it is the opposite, it's buzzing," he said.
Mr Dobbs told the Property Council transport breakfast on Thursday morning that the very large public transport projects in Europe were being funded through debt.
"The way they seem to approach funding there is by saying, well there has never been a cheaper time to borrow the way things are at the moment and they found they can easily just go out and borrow money on the market and make things happen," he said.
"That's probably something we need to look at. We need to look at structures they use, we need to look at the implications in terms of net debt, because that is very important together with how they managed to get on or off the balance sheet, the government balance sheet, they appear to have used some interesting tricks, whether or not those work here I don't know," he said.
"But they have certainly created an environment where they have created a funding pool, that is allowing London to come into the 21st century," Mr Dobbs said.
Earlier this month former premier Jeff Kennett called on the government to borrow to fund an expanded metro train network.
"There's not a major world city that doesn't have one," he said.
He said future generations would appreciate that earlier governments had had the foresight to borrow while interest rates were low and build public transport.
"In 100 years people won't care about how much it [the rail system] cost," Mr Kennett said.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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