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Residents told they may lose their homes to make way for the $50 billion Suburban Rail Loop – a new underground rail link through Melbourne's inner suburbs – say they do not want to give up their properties for a "pie in the sky" idea.
Local MP Will Fowles knocked on the doors of residents in McComas Grove, Burwood, on Monday morning to tell them that their homes would probably be acquired to allow his government to build Burwood station – one of 12 new stations along the proposed 90-kilometre line, most of which will run underground.
Jo and Charlie Swanson with daughter Jemma have been told that their home could be bought to make way for a new station.CREDIT:WAYNE TAYLOR
The owners of up to 300 homes and residences were notified that their property was in an area that may be affected by the project.
It came as Premier Daniel Andrews announced he was committing $2.2 billion in next week's state budget for early works on the first section of the project, which would involve twin 26-kilometre tunnels linking six new stations: Cheltenham, Clayton, Monash, Glen Waverley, Burwood and Box Hill.
The $2.2 billion in funding for initial works – including moving utilities, power and road upgrades and acquiring property – is probably the most expensive early works project on a Victorian transport project to date and adds to $300 million set aside in last year's budget for planning. The money has been committed without a business case being finalised, a step that is set to occur early next year.
It also comes as another two major transport projects – the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel and the $11 billion Metro Tunnel – face billions of dollars in cost overruns and delays.
Distressed neighbours gathered in driveways on McComas Grove to discuss the news on Monday afternoon.
One family receiving the notice of possible acquisition moved into the home they had built just one month ago. A host of new apartments are also being built in the targeted area.
Joanna Swanson has lived there with her husband and two daughters for more than two decades and over the years have renovated their home, building a large deck, a courtyard with extensive landscaping and a treehouse that doubles as an art room.
The family got a letter telling them their property "is in an area of interest for the proposed station at Burwood" on Monday morning and were visited by Mr Fowles, who also delivered the news in person.
The letter residents received on Monday morning informing them that their property may need to be acquired to build the Suburban Rail LoopCREDIT:THE AGE
Ms Swanson's daughter Jemma said it was as if they were in The Castle – the 1997 film about a family fighting the acquisition of home due to the expansion of Tullamarine airport.
"We're in shock," Ms Swanson said. "They don't tell you what's going on. We noticed they were doing some boring in the park, but we assumed it would just be the park impacted, not this whole area."
She said she believed the proposal was a "pie in the sky" idea and other projects such as the North East Link and the Airport rail link were more important.
Construction will start on the first stage of the project in 2022, with an environmental effects statement assessing the project's impacts getting underway early next year.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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