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Premier Denis Napthine made an important public statement about the future of Melbourne's transport system last week. At a Property Council lunch in Melbourne, he said this: ''Let me absolutely assure you, our government is committed to a 'rail capacity project' to enhance rail capacity through the centre of Melbourne, to boost rail capacity on the Dandenong line and the Gippsland line. We need it, it is essential. We are committed, by the end of this decade, to be building a rail capacity project and include in that a link to the airport. We will deliver that because it is absolutely essential, so don't let anybody have a misunderstanding about our commitment to that as a key project.''
We publish the Premier's words at length not only because of the importance we attach to what he said, but in the hope that this means there can now be no turning back. Political leaders in Victoria have for decades made promises of varying degrees of specificity about expanding Melbourne's rail capacity, and especially about building a rail link to the airport. Too many have come to nought. This one must be different.
We intend to hold Dr Napthine to his word in finally embracing the key philosophy of Sir Rod Eddington's 2008 report on Melbourne's transport system. Central to that report - commissioned and released by the former Labor government - was a holistic approach from government that would ensure simultaneous development of its two major recommendations: the east-west road link, and the Metro rail project, including a tunnel from South Yarra to Kensington via central Melbourne.
The east-west road has been enthusiastically backed by the Napthine government. The Age, too, supports it, and is disappointed that the Labor opposition has decided to try to stymie the project. Sir Rod had explicitly warned against cherry picking aspects of his blueprint, and in that spirit we are delighted that the Coalition has now joined Victorian Labor in pledging to build Metro rail. Our hope is that this may put an end to the old, sterile arguments about road or rail. A rapidly growing, spread-out city such as ours requires first-rate road and rail networks.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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