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The commonwealth has opened the door to funding the Melbourne Metro Rail in an apparent thawing after months of hostility.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Warren Truss said he expected his government would be approached to fund one of the state government's key infrastructure projects, an $11 billion rail tunnel connecting north and south suburban lines through a second CBD subway.
"We will probably receive approaches in relation to that project," he said. "If we receive those approaches then we will have them assessed by Infrastructure Australia and make a decision."
His comments are at odds with Prime Minister Tony Abbott's resistance to funding Melbourne Metro. Mr Abbott has repeatedly insisted the federal government is opposed to funding urban rail projects.
Earlier this year Mr Abbott told 3AW: "We do not fund urban rail projects; we fund roads of national significance and we fund nationally significant freight rail projects but we don't fund commuter rail."
Mr Truss appeared on Sunday alongside Premier Daniel Andrews and Transport Minister Jacinta Allan to open the Regional Rail Link, which was built with a combination of federal and state funding.
Federal Opposition Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said Melbourne Metro had already been approved by Infrastucture Australia.
He said the former Labor federal government had put aside funding for Melbourne Metro in 2013 but the Coalition took it out.
However, Mr Albanese stopped short of committing a future Labor federal government to funding the project. "Depending upon the priorities of Victoria at the time should we come to government, Melbourne Metro certainly has been shown to be a worthy project," he said.
Mr Truss also said he had met with Transurban in the past week to discuss a new road and tunnel project the company has proposed building.
Transurban's $5.5 billion Western Distributor would link the city with Melbourne's western suburbs.
Mr Truss said he had told Transurban to submit details of the project to Infrastructure Australia as soon as possible for an assessment.
"We're keen to see details of the project. We acknowledge a lot more work has to be done to get it to the stage where it can be submitted to Infrastructure Australia," he said. "But the sooner that can happen the sooner governments can make an assessment about its merits and how and what level it should be funded."
Mr Truss said he wanted to see as many infrastructure projects as possible underway.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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